I love the location of my house. I love my yard. I love the space in my house. I hate, hate, hate the way the space is laid out in my house. We’ve considered moving but can’t find a house that fixes what we don’t like here without giving up everything we do like about this house.
It is completely illogical. Think of the main living space as a big open square. Now subdivide that into three long skinny rectangles for reasons that are totally unclear. Put the kitchen in part of the middle rectangle. Force a claustrophobic dining area into the rest of the middle section. Make two living rooms in the skinny spaces on either side. Add in french doors and a fireplace situated where you can’t sit and look at it and it all adds up to me dreaming about knocking down walls and moving kitchens and other things I can’t afford to do.
Down the hall there are four small bedrooms and two completely tiny bathrooms. That’s not just a spoiled homeowner opinion. In one bathroom the only one who can use the shower is Freckles because it isn’t wide enough for your elbows when you lift your hands up to wash your hair. If you can’t use it, it is just wasted space.
But all at once last year I had a vision. It started with remodeling Z’s room since she isn’t visiting here. If we made that into a library, then we could move our bookcases out of the one living room into that room. That opens up space that we could move the dining room table into. Then we rearrange one couch to face the fireplace. Then we could move the computer equipment from one bedroom into the former dining room, freeing up that bedroom. We open the wall between our bedroom and that bedroom and make a master bathroom. The super tiny bathroom off our bedroom becomes a closet. It is like dominos falling. Do one thing and the next thing becomes possible.
I spoke of it as a possible dream. Now it is starting to happen. The room got changed from pink walls to grey. The bookcases got moved in. We got rid of the bed and put in a daybed. The cat tree moved in there. Now it is a library/music room.
The bookcases are across from the daybed. I got lots of comfy, fuzzy pillows to make a nice reading space where I haven’t read yet at all. I have however practiced my harp while sitting on my tufted blue toadstool which makes me very happy.
Elsewhere, the dining table has moved and the couch faces the fireplace. Now we just have to make a bathroom plan and save up loads of money!
A few years ago the husband and I went to Nice. We didn’t have any great desire to go to France specifically but it was a good place to be based to be able to also visit Monaco and take a day trip to Italy just to say we’ve been.
I planned the trip. I always plan our trips. I tried to engage the husband in the trip planning but he was dismissive. Anything I picked would be fine. But then, starting with the seats I chose for the plane ride, he had a negative comment on everything as it happened. He even wanted to do a day trip to Paris one day even though Paris is nowhere near Nice.
(“But they are in the same country!!!”
“If we were sitting in my parents’ living room in western Pennsylvania and you got an urge to go see the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, it would be a mighty undertaking even though they are in the same state.”
“Oh, yeah, I guess so.”)
Of course then we got home and he sung my praises for what a wonderful trip I planned. He really did have a good time. He frayed my enjoyment though with his nit-picking. So, armed with that experience and reading a bunch about how women do so much emotional labor in relationships, when he started talking about wanting to go on a river cruise in Europe I told him that he was in charge.
Turns out that planning a big vacation is hard work. Who knew? (I did.)
He talked about it for few years. Then he decided to start setting money aside for it. He would randomly ask me how much money I thought we would need to save. “I don’t know. You’ll have to check the prices on the website.”
“But it is really confusing.”
“Yes, it is.” Take that, buddy boy.
Another reason I wasn’t an enthusiastic helper is that I’m not a cruise fan. I want to fly to a city, dig in, and explore the place to death. The thought of cruising up to Vienna and having to pick one or two things to see before sailing off again stressed me right out. I also don’t want to be one of the ducklings following a tour guide with a flag. Also, eating meals at tables with strangers is awful. The husband is the person that introverts like me are horrified to be seated with. He will know everyone’s life story before the appetizers are cleared.
In the end the decision was pretty much made for us. Last week he looked at the Viking Cruise website and saw that for 8 day cruises there were only 2 cruises that weren’t sold out for 2018 and each of those only had one room on one trip available. If we were going to do it, we had to book then. Our choices were a Danube cruise stopping at Bucharest and Vienna and a French cruise. I still got anxious just thinking about trying to see as much as possible in those cities. The French trip is on the Rhone. It stops at places I don’t have strong feelings about. I thought that would be a lot more relaxing. I could spend a day happily wandering around a small French town and seeing the local cathedral and Roman ruins and not feel like I was missing out on several other amazing things to see. We chose to do that cruise. I reminded the husband that this was France. He was not a fan after our last trip. Actually, he thought it was a lovely place full of rude people who yelled at bumbling Americans a lot. He said he was going for the scenery.
To schedule a Viking cruise you have to make a phone call. He loves to talk to people. I don’t know how long it normally takes to make this booking on the phone but he was on with his new best friend for close to 1.5 hours. Things discussed:
We can’t do any add on days because “they don’t like to let my wife out of the clinic that long.” It makes me sound like I live in a mental institution.
His tendency to get harassed in airports because “I’m a lovely caramel color.”
His experience trying to leave France where we got separated and he got pulled aside for extra screening on the jet way. “So they searched me in very rude ways while my wife was sitting on the plane marinating in her white privilege.”
The cost of living in Ohio vs California
Does the rep get free cruises? Does he get harassed in airports?
The trip is over my birthday (by total coincidence, not planning) so the rep wanted to know about celebrating. He told him to keep it subtle while I was yelling, “I’m fine with fancy desserts in my honor.” I think keep it subtle means no singing to me at dinner.
The trip ended up costing several thousand dollars less than we expected. I think a lot of that is because we are going steerage. We’re the people at the bottom of the boat with windows you can only look out of if you stand on the bed. That’s fine though because there are a lot of seating areas available to watch the scenery go by. There is even a library. The room is tiny. Our hotel room on the last France trip was tiny too. This was an issue that some people felt it necessary to comment on repeatedly during that trip. This time since he booked the trip it is perfectly fine and normal. The cruise operator is setting up our airfare too. That’s nice because it isn’t a round trip cruise and figuring that kind of thing out hurts my head. The price is included in the trip as a ridiculously low add on. It isn’t booked yet but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that we will be strapped to the tail of the plane on the outside for the duration of the trip for that price. It will be nice to have them pick us up and take us to the boat. For some reason coordinating transportation from the airport to the hotel is always the thing that worries me the most in a new city.
The trip isn’t until winter so I have time to brush up on my Duolingo. I tried to review the other day and failed miserably. I also told the husband that he can spend the rest of the year sidling up to other husbands and asking, “What did you get your wife for her birthday? That’s nice. Me? I’m taking my wife to France for her birthday.” That don’t have to know it was a total accident.
Gift giving and receiving occasions stress the husband out. I keep telling him what I like. I think I’m simple and easy to buy for. He does not.
I like reading and animals and quilting and photography. Buy me something to do with those things.
I like practical stuff more than fancy stuff. I tend to get irrationally angry if you buy something simple that is outrageously priced because it has a designer label on it. Just avoid labels.
I like consumables or intangibles – – food or tickets to a play/concert or a membership to a museum, for example
Basically, I’m cheap and I don’t like fancy stuff. How hard is that?
Apparently, it is hard. But this year he asked for a list of books that I might like. I was so proud. I made him a list of 6 books. My mother also requests lists so I told her that he had a list and I gave her a list of a few other things like a new SD card for my camera. I told them to share their lists.
I figured that maybe they could each buy one book from the list for Christmas. Maybe they could go hog wild and get one each for my birthday and Christmas. I was wrong.
The other night he said out of nowhere, “I’m not sharing the book list with your mother.”
“It’s mine. She can’t have it.”
I sighed at him. Then I realized that he was treating my Christmas list like a grocery list. He was thinking he needed to buy everything on the list and if he came home without something he better have a good reason. I tried to explain that this was not the case. He wasn’t having it. I told him I was going to tell my mother on him.
He said, “I’m not scared of her.” This is a bold faced lie. In various stories he has likened her to a drill instructor, the Gestapo, and the Spanish Inquisition even though he likes her. I called him on it. He got grumpy. I let it go. He also mentioned that he was supposed to find out what kind of SD card I needed.
The next morning he whispered. “You know, I really am scared of your mother.”
“So I need you to text me the details of the card so I can text them to her. Don’t tell her I told you though. I don’t want to ruin the surprise.”
Dude, that’s NOT how gift giving surprises work. You are supposed to surprise the person getting the gift, not the person buying the gift…
The last month or so has been alarminginteresting as far as the step-daughter’s mental state is concerned. It is at the point where I’m not actually comfortable taking her to my family’s Thanksgiving dinner but that is what sort of has to happen so we needed to get prepared.
We know have a safety plan in place. Basically, she isn’t allowed to be alone with any of my younger family members in case a minor dispute over what movie to watch or what game to play triggers her. Just finding this out is going to piss her off but her father and I can handle her. Younger kids can’t and shouldn’t have to.
So, once my sister in law and I figured out what the boundaries would be I told the husband that we had a Thankgiving Safety Plan. He looked at me in disbelief.
“I’ve been going to family dinners for years and you guys never made a safety plan for me.”
(It wasn’t until later that I realized that I should have said, “How do you know?” I hate it when the perfect line comes to mind too late.)
He kept going. “I’ve been crazy a whole lot longer than she’s been alive. Why does she get a special plan?” He started to mock whine. “I’m so crazy that I get paid for it. Where’s my safety plan?”
Then I made a major mistake. I dismissively said, “You aren’t dangerous.”
He let out a sound of offended disbelief that I’ve only ever heard when someone has quoted him a price for a service that he thinks is too high. “I am too dangerous.” He stomped his foot and mimicked perfect teenage girl voice. “I AM DANGEROUS! I AM!” Then he flounced off as if he couldn’t believe that I thought so little of him as to dismiss his dangerousness.
So, I made him a safety plan with my sister in law. When they first met 10 years ago he was very confused by her because she asked him if he wanted to cuddle. He did not. She asks him for hugs and cuddles all the time now to mess with him. He still does not want to cuddle with her.
I texted him his plan.
“If you are acting a fool and you don’t course correct after receiving a wifely arched eyebrow or a kick under the table, Katie will take that as her cue to ask you if you need a hug.”
He was horrified. He said there was no need to get vicious. I told him that safety plans had to come with real and severe consequences in order to be taken seriously. He solemnly swears that he will behave.
No word yet on whether the kid will…. and it is a 2.5 hour drive home so if we need to yank her out of there for getting stupid it will be a very long ride home. Freckles and I might choose to walk.
I’ve been AWOL this week because the husband has been stressing me out.
Sometime in June he pulled a pectoral muscle. When it didn’t heal well he went to the doctor who did an xray. All the lymph nodes in his thorax were huge. He was treated for kidney cancer last year. Renal tumors that spread to the lungs are basically a death sentence. I freaked out.
He had a PET scan. It didn’t look cancerous. He had a biopsy. They didn’t find any cancer. They didn’t know what it was. During all this time, he is not sick at all.
About a week after the biopsy he spiked a fever and started coughing. That was this night. It didn’t get better. He kept going to doctors who told him to quit being a weenie and tough out his cold. One did an xray and saw nothing but the weird lymph node enlargement.
Last Friday he went to the ER at the Cleveland Clinic. He literally could not stop coughing. They kept him for 24 hours to give him breathing treatments for his ‘bronchitis’. He didn’t stop coughing so they did a CT scan and found a 6 cm lung mass.
We said that he had had several xrays, CT scans, and a PET scan in the last month at multiple facilities and no one had seen a lung mass. They especially hadn’t seen a huge lung mass. Of course it was now Saturday night. All his scans were at the VA hospital and they don’t work weekends. We had their reports that didn’t mention anything about a mass but the new doctors wanted to see these multiple pictures of his lungs with no mass with their own eyeballs before they truly believed. If it wasn’t there a few weeks ago then it was probably an infection and not cancerous.
Despite this being the 21st century, no one sends digital scans electronically so it was decided that I would present myself to the VA on Monday morning and beg for a CD to be made of all his scans. If I could get it then I would deliver it to the new hospital so they could make a plan.
I arrived at the VA hospital promptly at 8 AM Monday morning. I had until 10 AM to get this, drive to the new hospital, drop it off, and leave for work. I was ready to fight if I had to. They aren’t known for their cooperation. I had multiple signed releases from the husband.
I told the receptionist what I needed. She asked for his name. Then she asked for the last four of his social security number. I looked down at the paper and read it off to her. She looked at me.
“You don’t know your husband’s social security number?” I don’t know why I said this other than sometimes my sarcasm overflows but I answered, “No, but I know the last husband’s in case I never need to use that information against him.” She perked up. “You’re divorced?” “Yes.” “You’re not a bad person! No, ma’am! I’m divorced too. We’re not bad people!” “Nope!” “How long were you married the first time?” “10 years” “How long this time?” “Together 9 years but married for 5.” “This husband is a better husband than the first one?” “Yes.” “And he’s in the hospital now? I’mma get you some pictures. You just have a seat, baby.”
I sat down. Then she remembered that she needed to see my id because some people can’t be trusted. “Not you of course because you’re lovely…”
She got the disk printed and then we reminded each other a few more times that we weren’t bad people.
I don’t know what that poor woman has been through but apparently she has seen some shit.
Even worse, the husband is a hypochondriac who actually does have a lot of strange and serious medical conditions. Even though humans are the one species that I’m not legally allowed to treat, I spend a lot of time on his health care.
Neither of us are feeling great. I have a headache that won’t go away and it feels like a good idea to just lay in bed for the day. Around lunch time he comes into the bedroom, wakes me up, and asks if I want something from Subway. I say that that seems like a good idea. He says, “Good. Can you go get it?”
I roll over and look at him. “You have clothes on. I’m not dressed. You want me to get up, get dressed, and go get Subway?” Anyone who has been married as long as he has should know the danger sign of a woman repeating your request like that. You, sir, are being given a chance to repent. He did not.
“Yes. I’m so weak. I would get in an accident.”
I ignored him and went back to sleep. A little while later he was back waking me up again. “I’m hungry…..” like we don’t have a house full of food.
I obviously wasn’t going to get any peace. I got up, slowly got dressed, and asked what he wanted. He objected when I wanted him to write it down. He said it was simple enough to remember. I did not start yelling. I am proud.
I came back with his sandwich. He asked me why I didn’t get one for myself. I told him that I was fueled solely by rage. I don’t think he understood me. I went back to bed.
He takes the day off work. I have to go in at 11 AM. He asks if before I go I can go get him Gatorade and ginger ale. Let’s discuss ginger ale. Ginger is wonderful for nausea. Ginger ale would be a great drink for the flu if, you know, it contained any ginger. Ginger ale is mostly carbonated water, hi fructose corn syrup, and flavoring. I’ve pointed this out repeatedly to him. He doesn’t care. Because I actually am a big believer in the power of ginger, we have ginger tea bags which would give you a big dose of good-for-you stuff. He doesn’t want that. I go try to find ginger ale. Of course it isn’t at the first store I go to so I’m driving all around creation looking for the useless stuff.
(During this I am remembering about the time I broke my pelvis when home alone. Then I hopped on one leg for an hour to reach my car. I drove to the hospital. Was released without crutches and told to go buy some the next day. My now ex-husband was on a business trip and had his phone turned off. When I reached him 18 hours later and told him what had happened and that I needed him to go get me crutches so could he please drive straight home that day instead of going to his office as planned, he got mad. Several years later he was still mad about it and kept bringing it up during our separation as proof that I WAS TOO NEEDY! Please, that fool had obviously never met Too Needy.)
Anyway, I got all the stuff and brought it home and then went to work. I get a text later that he thinks he needs to go to Urgent Care. I have feelings about this. Mostly I feel – “You have the flu. Sleep it off.” I am completely unable to say this because of what happened last year. Same situation. He goes to the ER for the flu that I just slept off. He gets a Cat Scan. I rail about the wastefulness of human medicine. He gets diagnosed with the flu and by the way, you have a tumor. Cue every time I say that he is absolutely fine in the past year, he counters with, “That’s what you said before and it turned out I had cancer.” He goes to Urgent Care and gets diagnosed with the flu and told to go home and sleep it off. I point out that he doesn’t have any new cancer so that’s an improvement. He says sadly, “They didn’t give me any scans.”
I decide to sleep in the guest room away from his germs.
He wakes me up with his shivering. How can a person’s shivering wake you up if you are two rooms away? He has never applied the phrase Suffering in Silence to himself. He sounded like a cold person who was also having an attack of the vapors.
I take his temperature. It is 100.5. I don’t tell him this because despite all evidence to the contrary he believes that his normal body temperature is 95 degrees. I just say he has a fever. I give him some meds to bring the fever down. I tell him to take a shower. I go to get him something to drink and notice that he has not opened any of the gatorade that was so important that morning. I tuck him back in. In an inspired piece of theater I move the infrared space heater into the room and turn it on. As soon as he isn’t looking, I turn it off.
He starts yelling that the room is so hot. I get up and go back to him. I explain that he has a fever. The room isn’t hot. He springs up from laying down and says to me,
“Heather, look! I literally can’t even move!”
That’s when I broke. I started yelling. “Now you are just telling outright lies! Lay down.” Add in some swearing to get exactly what I said. He spent many years in the Army. Yelling and swearing are sometimes the key to him.
The fever was up a bit. I figured that he didn’t remember already taking a shower a few minutes ago so I asked if he would like to take a cool bath. He thought that was a fine idea. As I was running the water, I actually had the thought that I should text my mother and see if she would start putting together some bail money in case I drowned that man.
He got in the tub. He started complaining about medical professionals who obviously sent him home to die. I went full on drill sergeant. “You are fine! Stop it. I will tell you when you are not fine. Until then, I don’t want to hear it.” Add in expletives. He calmed down. Then he hopped out of the tub in a more sprightly manner than he would normally ever be able to do while telling me, “I am SO weak!”
He went back to sleep.
Fever is down. He’s sleeping. I go to bed.
He’s freaking fine just like I said. While writing this though he’s made me take his temperature and is trying to justify his actions last night. Now he’s on the phone with his insurance agent (for a totally unrelated reason) and is reliving his life or death struggle and talking about how wonderfully I cared for him.
Oh, that fool just said, “She works at 11. I’m going to miss her even though she’s been slightly ornery. Only someone who loves you gets that ornery.” I’m going to work before I need bail money again.
I admire those people who can sob and then tap their eyes dry and go on about their day. I have to make a day of it. If I start crying, my eyes swell up. The upper lids get all puffy like I’ve been punched. My lower lids are fine but way down below my lower lids, where I don’t even think it should count as part of the eye anymore, I get huge bags. I don’t have bags there normally which I am ever so thankful for, but if I cry I get a whole luggage set. The extra fun part is that my eyes don’t stop swelling after I quit crying. If I cry before I go to sleep my eyes will keep swelling overnight until they are hard to open in the morning.
My point is that I can’t hide if I’ve been crying. That sucks when you are crying a lot and trying to carry on like nothing is wrong.
A scan this week showed the husband’s lymph nodes as all enlarged. That’s bad enough normally but he had a kidney tumor removed a year ago. If this is spread of that tumor into the lymph nodes, there is basically no treatment. Best case scenario is lymphoma. How messed up is it to be seeing lymphoma as your bright and shining hope?
My doctor brain fires up and starts calculating odds which leads to panic and total breakdowns. My instinct is to hide this from him because he doesn’t need to deal with me on top of everything else. I’ve always been the emotionally strong one in the relationship. I did end up crying all over him one night. He seems to read “total breakdown” as just me getting weird sometimes but starts to get worried when I agree with anything he wants to do for too many days in a row. I pointed out that it was a sad commentary on how messed up our lives are that he knows that. I also said that I tend to have three days of blind panic and then settle down. How fucked up is it that we’ve done this enough that I know that?
So there is testing to come to see what it is for sure and if anything can be done. There may be more radio silence around here. I’m not feeling like writing light and happy reviews. I’m taking some solace in the fact that people do this every day. People get through this even if they don’t want to. I feel like there should be a spontaneous combustion option offered though.
I have a solo, quiet, just me and don’t worry about anyone else trip coming up. I wrote about it here.
Now, the husband has decided that he is coming with me. So much for that plan.
Conditions to Go on Vacation with Me
I planned this vacation specifically around the fact that he wasn’t coming with me so I’m possibly doing things he won’t want to do. I told him that I’m not changing my plans so if he doesn’t like it, he can make his own plans for that time.
He said that he would just do whatever I was planning and that would be fine.
I plan our vacations. He doesn’t want any input until we are in the middle of it and then he bitches about every little detail. (For example, we were in Nice in the far south of France and he decided that we should just spend a day in Paris. Geography is important. I imparted an understanding but it was a painful process.) I hold myself back from killing him and then when we get home he tells everyone what a wonderful vacation we had.
There WILL BE showtunes.
If I can’t listen to the audiobooks I had planned for the trip (and I can’t, because he’s a talker), then there will be showtunes – including the entire Hamilton soundtrack, but I didn’t tell him that part. He asked today if I had Oklahoma on my iPod. I do not. I sang “Oklahoma” for him and then took a request for “Surrey with the fringe on top” which got interrupted by him insisting that a surrey was a car. No! I wasn’t having that. He finally caved to saying that it was a method of transportation and that was close enough. Harrumph. I’m not downloading Oklahoma but I do have the fine distinction of having not one but two Angela Landsbury songs on my iPod. “Beauty and the Beast” and “Substitutiary Locomotion”, thank you very much.
Get a @#$$%^%^% epi-pen
For a man with actual, literally life-threatening food allergies, he cares very little about safety. He never had an epi-pen until he met me and he still doesn’t carry one. The one I carry and the one in the house are expired. I informed him of this in April. I’m not going on vacation with him with an expired epi-pen. He doesn’t get in the car until I see an up to date one.
PTSD and unfamiliar northern Virginia traffic do not mix. I’m driving. Besides, my iPod plugs directly into my car for better showtune enjoyment.
Oh, dear readers, it will be hot and there is a lot of walking on my plan. There will be whining. He says there will not but seriously, husbands are a bit like toddlers on vacation. You have to keep them fed on a regular schedule and let them have scheduled breaks. It adds a level of difficulty. This has been true for both of the husbands that I’ve personally owned. Is it universal?
Three weeks after the husband and I started dating I went out of town to be on Jeopardy. We called each other all the time. We actually ended up talking all night one night and didn’t even realize it. I was getting mad because my phone battery was dying and I couldn’t figure out why until we realized we had been on the phone for 8 hours.
Fast forward eight years. Now this happens when I go out of town.
When I came home this time the husband actually woke up and came out to greet me. He hugged me and then pulled back, stared into my eyes, and whispered, “Can I kiss you?” It was so sweet. It was like a scene out of those romantic novels. Then I remembered that I had been gloating about eating my body weight’s worth of his deadly allergens while I was gone and he literally wanted to know if I was safe or if it was going to be a kiss of death.
Now I’m home and he’s out of town. I told him that I realized that he’s the reason I get out of bed. Yep, when he’s not around Freckles and I lounge in bed and watch Netflix on the iPad.
The husband had surgery to remove a tumor four days ago. It was an experience.
We got up at 3:30 AM. Already annoying. We left at 4 to get him to check in by 5. He was checked in and ready for surgery by 7:30. That’s when I got kicked out to the waiting room.
The waiting room experience is nice. You have a pager that alerts you to where your human is. They had a person come around with aromatherapy and there was free 10 minute Reiki available. I didn’t do that because they were closing by the time I found out about it.
Surgery started at 8:30 AM. I had his cell phone to keep his family and coworkers updated. No problem, right? You wouldn’t think so.
You’d be wrong.
I told them when surgery started and how long they expected it to take. In less than the expected time his phone started blowing up with messages from his sister who was at his father’s house in Florida. They had already given us grief because the surgery was being done at the Cleveland Clinic. If you know anything about medicine you know that is considered a top 10 hospital in the U.S. His sister is a nurse but seems to know nothing about the greater world because they were convinced that we were going to a local “clinic” for major surgery.
He moved to recovery at 1:17 PM. I let them know. They immediately demanded to know how the surgery went and his prognosis. I told them that I didn’t know but I would let them know when I heard anything. Wrong answer. They were convinced that I was deliberately withholding information from them. I told them I wasn’t. I hadn’t heard anything. The messages started getting nastier. Then I got paged. They had called me through the hospital switchboard even though I was holding a phone that they were texting. The receptionist said that they really weren’t allowed to let me talk on their phone so I told them to hang up on them. They wouldn’t do it so I had talk to my father-in-law. He wanted to know what was going on. I told him again that I didn’t know anything and would text him when I did. The texts continued for a few more hours.
I visited the husband in recovery for a few minutes around 3:30. His doctor was in another surgery so I knew I wouldn’t talk to him for a while. He sent a message that everything went well. I passed on the message. Not good enough.
Around 5 PM his sister sent a message to his phone that had an entirely different tone. She obviously thought she was talking to him now. I don’t know why she would have had that idea. It was so sweet. She was so worried about him. She told him that “she couldn’t seem to get any information from Heather.” I had had it by this point. I had already talked to my mother who was threatening to call his sister and tell her off. I wouldn’t give her the number. I was imagining our families going to war like Game of Thrones. My mother claimed that her sister and niece were dragons based on how obnoxious they can be. At this point I texted her to release the dragons. Then I texted his sister back, “Still me.” Leaving out the word dumbass is my good deed for the week.
He was in recovery for 6 hours. I didn’t want to tell him what had been going on until the next day. He asked immediately. I tried to evade and then told the whole story. He was furious but not surprised.
The next morning I gave him his phone. He read the messages and then called his dad and sister in turn and chewed them out for being rude and disrespectful. Their defense was that they were a thousand miles away and needed to know what was going on. He reminded them that they had all the info I had in the waiting room. I think they got the point that he was mad but probably still don’t understand why. Oh well, his sister has always hated me anyway because I never contacted her to get to know her when I started dating the husband. We’ve never spoken before this year because she would leave the house if left alone in a room with me on the one previous time we met. Not a huge loss in my mind.
Surgery went well. Still in the hospital. Maybe going home tomorrow.
Z and I don’t actually talk much mostly because she is Z and I am her stepmother. So I was a bit surprised when she came up to me soon after getting here on Friday and asked for my help.
“I need you to help me cast a spell because you are a witch.”
I’m not actually sure where she got that idea. Maybe she heard her mother call me something that rhymes with that but I don’t discourage the notion. I consume a steady diet of fantasy books and tv shows. My whole life has been leading to this point. My first response was an enthusiastic “YES!”
Turns out she is following a youtube person who has videos about how she was transformed into a fairy. We aren’t talking makeup tutorials here. We are talking full on becoming one with the Fae. Of course, I asked what we needed.
Flowers – Um, Ohio in February? She said that if they were out of season we could use fake flowers. I would think that is against the Fairy Code but what do I know? I’ve never turned into a Fairy.
Glitter – Of course we need glitter! I don’t have any though.
Water – no problem
I was all the way through this discussion before coming to my senses and realizing that was not talking to another fantasy fan but was in fact dealing with a child who has no concept of reality, so I explained that just because it is on youtube doesn’t mean it is real. She isn’t buying it. It is real. There is a Latin spell and everything. There is a video of day 5 of her transformation where she shows her wing buds. They look like smeary makeup stains on her shoulder blades to me but Z is convinced. She is watching more videos that seem to require you to paint symbols on toilet paper rolls with nail polish. If I was making this video I would have said drawing with rose water on the trunk of a tree. Seriously, does no one study up on the basic properties of fantasy species anymore before posting videos? I’m offended.
I decided to watch some of the videos to see what we had to refute. This is my favorite of her videos.
It was totally worth watching for the line “If you are watching this you probably have fairy dust lying around your house. If not, get some. There is black market…” That made my night.
I wrote about Freckles and I being sick on last Tuesday. Just as I was recovering from the flu, the husband got it. Of course, since he is a man it was the worst thing that ever happened and he texted me from the ER to let me know that he was sick. There was much self-pitying in that text conversation. I went to work and wondered why women are considered the weaker sex. After all, I had gone about my business after the first day of lying in bed and this man was getting a CT scan because his tummy hurt.
He called me later to tell me the results of his scan. Turns out he has the flu …. and a tumor.
I went into doctor mode and gave him the “needs more investigating and let’s not panic” speech. Then I came home and read his radiology report and panicked. I went into two days of hysterics whenever he wasn’t looking at me. He was still pretty sick so didn’t get around to research until later. Now he says that he should have known to panic earlier because I was being so nice to him.
So, things might be a bit sparse around here for a bit. I’m going to prep next week’s Book Blogger Appreciation and the Love a thon posts now. My brain isn’t really concentrating on reading right now. I tend to find myself staring off into space while my mind runs a million scenarios. I’m feeling much more focused today and less likely to go shattering off into a thousand pieces like yesterday when my brother was nice to me. That’s the worst. Little brothers should not be sending you kind text messages of love and support. When that happens you know things have gone wrong. Complete emotional collapse is unavoidable.
So that’s where we are right now. First doctors’ visits are next week.
Usually, I go to conventions and go to lectures all day and read books all evening and don’t talk to anyone. It is absolutely lovely.
I predicted that this vacation would consist of me going to lectures all day and then having to deal with the husband being miserable because he had to deal with Z and his family. I’m so freaking smart.
I ate lunch every day at my favorite restaurant in the Gaylord in Orlando. I will miss this place because the convention is moving. It has 5 tables of great food for your choosing. I ate my weight in marinated olives and peppers, artichoke hearts drizzled with balsamic vinegar, an amazing tomato bisque, flavored rice, cucumber and tomato salads, pastas etc. I always forget not to go on Sunday. They have a bigger spread but take most of the vegetarian stuff away to make room for huge hunks of dead flesh and then charge more.
The conference was pretty good. The lectures weren’t as practical this year as I like so that got frustrating. I’d go to something called, “How to deal with X” because yes, X is a difficult problem. The lecturer would spend the time discussing in detail all the reasons why X was a problem and then conclude with “and those are all the things that you need to think about when you have to deal with X.” I’d be sitting there thinking that I knew all that when I started and was really looking for something a bit more helpful.
This is where Freckles would have hung out if she was there.
These dogs were having a very bad day.
These signs were all over. You have to understand that every surface is covered with advertising. I kept trying to understand what these were selling. They didn’t make any sense. It took me two days – 2 DAYS – to understand that they literally meant, “Don’t take your lunch and go across the street and sit on the golf course while you eat it.”
We did go to Universal. It was me and the husband and Z and the husband’s brother. We went on the Hogwarts ride first. Only a 5 minute wait! Anyway, she got off the ride crying because she claimed that her hands were burnt by the slightly warm air that blows on you at one point. We rode the baby coaster and then I went on the big roller coaster. We took the train to Diagon Alley and we rode the Gringotts ride. Again she was very angry and came off it yelling about how terrible it was. After we finished there we did Men in Black, which she was ok with, but then she got very angry that there was a Simpsons section of the park. That was completely inappropriate in her mind. She refused to go on any rides so we left her sitting on a bench and went on the amazing Krustyland ride. She refused to go on any of the kid’s rides in the park because they were Simpsons themed and she didn’t like the Simpsons. This started a trend. We ended up leaving her outside of the next four rides. Eventually she decided that she wasn’t having any fun like that and that we weren’t going to give into her demands and she decided to play along. She rode the rest of the rides and we went back and rode Gringotts and the Hogwarts rides and she enjoyed them both the second time.
The husband got a really nasty cold. He had taken Z to Magic Kingdom which seemed to go well until they were in the parking lot and she decided that her day wasn’t “magical enough” and attacked him. Good times. I took the next day off the conference and took her to Animal Kingdom because he was too sick to go anywhere. I figured after so many days in a row with her he needed a break. She was absolutely perfect for me. It was almost creepy. She acted like a normal 12 year old. I think she knows that I don’t care one bit about her feelings so I can’t be manipulated so she doesn’t try. I think she could sense that I wouldn’t hesitate to use the “This isn’t my child, officer, I don’t know why she is following me” defense. We got back to the hotel and she immediately got nasty with her father. I banned them from speaking directly to each other and that seemed to work well all through Universal day.
They spent time with the husband’s family. Z was relatively well behaved because it was a new situation. That lead some people in his family to blow up his phone with texts about how she doesn’t have any mental problems at all and he is just exaggerating and he should be happy that he has such an easy child to raise. The term “cake walk” was used. Wow, it is amazing that he got all those schools to kick her out just to feed his delusion.
I had a mental melt down about halfway through. Usually I read lots of books during this trip. I started out well with reading Violinist of Venice on the plane. I read A Fall of Marigolds over the next few days and then I hit a wall. I couldn’t settle into anything that I had brought to read. I decided I needed something absolutely mindless so I downloaded Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich
from my library account and that helped. I downloaded another chick lit book that I got halfway through before deciding that it was just way too stupid to be read. I think that was the point where my brain kicked back into gear after days of lectures fried it.
I ended up finishing two more books on the trip home and I partially read bits of two more that were just too heavy for that week.
Percival and Esmerelda were excited about the game too.
I’ve been holding off on starting several books in order to use them for 2016 reading challenges. Now I’m able to start these. (I had to explain to the husband a few days ago that I couldn’t finish any books because I had already finished my end of year graphics. Oh, the problems of a book blogger.)
Now, blog folks, I have a problem. In a few weeks I’m heading to Florida for a conference. The husband and Z are coming with me to visit family and to go to a few parks. Z is autistic and her obsession is Disney. For example, she spent dinner time with my parents on New Year’s watching her iPod touch for updates on wait times in lines in real time at Disney. That’s the level of obsessed we are talking. She decided a few months ago that she would like to go to Universal for the first time on this trip. We were proud that she was willing to try something new.
You know that I love me some Harry Potter at Universal. I agreed to go with them. I mentioned that maybe Z should watch at least the first Harry Potter movie before we go so she would have some understanding of what she was going to see at the park.
All Hell Broke Loose Last Night
She freaked. She started screaming that it was too scary and that it was a boy thing. She believes in very strict gender separations. If she labels something a boy thing (male vocalist on a song, boy in the preview for a movie, a boy she knows likes something, etc.), she will have nothing to do with it. Yes, I tried to explain about Ms. Granger.
I told her that if we went to Universal, a lot of time would be spent in Harry Potter world. If she honestly felt that she couldn’t handle it, then maybe she wasn’t ready for this park and we shouldn’t waste our money. If you’ve been there you know that the amazing Hogwarts ride immerses you in a Harry Potter movie and there is that fire breathing dragon on top of Gringots.
At this point, dear readers, the child started speaking blasphemy. She stood in my living room and yelled,
NO ONE CARES ABOUT STUPID HARRY POTTER!
I know! I couldn’t believe it either. I fully expected Voldemort to arise from the back of her head.
For the record, she is 12 but very immature for her age. If she is at a place that she finds scary she has a habit of approaching random strangers and yelling, “I’m not afraid of you” in their faces. I’m pretty confident in saying that if she is unable to make herself watch the first movie, then a trip to Universal is off the table. The husband is so sad though. He’s never been and was really looking forward to going. Me paying for tickets were part of his Christmas presents. (I haven’t bought them yet so we aren’t out any money yet.)
Halina Shore is a forensic dentist working in Sydney. She is invited to return to Poland to examine bodies in a mass grave to shed light on whether this was a German or a Polish war crime.
Helina Shore is a forensic dentist. She was born in Poland and moved to Australia when she was nine. Finding herself at loose ends after the death of her taciturn mother, she accepts an invitation to help exhume a mass grave in Poland. The Jews of the town were burned to death in this barn in 1941. Local lore says that the Nazis did it but rumors persist that it was the Polish people who committed the crime. The investigation is supposed to find out the truth but is running against public opinion in this very conservative and nationalistic part of Poland.
To Sum Up
This book is amazing. Go get it and read it or listen to the audio – whatever, just go do it.
The Longer Answer
I am always looking for historical fiction books set in Poland. Generally, I want ones that aren’t about World War II. This book is set in the early 2000s and in 1941. The reason I’m interested in Poland is that my grandmother’s family comes from there. She never told us much. She didn’t like to be reminded that she was Polish.
In this book, Helina’s mother never told her anything about Poland. It all sounded very familiar. Every time Helina found out that her mother had lied about something I laughed. It sounds like my family. They never met an official form that they filled in truthfully.
In the course of listening to this audio, I got back on ancestry.com and got in contact with my second cousin. We’ve been sharing documents about the family. So far I found out about three more children that were siblings of my grandmother who all died young. No one in my family had heard of them. That’s not a surprise considering no one had heard of the adult brother that was murdered either. Grandma didn’t talk about the past.
This book tries to discover what could make neighbors commit atrocities against their neighbors. She has the viewpoints of Jewish survivors and of the people who burnt the barn. She sets this against a picture of Polish nationalism that still exists today and leaves readers wondering how easily it could all happen again. The rationalizations of the perpetrators are chilling.
There is a lot of discussion about identity. This annoyed me a little. I don’t have much tolerance for the plot device of finding out that your parents lied to you about some part of your background and then the character falls apart crying about how they don’t know who they are anymore. You’re the same person you were two minutes ago. Quit yer whinin’!
This can be a hard book to listen to because of the descriptions of what happened to the Jews of Nowa Kalwaria. The author draws you into the story in both times leaving you wanting to find out who was involved and to see if the town can move past it into a brighter future.
This author has written other books about Poland and European immigration into Australia – both historical fiction and nonfiction. I’m looking forward to reading more of her books.
There was much sadness from the humans and animals in the house. Probably not so much in the chipmunk community. Everybody loved Riley even when they don’t love anyone else. Following quickly after his death was news of job instability and then the death of a close relative of a coworker.
Then came Freckles. She’s had a small mass on her eyelid for a long time. On Monday she jumped up on the chair beside me with pus running out of her eye. Her tiny mass was suddenly three times the size and there was another one beside it. That’s when I decided that the universe was just screwing with us.
I often remark that veterinarians’ animals don’t receive health care on the schedule that we recommend for clients but when they do need health care – they get HEALTH CARE. Within minutes I had appointments for her with two local ophthomologists to see who could take it off first. I saw one on Wednesday who said that he thinks it had been growing inside her eyelid the whole time and suddenly broke through. She had surgery later that day. As the husband told her that night, “Two days after the identification of a problem, you had a board-certified eye doctor doing laser surgery on you over his lunch break? I don’t get that kind of boutique medical care.”
Then there came the news of another death of a friend. People kept calling here to process their feelings about the news.
I’m ready to be done with drama for a while, please.
There are some good things that have come out of this all:
Powder and Freckles, sworn enemies at least in Powder’s mind, have become almost friendly. I’ve seen them standing beside each other on the floor near Freckles’ water bowl. This was such disputed territory that we had to give Powder her own bowl because she wouldn’t go near Freckles’. They are ok with sitting on the same large chair with me at the same time. This is major for a Powder Cat who refused to be off of the top of a wardrobe for 18 months after we brought Freckles home.
The husband’s stress levels have come down. As this chain of events started I was worried about stress affecting him but as it piled up, he actually got better. He seems to be letting go of worries a bit which is great for him.
Freckles actually didn’t act a fool during her hospital stay. She has a huge cage phobia. I was reluctant to leave her because the last time I caged her after an operation she banged her head repeatedly into the cage in an attempt to get out. I told the staff at the referral hospital my concerns. “Really. She’s an idiot,” I said while Freckles gazed up at them beautifically. They gave me the concerned pet owner speech. I told them that I was going to say I told them so. When I went to work and told the staff at my office that I left her there they said that we were never going to be able to refer to that hospital again. Meanwhile Freckles apparently was given the option to stay outside her cage and CHOSE to lay quietly on a blanket inside a cage with no histrionics at all. Thanks for making me look like a crazy pet owner.
So I’m glad that some good things have happened but I’d like to be done learning lessons for a while, please and thank you.
Hampton Court is 11 miles southwest of central London. To get here take the Underground to Waterloo Station. There is a Hampton Court train that runs every half hour for £6 round trip. Hampton Court is the end of the line. From the station follow the crowd a few blocks, over a bridge over the Thames, and the palace is on the right. Entrance is included in the London Pass.
The grounds are family friendly. On the approach there are pretend carriages.
Yes, we displaced small children for these pictures. Don’t act like you wouldn’t have.
I loved the statues at the main entrance. They represent the heraldic symbols of the ancestors of King Henry VIII and Jane Seymour.
The inner courtyard
There is a recreation of a fountain that Henry VIII had made that dispensed wine on important days. There is a famous painting of people getting very drunk near it.
This fountain also dispenses wine on important days. We were there on an unimportant day.
The gardens were designed in the 1700s. There are many small gardens and also large parks around the palace.
There is The Great Vine which is a grape vine that was planted in 1768. It is 12 feet around the base. It still produces fruit. The base is in its own conservatory but the vines go all over.
There is a maze here too. That is a separate charge but also included in the London Pass. We never did find our way to the center. I saw the center once through a sparse point in the hedge but then we ended up at the entrance again. I later told my father that I tried really hard to lose Mom in the maze for him but she’s a crafty one and found her way out.
Shires horses giving carriage rides around the grounds.
Recently some relatives of mine erected a cross on their property. My reaction the first time I saw it was a disgusted sigh. Soon after someone tried to cut it down. Everyone is shocked — SHOCKED — I tell you. They can’t imagine why anyone would want to do that. I get it. Here’s what I would have told them if I hadn’t minded having a confrontation around the firepit and if I thought that they could have comprehended it.
It isn’t that Christians are being persecuted.
It isn’t that people hate Jesus.
When I see that, it is huge waving neon sign to tell me that the people involved are ignorant. Here’s why.
This isn’t a statement of their own piety even though they are practicing Christians.
A stranger approached them about putting it up on their property. It wasn’t their idea.
If it was for the benefit of their faith, I would think that they would put it somewhere that they could see it. There is a line of trees between their house and the cross.
It is angled so it isn’t square to the road as it passes by it, but so it is square in the line of sight as drivers come around a curve and over a hill. This cross is meant to be seen best by people approaching in a car. It is meant to confront strangers.
It is 15 freakin’ feet tall and painted white so you don’t miss it.
My second thought when I first saw it was, “Damn, that’s belligerent.” They wouldn’t understand unless the people across the road put up a 15 foot tall pentagram or statue of Ganesh or the Koran. They’d be the first people to be grumpy about people shoving things in their faces.
They can’t understand why everyone is so quick to take offense at things. Sorry, but that was deliberately meant to confront people. It was meant to offend so they could be up in arms about people getting offended. I don’t think all this went through my relatives’ heads but I’m fairly sure that is the agenda of some random person who knocks on doors of people with an empty field on a busy road.
With all that being said, I don’t think it was right to try to chop it down. You should be able to do whatever fool thing you want on your own property. I think of things like outrageously large crosses as being like Confederate flags on pickup trucks in the North. It is nice that the idiots are labeling themselves as such so I don’t stumble upon them unaware.
One passage from the Bible always comes to my mind in situations like this.
“Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2So, when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
5”And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7
Matthew 6: 1-7
If you aren’t Christian, what do you think when you see huge crosses? If you are Christian, what do you think the purpose is?
I have written in the past about my husband being a book snob. He doesn’t think that I am well read because I don’t spend the majority of my time reading THE CLASSICS. He seems to feel that THE CLASSICS are the only fiction worth reading if you are going to read waste your time reading fiction instead of nonfiction. Bless his little heart. I thought I had beat this thought out of him by introducing him to some fiction that he loved even though it was written for kids. (Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series and the Nomes series). But yesterday in the car the man said to me, “I just wish you had some historical context in what you read. I mean, you read some historical fiction but that doesn’t count.”
I swear, my first thought was “I’m gonna need a Rihanna GIF to tell this story.”
My second thought was, “Excuse me, what?”
He has lately been listening to Yale lectures online and it must have gone to his head. He ordered a few history books that were recommended and that’s lovely. I’m glad he has some books he is interested in. But we have had this discussion before. I have explained to him that I read about 25% nonfiction. Did this fall out of his brain along with his common sense right before he decided to pick this topic of conversation?
I asked sweetly if he would like a list of the history books I have read in the last year. He laughed and said “Yes, can you do that?” like he thought I was bluffing. The poor soul doesn’t know about Goodreads. I pulled my phone out and pulled up my read list.
I started reading off a list of my nonfiction reads and giving him a summary of each. The second one was The Wright Brothers audiobook that he also listened to. He said, “But that was entertaining!”
I kept talking. Twenty four books and summaries later I said, “And that takes us back to January 1, 2015. Shall I keep going?”
He says to me again, “But those are very readable and entertaining. They aren’t like the books I’m reading.”
“So you mean the authors I’m reading can actually write in a way that people want to read? Do you require footnotes? Several of these had those. Do only textbooks count in your world now?”
“My book has references like duality of Saturnalia…”
“I EXPLAINED THAT REFERENCE TO YOU! I probably learned about Saturnalia in some book you wouldn’t have approved of me reading! You can’t learn things if you enjoy it? Did you like The Wright Brothers?”
“Yes, it was entertaining.”
“Did you learn anything?”
“Did you learn anything????”
Tell me I don’t have any historical context….
What is the most annoying thing people say to you about your reading?
It actually is serious. We aren’t just being difficult.
Before I started dating a person with food allergies I had no idea how serious they were. I’d hear stories about parents freaking out over peanuts and sigh. I had a cousin with a kid with multiple allergies and it was generally accepted that they were overreacting.
Restaurants have gotten so much more responsive about this in the last 10 years but I can think of two restaurants in my town who aggressively refuse to answer questions about allergies. They have signs up that say that allergic people shouldn’t eat there and one refused to even tell us if their hamburger buns had sesame seeds on top before we ordered. Not cool.
Not All Issues With Food Are the Same
Preference – I’m a vegetarian. I chose that lifestyle. If I accidentally eat some meat I won’t be happy but nothing bad will happen to me.
Intolerance – My body doesn’t function well if I eat dairy or wheat. This has been verified with blood testing. If I eat something that I have an intolerance to I’ll be uncomfortable but it isn’t life threatening.
Allergy – People with food allergies quickly develop signs from a rash to hives to anaphalaxis. This can be life threatening.
Don’t be the person who claims to have an allergy to an ingredient when actually you just don’t like it. Too many of those people can make restaurants less responsive to real allergies.
The Paranoia is Real – for some people
A vegetarian and a person with food allergies live together? Yeah, we’re those people. I read every label on everything everytime even if it doesn’t seem like there should be an allergen in it.
The worst is when an allergen gets trendy. Sesame is traditionally in Asian and Middle East food. Avoiding that is bad enough. Now people are sneaking sesame oil into everything. So if I ask to look at the ingredients on something you made from prepared ingredients, it is the voice of experience talking. It isn’t (just) that I don’t trust you. I don’t want to spend the next six hours in the hospital.
I’m way more paranoid than the husband is. I think it is because once the reaction being treated, he goes to sleep in the hospital bed. He doesn’t have to sit up all night making sure his favorite human isn’t about to have a secondary reaction. He’s never tried to find a hospital in an unfamiliar small town at night while on the phone with the 911 operator because his spouse said, “My lips feel funny” and then collapsed. As I tell him, he isn’t at risk of having to be a grieving widow. He’ll just die and get it over with. He agrees. That’s why he does things like pop a cracker in his mouth on a flight halfway over the Atlantic Ocean without reading the label. They almost needed the defibrillator to restart my heart when he did that.
I notice this all the time now. I was at a bagel shop when the person working dropped a piece of ham into the cream cheese. When he pulled it out it had sesame seeds that I guess had been spilled in the cream cheese stuck to it. He put it on the bagel sandwich he was making without a thought.
I don’t buy food from bulk bins if the scoops are able to reach containers that contain allergens because people don’t always use the designated scoop for the bin.
Open wire baskets of bread that sprinkle seeds down onto the loaves below, Reusing a knife at sub shops after just wiping it off, the list goes on and on. When I see it I automatically think, “There’s a hospital stay.”
How People Can Help
It is our responsibility to protect ourselves from allergies but people can help.
If you are going to be making food for an allergic person, find out what you need to know. (Tahini = sesame paste isn’t common knowledge it turns out). Ask if you aren’t sure.
Watch out for contamination. Don’t switch utensils in containers at the salad bar; use the designated scoop at stores; clean up spills of common allergens well in public places; etc.
Don’t act like you are being persecuted if someone asks you not to bring food with a specific ingredient. How are you going to feel if someone dies because you fought for your right to have a peanut butter sandwich? You can have it when you get home. You can go without. Seriously, I gave up hummus because I liked a guy. Don’t think that I didn’t weigh the pros and cons of that decision for longer than you might expect. “He’s a really great guy but… Hummus!” If I survived so can you.
Does anyone else deal with food allergies? What should people know?