Rants from the Crib

An Ob/Gyn gone mad

Archive for the tag “DPchallenge”

Weekly Writing Challenge: A Tough Old Bird

When I was growing up, I had a second family.  This family lived next door to us for many many years.  They had a daughter who was grown but they were only in their forties.  This couple married as high school sweethearts.  We moved in next to them when I was five.  I have vague memories of sitting on their porch with them, visiting as they finished their yardwork.  They smoked, and would always have a cigarette in their hands.  This was very exotic to me as no one in my family smoked.  They would be drinking sweet tea in Tupperware cups, the tall ones that had lids that no one used.  They were the muted Tupperware colors, celery green and faded pink, and they would bring me my own glass.  I remember the gentle tapping that the ice cubes made in the glasses, and the shick shick shick of the lawn sprinkler at the end of the hose.

One day, the husband fell sick.  He had lung cancer.  He was sick, and then he died.  He was only in his forties.  The day of his funeral, my friend and I tried to play quietly in the yard but we were kids and we begin to run and shout.  My father came out, grim faced, and told us to come inside immediately; we were being disrespectful.  We felt terrible.

The day our neighbor’s husband died, she put down the cigarettes and never picked them up again.  She was such a determined woman, her hair always done in a sixties bouffant flip that grayed as she got older.  She never colored her hair.  She did all her own yardwork, and my friend and I would come help her pull weeds and wild strawberries out of her yard.  She paid better than our parents did.  For yard work, she always wore zip-up coveralls that had probably belonged to her husband.  She mowed her own yard, until I was old enough and did it for her.  She amazed us by growing banana plants that grew actual bananas on them.

She always had a big dog in her big chained in back yard.  When we moved in, it was Rex, and then it was Bo.  Then she finished her German Shepard phase and started with the black labs.  Her first one was Inky.  They were all sweet dogs and would jump up to the side of the fence to be petted.  I know they were a great comfort to her after her husband passed.  On the rare occasions that she went out of town, usually to visit her daughter, and later her grandchildren, I would come in to her house and let whatever dog it was into the basement to be fed and petted.  She doted on her big dogs and they were inside as much as they were out.  They were always well trained.

As I got older, I learned what a dichotomous person she was.  On the one hand, she was strong and determined, took care of herself and her house and yardwork.  She was raised the youngest of a family of all boys, and she had a boy’s nickname and was a well known softball player in her day.  She worked for a concrete company until the day they retired her.  But her hair was always perfect, not one out of place, and she spoke in such a soft sweet Southern accent.  She always stayed in great shape and dressed immaculately.  She stubbornly refused to remarry for almost twenty years.

Lordy, that woman loved a good gossip.  When I was a child, it was mostly her talking, but as I got older, high school and college, I had gossip of my own to contribute.  She was born and raised in our town, and she knew virtually everyone in it.  I would start a story about someone, and she would say, “Oh, that’s so and so’s son.  I always knew that family was no good.”  I guess as we get older, we begin to see more sides of someone we’ve known our whole life.  Some of her gossip seemed a bit mean-spirited, but I figured that was just her.  I was more disappointed in her than I have ever been when I was visiting her when I was home from college, and she told me that “Them gays got the AIDS because God was punishing them.”  I never felt quite the same about her again, although I realized later that she was just a sheltered woman who had married out of high school and she didn’t know any better.

When she finally remarried we were all surprised.  She had been dating gently for years, but stayed out of the highly competitive, catty hair pulling that she said was characteristic of older ladies, whom she said would fight tooth and claw over a man, since there were so few of them available.  She said one time she was out to dinner with a man and a woman came up to her and said, “Get away from him, he’s MINE.”  She said she never went out with that guy again; she didn’t need the drama. 

She finally met a man that was right for her, and he lived right around the corner in our neighborhood.  They courted for a while and then married in a small ceremony.  I could never remember to call her by her new married name; I had known her by the old one for so long.  She didn’t mind.  In what I considered an impressive and admirable move, she refused to move in with her new husband and stayed in her old house.  They visited back and forth.  He was an avid hunter, and as tough as nails as she was, she was an avid hunter too.  She went deer hunting with her husband all the time, and brought down many a deer.  I remember one Christmas when she was over seventy, her proudest Christmas gift from her husband was a pair of knee-high, camouflaged, snake proof hunting boots.  I came to her house to see her on one of my trips home, and there was a huge stuffed bobcat in her living room.  I inquired as to the origin of said bobcat, and she said proudly, “I saw him in the woods and I shot me that old cait.  Had him stuffed and I keep him in here.”

She went through some rough times.  As she and her husband got older, they took turns being hospitalized for more and more serious ailments.  She nursed him through several protracted hospital stays.  After years of marriage, in a stunning turn of events that blew our minds, her husband’s daughter got to him somehow and persuaded him that his wife was after his money.  Never mind that she was still supporting herself, living in her own home.  The daughter somehow twisted the knife, wanting her father’s money for her own, and turned him against my friend.  He threw her out of his life without warning.  We were all stunned.  She must have had a premonition, hanging onto her home all those years.  She shrugged it off, and after an initial flurry of filling us in on the dirt, she spoke of him no more.

She’s in her eighties now.  She’s gotten a bit more frail, and a bit less sharp, but there’s still a lot to her.  My parents moved away from her neighborhood, but they still visit each other and catch up on the news.  When my childhood friend remarried, I told her and her first response was, “I know his Daddy.”  She always knew everyone, and everyone’s business.  I haven’t seen her in several years, but we exchange Christmas cards.  She’s a tough lady and I think she’ll hang on quite a while yet.

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American Girl Dolls

I will start with the disclaimer that I know nothing about dolls.  Never had them as a kid (except for one much maligned Barbie).  Never wanted them.  I was a tomboy with a love for animals, and I was going to be a vet.  But now I have a daughter.  And now I have to learn about dolls.  We started a few months before Christmas with the “but everyone in my class has one” discussion.  American Girl Dolls.

As near as I can tell, the American Girl Doll racket is one of the shrewdest, savviest marketers out there.  Not only have they been out for years and maintained market share, but they sell an amazing number of dolls and accessories, at the highest possible price.  My mom ordered my daughter one of those blasted dolls for Christmas after she begged and whined and wheedled.  Let me just say that my daughter has never played much with dolls and this is probably all peer pressure.  $129 for something she probably won’t play with for two minutes.

The choice of dolls is stunning.  They have a doll of the year, every year since I don’t know when.  You can special order a doll that looks just like you.  With freckles even.  My daughter wanted McKenna, the doll of the year who is a gymnast, supposedly.  McKenna does not exactly look like her.  She doesn’t have freckles.  But McKenna is what she wanted, and McKenna is what she got.

You can get matching outfits for the girl and her doll, so they are both wearing the same thing.  You can buy pets for your dolls.  You can buy schoolhouses and books for your dolls.  Along with getting that doll for Christmas, my daughter got one of the girl/doll matching outfits as well.  And let me tell you what else she got.  This is where the story gets ridiculous.

There are several American Girl stores around the country, in major cities.  But these are not just shops, oh, no.  They are full immersion ripoff centers.  I guess peer pressure never ends, because my mom heard her best friend tell about taking her granddaughter on one of these pilgrimages to the American Girl Doll store.  She decided that she would bring my daughter after Christmas during New Year’s break to Atlanta where the nearest doll center is.

So here’s the deal.  This trip is a full package.  You check into a hotel within walking distance of the store that has the American Girl Doll package.  There is a separate special check-in area for families with their girls with these dolls.  When you get to your special American Girl Doll room, the walls are printed bright pink and there is a special bed for the doll that you get to keep.  They bring pink lemonade and cookies to the room at night.  Then the doll fun begins.  You go to the American Girl Doll store, which has a bistro where you can dine.  They have special high chairs at the tables where the dolls can sit.  Once you go into the Death Star shop area, anything is possible.  You can go to a special salon and have your doll’s hair styled and curled.  You can go to a special area and get the doll’s ears pierced, for an exorbitant fee no doubt.  They sell all the American Girl Doll accessories, and when I say all, I mean all.  They have special movie nights with American Girl Doll movies.  These people are marketing geniuses.  And I can’t believe this child talked my mom into something like this, because it wouldn’t have even been considered when I was a kid.  Not that I would have wanted to go, being as I hated dolls and all.

So hats off to the American Girl Doll empire!  They have developed the most immense marketing racket of all time, practically.  And this has been going on now for about two generations.  When I told a nurse at work about my daughter’s little trip, instead of being horrified as she properly should, the nurse merely remarked, “Oh, I have five of those dolls.”  FIVE???  What the hell do you do with five $129 dolls (and that’s on Amazon, which is pretty reasonable)?  I guess you buy matching outfits, and books, and movies, and classrooms, and on, and on, and on.  And of course now there are myriad American Girl ripoffs – dolls about the same size and look as the originals, with cheaper accessories and such that will fit the real dolls.  Everyone wants a piece of that pie.  My daughter’s friends carry their American Girl catalogues to school with them, and sit and compare dolls and accessories and what they are going to ask their mommy for next.  Each tries to outdo the other.

I am amazed at the excess of the American Girl Doll immersion phenomenon.  It would never have occurred to me, did I not have a daughter, that this empire existed.  Now that I know, I am disgusted and awed.  I just hope that new McKenna doll doesn’t get tossed off to the wayside, with her newly pierced ears and styled hair, and special bed and Husky dog pet.  I do know that my mom and dad and my daughter probably had a weekend that they will remember forever.  It will be a great memory for my daughter.  But I know my daughter.  And we’ll see how long this phase lasts.

My Wonderful Husband

Well, here I sit on Saturday night, and I have not written a blog post today.  I have been writing a post a day for months.  I haven’t missed a day.  I am on call this weekend and I have already delivered three babies.  I just came back home from doing a circumcision and a c-section.  It is after seven o’clock.  I have no blog post.

I informed my husband that I have no blog post.  My husband said, “You always write about what a bad husband I am.  Why don’t you write a blog post about what an awesome husband I am?”

I said, “I write great things about you too.  You just don’t notice them.  But that’s a great idea.  Today I’m going to write a post about how awesome you are.”  So here is how awesome my husband is:

When I first met my husband, I was having a lot of problems.  He was one of the few people in my life who actually noticed that I was in trouble and he tried to help me out.  In fact, when my personal problems threatened to eat me alive, he put his foot down and asked me to choose between my bad habits and him.  He loved me.  I picked him.

He noticed that I was miserable in my current job.  So much so that when I broke a molar from grinding my teeth in my sleep, I was elated because I could spend the day in the dentist’s chair having a crown made and not have to go to work.  He felt this indicated a problem.  He helped me find a new job, one closer to my parents because we were planning on getting married and having a family.

He defended me against my mother when she decided that she couldn’t stand him.  He actually stood up to her and told her how much she was hurting me, trying to sabotage the relationship while we were planning a wedding.  She actually listened to him.  He’s a problem solver.

We got married and I settled into my new job.  He had made a sacrifice by leaving Atlanta, where he had been very happy and had lots of work.  He is an independent contractor, so he has lots of work everywhere.  And Atlanta was very convenient for him.  He gave that up.

A year later, we decided to get pregnant.  He had a surgery to make sure he was good and fertile.  I was already pregnant when he had the surgery.  We just didn’t know it.  He put up with my crazy hormonal pregnant crap for ten months.  Actually I was pretty good.  I just had this weird habit of bursting into tears on Sunday nights when he was about to leave for Atlanta the next day.  I was convinced his plane was going to crash and he would never see his baby.

He was right there in the c-section room with me when we had our baby.  And after that awful experience, he held my wrists for forty-five minutes to stop the shaking in my body that hurt my new incision so much.  And when our baby had horrible colic, he walked the floor with her for hours.  He jiggled her to sleep in his lap almost every night.  He carried her around in a little sling while he worked.  He took over when I was so dazed with postpartum depression and colic and sleep deprivation that I could hardly see straight.  He took care of her at home while I went back to work.

He tried working from home with a baby and a babysitter for six months.  He finally realized he wasn’t getting any work done, and we had to put her in daycare.  But he tried for half a year.  We went through four or five daycares before we found one where she could stay; where we felt comfortable with her staying.

Over the years, he has done the lion’s share of the work.  My only contribution has been to work long hours as an Ob/Gyn.  But to be honest, I just don’t get that much done when I am home.  He hired us a housekeeper, who keeps the place picked up.  He waters the houseplants and sprays the orchids.  He runs the vacuum, because dust bothers him.  He does laundry and arranges to get the lawn mowed and does all the yard work, keeping the roses trimmed back and the beds edged and the lilies cut and everything watered.  When the house is falling down around our ears, he does the research for the contractors and supervises them and makes sure the work gets done.  He works his butt off at his job, sometimes working from home and sometimes travelling.  He has done much more than his fair share of the work for years and he rarely complains about it.  He keeps on me to do the little things that he has me do around the house, and is more than patient when I don’t get them done.

He does more than his fair share of parenting.  He reads to our daughter almost every night, helps with her bath or her shower, gets her up and gets her dressed and takes her to the bus most days so I can sleep in.  He plays with her and practices softball and plays chess and tickles her and reads graphic novels to her and goes to all her plays and school lunches, because I can’t go.  He’s an awesome father and my daughter is a daddy’s girl who loves him so very much.

He spoils me.  He tucks me in at night.  He cooks for us.  He turns on the fire for me.  He brings me blankets when I’m cold.  He has allowed much more spending on my part than he would like to see.  He is understanding when I am tired coming home from work.

Most recently, he is allowing me to work part time.  My job has been wearing me down so much over the past ten or fifteen years, and it’s making me old and depressed and he notices that.  He has just sold his airplane that he loves because it will be too expensive to keep once I am only working part time.  He has helped me get a job as a locum tenens (travel doctor) and I will work two weeks and be off two weeks.  That way I can be more of a wife and mother.  Hopefully I will do more around the house, cleaning and organizing.  This way he will be able to travel for work in the weeks that I am home.  I pray it will work out for the best for both of us.  He deserves a happier, more giving, more present wife.  I hope I will be able to do that for him.  I WILL do that for him.

Three C-Sections, A Tubal, And A Clinic

Wow.  What a day.  And I’m only halfway through.  We started out with two c-sections scheduled for today.  Then one of my patients had her baby yesterday and needed to have her tubes tied today.  So we had to add that on to the beginning of the schedule.  Then a set of twins came in and needed to be delivered.  Third c-section added.  I was supposed to go over to my new hospital today, get processed, get a badge, get a tour and learn the new computer system, but that was supposed to be done at eleven, when the second c-section was barely over.  And then after a tubal and three c-sections, I have clinic all afternoon.

First, the tubal.  I had to wake up at six AM to be there before my seven o’clock start time.  They had kept the patient’s epidural from her delivery the day before to use as anesthesia for her tubal.  So they dosed her up and wheeled her back.  We had to give her quite a bit of sedation to knock her out.  I injected her navel with a numbing agent and made a one centimeter cut under it.  Her uterus was sitting right there, at belly button height.  I shoved that uterus toward the left and found the right tube and brought it to the surface through the incision I’d made (kind of like ice fishing).  We tied off a loop of it and cut the loop off.  We burned the edges to make sure she didn’t bleed.  Then we shoved the uterus the other way and got the left tube.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  Then we closed her up and off I went, for c-section number one.

My partner was doing the first c-section and I was assisting her.  The patient had had a c-section before, so of course everything in there was all stuck together.  There was barely enough of an opening to squeeze the baby out.  Then there wasn’t enough room to pull the uterus out to repair it, so we had to sew it up while still inside the tummy.  We also had to get to her tubes to tie them.  Second tubal of the day.  Everything went fine and we scrubbed out to await the next c-section.

The second c-section was mine.  This patient had also had a c-section before, and again, everything inside was all stuck together.  Her uterus was stuck to the inside of her abdominal wall and we had to dissect it off to be able to exteriorize the uterus.  This baby came out without a hitch though.  We closed the uterus and it just oozed from where we had unstuck it from the anterior abdominal wall.  We had to stitch and stitch and then apply a special goo that causes blood to clot so it would stop oozing.  That took a good while.  We finally got the uterus put back and closed her up.  This was her fourth baby but she didn’t want her tubes tied.  So, no tubal.

The third c-section was mine:  the twins.  She had originally wanted to try for a vaginal delivery but got concerned because the second twin was sideways and she was afraid it would get stuck.  And her blood pressure was up, and she needed to be delivered.  So, a c-section it was.  The little girl delivered first and looked great.  We flipped the little boy to head down, and out he came too.  Both babies looked great!  Her uterus was a little mushy from being so stretched by two babies.  It took a little while to get the bleeding to settle down.  No tubal for her either.  We got everything closed up and – guess what – I was almost an hour late for afternoon clinic!  So, yay me!

I had patients waiting in all my exam rooms when I got upstairs.  I had to run and play catch up, because I was way behind.  I am now plowing my way through fourteen afternoon patients.  I write when my nurse is working someone up to be seen and I have a minute.  So here I am, gulping my diet Pepsi and writing my blog as I wait between patients.  I am more or less caught up now.  One of my patients had already heard that I was leaving this office to work elsewhere and she asked me about it.  News sure does travel fast in a small town!  That’s one of the reasons I’m kind of anxious to leave here.  I’m more of a city girl, myself.

So I did a tubal, three c-sections and missed my hospital orientation.  I was late for clinic.  Now I have like a million patients to see.  I was on call yesterday, and tomorrow I’ll be on call again, for five days in a row for the New Year’s holiday.  And I have two labor inductions tomorrow.  Bleah.  See why I need a break?  I am so looking forward to working part time in 2013!

Christmas At Beadstork’s

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Christmas at our house was a success.  My parents arrived Christmas Eve in time for lunch – we had sandwiches.  After lunch, Amanda and her Grandmama made the traditional yearly cheese ball – I used to make them with my Grandma when I was a kid.  Amanda got to get up to her elbows in squishy cheese ball goodness to squish all the ingredients together.  We coated with pecans and voila!  Then she and Grandmama made the gingerbread dough to be chilled for the next day.

Christmas Eve dinner was our traditional oyster stew – passed down from Christmas Eves at my dad’s house as a kid.  Then we packed up the van and headed to the big city of Huntsville to see the Galaxy of Lights at the Botanical Gardens.  They were charging $20 a carful as a fundraiser for the Gardens.  It took us an hour and a half to make our way through the long drive through the Gardens and to see all the lights that lined the way.  The day was a success!

Christmas day started early (for some).  My daughter woke up at 2 AM and went into Grandmama and Tuppa’s room to inquire whether she might now open her presents.  She was told to go back to bed.  She woke up again at 3:30 and went into their room to inquire as to whether it was late enough for gift unwrapping.  She woke up again at 4:30 and decided to read a book.  Her dad woke up at 5:30 and read to her to help her kill time until the rest of us got up at 7:00. 

She really raked in the goodies this year!  Santa brought her a real camera and a new laptop.  She got a huge Lego house and an American Girl Doll from Grandmama.  As an extra special treat, at New Year’s, Grandmama and Tuppa are taking her to Atlanta where the American Girl store is for two nights in a hotel within walking distance of the store and bistro, with a special doll bed waiting at the hotel room, a high chair for the doll at dinner, pink lemonade and cookies at night and a movie night with her doll.  What a moneymaker those American Girl people have!  Grandmama said her wallet will be empty at the end of the trip.  They have a hair salon where the doll’s hair can be curled and styled, and you can get your doll’s ears pierced (no doubt for an exorbitant price).

I got what I asked for this Christmas:  a new Nikon Macro lens for my camera.  My husband bought it for me as long as I promised to study up on my camera, read the manual, and learn about the manual settings.  I started on that on Christmas day.  I also madly photographed any tiny thing that would hold still long enough for me to snap a picture.  I posted some of my photos on this blog yesterday.

My husband must have been good, because he raked in some stuff too.  He got some clothes, a cover and a docking station for his phone, some books and a sort of a joke gift (but not really):  a shirt folder like the one Sheldon had on Big Bang Theory.  When he saw it on the show, his face lit up and he said, “I want one of those!”  He didn’t know I’d remembered. 

Christmas dinner turned out pretty good.  We had a Honeybaked ham, which turned out a little cool for my taste.  They recommended that it be served at room temperature, but I wanted it a little warmer than that.  It wasn’t.  I tried to make Atkin’s-y things because my hubby and I are on that diet, so we had green beans with almonds, creamed spinach with horseradish and cauliflower/broccoli salad, because my daughter actually like cauliflower.  Grandmama had brought Christmas cookies and chocolate mint brownies from home, which of course hubby and I did not get to eat.  Sigh. 

After dinner, we baked the gingerbread men and my daughter and Grandmama and I decorated them.  We wound up making homemade icing because the cake icing from the store came out too thick in enormous globs.  We added currants and redhots and little holly leaves to the icing.  Little Bit got crazy and put all kinds of stuff over her cookies. 

After the cookies were done we retired for a while to our respective books and new gifts.  I took some macro photos (one of which is at the top of this post) and read my camera manual, as I had promised my husband.   After we settled down for a while, Mom wanted to watch A Muppet Christmas Carol, so we watched that.  By that time, the bad weather that was predicted for Christmas day set in.  There was a big low pressure front coming through and tornados were predicted across the South.  They were supposed to hit a bit south of us, where my parents live, so they were a bit concerned.  Fortunately, the storms weren’t as bad as predicted and there was no tornado damage.  There was a good deal of thunder and wind, however.

The day after Christmas, today, I had to return to work and be on call for New Year’s Eve weekend.  This holiday has been all too short and I have the promise of hard labor over the next seven days.  But Christmas was fabulous, our family was happy, and I was blessed to be there.

Macro Lens

Got a new 85 mm macro lens for my Nikon!  I have been shooting closeups of everything all morning.  I am having to learn about the focal lengths as it is difficult to focus if you get too close.  Here are some of my first efforts:

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Martha Stewart For Christmas

Courtesy, Flickr Creative Commons: Joits

For today’s Christmas Eve blog post, I am borrowing an email that’s been going around the internet:

Dear Family,

I know that you were eager to accept our family’s invitation to Christmas dinner when you found out that the famous Martha Stewart would be joining us.  However, due to scheduling conflicts beyond her control, Ms. Stewart finds that she is unable to grace our table this year.  With that in mind, there will be a few minor changes regarding the meal and decor, as outlined below.  Please be aware of them, and adjust your appetite and dress appropriately.  Thank you.

Our driveway will not be lined with homemade paper bag luminarias.  After several trial runs and two visits from the fire department, it was decided that, no matter how cleverly done, rows of flaming lunch sacks do not have the desired welcoming effect.

Once inside, please note that the foyer will not be decorated with swags of garlands and home grown holly.  Instead, we included our dog in decorating by having him track in colorful autumn leaves from the back yard.  The mud was his idea.

The dining table will not be covered with expensive linens, fancy china or crystal goblets.  If possible, we will use dishes that match and everyone will get a fork.  Since this is Christmas, we will refrain from using the paper SpongeBob dinner plates, the leftover Halloween napkins, and our plastic cup collection.

Our centerpiece will not be a tower of fresh fruit and flowers.  Instead we will be proudly displaying a hedgehog-like decoration hand-crafted from the finest construction paper and pine cones.  The artist assures me it is a reindeer, albeit one without legs, tail or horns.  The red nose is a fine cotton pompom.

We will be dining somewhat later than planned.  However, our daughter will entertain you while you wait.  I’m sure she will be happy to share every choice comment her mother made regarding Christmas, reindeer, stuffing choices, the turkey hotline, and, especially, her husband.  Please remember that most of these comments were made at 7:00 AM upon discovering that said husband had only remembered to pull the turkey from the freezer at 6:00 AM, and that the thing was still hard enough to cut diamonds.

As an accompaniment to our daughter’s recital of these events, I will play a recording of Native American tribal drumming.  Curiously, the tribal drumming sounds a great deal like a frozen turkey in a clothes dryer, but that only enhances the holiday appropriateness.  If our daughter should mention that we don’t own a recording of Native American tribal drumming, ignore her.  She’s only seven; what does she know?

A dainty silver bell will not be rung to announce the start of our feast.  We have chosen to keep our traditional method of assembling when the smoke alarm goes off.

There will be no formal seating arrangement.  When the smoke alarm sounds, please gather around the table and sit where you like.  In the spirit of harmony, we will ask all the children to sit at a separate table… in a separate room… next door.  And I would like to take this opportunity to remind our younger diners that “passing the rolls” is neither a football play nor an excuse to bean your cousin in the head with bread.

The turkey will not be carved at the table.  I know you have seen the Norman Rockwell image of one person carving a turkey in front of a crowd of appreciative onlookers.  Such a scene may occur somewhere in America, but it won’t be happening at our dinner table.  For safety reasons, the turkey will be carved in the kitchen in a private ceremony.  I stress “private”, meaning DO NOT, under any circumstances, enter the kitchen to laugh at me.  Do not send small, unsuspecting chilren, or older, helpful grandparents into the kitchen to check on my progress.  I have a very large, very sharp knife.  The turkey is unarmed.  It stands to reason that I will eventually win the battle.  When I do, we will eat.

For the duration of the meal, we will refer to the Kraft Cheese Sauce by its lesser known name:  gravy.  If a young diner questions you regarding the origins or makeup of the gravy, smile kindly and say that you know the answer, but it’s a secret that can’t be revealed to them until they are 18.

Instead of offering a choice among 12 different scrumptious desserts, we will be serving the traditional pumpkin pie, garnished with whipped cream and dog tongue marks.  You still have a choice: take it or leave it.

That concludes our list of alterations.  Again, I apologize that Martha will not be joining us this year.  Come to think of it, she probably won’t come next year, either.  Merry Christmas!

Weekly Writing Challenge: Wrap It Up

from Kitten, Flickr Creative Commons

Why do I hate wrapping gifts so much?  Is it because I suck at it?  Is it the Pinterest/Martha Stewart inspired mandate to create ever more creative and handmade wrappings?  Is it because, as a child and a young adult, I not only had my own packages to wrap but my dad’s, since he hates wrapping worse?  And now my husband’s?

I suck at gift wrap.  Oh, I do all the things you’re supposed to do.  I have kits of expensive coordinating paper, ribbon and bow sets.  I have boxes of fancy gift tags.  I have gift bags and tissue paper.  I have rubber stamps, and handmade papers, and a Sissix punch and, well, you get the idea.  My gift wrapped packages still look as though they were done by a six year old who has spent the afternoon spinning in circles.

I can’t even unwrap gift paper.  Those tubes are hermetically sealed, taped and permanently curved.  After struggling to remove the cling wrap, I am faced with those little tapes that keep the roll from unrolling.  I manage to rip the paper every time I remove one.  Then I have to unroll the stupid thing.  I unroll it, it rolls up.  I unroll it, it rolls up.  Rinse, lather, repeat.  When I finally manage to smash and corral it to the floor, it is wrinkled and folded and compressed by whatever package I have slammed onto it.  Then I remember the present should be wrapped with its up side down, lift the package, and the thing rolls up again.

After smashing the paper flat and positioning the gift on it correctly, it’s time to cut.  Ha.  My inate non-cutting abilities kick in at this point.  It doesn’t help that my daughter has appropriated every functional pair of scissors I own and made them disappear.  I am left with lame paper clippers designed for small, fine work, not for cutting enormous swaths of cheap paper.  So I chop and whack at the paper, attempting to do the dextrous slide that you see the professional gift wrappers do.  No dextrous slide.  Instead great big triangular chunks and unseemly rips appear along the entire length of the cut.  Damn.  Now I have to hide the ugliness by folding it over.  This sometimes makes the paper too small to wrap the package and I have to start all over again.

Then comes the actual folding of the paper around the gift.  After folding and creasing the edges to hide my cutting inabilities, I began to fold and attempt to cover the present.  If the package is a simple box, I might just manage.  My inability to make hospital corners on a bed kicks in, and the corners on the package that are supposed to be so tight and crisp become messy and a little bulgy on the ends of the package.  I attempt to rectify this with lots of tape.  This is the point at which I will began my rant.  WHY IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS WONDERFUL DO TOY MANUFACTURERS PLACE TOYS IN SUCH WONKY, IRREGULARLY SHAPED, SPINY, CURVED BOXES?  That is my rant.  Why?  Why can’t they just put the damn things in a square box?  These toys cannot be wrapped in standard wrapping paper.  At least, not by me.  This leaves only one recourse:  the dreaded gift bag.  And these are, of course, totally inappropriate for children, because children are pokers and prodders and peekers, and if you put out a gift bag, they will know what is in it immediately.  Also, the weird shaped packages have so many protuberances and fins that they typically require an enormous bag.  So any gift wrapped this way cannot be put out until the night before Christmas, because the kid will be in it in a flash.

Next this leads to tags.  And ribbons.  And bows.  All slippery, inadequately sticky, temporary pathetic things.  And you can’t put tags on a kid’s gift.  They will shake the damn thing so hard to find out what it is, that if it wasn’t legos or a puzzle before, it will be now.  So you have to use the old “one type of wrapping paper for each recipient trick”.  That way you can leave the label off, and the kid won’t know which ones are for them.   This results in them shaking and squeezing ALL the packages.  Ribbons of course are as curly and pesky as the wrapping paper.  And that little trick where you curl the little skinny ribbons with the edge of your scissors?  Doesn’t work.  They become sad and kinky looking instead.  And bows.  The factory installed adhesive DOESN’T STICK.  Don’t try to tell me it does.  The bows are off the packages by the time you carry them downstairs. 

And the whole Martha Stewart package thing, where you wrap in handmade paper from Pakistan with coordinating raffia and hand rubberstamped gift tags bearing hokey little messages?  Forget the whole thing.  First of all, why would you bother to waste this on a kid?  And really, why would you waste it on anyone?  You can spend hours contemplating the layout and message of said package, and it will be ripped off in an instant.  And anything that is hand lettered, for me, looks like it was done by a toddler in crayon.  So I wouldn’t waste my time unless the gift was actually FOR Martha Stewart.  And then it would stress me out beyond belief.

And unfairly, and horribly, I get stuck wrapping all the gifts.  First I had to wrap my dad’s.  Now I have to wrap my husband’s.  He even has me wrapping the gifts he’s bought for me.  I wish I were joking.  Plus I have to wrap my own.  Plus anything for any Christmas party or Dirty Santa.  And you would think, you would really really think, that with this much wrapping over the years, I might not suck at it so bad.  But I do.  And each package appears as if someone had stomped it really vigorously into the ground, followed by setting it on fire.  And then everyone makes fun of the wrapping I did for them.  And I want to stuff my ugly little packages into their various smirking lazy mouths.  So gift wrapping is the icing on the veritable Christmas cake for me.  And I still don’t know why I suck at it so bad.  I hope it isn’t genetic.

My Precious Point Of View

 

Why does it blogses?  Well, it blogses about the Precious.  The Precious makes us blog.  Our Precious has been with us forever, Precious has, and Precious will be with us forever more.  Precious made us go find a magic computer, one that would work out in the swamp, it has, and our Precious will help us lead the Lesser Ones to a better understanding.  The Lesser Ones never had a Precious, and they never will!  They will never touch our Precious.  Our Precious is ours and ours alone.  My Precious – it makes us disappear from Orclings and Dwarves and Hobbits and others who would steal our Precious from us.  It makes us strong, the Precious.  It brings us peace on wet nights and strength and hunger.  Our Precious protects our last strands of hair, it does, and makes our eyes so bulgy and big.  We can see the Lesser Ones, Precious and we POUNCES and BITES on the wiggly Lesser Ones, we do.  Tasty wiggly ones for you, my Precious.  We will dines on that tasty Hobbit, the one that follow us and wants our Precious.  It will kill the Lesser Ones who would take the Precious from us, and we will eats them, we will, eats them in one bite or maybe two.  And we will slip our Precious on our finger, and it will makes us perfect, yessss it will, MY Precious.  My Precious brought this magic computer to us and we will learn to speaks on it, we will.  We will blogses for the Precious tells us to.  This will warn the nasssty Hobbitses it will, and the Hobbitses will leave the Precious to us.  It will tell the Lesser Ones to leave us to our computer and our Precious.  We will loves the computer and the Precious and the computer will be a Precious to us also, the magic computer that shows us so many worlds and we will beat the worlds and keep the Precious from all of them.  My Precioussssss…

Weekly Writing Challenge: In An Instant

I had a happy and uneventful childhood and the usual awful middle school experience.  I had been an A student all of my life, with very little effort.  I had been treated as something of a prodigy as a child, mainly due to my mom’s intense grooming and pushing.  Somewhere around sophomore year, I realized that there was more to life than being brilliant, and I was determined to find that something.  I started by deliberately dumbing down.  I got negative attention from the kids every time my name was posted on that honor roll list, so I decided I wasn’t going to be on that list any more.  I started bringing home B’s.  I think one report card had two B’s on it, and my parents posted it on the refrigerator, marked in red ink, “a sad day.”  I tell this to illustrate how academically intense my household was.  Two B’s and it was A Sad Day.  My parents decided that my local private school was failing me and I was miserable (brilliant deduction) and made the worst of all decisions:  they would send me away to boarding school.  My poor parents, Wally and June Cleaver, failed to understand that in the rest of the world, “boarding school” is not synonomous with achievement, it is synonomous with “fucked up kids.” 

So I went to my new school.  I was determined that one thing would happen – I wouldn’t be a geek anymore and I would have cool friends.  I would run with the in crowd, and not have my chair pulled out from under me or spit balls put in my hair any more.  This would occur no matter what I had to do.  No matter what.  Unfortunately, this school revered four things:  academic achievement, sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll.  They were obsessed by the sixties.  The dorm circle rang with The Who and The Beatles and The Kinks and Led Zeppelin.  Kids played frisbee outside with their hair tied back with tie-dyed bandanas.  Afros on curly-headed kids of all races were cool.  Pictures of pot leaves and copies of Timothy Leary’s writings and The Moody Blues and guitars graced the dorm rooms.  I was in way over my head.  I knew nothing of any of this.  But I was going to devote myself, 24-7, to learning this and fitting in unless I died.

I tackled the music.  To this day I have a working knowledge of music from the sixties through the nineties second almost to none.  I have a CD collection spanning five decades – hundreds and hundreds of CDs.  You see, I internalized everything that went on at this school as The Way To Be.  Except for the academics part.  I was going to give that a rest.  I tackled the clothes.  I put holes in my jeans and got ratty old t-shirts and got rid of all my wanna-be preppy regalia from my previous academic institution.  I bought drug-addled posters and put them up in the room and in my windows.  And I tackled the drugs.  I had heard whispers about them from the cool kids at the old school, but I was so far removed from all that that I hadn’t even been around kids who were drinking before.  Again, way, way over my head. 

I tried drinking first.  Of course I pulled the Swill Mixed Alcohol Until I Vomit routine at the first party I went to, disgusting everyone.  But for some reason, this was something I wanted to revisit.  And then my roommate taught me how to smoke pot.  And how I loved it.  I loved acting stupid, even stupider than usual.  And then I found quaaludes.  And speed.  And LSD.  I would put anything in my mouth that anybody handed me, just to be cool.  I had lost my mind.  Completely distracted by my coolness, I missed my first bout with depression, chalking it up to the loss of a quirky punk rocker with a mohawk who had caught my eye.  I took up smoking cigarettes, Marlboro Reds, calling them “Cowboy Killers” and sitting in my dorm room closet learning how to blow smoke rings.  I was so distracted that I completely failed to fill out any applications for college whatsoever.  Just completely didn’t notice that the kids around me were all filling theirs out.  As it turned out, it didn’t matter.

As my classmates matured into senior year, I found myself hanging out with younger kids who were easily impressed.  One night, two of the kids came by my dorm room and wanted to know if I wanted to go up on the mountain and smoke some pot.  Of course I agreed.  Since it wasn’t dark when we left, I didn’t think to turn off the lamp in my dorm room.  And that one lamp changed my entire life.

The staff head of the dorm made his evening rounds and found my lights on, along with those of the two boys I had gone off with.  He tackled them first, knowing that they would be pushovers, and sure enough, they blurted out everything.  Armed with this information, he came to me, and I had little choice but to confess to my crime.  I was suspended immediately and a hearing for my possible reinstatement was scheduled.

Now keep in mind, up until now, my folks knew about none of this.  They were an hour away, and had no idea what I had become.  After all, I never went home.  I stayed in the dorms every weekend to party.  The irony with the cigarettes was, the school had a smoking permit for students.  If the parents signed the permit, kids could smoke in designated areas.  In an extremely stupid case of reverse psychology, my folks signed the permit.  Just one more thing to illustrate my coolness!  I took up smoking immediately.  When my folks came to pick me up after the expulsion, to say that they were blindsided would be like saying, well, they were completely blindsided.  They were both grim and stern, and my father cried when my petition for reinstatement was denied.

They took me home, and this was where the real craziness took over.  Mom got me into the state college where they taught; with my grades it was a shoo-in, but I couldn’t start until January.  This was October.  Instead of making me get a job (which is what I would have done, to keep me out of trouble, or putting me in rehab, which I would have laughed at but they probably ultimately would have peer-pressured me into shape), they left me at home.  Every day.  While they went to work.  So I watched soap operas all day, stole their Eisenhower dollars to buy cigarettes, and found me a dealer who could keep me supplied with weed.  I had no transportation so I walked to the Zippy Mart every day to buy a pack.  It was my only exercise.  I smoked a pack a day, and took a shower before the folks got home so they wouldn’t smell it on me.  I smoked outside.  They didn’t smell it because they never got that close to me.  They never hugged me, they never asked what was going on with me, and they just basically gave me the cold shoulder.  They never even asked me what kinds of things I had done.  They really didn’t want to know.  I guess they figured, if they didn’t talk to me, I didn’t exist.  And I didn’t.  That nonexistence was the most pitiful period of my life. 

The event, with a night and the dark and a lamp, changed my life forever in one quick stroke.  I went, in my parents’ minds, from prodigy to damaged goods.  But this did not straighten me out.  It strengthened my resolve.  I would still be a cool kid.  No matter what.  My mind was set.  And so was the addictive personality, although it took me years before I would figure that out.  Everything changed.  But nothing did.

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