I don’t know who you are but you obviously don’t have any school-aged kids at home, or you would understand what level hell you are putting us through. By us, I mean parents who had hopes of getting through this winter alive with our sanity intact. But no. You’ve trapped us in our homes with our children for, FLAKE*, what is it? Ten days now? Eleven? I’ve lost count of how many flaking snow days it’s been. Continue reading What the Flake?→
*I wouldn’t ordinarily have a footnote to my poetry. But I’ve never had this happen before. I don’t know what to call that little slice of word jumble at the top. I tried leaving it out and that felt wrong. I tried putting it in…even wronger. Is it a foreword? A prelude? A prequel? I’m not sure what to call it. So, I’m not calling it anything. It just is. And I hope that is enough.
“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?
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.
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!
I should have been a bear. Really! Every time January rolls around, I eat a houseful of food and then want to curl up in a ball and bury my head under the covers until June. I look at everyone else around me who seems to be inordinately energized—bothering to wash laundry and cook meals, for example. Whereas I considered bribing my son with an ice cream sandwich this morning if only he’d get himself up and dressed for school on time.*
Winter break wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. However, lazy days have their side effects. I slowly devolved from a marginally-together person into an Amazon-Prime-channeling slug. The thought of reading anything besides junk-food thrillers or sexy, slithery beast men who woo their sexual partners with a combination of near-abuse and copious amounts of testosterone-soaked pheromones is un-bearable. (Pun intended. You’re welcome.) This is anything but Prime reading! If you think I am kidding, check out a few of the titles available for “Free” on Amazon Kindle Unlimited.**
By the way, I am NOT recommending these. I just searched a random term in Kindle unlimited and grabbed the worst-sounding titles I could find in under ten seconds.
Mid-winter lethargy shows itself everywhere. This post is the first thing that I have written in nearly a month. I’m so lazy, I’m even giving up on double-spacing after the period at the end of each sentence based on the fear it will mark me a geriatric writer of old-school sensibilities. Hmm, that gives me an idea of novel spin-off possibilities:
Sentence and Sensibilities
Definitely NOT written by a Lady
When Elinor and Edward meet–the after-school special begins! First, he drops his participles when she walks past; then he omits his Oxford comma. How ever will she tame his wild ways? Prim school marm, Elinor, disciplines her most recalcitrant student, Edward, for his pitiful punctuation performance. He then turns the tables on his teacher when he changes into a ferocious werebeast and lectures his proud school mistress in love. Who will punctuate improperly after this naughty remedial class?***
(If this sounds more like Pride and Prejudice—blame my limited knowledge of Jane Austen novels.)
I can’t say whether the plot is Prime-worthy, but musing about it at least whiles away the time between naps. Until the next chapter…I’ll be reading between the sheets.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*Child got waffles instead. You’d think the act of depressing the toaster was tantamount to preparing a full-course banquet the exhaustion the prospect gave me.
**“Free” means it only costs your dignity if anyone catches you reading it.
***Their conjugation brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “Teacher’s Pet.”
I am suffering a cookie backlash. It’s something like the brain freeze you get from sucking down a super-sweet slushie too fast. I ate nearly a whole plate of cookies before realizing, “Hey, I am apparently hungry for dinner and cookies…though delicious…sadly, are not dinner.” I blame my son and his cookie-niverous habits for setting a bad example.
I am supposed to be writing about my personal philosophy of life as part of my DBT group therapy* Part of my instruction is to “Learn and do challenging things that help me grow and mature as a human being.” So far, all I have managed to do is throw my agnostic self into the holiday spirit like a drunk at an open bar.
In the past week, I have walked the neighborhood enjoying the random display of holiday lights that sparkle and invite; I’ve frosted enough cookies to qualify as a half-baked mad woman; and, I’ve sculpted a snowman and pelted snowballs in pursuit of the perfect snowy day. Perhaps I can find a personal philosophy herein?
Let There Be Light!
The majority of homes in our neighborhood have no decorations at all.** So, as my son and I walked, we passed rows and rows of quiet, well-behaved buildings in order to find the rowdy and unruly ones clad for a festive night life.
There were Simplistic Scenes:
Perfectly Balanced Perfections:
The Whimsical and Charming:
Hazardous and Slap-dash Efforts:
And Truly Dazzling Displays:
And then there was the show-stopping efforts we traveled to Lansing to admire. I can’t even imagine where one shops to find a Jabba the Hutt inflatable Christmas display.
Have a Very Star Wars X-Mas!
I don’t know whether the way one strings lights says much (or anything at all) about one’s mental health—but my philosophy says the least amount of effort brings the greatest pleasure. That, and you really can’t enjoy your own outdoor decorations. So, it is better to live opposite the house that puts one up—which in my case, is what happened. I get to admire the beauty and they foot the bill! It’s a win-win, really.
No, to find philosophy, one has to go deep into the kitchen. Perhaps all philosophers start out staring at the world around them to find meaning. This is what I discovered while getting baked…er…I mean baking.
The Cookie Maker’s Manifesto
No matter how well you follow the recipe, you are going to forget how many cups of flour you have painstakingly scooped half-way through. It pays to buy enough measuring cups for a double recipe.
When you go to roll your dough, be prepared for breaks, cracks and just plain wrong efforts.
You will burn the first batch. Expect failure.
Cute, mini gingerbread houses are bound to be just as hard to construct as real ones.
The walls will not want to go up right the first time; you will put them on the wrong way each time; and, you will definitely break a wall pressing too hard.
Frosting plus cinnamon red hots make a handy-dandy, makeshift chimney to hold up a house and hide foundation-wide cracks.
With enough frosting—even badly rolled, overly-floured cookies are edible. And, even if they aren’t, with enough sugar candies, they are at least pretty.
If you can’t find the sweetness of life in your cookies – perhaps you can find it in sublimated aggression otherwise known as snowball fights.
It always starts off innocent:
“Let’s build a snowman.”
Soon you are bundled to within an inch of your life wondering how the suit that fit last year is so snug? You waddle into the yard and start scooping snow.
You mean for this to be a nice, fun experience…but before long, the balls are flying! (Not pictured because, duh, flying snowballs.)
What have we learned from all this? I can’t really say. Perhaps in all the madness of the season hides the reason for the madness?
Shine the Light on Your Anxieties?
I’m not sure if I’ve found the meaning of life in all my wanderings this week. Is it like a colorfully lit, snowy landscape? It can look pretty on the sparkling surface, but the minute you scrape away the white layer the dirt-encrusted reality is unearthed? No…that’s not it.
Cookies as a Panacea?
Can philosophy be found in an oven? If you see a cutesy cookie cutter at World Market—put it down and back away slowly—it is bound to bring you hardship and grief! Nope…I don’t think that is quite right either.
Snowball-ism! Is violence really the answer?
No matter how well-intentioned, every snowman creation ends up being a frigid brawl dressed like an inflatable sumo wrestler! Ahh. That’s it. That’s my philosophy for the week: Don’t fling the frozen water if you can’t take the cold!***
Of course, when the fair weather returns, I’ll be shopping around for a new mantra. I suspect innate sand castle mortality and nagging mosquito bite b-itchiness are in the offing. Until then, avoid the chill and wait out the winter with a good book and hot cocoa. Everybody cool’s doing it.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Right about now that philosophy would be “Don’t eat just one more! There is no end of ‘just one more’ when it comes to cookies.”
**These are the homes of people who fear giant electricity bills.
***It helps if you pick a seven-year-old as your opponent. Even if you can’t outrun him, you can always squish him in defense.