July turned sunny and we are trying to get some summertime fun in.
Last week we headed to Pennsylvania for my uncle’s wedding reception and we added in some beach time.
This is at Presque Isle on Lake Erie. It is nice because you get a sandy beach and there are no sharks in the water.
I’ve been threatening to buy myself a burkini for a few years. I burn through SPF 100 and I was envious of suits that cover you all up. I finally got one that isn’t quite as covering a some I’ve seen on Muslim ladies but it works wonders.
It is short sleeved and goes to mid thigh. Love it!
This week we went tubing in the Cuyahoga River. It is the 50th anniversary of the river catching on fire. It is much cleaner now. I live near the National Park that was made to protect and help clean the river. Only one thing worried me about being in the river. I’ve been on the scenic train in the park a few times. Each time while parked on a trestle high above the river I’ve looked down and spotted huge water snakes. I don’t do snakes. I did not want to come innertube-to-face with one. (It didn’t happen as you know because I am writing this and am not dead.)
Operation Don’t Burn worked well with my special swimsuit, lots of sunblock, and a hat.
It was a really pretty day. (Don’t mind the blinding glare off my white legs.)
I remember now that tubing frustrates me because I want to have a paddle or a stick so I can push away from the bank or trees or rocks.
Next I want to go kayaking. I’ve always thought I’d like to be a person who goes kayaking. I’m going to rent one first to see if I like it. It just occurred to me (because I am slow) that we have lots of rivers and lakes around here to kayak in. For some reason I thought that since we don’t live really close to Lake Erie that we don’t have any water. Not sure why.
I’ve been reading and doing stuff. Honestly. What I haven’t been doing is writing. Since I don’t seem to have enough info for a full post about anything in particular here is a list of random stuff that’s been going on around here.
I’ve been reading a huge amount of Julia Quinn’s backlist. I’ve finished a few of her series but I haven’t even started her big series that has about 18 books in it. Maybe that’s why I’m not writing reviews. “Yep, that there was another Julia Quinn book….. stay tuned for the next one….”
I have fancy finger nails. I always have pedicures but don’t do my fingers because nail polish doesn’t survive in vet clinics. There is way too much hand washing. My sister-in-law started selling ColorStreet. They are sort of like nail polish made into a sticker. (I’m sure that’s not the official explanation.) They stay on for a least a week on me. It is a miracle.
I have watermelon right now but I think my favorites are the glittery ones. Here’s a link to her page if you want some.
My mom and I are starting a run of musical watching. I bought her some tickets to touring companies for Christmas. We just went to see Dear Evan Hansen. (Note my glitter nails. We were going to the theater after all.)
Next up is Come From Away, about the town in Canada that hosted all the people whose planes were grounded on 9/11. I have a book about that. I should read that before I go see the play. Those two were her Christmas presents. We just added in tickets to The Book of Mormon in September.
I’m going on vacation! Not any time soon though. We booked another Viking river cruise for next fall. We’ll be starting in Germany and cruising the Danube to Budapest. We may add on a few days in Prague before the start of the cruise.
My poor garden is floundering. It has rained everyday here for weeks. Everything is stunted and sad. I pulled off the mulch to try to get the soil to dry out. Now we’ve had a few days of no rain and my tomato plants are trying to grow. They are sad little things with about 6 leaves and 2 tomatoes on them. I may pull the tomatoes that are starting to try to save the plants’ energy to put towards growth.
I’m playing the Wizards Unite game. My friend code is 9673 0870 8286 if you are playing too.
I’m making two baby quilts. One is bigfoot and one is flamingos. I’ve been wanting to make the flamingo quilt and I’m using my neighbors having a baby as an excuse. They have plastic flamingos in the yard. I’ve never met these people but my husband talks to them a lot. I need to get moving though. I just had this idea and the baby is due in a few weeks. The background fabric just showed up so I can get started.
I think that’s about it for now. What are you all up to?
In 1982 my mother bought a stove. She also bought the extended warranty. Under the terms of this warranty if the store was unable to repair the stove – ever – they would give her a new one.
They had no idea who they were up against.
The stove was a yellow color. Over the years it chipped and she repainted it. You just had to know what knob turned on what burner because the pictures were rubbed off. Every so often something would break and she would gleefully call the repair service in hopes of getting a new stove. Every time they would fix it.
Years went by. She started saving up for a complete remodel of her kitchen. Eventually she did remodel the kitchen and put this beat up, nasty old stove right back in place. Everyone was horrified. My husband offered to buy her a stove. She declined. She saw nothing odd about spending tens of thousands of dollars on a remodel but refusing to pay a few hundred dollars for a stove because she had a warranty. She’d get her new stove someday.
Over time parts got harder and harder to find. The repair service would have to search but every time they found the parts. She would call me and complain about the fact that they came up with the part again. She’d look forward to getting them next time.
By now this stove had been rebuilt almost entirely. It pretty much was a brand new stove in a battered shell. The company she bought it from went bankrupt. They sold the warranty to someone else. She held out hope.
We showed her the house we bought to be a rental. She admired the stove we bought for it. The husband offered to order another for her right then and there. She declined. Someday her warranty was going to pay for a new stove.
Last week she texted us a picture of a new stove in her kitchen. Immediately and separately the husband and I both texted back, “Who paid for it?”
Her warranty had finally paid off. It only took 37 years but she made them surrender and get her a new stove.
It isn’t even a super fancy stove. It isn’t like she was picking out a $3000 industrial grade stove. Right now the one she got is on sale for $600. It is a lot like the ones we’ve offered to buy her over the years. That wasn’t the point though. She could have bought it herself any time. It was the principle of the matter. They were going to owe her a stove someday.
She always gets mad when I say that she is the cheapest person I know. She says that she prefers the term frugal.
I didn’t ask but I’m sure she bought the warranty.
Yes, I did go to France all the way back in November and never even blogged about it. I’m such a blogger failure. So here is the start of the story…
AVIGNON Day 1
We flew into Marseilles and were driven on a bus to Avignon to meet our river cruise boat. We were told that our trip was going to take a bit longer than normal. They said there was a problem on the road. Turns out that the Yellow Jackets were out. This is a group in France who are protesting new gasoline taxes. They do things like shut down roads or intersections. We saw them in action (or their effects) a few times on the trip.
Avignon is a really cool place. All I remembered about it when I heard we were going there was that it was the seat of the anti-Popes. I did read a book in preparation for the trip that helped a lot with the historic background of the town. Basically, in the 1300s Rome was a hot mess and the Pope was getting death threats and kidnapped and all sorts of nonsense.
His main supporter was the King of France. At this time the town of Avignon was part of a territory known as the Papal Free State, which belonged to the Pope. It was located on the banks of the Rhone River which isn’t very wide and there was also a bridge here. On the other side was French territory. The Pope came here because it was safer. For about the next hundred years, the papacy was located in Avignon. It was a boom town because the Pope doesn’t come to town alone. After one of the Popes decided to move back to Rome, there was a contingent who considered him a traitor and installed their own Popes in Avignon. Those were the anti-Popes.
We got to Avignon in the afternoon and crashed. I know you aren’t supposed to do that and the city was literally RIGHT THERE outside our window but we had been travelling for about 18 hours at that point. Even I couldn’t muster up the energy to go exploring right then. We recuperated overnight and then hit the city the next morning.
We started with a guided tour. I was worried about this. I’ve never wanted to be part of a large group following a guide around like little ducklings. Now here we were doing just that. It was ok though. We had headsets so we could hear the guide without having to stay right on her heels.
We made our way through the city walls. Thank you 18th century people who decided not to tear them all down. You go through the walls into an alley that they opens into the town.
We started at The Pope’s Palace which is a huge structure. It served the same purpose as the Vatican during the Pope’s time here. It was actually a disappointment for me after all my reading up on the subject. There was a fire here long after the Popes left that left the interior mostly just stone walls. What you see now is big cavernous spaces that are described as previously ornate. I know it is Avignon’s Big Thing but I’d read about it and skip the visit.
We did really enjoy a garden that we found by chance on a cliff overlooking the Rhone. Even in November, it was beautiful.
Avignon has a bridge. The bridge is important. This was built in the 12th century and was the only bridge across the Rhone anywhere near. It was part of a pilgrimage route from Italy to Spain. It washed mostly away a long time ago.
It even has its own song. That is obvious to French people. Everything written about this bridge tosses in “from the song” like it is self-evident what song you are referring to. I am an ignorant American. I had to Google. There is a French children’s song about dancing on the bridge. It seems to occupy the same mindspace in French people where “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” lives in English-speaking brains. Everyone just knows it. No one can remember actually learning it. French guides tried so gamely. “The bridge is just down there. You know, from the song?” Blank stares from 20 Americans. French guide bursts into “Sur la pont d’Avignon” with the bouncy rhythm and embarrassment of an adult singing a children’s song alone in front of a group of people who have never heard of it.
The husband and I wandered around most of the town. It isn’t a huge place so you can get a good feel of it in a few days. Of course we stopped at chocolate shops for a snack.
We rode a carousel because you should never pass up a chance to do that even if your husband is going to start yelling, “Wheeeeee” as he goes around and will be waving to French people who are just trying to live their lives.
Meet the coolest cat in Avignon. This guy was playing music on the edge of a busy intersection while this cat just lounged. He didn’t even care.
Dealing with the repeated malware and spam attacks on the blog, sapped my will. By the time it was all fixed I didn’t even want to look at the blog and I wasn’t even doing any of the fixing. But there is so much that has gone on that I need to explain to sum up.
I haven’t talked at all about our trip to France. What’s the point of a blog if I can’t make you listen to my vacation stories?
I’ve actually read books this month. I know, it surprised me too.
The husband had surgery on his foot yesterday. He’ll be laid up for 3 months including being unable to drive because he isn’t flexible enough to cross his legs and drive with his left foot which is what I would do. I’m going to try to be patient and kind although I already said out loud to him that it would probably be best if I just suffocated him with a pillow in the hospital to save us all the irritation. He is not a person who manages inconveniences well and not a person who suffers in silence. I keep flashing back to my 3 months on crutches where I had to hire help because the husband-at-the-time couldn’t be bothered to help with horses besides carrying some water. I traveled alone on planes. I judged events in the woods without whining. I will try not to think of this when this husband inevitably yells for me for the 14,000th time because he dropped the remote.
Contrary to what my uncle thinks, we did not adopt a bat. Meet Lucy.
I come from a long line of racists on both sides of my family. There’s no sugarcoating it. Fortunately, now it appears mostly in the eldest living generation but they haven’t all died out yet.
I tried to explain this to the husband, especially about one uncle. This uncle has not demonstrated any untoward behavior at family gatherings in the decade the husband as been around. I, however, can not look at him without remembering the Christmas when he was casually asked to pass something and he started yelling, “Do I look like a (n-word)?” over and over like it was the greatest joke ever. This uncle likes the husband and talks to him. The husband is Italian. He’s dark skinned. The TSA views him as potentially Middle Eastern and a security threat. The uncle has never batted an eye.
The uncle has a grand daughter. She’s my cousin (once removed to be specific). She’s 19. She lives next door to him. They are very close.
My cousin has started dating a biracial guy.
You will not be shocked to hear that my uncle runs an uber-patriarchal household. My aunt has always been kept under his thumb. My aunt and her daughter realized that there was going to be a problem when the asshole uncle found out about the boyfriend.
So my aunt went and informed him of the situation. She asked if the boyfriend would be allowed in the house. He said no. (At this point in the telling of the story, my mother adds in her own commentary about how she wouldn’t be asking that jerk for permission to have anyone in her own house. I don’t know how these people are sisters. Also, my grandmother spent her life dreaming up new ways she could murder the uncle. I don’t know how my aunt ended up so submissive.) My aunt then asked if his grand daughter would be welcome back in the house. He said no. He said to tell her that he was very disappointed in her and that she was going against the bible. (Mom’s commentary – “She is not!” Me – “Has he ever cared about the bible before?” Mom, scoffing – “No!”)
When my aunt relayed this to her grand daughter, my cousin replied that she was very disappointed in him right back (good on her!) and that she had other relatives that she could eat with at Thankgiving. She’d just go to my mom’s house.
The husband and I are on vacation somewhere else. My brother goes to his wife’s side of the family for Thanksgiving and then makes an evening visit to the parents’ house for seconds of dessert. My mother was sort of reveling in the idea that she didn’t have to make Thanksgiving dinner this year. Now she’s bought a turkey because she has to stand up for equality via the medium of providing alternative anti-racist Thanksgiving.
(Me – “Mom, isn’t the whole point of Thanksgiving to eat with people of a different race and culture before you resume genocide?”
Mom – “Apparently he missed that part of the story.”)
Mom wants her sister to leave her husband home alone “to stew in his own juices” while she comes down for Thanksgiving. We all know she won’t do that. They will probably end up sitting home while the rest of the family is at my Mom’s. That’s best case scenario. Worst case is that their other child will support his father’s racism. I haven’t heard what his take on this is yet.
This uncle had another family way back when. My aunt was actually his four kids’ teenage babysitter before he left his wife for her. No matter what you envisioned there about what my aunt looks like, you are wrong. I’ve known this forever and still can not wrap my brain around how this is possibly true. Anyhow, I just found out that one of his first set of kids had a daughter who married a Black man. My uncle’s son was also a racist asshole so he cut the daughter out of his life. After she had her second child, he decided to visit. He fell in love with his grandkids. (This is hopefully how The Browning of America is going to take out racists.) They have reconciled. He took pictures to his grandchildren to show his father. My idiot uncle will not acknowledge his great-grandchildren.
So, I’m hoping from a distance that The Great Anti-Racist Thanksgiving Spectacular goes smoothly and is well attended.
The husband has been fascinated with Viking river cruises for years. I have been less enthusiastic. My idea of a good vacation is to get settled in a city for about a week and explore the heck out of it. Get off the beaten path. See all the touristy sites but then also have the time to explore a five story department store in Lisbon and go see a movie, for example. A day at each stop just isn’t enough.
But, he really wanted to do a river cruise and he’s been dragged up and down mountains because I read about “something cool up there” on a website. I decided to be a good partner and entertain his plan. He started saving money. Weird thing #1 about Viking cruises – You can’t really figure out how much they cost. There are listed prices but they are vague and subject to change and what about airfare? We saved until we figured we had it covered and then he called.
Thing #2 about Viking cruises – You have to plan ahead. We got serious about scheduling in the early spring of 2018. There were 2 cruises left available in 2018. By that I mean there was one cabin available on a boat for a specific week on a Danube cruise and another one cabin available for one specific week only on a Rhone cruise. Each of the cabins was in the bottom of the boat, or “steerage” as I liked to call it to harken back to my Polish immigrant great-grandparents and the fate of those on the Titanic. This was good for our budget though.
How did we decide? We picked the most boring one. That seems counter-intuitive but stick with me here. Reread paragraph one. Ok, now on one cruise we’d be hitting cities I’ve longed to visit – Vienna, Budapest – and then sailing away the next day. How do you pick what do in Vienna in that time frame? Obviously, the Spanish Riding School and then compress the whole rest of the city into an afternoon. When do you spend hours in cafes? Even thinking about it in my living room made me start to hyperventilate. So, we went with the Rhone cruise. I’ve been to Nice before. I never considered going to Avignon or Lyon. We’ll get two days in each small city and in between we hit some small towns. One day is enough to see each small town’s Roman ruins and fancy church. I don’t feel like we’re missing must-see sites.
Thing #3 about Viking cruises – They plan for you. The thing I stress over the most on European vacations in getting from the airport to the hotel and back. I’m good from there. Here other people are in charge of that. They also figured out the air connections. I was dreading that, especially with not arriving and leaving from the same city in France. They fly you from the closest airport to your house. Our closest airport is small. We are relatively close to a larger one. We offered to fly from there. They said no. We are going from small airport to Chicago to Brussels to Marseille and then from Lyon to Brussels to Newark to home. Guess what this cost per person? $300. Yeah. That took a while to grasp. I was convinced it was a deposit on the airfare. Nope. We paid $300 when we booked the cruise and then they figured out our airfare later. I want to fly to Europe all the time for $300. Heck, I want any flight in the U.S. for $300.
After we booked our cruise, the husband started haunting the website. When he noticed another availability pop up suddenly on our boat, he called and got us upgraded out of steerage to the cabin of the people who had just cancelled. There haven’t been any other cancellations on the boat. We’re classy now. I’ve apologized to the ancestors for getting uppity.
We have our free excursions booked. Each day we have a guided tour of the area. Our afternoons are free to do what we want. I just hope that our tour guides don’t have those little flags to keep the group together. I don’t want to be part of a big block of tourists following the flag like lost little ducklings.
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.