For anyone not neck-deep in the hat-phantasmic hoopla surrounding the royal wedding, allow me to present a less drama-soaked alternative: watching plants grow!
It occurs to me, that I have watched too many episodes of Midsomer Murders–a British television show on air since 1997 that refuses to die no matter how many casting changes occur.*
If you know the genre, there typically is a picturesque village holding a Medieval Faire with costumed residents oozing quaintness and exhibiting occasional homicidal tendencies.
If you are unfamiliar, I recommend a movie by Simon Pegg called “Hot Fuzz” that crystallizes the best and worst bits about the deceptively serene English countryside:
The thing that captures my attention more than the body count, is the number of community fêtes thrown. There’s like, what, one every episode? It makes me wonder if it is a national British pastime to dress in Ye Olde itchy togs and con people into playing cheesy parlor games for the sake of the church roof fund!
This brings me to today’s topic: American Block Parties.
Most block parties are an organized potluck gathering on barricaded side streets with no other function than to bring a community together to eat. Saturday gives me the opportunity to attend one that is equal parts British Fête Fundraiser and old-fashioned American street festival.
Wellhouse is a community program that buys local houses, renovates dilapidated neighborhoods, and provides housing and skills training for formerly homeless residents. They also promote a ‘growing’ community with an emphasis on sustainable practices and energy conservation along with farm gardening.**
Wellhouse hosts a plant sale each year. You go for the plants. You stay for that little something extra you won’t find at your local greenhouse: community!
At first, I beeline to pick up the greenery I want to fill out the barren landscape choked with crabgrass and despair that is my backyard.
Per usual, my teenage son has a trajectory of his own.
I keep dragging the man-child away from one table in particular. (I need to ogle flowers with exotic names like ‘Clemson’ and ‘Hyssop’, don’tcha know.)
I promise my child a specialty cupcake just so I can plant shop. (Twist my arm.)
I don’t know how good the chocolate cupcake with chocolate whipped frosting was, I just know it took my son less time to inhale said cupcake than it took to remove the wrapper.
I pick the one with the raspberry garnish.
I have no regrets.
If you want more rib-sticking eats, you might hit up the royalty-hued catering provided by Purple Blaze, a hybrid of Southern and Ethiopian cooking.
Sadly, I have no time to sample their fare, mostly because the boy-child is pushing me to go, however, even I as a non-meat eater have to say the wafting odor of barbecue is positively mouth watering.
You wouldn’t think there is be more in store at the festivities, but you’d be wrong. The gray, overcast sky can’t put a damper on the upbeat spirits.
There are white-tented tables with various arts for sale. My arms are mostly full of greenery, but I stop to admire the selections.
And fabulous arts of the crafted clay variety provided by WMCAT or the West Michigan Center for Arts & Technology.
Here’s CC showing off her colorful floral-designed Pot:
Before long, my son is dragging me toward our Prius in a desperate bid for freedom, but I chat and take pictures as if this isn’t killing him slowly.
Moving between lazy droplets of rain, it is possible to find your smile while listening to The Fabulous Vans.
As I am packing up my car to go, I chat with the guitarist who is setting up for a performance. We exchange brief biographies, the way strangers do.***
I point to my kid who is slumping, hang-dog, in the car since mommy isn’t hopping to like he hopes. Timmy points to his daughter, Sierra, still polishing off some ribs at a nearby picnic table. He brags about her musicality and involvement in local choirs.
“You wouldn’t be biased about her talents at AlL?”I joke.
Her dad laughs and denies partiality, “Of course not.”
We talk about kids and music for a bit.
I bemoan my teenager’s rebellion against piano and ask whether he has to badger her to follow in her father’s footsteps? He assures me that she’s the one who wants sing.
He can’t say enough great things about her. Apparently, she’s even influenced the music they play.
“We usually play classic rock covers–like Led Zepplin’s “A Whole Lot of Love” but Sierra sings from some of her favorites: Twenty-One Pilots or One Republic.”
“I’m sorry,” I interrupt him. “Did you say Twenty-one Republics?”
He corrects me without laughing, much. By now, the rest of the band has loped over, and agrees to stage a picture for me. I hear them play as I drive away. Their enthusiasm isn’t in the least dampened by the drizzly venue.
I spent the rest of the day trying to plant things while simultaneously killing as many weeds as I can.
In the spirit that embodies fine British murder mystery programming, there’s been a summer fête, someone has to die!
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Regarding Midsomer’s Suspicious Death Rate: I do wonder how a fictional hamlet apparently no bigger than Rhode Island can survive quadruple homicides on a weekly basis without running out of people?
**I totally stole the Wellhouse information from a flyer available at the front table.
***Even though we all know about serial killers, no one expects them. They are like the Spanish Inquisition this way.
Thank you for joining me for a retrospective of the Mother’s Day bonsai bonanza at Meijer Gardens. I highly recommend you attend the special exhibits like these, or, failing that, stopping by to enjoy my obsessive photography habit.
“Hello, this is the VA triage line, how may I help you?” The female voice on the other end of the line is calm and reassuring.
“I think I’m having a heart attack.” Me, not at all calm or reassured.
“What symptoms are you having?” The triage nurse asks.
“It felt like someone stabbed me in the heart with an ice pick.” I say, holding a hand to my chest as if I could somehow prevent a relapse. “Can I go to the VA for this?”
“Ma’am, if you think you are having a heart attack, you should go to an emergency room.”
And so starts a most bizarre week with not one but two emergency room visits for what have to be the dumbest reasons ever.
I wish I were making this up.
Despite it being a snow day in April, Monday, which is also Tax Day in America, has been mostly uneventful. After a weekend trapped in the house due to an ice storm, you’d think the kid would be climbing the walls. But no, the boy child is thrilled being home and is keeping himself entertained. I’m firmly ensconced in sloth, enjoying Supernatural reruns on this lazy afternoon. So, I am totally unprepared for the Grim Reaper to make a house call.
I am a borderline hypochondriac. Even I have a hard time taking myself seriously. One of the surest signs that I’m not that sick? I talk about it. I kvetch. I whine. I exaggerate the nature of my near-death experiences. (Spoiler alert.)
I suspect that, somewhere deep down in my soul, I believe I can stave off something really bad happening if everything is a joke—an opera of misadventure and suspense resolved with a laugh or two. But when something rears its cackling death skull, I get quiet. Really quiet. That is, until I can laugh about it again.
When the pick ax struck, I wasn’t laughing.
Here I am, mid heart-attack, maybe, and I’m staring at my autistic teenager who I can in no way take with me to an emergency room. What can I do? I don’t call an ambulance. No, I call my mom.
“Hi, you caught me in the middle of something.”* Mom tells me.
“I’m sorry to bother you, and I wouldn’t, except I have a problem. I might be having a heart attack.” I insert quickly.
“What are your symptoms?”
I tell her the details in brief and end with, “I spoke with the VA nurse and they suggested I go to the emergency room.”
“You know it’ll cost you a thousand dollars to go to an E.R.!” That’s my mom, ever the frugal one.
“Yeah, but I suspect ignoring a heart attack will cost me more.” I say.
She doesn’t argue with this. Like the trooper she is, mom drops everything to come watch my boy.
Fifteen minutes after that, I pull up to the nearest after-hours emergency center. I park and am through the door as fast as someone who thinks they are dying can manage.
Let me just boil down the results into one exchange:
“Were you doing anything strenuous or feeling particularly anxious when the pain occurred?”
“No…not really. I was sitting on the couch watching tv. I didn’t feel anxiety about anything.” I say, but then a thought occurs to me. “Uh…I was wearing a pair of skinny jeans though, and they are kinda tight. I might have been taking shallow breaths—maybe I was hyperventilating without knowing it? Could that cause heart problems?”
“Skinny jeans do not cause heart attacks.” The doctor reassures me. “The E.K.G. shows no signs of problems. You have no edema. No signs of a clot. We’re going to label this non-cardiac chest pain. We’re releasing you, but make sure to follow up with your physician”
On the way to the med center, I was making all sorts of promises to do better. To get more exercise. To eat right. To take care of myself and my son the way I should.
On the way home, I bought celebratory donuts and, once mom had departed, lounged in my yoga pants, taking deep, even breaths, while licking frosting.
This would be the end of my tale, taking a moment to laugh at the fleeting promises we make to be better people when we think our life is on the line, except that it’s not the only faux emergency I’m going to have this week. It’s not even the weirdest one.
No, this happens Friday.
My mom, the boy child, and I are scheduled to go to the local Art and Chocolate Walk which is an exhibit of local school children’s artwork at area businesses. It’s a favorite event of mine—not so much my son though. So partly, I blame him for what happens next and, in hindsight, it’s pretty damned ironic.**
We are in the parking lot beside the local mom and pop restaurant, mom gets out of her car, chatting on the phone with my brother. I’m trying to lure my child with the promise of chocolates and a walk.
He is having none of it and plops down on the sidewalk, sulking like a big dog who’s lost his favorite chew toy.
I run to grab his headphones, hoping that with one sensory battle tackled, he might tolerate the crowded venues. When I get back, I come up against Grandma On The Rampage.
“Have you seen his eyes?” Mom asks me.
[Note: she’s able to look into her grandson’s eyes right now only because he is sitting practically on the ground. He towers over both of us.]
“He’s autistic. Do you know how hard it is to look him in the eyes?” I say not a bit defensively.
“You need to be more careful and pay attention.” Mom adds, as if she never left me at my grandparents for days when I was a kid with a raging sore throat that ended up being a streptococcus virus my grandmother treated by swabbing my tonsils with Merthiolate on a Q-Tip.
So, plans canceled, I drag my kid at 5:00 o’clock on a Friday to the same exact emergency after-hours med center for treatment of what might be an eye infection or blocked tear duct.
I do not ask my child if he needs a doctor—he rarely tells me when he does need one—so I just skip straight to the E.R. visit. I now wonder what he might have said…or may have been trying to tell me.
We are at the front desk and I’m handing over the medical cards and explaining our purpose of our visit and my son picks through his perpetual tin of crayons and markers to extract a red stub of an oily pastel he has no doubt stolen from the school art supplies.
I snatch it and its subsequent twin from his hand and wrap them up in tissues I nab from the front desk.
“Sorry, these can make a terrible mess if I let him have them.” I apologize.***
We are shuttled to a quiet room which my son inspects with the skills of a burglar—testing all the cabinets and drawers for contraband.
The nurse who inspects my son and gets his vitals is noncommittal. She sends in an intern…or a trainee nurse practitioner of some kind. Maybe the first nurse suspects and wants to see if the newbie can figure it out.
Anyhow, it takes this young lady less than two minutes to identify the problem. She’s eyeballing his hands and I dismiss her concern that it’s any kind of blood.
“No, that’s just the pastel crayons he likes to play with.” I say…and that’s when it hits me. “Oh no. You don’t think…?”
She says nothing, instead, she wets a tissue and washes a smear of red off of my son’s hands. She gets another square wet, asking cautiously, “You don’t think he’ll mind if I dab his eye?” With assurances, she gently taps at the inside corner of his eye—which before this moment, looked like an inflamed nightmare—and, of course the red comes off after a few brushes with the napkin.
“Do you have a medical code for crayons? Something that doesn’t cost too much?” I ask, lamely.
“I’ll pick the cheapest code I can find.” She promises me.
I suppose, I’ll have to take comfort from that. If not from the fact that my son, who has since caught a virus and is home sick, suffered only from an overexposure to art crayons if not actual art exhibits. (Though you’ll note I did manage to go see a few displays which I promptly stole for this blog post.)
As for my chest pain, you’ll be happy to know it isn’t fatal. The stabbing sensation wasn’t in my heart—or in my head—at all. With a few pointed jabs of her finger to my sternum, Dr. B at the VA diagnosed it as costochondritis—or an inflammation of the cartilage area near the breastbone. You’d think I would be grateful.
I believe I put it a little less tactfully.
“Sonofabitch! Maybe you shouldn’t poke that hard!”
There’s no pleasing some people.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*This is a euphemistic was of saying, she was on the potty. I hope both you and she appreciate my sensitivity in this delicate matter.
**Really, it’s like he was saying: “So, you like art, do you? How do you feel about self expressionism or the artist as the medium?”
***For those of you who have already put two-and-two together, wait for people as slow as me to do the math. Let’s not spoil the adventure, shall we?
Please join me for the continuing saga of last week’s story (A Royal Pain – Part I) a kind of a mashup of Dentist the Menace and the Molar Crown Affair.
Warning, some images may be disturbing to the dentally or aesthetically sensitive…
I invite you to follow along on my magical, anesthesia-induced adventure.
With a Bippity…
Boo Hoo Hoo!
There is a hole in my life.
I just don’t understand it fully until the dentist says he has a plan to fill the emptiness I’ve been feeling.
He probes the moist recesses of my gaping maw, as he talks.*
“We could do a core build-up for about $270, maybe.” He suggests, with great reluctance. “Or we could do this…”
With a motion reminiscent of floor models revealing the latest, greatest innovation, the television screen, which previously showed highlights of a kitchen remodel, now glows with the recommended option to increase my dental family by one.
The dentist gushes, “…you could have this beautiful baby installed.”*
If there is a Ferrari of teeth it has to be the Onlay-Porcelain/Ceramic Crown he unveils with unsettling prestidigitation. Then he adds,
“All it will cost you is your soul.”
Or at least, that’s what I heard.
“Beg pardon? How much did you say?”
“Approximately eleven hundred dollars, plus X-rays.” Dr. Smith says…as if he isn’t joking at all. “My lovely assistant will prepare you. I’ll be right back.”
In a puff of smoke, the white-coated magician disappears behind the curtain, where he bangs pots and pans together to create the illusion of great works or something.
The lovely assistant plonks an array of deadly-looking implements before me.
Yeah, that doesn’t look scary at all. I think.
I ask the dental assistant, as she belts me in for the ride,
“Can’t we do the cheaper option?” Me, hopeful.
“I don’t know. I’ll ask the doctor…” She says, doubtful.
Then she gives me some happy-happy gas and I am feeling a heck of a lot less anxious about anything.
As she places the funky nose trough on, the assistance tells me, “The gas will work faster the less you talk.” She laughs as she says this, so I’m pretty sure she doesn’t mean it the way it sounds…I think.
(You’ll note, my ability to take selfies is seriously diminished, along with my cognitive reasoning, as the shots and nitrous oxide take effect.)***
The dentist returns and with little fuss or muss, he drills down until he finds un-decayed pay dirt.
Dentist: “Let’s see what the damage is underneath the repair job you did.”
You know you’re in a bad place when you hear the doctor making the following sounds over the drill:
Me: “Ah ah.. hunh ah?” (What is it? What’s wrong?)
Dentist: “Oh. Well this goes a lot deeper than I expected…”
Dental assistant probably wipes dentist’s damp, furrowed brow in an encouraging manner.
Drilling noises resume…accompanied with what sounds like boulders being crushed in my mouth. Then sounds stops.
The dentist turns and comes back with a weird wand of some sort and a ring tone like an alien landing throbs as he probes my open orifice (and not in a sexy way).
NOTE: The drugs have really kicked in at this point…the next bits might be total hallucinations on my part:
DA (Dental Assistant): “Doctor…is that…TOOTH DECAY??”
Dentist: “I’m afraid so. We’d better keep going…”
DA: “But, is it safe to continue, doctor?”
Dentist: “Safe or not, I’m going in…”
UNHOLY SHRIEKING COMMENCES.
A CHOIR BEGINS CHANTING A GREGORIAN DESCANT…IN LATIN!
Dentist: “Oh, dear god, what is that thing?”
DA: “Aaahhhhh. Hit. Hit it with mallet. Kill it. Kill it dead!”
Something heavy slithers away. Crashing dental implements hit the floor. The room is filled with weeping and the gnashing of teeth—not necessarily human.
Dentist: “What have we done? What nightmare have we unleashed? Oh the humanity…”
—INTERMISSION FOR A BRIEF REALITY CHECK—
What actually happened:
Dentist: “I had to take a bit more than expected. This is what’s left of your tooth.”
Me: “So, that’s not going to be the cheap option is it?”
Dentist: “I think we’d better go with the crown. I couldn’t guarantee the work would last otherwise.”
AD: “If you want, you can follow me; you can watch me make your tooth.”
So, I got to see the birth of my new tooth. It’s a step above watching a B-grade horror film and I recorded it for posterity. If you squint, you can hear me slurring questions about the process.
WARNING, this video is a lot more interesting under the influence of dental anesthesia.
The dental assistant chats very nicely as the two tiny drills carve away at the cube of purple stuff that looks like so much plastic explosive to me.
You put this purple thingy here…
Then drills come spinning like blades of death whirling in a scene from Indiana Jones…
T-minus ten minutes and counting…
DA: “It only takes about ten minutes to make the tooth.”
Me: *clicks photo of screen* “Cool…”
And it is. Despite the hassle of it all, watching the Star Trek-level technology carve a new tooth out of ceramic is pretty fascinating. Again, I am still kinda drugged…though the gas is starting to wear off when it comes time to actually install the new tooth.
F.Y.I—This is NOT the fun part.
DA: “It starts off purple, but then we heat it in the kiln and it strengthens the new ceramic piece and the color turns to a more natural shade to match your existing teeth.”
They test the tiny wedge of ceramic to make sure it fits the space before firing it. You can see the before image left of the after one above.
The dentist returns and, with grim determination, fits the formerly-purple, puzzle piece into my mouth.
First, he rinses the existing tooth with an acid wash. (And I thought I hated the 80’s jeans by that name.) If I had to describe the taste—think rancid nuclear waste mixed with tinfoil.
Then he sands the new tooth to make sure my bite is good—with me chomping colored paper between takes.
Dentist: “How’s that feel?”
Me: “It’s kind of high in the back.”
Dentist: “We’ll keep grinding until it fits. Don’t worry.”
I swear this part takes the longest…or maybe it is because all the nitrous has worn off and I’m starting to feel things again. Like panic over the impending bill.
The dentist shows me the final work. And it’s pretty impressive.
He positions this R2D2 type cart with a rollerball joystick to spin through the pictures he took of my mouth.
While I might whinge about the expense, I can’t deny, the work looks good.
“Now the rest of my teeth look terrible.” I cry with no little dismay as a thought occurs to me. “Are they all going to fall apart like this one did?”
“We don’t know. We look for signs of stress.” Dr. Smith rolls the ball and a new image appears. “Like here, where you can see a crack going right through the tooth.”
“Ack. Are those my teeth?” I say. (Showing signs of stress.)
“No, no! I’m just showing you these as an example. All in all, your teeth are in pretty good condition.” Before I can relax, he adds, “We just can’t tell from an x-ray what might be happening underneath the fillings.”
“Good to know.” I say. Then another alarming thought occurs to me. “What if this pops out and I swallow it?”
“It won’t.” Dr. Smith assures me.
“They never come out?” I say, pushing for some reassurances.
“If it does, we’ll make you a new one.” He says, probably tired of me but hiding it politely.
“For an additional $1100?” I say with a squeak.
“For nothing.” He says, moving to leave. “I guarantee my work!”
And that’s all one can really hope for. I thank him and pay up and skedaddle out of there.
So, like a disturbingly dark fairytale or an old-fashioned monster movie, you leave the experience relieved that it’s over…but not entirely certain you’ve left the horror behind for good.
Only the teeth know for sure…and they’re not talking.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Any resemblance to the start of a raunchy, seventies-style porno is totally unintentional, I assure you.
**He did not say this. I exaggerate for effect. I do that a lot while under anesthesia.
***I had to wait several days before writing this just so I could piece together everything that happened. I’m pretty sure there weren’t any pixies involved in the procedure…at least none that showed up in the photos I took.
This is a humor blog. I embellish. I stretch the truth. I invent. This was a very routine dental procedure done by a competent professional with courteous and friendly staff. It is no way an endorsement of getting one procedure done over another. Though, I would recommend D.D.S. Joshua Smith of Northway Family Dentistry in Grandville, MI, if you can afford the work. If you can’t, you’d better be diligent about flossing, because plaque waits for no man. Let’s also hope the doctor has a sense of humor about the above portrayal.
After receiving many kind and wonderful remarks on my autism parenting skills, the very next day, I decide to take my son to the nearby Kroc Center to swim…DURING SPRING BREAK.
The gasp you just heard was all autism parents everywhere, inhaling in shock. Wait for a minute; the planetary vacuum pressure should return to normal momentarily.
For those of you who DON’T have autistic children, picture taking any child anywhere at times of peak attendance…and then hand that child a rabid mongoose and suggest he or she juggle the beast, while running barefoot across broken glass, and let’s throw in some flaming darts to dodge for a little excitement. The reaction would probably be somewhat similar*
My son managed one turn on the swirly slide into the pool before he informed me in his inimical fashion, that he was “All Done.”**
After the aggression and tears subsided, I slunk home depressed and discouraged and kicking myself for trying when I knew it was not likely a good idea.
So, I decide a night like this calls for take out pizza.
What could go wrong with pizza?
Alexei scarpers away from the table with his half of thin and crispy—like Gollum hoarding his precious. I’m just calming down from the painfully upsetting events of the day. I take a few bites of food and have to admit, pizza is a nice consolation prize…and then, something goes unexpectedly…
I feel around with my tongue–excavating the new, sharp dental landscape. I’m no expert or anything, but even I recognize when a sizable portion of a tooth is missing.
I head to the store for some emergency tooth spackle, lightning and thunder are crashing down around me…mixing with April snow showers…and HAIL. I kid you not.
I stare up at the greying dusk looking for the frogs that are obviously next as a harbinger of the apocalypse. I’m reminded of the scene from Forest Gump in which Lieutenant Dan climbs the mast of a small shrimping boat and curses God during a hurricane:
Unfortunately for me, the world doesn’t end…because I am just not that lucky. The next day dawns bright and crisp and I find a nearby DDS with an opening.
“You’re probably gonna need a crown.” Dr. Smith is peering into my mouth and poking around with sharp implements—because that’s what sadists…I mean dentists…do to fill the time. “We won’t know for sure until we remove your emergency filling and see what kind of damage there is. How’s next week look for you?”
Me, glumly, “Expensive. Next week looks expensive.”
All I wanted was a tiara. To feel like royalty.***
The universe answered my request, but it did so in the way Grimm’s fairytales warn us about. Be careful what you wish for…it may just come true.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Not good. This just goes to show, despite many years of experience, we autism parents can have fatally blind optimism about outcomes.
**He bit me.
***I felt royally screwed, if that counts. On the upside, while Googling terminology, I discovered a secondary definition of Dental Dams. A whole new understanding of crass humor is now mine.
I grew up expecting to be somebody special…someday. This is both wonderful and terrible, hopeful and sad. Mostly, it just gets in the way of being somebody now. Looking for the arrival of an idealized self, you can’t see the greatness in everyday heroics because there is no spangled outfit or magic amulet to show you how great you are. I blame my childhood.
As an overly imaginative little girl, I envisioned all sorts of futures. I was the conduit for every character I read or saw on television. I would adopt a persona and play dramatic roles for an audience of one. I was Laura Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie long before Elizabeth Gilbert stole the role I was destined to play. (I wanted the blue hair ribbons, darn it.)Life is rarely kind to such dreamers.*
I had a giant, wall-sized mirror in my childhood bedroom—it covered a massive hole in the brickwork. After dark, mice would crawl up behind the giant glass pane and scratch at the edges trying to get into my room.** I was both terrified and mesmerized by that mirror; it held all my hopes and fears.
Unlike the magic mirror in Snow White—my looking glass never made dire predictions. It was more like the Mirror of Erised from Harry Potter lore. It was a stage for my heart’s desire: a place where I could be the hero of my own epic adventures. What you don’t realize as a child? Most superheroes have a tragic back story that propels them to become super in the first place.***
I marched back and forth in front of that mirror transforming into whatever television character I was enchanted with at the time. One of my earliest superhero flashbacks is wanting to be Wonder Woman. Maybe it was because, as Diana Prince, she had dark hair and glasses, like me. I made tinfoil bracelets to ward off bullets—making “pi-too pi-too” noises as I deflected imaginary attacks. I would spin in circles until I fell over dizzy and giggling.
Linda Carter marched onto the tv screen as Wonder Woman from 1975-1979—finally representing everything the 1970’s said a woman could be. Wonder Woman was strong and sexy—a woman who had all the power and could whip men until they cowered at her shiny red boots. An excellent role model for a prepubescent girl. Um…uh…yeah. Anyway...
At the time, I didn’t question wearing a skimpy outfit and go-go boots as the appropriate wardrobe for a crime fighter. In my defense, I was eight at the time. I desperately wanted to be the heroine who saves the day. Honestly, I’ve never really outgrown those early impulses.
As television programming changed, so did the sophistication of my dreams. Since I couldn’t be reborn as an Amazon, perhaps I could become super via technology? From 1976 to 1978, Lindsey Wagner followed on the celebrity that was the Six Million Dollar Man—who, in today’s currency, would barely register as any level of super being.
The Bionic Woman was my first taste of a regular person who became super-human through the advancement of cybernetics. Looking back, the sound effects and ‘action’ sequences of speeded up film look laughable, but back then, I ran everywhere emitting “da…da…da…da…da…” for high-speed sound effects or making “SprooooooIIiiiing” noises while jumping off the couch. (My brother and I owe my mother apologies for what we did to her furniture.) My hero complex would not be complete if I did not include a certain spectacular trio who entered our homes as black silhouettes surrounded by flames.
Charlie’s Angels dominated the airwaves from 1976-1981 finally exhibiting *cough, cough* attainable qualities of superhero-dom: athleticism, skill, and wit. That they looked good in a bikini and frequently wore one to fight crime is only more impressive now when I know how hard it is to find a swimsuit you can swim in none less run and tackle bad guys wearing one! (The heroine is wearing the bikini in the preceding analogy…but now that I think of it…it would be much funnier the other way around.)
I asked the internet to find “Bad Guys in Heels” but it gave this instead:
Sorry, got distracted there for a minute. What were we talking about? Right. Becoming super.
Wonder Woman, the Bionic Woman, and Charlie’s Angels were the quintessence of female power and prominent pulchritude—women I so badly wanted to grow up to be. There is just one, tiny problem with this, as it turns out.
Being a superhero in the 70’s required that a woman be multi-talented, super intelligent or powerful, and it helped that you were *ahem* well-endowed with superspeed, a lasso of truth, surgical enhancements or have an invisible billionaire backer with a voice to melt butter. No biggie. One thing all of these super women have in common though is only obvious by its absence. None of them are mothers.
Apparently, one can either be a superhero—strong, confident, and kicking ass in man-devouring footwear—or you can be a mom. I tried, but I couldn’t think of a single superhero of my generation where that was possible. This is a big problem when it comes to finding your inner super qualities.
Being any kind of mother is incredibly hard work. It is mostly filled with endless, thankless, and unrewarding tasks and—unless you are some kind of Stepford Saint-of-the-Year with built-in lack of aspirations—parenting kind of sucks. Anyone who has ever changed a diarrhea diaper will tell you how un-fun it can be! But, it is particularly hard to feel that you are living up your super-mom potential when the son or daughter you are raising has autism. Don’t get me wrong, autism is not the bad guy here. It’s the character-building plot twist that makes you want to be a super mom in the first place!
No, the evil villain in this story is the irrational effing voice in your head telling you that every action or inaction has the power to make the difference for your changeling child. I call my villain ‘The Heckler’ and its voice is particularly shrill and nasal. (Think Fran Drescher on helium wielding a chain saw.) You search for therapies, solutions, answers to meet your child in a maelstrom of unknown and unseen terrors. No matter how far you come, you can only see how far you have yet to go, or worse, how far you’ve fallen short of your ideal. It’s Sisyphean motherhood at best.
I don’t want to whine about the challenges of parenting on the spectrum. What I am talking about is being able to look at my actions through a kinder mirror. One where I see that, though my accomplishments may not be as death-defying as stopping bullets with a bracelet, they are equally amazing and wonder-worthy. But how?
One of my favorite Curly Girl designs by the artist Leigh Standley, says this so much better than I can:
Seriously, Autism parenting would be so much easier if I had super powers!
This got me to thinking.
What if…I drew my character on paper? Give her magical gadgets and abilities…and a cool catch phrase? That’s it! What I need to do is…become super! But what super powers would I give her to make me believe in her heroism? What would make the perfect Autism Mom?
Super Autism Mom Checklist
Autism Mom needs…
Emo Vaulting—the ability to leap toward compassion in a single bound. (Or maybe a lasso of empathy to throttle idiots who lack any?)
Psychic Powers to know why in the world her kid is doing ‘X’ repeatedly so she can stop going crazy and let him be. (I’m looking at you Exit 59.)
HyperSonicSensitive Precognition—the ability to detect and avoid sensory overload meltdowns!
Rx Defensive Measures—an emergency bandolier of psychiatric medication on hand at all times—for herself or her kid, as needed. These prescriptions would magically fill themselves before running out and would be totally covered by insurance.
Supercomputer Implants that would remember all the I.E.P. goals, meetings, and doctors’ appointments. Now before you can say ‘iPhone’…it is also a time machine to be able to go back and attend anything accidentally scheduled for the same day. Plus it survives a bath in the toilet and a trip down the laundry chute!
Guards Against Humanity Cloaking Device—an invisible shield of imperviousness so narrowed-eyed onlookers and snide remarks would slip right past her when she takes her child out in public.
A Cone of Silence would descend so that screaming fits would calm to a dull roar and wrap the sufferer in a soothing cocoon of sensory deprivation so outbursts would subside in half the time. This will work for the child too.
What else? Oh, I know, let’s add:
Telekinetic Magic Belt that would dispense a flare gun, a fire extinguisher, a tourniquet, you know—the usual ‘whatever’—needed on a given day in Autism Parenting. It would miraculously produce whatever special item your autism adventure demands—like Dora’s backpack, but less creepy.
Our super heroine is almost complete. Almost fully armed for the battle of her life. All she needs is one…more…thing…
The Unbreakable Mirror of Truth.
Autism Mom would carry a magic mirror so that, whenever the evil inner demons start chanting her failures, she can hold it up and it will reveal the super mom she truly is. Instead of unwashed hair and sweatpants camouflage, she will shine for all the world to see.
[Note: The Mirror of Truth will also show her as several pounds lighter because, come on, don’t we all really want that super power!?]
Anyway, she is the me I want to see when I look in the mirror.
Oh, yeah. I almost forgot.
Every Autism Mom deserves a nice tiara.
I recently re-watched the pilot episode of Wonder Woman and was struck by the advice Queen Hippolyta gives Diana before sending her out into the world. Words we autism moms should all live by:
“Go in peace, my daughter. And remember, that, in the world of ordinary mortals, you are a wonder woman!”
We truly are.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Dreams, by their nature, only exist if one suspends all disbelief and evidence to the contrary. This is why they rarely survive waking.
**Mirror, Mirror, on the wall. What the [bleep] doth creep and crawl?
***Again with the blessing and the curse analogies. Man, am I heavy-handed today. My bucket of overwrought symbolism overfloweth.
Spring still isn’t here. Do you know how I know this? Two words: Slug Brain.
I have an uninvited guest who invades my corpus callosum during cold weather. Let’s call him Sluggo–assuming the copyright statutes on the Popeye franchise has lapsed. Apparently, Sluggo has decided to turn my brain into a collective.*
He has invited friends and they are slowly taking over the only unused space available–the squishy crevices in my cerebellum. He and his cohort hog the remote–watching the home shopping network at top volume. And for some reasons, their fearless leader keeps insisting that cheese is a fruit. Sluggo is one pushy mollusk.
There’s popcorn everywhere and somebody drank the last of the orange juice, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me. I forget to look on the way to the bathroom and, invariably, there is a slippery trail threatening to break my neck. (The less said about this, the better.) Someone is going to get hurt.**
Anyway, if anyone wonders when the blog will finally start generating a buzz with it’s cutting-edge content and thought-provoking insights, ask yourself this: When will the gastropod extravaganza end and things can get back to normal?
Only Sluggo knows and he’s not talking.***
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*Resistance is futile…and leaves a slimy trail.
**I hurt my brain trying to understand the difference between a gastropod with a shell (snail) and one without (slug). And since that is the major difference between the two, that is saying something. I’m just not sure what…
I celebrated a tipping point in my annual acknowledgement of inevitable mortality this week–for those of you who don’t speak thesaurus, I had a birthday–and, as a result, I have decided to adopt an eccentricity commensurate with my age. I shall forthwith be known as The Tea Lady.*
As a follow-up to my last post, I am happy to report my somewhat victorious hunt for a replacement to my Teavana / Earl Grey addiction. While I cannot claim to find the exact same tea elsewhere, I’ve found a tea I like. And I’m here to bore you to death with the details. You’ve been warned.
I made a point of ordering some teas to try to find the good twin to my long-lost love (formerly produced by the evil bastards at Teavana may they rot in a mildewy, milk-tea hell).
This is what I’ve discovered–not all tea companies approach sales the same way.
If I graded the companies on their packaging and delivery—the winners would be in this order:
First Place Packaging:
Adagio (HQ – New Jersey, US) – which sent a nicely crammed box filled with the $2.00– 0.8 oz loose-leaf sample of Earl Grey Moonlight which I asked for–along with several unsolicited samples and blandishments to purchase more. The fact that I ordered the week before my birthday might explain the ‘Birthday’ tea which I’ve yet to try and the ‘Pisces-Zodiac’ tea tin included gratis. I tried the latter. It smelled heavenly, but tasted bitter. I went on line to discover this tea has ‘lavender’ in it—which is a flower that makes me sneeze violently—so perhaps it was a subliminal allergic response as much as taste. For many reasons, this is not the tea for me. It will make a lovely sachet for my underwear drawer though.
Warning: print out your receipt–when I looked later in my emails, the details of the purchase were not included in the confirmation.
I was given a choice of one free sample; I picked the Earl Grey Bravo. If they hadn’t sent it, things might have turned out very differently. **
Second Place Packaging
The Art of Tea (HQ – Beverly Hills, CA) took almost a week to arrive. Going back, I re-reading their disclaimer on the invoice: “Art of Tea’s hand-crafted artisan teas take about 3-5 business days to create before they’re ready to ship.”
They sent their sample of loose-leaf Earl Grey Creme in a tin (5-7 servings for $5.00, plus shipping $5.97) along with two individual tea bag samples—one of the exact same tea, except bagged in an ‘eco pyramid’ filter, and one serving called Tali’s Masala Chai. It is hard to compare pricing, but the fact that the tea was boxed due to the metal container meant the shipping price was actually more expensive than the cost of the product itself. Although it is preferred to keep tea in a tin to preserve the contents, I don’t think it would hurt to send samples at a cheaper rate.
Third Place Packing
TeaLyra (HQ in New York and Canada) Was the fastest tea–I ordered from Amazon.com on March 5 and it arrived March 7. Self-described as the ‘Galaxy of Teas,’ the sample came wrapped in bulk packaging with a slapped-on label to identify the contents and a giant 25% off coupon good through July 30, 2018 for use by anyone.
GO AHEAD, here’s the code if you want to try: “Get-25-USA4”.
TeaLyra sent the biggest sample for the price ($14.99 for 3.5 ounces–which doesn’t sound like a lot but, man, the bag was huge next to the other samples.) There was some confusion though.
On the Amazon website the tea is called ‘Cream Earl Grey – Citrusy with Vannilla (sic) flavor’ but, if you go to the actual TeaLyra.com website, the name is Cream Earl Grey Moonlight. I wondered if Amazon was selling a knock-off, so I contacted TeaLyra. They explained that Amazon wouldn’t allow the full title for the tea so they omitted the word ‘Moonlight.’
Scooby Doo mystery solved, it was time for the battle to commence.
I set up my test kitchen.
I didn’t have three identical cups, and I really wanted to show off my teapot/cup combination. (Proving my tea-geek chic.) Otherwise, I tried to be scientific about it.
I did my best to put the same quantities of tea, sugar and cream into each glass. I’m a sweet, hot tea girl, so three level teaspoons of Demerara sugar and ½ a teaspoon of half-and-half went in.
After a three-minute steep, sugar, then cream, it was time to taste-test.
I sipped from left to right and it was a bit like the three bears, except that none of the three was ‘just right’ in terms of matching my memory of the Teavana profile.
How The Competition Measured Up…After a Slight Hiccup
Art of Tea – had strong floral notes wafting from the tin. It was self-described as ‘full body, citrus, silky’ and I would agree with the full and the silky part. I could not taste anything but vanilla in this particular tea.
In fact, the vanilla was so overpowering that I had to stop and look up “How To Cleanse Your Palate” and found this delightful site:
I did not have the recommended plain crackers but I decided white bread is pretty close and I sucked on pinches between sips in order to ‘zero’ my taste buds.
I also learned I had been drinking my tea all wrong.
The key to tea tasting is the etiquette-aghast SLURP method. To quote the Cup of Life doyenne: “While that may seem impolite, slurping is necessary to experience the full flavour of the tea on all parts of your palette.”
I slurped my way through the three choices. I made some observations which I will share with you:
Even after a palate cleanse and a slurp-tasting, I still couldn’t get past the vanilla in the Art of Tea – Earl Grey Creme. That said, the tea was the smoothest cup I tried. You could barely taste the bergamot and it had none of the bitterness usually associated with strong black teas. Slurping lowered the initial strength of the vanilla flavor but it hit the back of the throat after swallowing and filled the nose with the perfume.***
Conclusion: too sweet and flowery for my tastes but probably a really fine dessert tea for a vanilla lover.
Opening the bag, your nose gets a much more complex series of notes: bergamot, vanilla and what smells like a hot summer in Valencia Spain in the form of dried orange peels. I had my doubts initially; I tend to avoid orange flavoring as it can dominate. I am happy to admit, I was wrong.
This cup had the most pleasing color as a brewed tea, but then, it was in the cup with the widest diameter and that may have affected the light hitting it. It was also the tea that had the sweetest taste. I swear, I put the same amount of sugar in each cup, but, again, the dimensions of this cup may have played havoc with the scientific method.
One odd thing I noticed was the description of the tea’s label. The company did not describe the contents as ‘Bergamot Oil’ as did the competitors. Made me wonder what exactly they considered ‘natural earl grey’ to taste like?
Last, but not least, came the economically priced Amazon brew:
Earl Grey Crème ‘Moonlight’ Ingredients: organic black loose-leaf tea, cornflower, oil of bergamot, natural flavors.
TeaLyra had the lightest scent in dry form. There were hints of vanilla and bergamot. The odor reminded me of pressed flowers—a light, but ghostly, lingering scent.
The tea was also the most neutral flavor of the three. No one scent overpowered the other either in dry or brewed form. Admittedly, I drank this tea third of each round and it is entirely possible the first two samples killed any nuance detection. The flavor was not as ‘bright’ as the other teas. Overall, it was a more down-to-earth cup.
TeaLyra’s sample reminded me of a good English breakfast tea more than an Earl Grey Crème—with or without moonlight. It was a mellow, medium strength cup at 3 minutes. I think a longer steep might bring out the ‘hairy knuckles’ in the flavor. And of the three teas, it came closest in a visual comparison to the admittedly powdery dregs I have left of the original Teavana brand Earl Grey Crème sample. See for yourself:
A BRIEF TEA RE-CAP
ART OF TEA
PROS: Quality and luxury hand-crafted teas. Smooth, round and silky brew.
CONS: Expensive. Excessive Vanilla may be to mask bitterness of higher prices and slower products.
PROS: If you want a quick delivery that will make you feel pampered at a mid-ranged price, I recommend Adagio.
CONS: Demerits for the overly complicated discounts offered. The company promises future discounts after purchase but it requires you share a $5.00 gift certificate on social media.
Adagio also emailed to tell me of their ‘points’ system encouraging you to buy a lot of tea to earn any more freebies:
Your purchase has earned you 4 points in our “frequent cups” program. With 100 points or more, you’ll be saving $10+ on future orders.
Like most drugs, the first sample is free. The rest is going to cost you.
PROS: A likeable, affordable breakfast tea without an overly strong Bergamot or vanilla presence. If you like to be able to taste your tea, this is the companion for you. Plus, you know you aren’t paying higher prices for marketing or for frou-frou bells and whistles.
CONS: Weaker kissing-cousin to Teavana’s Earl Grey Crème. If you want to try a smaller sample, go directly to TeaLyra.com, Amazon only offers the larger 3.5 ounce packaging.
In the end, I am surprised to say I preferred Adagio’s Earl Grey Bravo best. It wasn’t the closest match to my beloved Teavana, I suspect the TeaLyra would make a fair substitute if it had a hint more vanilla in it…
With this in mind, I dump the overpowering vanilla of Art of Tea into the TeaLyra batch and discover I like the resultant concoction very much.
Whether anyone else would agree is for them to decide. Perhaps there is something of the Dr. Frankenstein in all of us—we can only love the monster we’ve created?
Memory is a funny thing. It is a place in which the pleasures of something increase exponentially for each day lost to the sands of time.
I had my heart set on finding my beloved Teavana twin only to end up falling for the fast and bold Adagio Bravo instead.
It has taken me over half-a-century, but I can finally say I’ve found my inner, fickle-hearted, fancy-free, femme fatale. And it didn’t take me fifty shades of Earl Grey to find her.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Note to self: get appropriately massive, flowery hat….or adopt a faux British accent.
**Insert appropriate “duh duh DUH!” sound effect for dramatic emphasis…or just mumble it to yourself.
***There were no instructions on how to clear a nose palate—and no, I did not stick bread up there to see if that would work
There was supposed to be a fourth ‘Cream Earl Grey’ sample from Beantown Tea & Spices. Despite the name, the company must be shipping its product by a slow-boat from China. I ordered it March 5th–the same day as the TeaLyra product.
At last check, delivery is expected March 13th.
Addendum: Beantown sample arrived Sunday, March 12, and was delicious. I would have tested it against the other three for a truly detailed comparison, but I have used up all my tea sachets and have to order more. Sigh.
Wanted: A naughty cup of tea with a bergamot bite.
I’m on my knees.
I’m begging for relief.
Aching for that particular and distinct pleasure that only a true acolyte of the libatious arts can attain. But alas…
My cup is empty.
I am truly lost without my Earl Grey Crème.
The week I learned that Teavana was going to close its doors, I went straight to the mall, plunked down a piece of plastic and ordered an obscene amount of tea–something near 7 pounds–because that was the minimum I could order to get 30% off the total price. I did not even look at the receipt when I signed it. No price was too high a cost to pay.*
You think 7 pounds doesn’t sound like a lot? Imagine the backpack sized tea parcels they gave me–I’m sure I looked like a tea mule smuggling fine grade, uncut pure leaf addiction–I’d show you…but I drank it all.
In less than a year, my precious was gone.
I swore I wouldn’t buy anymoretea until I have drunk some of the thousands of other teas in the many, many containers I already possess.
You think I’m kidding?
I’ve stuck by my resolution not to succumb to temptation. Not to bend. Not to splay myself prostrate crying
“Why have the tea gods abandoned me? WHY?”
I’ve been sucking down Twinnings Chai to sublimate my desires. I sugar it. I even use the latte foamer that makes me feel like a pampered princess…until I have to clean it.
IT’S ONLY DAY THREE!
I am now hunting for a replacement.
How hard can it be to find a fragrant facsimile?
A delicious doppleganger?
A tantalizing taste bud teaser to pleasure the palate? A tea that will make me whimper when it’s gone bottom’s up!**
I’m putting out an ad to the area tea purveyors:
“I’m a sweet young thing looking for the bad boy I’ve been missing…oh where, oh where is my Earl Grey Crème?
Fortunately, the internet is ready to cater to most discerning clientele.
*I lied. I did look at the receipt. The total was shocking, and this was after the discount. And, though I did not faint, it was only because I was afraid I would drop my complimentary cup of tea in the process.
**I want a tea that will own me, make me say “Thank you! May I have another!”
***This post may be a sign that I need an intervention…or a really dominant cup of tea.
For some, February 14thmight as well be called “Sorry-You-Are-Unlovable Day.”
It is the annual event loners celebrate by default when Valentine’s Day rolls around like the hemorrhoid of holidays it is. Honestly, I’m surprised there isn’t a bleak, dark corner of the Hallmark aisle already dedicated to us.
I could be petty and jealous and secretly hate everyone in a relationship on this one particular day of the year.* But it would take energy I totally lack to lift my middle finger and wave it about.
So, instead of moping about being unlucky in love, I am coming up with my sure-fire Emergency Preparedness List of getting through the Cupid-Vomit-Thong-Up-The-Butt-Overpriced-Hormone-Drenched Extravaganza that is February 14th. Feel free to add suggestions.
THE SINGLE PERSON’S ANTI-VALENTINE’S DAY VACCINATION SCHEDULE:
Shower and put on the good underwear. You know the ones–breathable, big enough to cover your dignity and not low crawl up your ass when you walk. **
Drink something fizzy and pink with an umbrella. Now, the only umbrellas I own are the collapsible kind that are half-broken, so one side droops down to guide the water down your collar. If this means I’m going to look like a mad woman with a Shirley Temple addiction, too bad.
Buy those raspberries. I never buy fruit out of season as it is an unjustified expense. Screw that. I deserve me some fuzzy, deliciousness.***
If you want flowers or candy–buy them. But I highly encourage you do it on February 15th when it all goes miraculously on sale.
Massage chairs at the mall take credit cards. Ten dollars will make you forget about all your troubles–at least for a little while. Wear a mask if you are a moaner.
Indulge. Read a book. Actually focus on the words and ignore that weird noise in the other room. I’m sure whatever it was can be replaced…or will heal.
Heat blankets in the dryer (or stove, whatever) and then curl up with them just before you open that book. It’s totally worth the fire hazards if you lose track of the time. Trust me. I know. Some books are worth dying for.
Plan an escape from dull reality with friends and keep it. It doesn’t have to be this day. Just knowing you are going out with people you like is a joy. It gives you something to look forward to outside of yourself. Speaking of self…
Love the one you’re with. Take that however you want. Just don’t post any incriminating pictures on Facebook.
Be kind to yourself. Take back the day. It’s not just for lovers any more.
You know that ideal world where everyone is nice and caring and thinks about what you need? (No? Me neither.) Make sure you take time be that person for yourself for this one day. Be your own valentine.
(And if anyone snickers at you when they catch you hugging yourself–punch them, hard, and tell them it was a love tap from me.)
And if you have your own recommendations for surviving this un-celebration, please leave a note below. It’s a cold, cruel world for single people on February 14th. It’s good to know we’re not alone.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Why limit myself to just one day? I prefer to spread my loathing out in a nice, even layer throughout the year. Like a bitter chocolate frosting that burns upon contact.
**I may have to go shopping…I’m not sure I still own any good underwear.
***Please do not take this as an invitation to insinuate a smutty association between raspberries and men’s genitalia. I’d like to eat them again one day. What? No! Of course I mean the fruit!! What did you think I meant? It’s people like you who are ruining the internet.
————————–You Read This Far Bonus_______________________
Please check out Jezebel.com and all the less safe Anti-Valentine’s cards I didn’t choose from. You’re welcome.
Or, if you want to walk on the wicked side, I found this little number on Disturbed Stranger: I Killed Cupid
Warning, this isn’t the kind of gentle humor you are used to on my playground. This is dark-side-of-the-moon, do you [expletive deleted] your mother with that mouth? kind of dark. In fact, NEVER google Dead Cupid. It was a disturbing journey all around.