Warning: Graphic and disgusting subject matter. Not for the faint of heart. Reminiscent of my prior post on the topic: The Diarrhea Diaries. Which, as it turns out, was volume one of an unfortunate series.
The US Food and Drug administration recommends two to four servings of fruit per day.
If you visited the CNN article I referenced, you get why I fear produce. If you didn’t trip the above link, the 20-point, bold font title of the article pretty much says it all:
“Multistate salmonella outbreak linked to pre-cut melon”
Now the fact that pre-cut watermelon has been spreading salmonella throughout the midwest wouldn’t ordinarily concern me except for two things:
I ate some pre-cut watermelon Sunday.
Monday began a marathon that makes the prospect of running 26 some miles actually pleasant by comparison. This is not that kind of marathon.*
I did not buy my melon at any of the stores referenced in the CNN piece on salmonella contaminated fruits. This does not stop me from putting a very strong set of coincidences together and coming up with a likely culprit to my week spent regretting everything I’ve ever eaten that I did not personally sterilize in a 1400 degree Fahrenheit kiln.
I spent the last (gets calculator, does math) 168 hours visiting the powder room. HOURLY. Sometimes more frequently. A brief itinerary of my adventures can be summed up this way:
Day 1: 6:00 a.m. – stomach lets out initial howls of protest. By 4:00 p.m., I am so sick, I’m curled up on the floor of my son’s therapy office wishing I didn’t have to drive us back home.
“Can’t we just live here?”
Day 2: After waking all night long to tango with the toilet, fever strikes and I shake my digital read-out thermometer convinced it has to be wrong.
Day 3: Have decided that having a will to live kind of sucks. Scrounge through medicine cabinets to find decade’s old Tylenol and take it, hoping it will kill me.
Day 4: Fever finally breaks and I would celebrate, but I’m getting low on toilet paper and there seems to be no end in sight.
Day 5: Am now reconsidering my agnostic stance and will willingly convert to whatever religion will cure me.**
Day 6: There may be light at the end of the tunnel, but I suspect they are the tiny sparks as each of my brain cells implode from dehydration. I gird my loins and guzzle Kefir straight from the carton.***
I wipe curdled cream from my lips and scream:
“Take that, you plague-ridden, bacteria bastards!”
Today is Day 7. It has been a week and, slowly, I am feeling somewhat human. Though, of course, the diarrhea hasn’t given up trying to kill me. I counter its vicious attacks with a chemical carpet bombing of Gatorade and Live-Culture acidophilus pills.
I’d really like this to be the worst thing that will ever happen to me, but I known I am just not that lucky.
As for whether this was a case of Salmonella or not, who knows? If it wasn’t, I sincerely pity the people who’ve had it worse.
If anybody needs me, I’ll be in the bathroom…freshening up.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Hint: it was not a Law & Order Marathon either.
**I’m looking at you, Vishnu, you beautiful blue man. Although, Shiva the Destroyer makes more sense in the circumstances.
***Kefir – the sound you involuntarily make after tasting fermented yogurt drink. Which tastes just as bad as it sounds.
Feature image stolen from UK Pinterest site. Please forgive me, I have no energy or desire to get my own watermelon and recreate your excellent work. Although, Gallagher’s work on expressing rage by smashing fruit with a giant mallet is starting to make a great deal more sense to me now.
“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.
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.
February is the grayest month of the year and I can prove it; even my cooking is suffering a major depressive disorder.
I love to throw things into a pot and see what happens. Sometimes I end up with a miraculous, delicious invention that could hold it’s own in a modest kitchen stadium.
And then, there are those unfortunate choices we live to regret.*
Dinner started out as basic boiled root vegetables. I had carrots, potatoes, onions, a red cabbage. I figured, “Ah heck, who cares if everything is vaguely pink?”
…then I remembered I had the makings of a nice green curry. So, I just kept tossing things in: peas, peppers, coriander, lemon grass, fish sauce, chicken, coconut milk…
Red cabbage is so good in many things, but not as a visual aid in Green Curry Recipes. And purple curry is just WRONG!
Every time I made the mistake of looking at my meal, I felt like an institutional stew from a psych ward was staring back at me.
At least it tasted okay…as long as you closed your eyes.
Dessert was not so lucky.
It’s been a long week. My son has had more snow days, half-days and doctor’s visits than usual. I’m starting to twitch trying to keep him occupied.
So, I decided to make some cupcakes…from a box mix.
I think to myself, “You can’t go wrong with a box mix.”**
Then I remembered I wanted to try mixing in a box of pudding…so I go to the internet.
I whip everything together. Plunk some festive papers in the cupcake tray and pop those bad boys in the oven for forty-five minutes at 350 degrees, just like the cobbled-together recipe online says.
I’m watching reruns of Supernatural. The Winchesters battle God’s sister for the sake of the universe and the loving scent of vanilla wafts through the house. The oven is so warm that I can feel my toes thawing.
All is well with the world.
Time passes. I’m distracted by a noise, pause my show, and I get up to check it out when I realize there is still about fifteen minutes left on the oven timer…
And that’s when it hits me.
Cupcakes are not cakes. Not really. They are precocious infants that might someday grow up to be real desserts.
And they don’t take 45 minutes to bake.
Surprisingly, what I took out of the oven wasn’t entirely inedible.***
“I’ll just make a fantastic frosting and hide my crimes.” I say, with desperate bravado, the hallmark of self delusion.
Back to the internet I go…because I am a slow learner.
I wanted to make a ganache…a rich, chocolatey, mouth-gasm of a frosting.
Ganache, for those of you who don’t know, is fecking awesome when done correctly.
That last part is important.
This is what I made instead:
“How bad were these cupcakes?” You ask.
I’ll show you.
I myself was curious to learn whether there was any kind of sugary confection my son would turn down.
This was his answer….
So, I did the only thing a sad baker can do.
(Besides eat two anyway because. Denial!)
They clung to the tray as if saying, “We’re not that bad…give us a chance.”
But no. Sometimes, it’s better, healthier, to let go of the things we cannot change.
And that includes damaged baked goods.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Recipes, like horses, should never be changed mid-stream.
**I was wrong. Horribly, disastrously wrong. This was the monstrous amalgamation of inattention paired with random recipe Googling–creating a cake-tastrophy.
I am spending Christmas Day writing cards to friends because, apparently, I am living the holidays backward. And it started off so promising too…
The cookies were baked and frosted in early December…ready to be handed out to teachers and neighbors instead of requiring exhausting shopping jaunts and wrapping to accomplish. Ta dah!
*She gloated and lo’ the gods of irony did take notice.*
So, of course, the minute I added the last dragée sprinkle, I came down with the worst bubonic nasal funk, like, EVER. I didn’t dare hand out the frosted ones out to anyone…I liked.
We’ve been eating them all in lieu of chicken soup. (Note: I make something like 100 cookies each season.)
As a result of the plague, all shopping was done last minute. Like on Saturday, or as I was calling it, the Eve of Christmas.
I gritted my teeth and plowed through the tinsel strewn madness in a frantic bid not to throttle my fellow man–just so I’d have presents to hand out at the family gathering.*
I stayed up all night Saturday wrapping the last-minute what-nots decorated with frills and furbelows and wondering why BBC America wasn’t showing the much-awaited Dr. Who Christmas special.
*A clue, she has not.*
Dizzy with a stuffy head, thrown by the fact I work from home and days are marked by whether I have to shove my kid on a bus or not, things are spectacularly wonky. Festivities happen in spastic fits and starts if they happen at all. To be perfectly blunt, I’m off! In fact, I am so off in my order of traditional holiday crapola, that we celebrated early.
LIKE…a DAY early.
I woke Sunday thinking that it was Monday because I saw a mail van delivering to the house next door. So, Santa came early. I made the traditional pop-n-fresh, cinnamon rolls from a Pillsbury can baked into the shape of a lumpy Christmas tree the way my mom always made for us when we were kids. My son happily opened his giant tube of popcorn and his Orville Redenbacher fun-fun air popper.
It is only after the morning is gone and all the presents are opened that I realize…oh, wait. It’s only the 24th.
So, here we are, December 25th with nothing to celebrate. The snowy day precludes the emergency ‘road trip’ that I blankly promised my son yesterday with the caveat “If the weather is good.”**
And we woke to this…
This wouldn’t be so all-fired tragic if it weren’t for the irony of it all.
My kid, the Calendar King, said NOT ONE WORD about the fact mommy was off by a day.*** I guess all kids dreams of Christmas coming early. This does explain the kind of puzzled looks he kept giving me when I told him to keep opening his presents though…
So, Happy Holidays to everyone… and I might as well wish you Happy New Year. I’ll be with you in spirit/s next Saturday as we toast farewell to 2017! Because who in their right mind would put New Years on a Sunday of all things! Am I right?
*I was shocked to find other people shopping and leaving me with no place to park but the butt-end of the parking lot. Seriously, why weren’t they all home with their families and snug in their beds?
**Note: all weather is good weather for travel according to my son. The roads could be melting with lava, hail could be denting the roof and Pteradactyls might be making a bid to return from the primordial ooze from which they sprung and he’d still say, “Car ride?”
***Yeah yeah. I know. Non-verbal autistic. But he could have pointed to a calendar or something!
The sight of a bread macHinE thrown to the floor is Almost funny when it bounces.
Pounding fists, biting, scReaming.
HysTeria is catching.
ScreaMing is too.
“What is your emergencY?”
The police are not the ones who can HElp…but they stAnd by, as helpless as I
HeaRTbeat crashIng, craShing, crashing.
“Take this pill. Now this. And this.”
The doctor is a distant voice: “…he needs an inpatient mental health admission”
A long time coming
Following the amBulance thRough the rain…
Or maybe they are tEArs?
Questions without answers
“He’s just too strong for me now.”
Five people hold down my son for blood tests that reveal nothing wrong.
Vecta trance descends as digital projections swirl and spool
“We have no place for your son. He doesn’t fit the requirement of need.”
Home again, drugged complacence.
What will we do tomorrow…and the next tomorrow…and the next?
Every day is an undetonated hand grenade
You never Know when It will go off
You are grateful wheN it doesn’t.
Until it does.
I scrub blood from my sleeve and watch it swirl down the drain…
Along with the happiness the rest of the day promised.
The clock reads midniGht
It is a new day.
The author is recovering. So her is son. Please be kind. I may not have the strength to answer any questions. Read between the lines above. It says it all.
For now, my son is home and doing as best as can be expected. He suffered no major physical injury. Nor did I. But I need time to recover anyway.
November is National Novel Writers Month. I typically participate and am trying to find the enthusiasm to do so. I may not have energy to respond, but that does not mean I do not appreciate encouragement and understanding.
I will bounce back from this…I am like my bread machine that way.