Monthly Archives: August 2016

Snap to It

I’ve been working on a blog about what I’ve been calling Collegepalooza 2016. We’ve been driving all around New England and New York sniffing out colleges for my son. It’s interesting on so many levels that’s good for blogging. But the incident this past weekend earned its own standalone blog. I’ve noticed that a number of people (more than I consider necessary/normal/optimal) bring the whole family to these things. It’s downright odd. OK, if you’ve got 2 teens close in age, it’s a 2 for 1, that I get. But the 8-11-year-old? Um you can leave him/her home, thanks. A friend suggested that maybe there is no other place for the kid to go. Nice try, but that’s bullshit. Play dates start at the toddler stage and fake friendships with other families based solely on your kid’s connections actually peak between the ages of 8-11, so believe me, people have options for dumping their kid for an overnight/weekend.

But then I started to think. That sounds mean, right? Who am I to judge these middle class/upper class people and their khaki shorts and collared polo shirts? Except the moms, who wear dresses straight out of the Lands Ends catalog. Not that there is anything wrong with that. One of my favorite dresses comes from there. Anyway, who am I to judge in my last year’s Old Navy attire? So there I was strolling with the group at Union College in Schenectady working hard to:

  1. Ignore the ubiquitous khakis and polos.
  2. Pay attention to the tour.
  3. Not pay any attention to the 9-year-old kid on the tour snapping a rubber band on his head and whatever else was in his range.
  4. Struggling with my conscience about all the judging going on in my head.

I was actually doing pretty well with all of the above, when towards the end of the tour it happened. That rubber band launched and snapped me in the arm. We were already moving on by the time the snap registered in my brain and I glanced first at its resting pace on the sidewalk and then cast an accusatory glance to the 9-year-old, whose face came right of out of Simpson’s cartoon casting: “Doh!”

I wanted to yell at the stupid kid. I wanted to call out his parents and question their wisdom of dragging a kid on a college tour. But I’m classier than that. Plus we were nearly at the end of the tour and I thought we’d hold up the others if I yelled, “Holy sting, Batman! What the hell just hit my arm?!? A rubber band? Where the hell did that come from?!?” I wonder if they train the student tour guides for situations like that. Alas, we won’t know, but now I get to throw my guilt out the window and declare it:

Leave your bloody kids at home, or I will make them bloody.

Oh, and good luck at college all you newbies!









I Would Have Gotten Away with It, if It Weren’t for that Meddling Hamster

So I published this two years ago, and I’m having deja vu. I took the new(ish) hamster, Marble, to the vet this week, and he needs to have something removed from his balls. He’s adorable, but I would like to say for the record that I’m done with male hamsters and their ball issues. And before you ask, as a number of my friends already have, my kid is waaaaay too old and attached for me to put Marble down and get a new one because it’s less expensive than surgery. Look, I get he’s a hamster and doesn’t register much in the pet kingdom, but in the kid kingdom, he is the bee’s knees. So, in honor of laying out yet another three figure amount in the name of pets, here’s the post from two years ago.

This week I joined the ranks of what I used to think of as the Crazy Pet People, but now think of more as the Concerned and Highly Responsible Pet Owners. I grew up in the time when the only reason you took your pets to vet was to end their misery, and you’d hear your parents complain about the bill for months after. I owned my last cats in 1990, way before people were spending $56 billion smackers a year on their pets. And for the record, I did NOT take them to the vet then—I became allergic and sent them to live a good friend. I like to hide my secret relief at not having to lay out serious cash on pet wellness and health care that rivals humans by secretly shaking my head at those crazy pet people, acting like their pets are people. I’ve gotten away with it too for quite a while—long enough to foster some hubris on the topic. When my son reached pet-wanting age, my and his father’s cat allergies and my incompatibility with dogs left him with a pretty short list of possibilities: fish, turtles, and small furry creatures. We started with two successive goldfish. Dorothy lasted about a year, but Baby Dorothy had some digestive issues that required a special diet. Despite the fact that I hand-fed her mashed peas, she left the mortal coil after a few months. That should have been the red flag for me. I was hand-feeding. A fish. Peas. Why? Because she was my son’s pet, and he loved her. That, I told myself, was much different from what those Crazy Pet People do.

Two fish funerals in a short time took its emotional toll on my son, and so we laid low on the pet front for a while. When the hamster request became frequent and steady, we agreed to get him a hamster for his birthday. He picked Nibbles, who was up for adoption at the pet store; his previous owner was no longer able to care for him. I was brimming with pride, both at my son’s compassionate choice, and at Nibble’s exceptional talents; he placed third in the Petco Hamster Ball Derby that year. Mostly, Nibbles was a healthy and maintenance-free hamster. At least from a vet’s perspective. He did escape from his cage numerous times, holing up under the dishwasher for 36 hours once and getting specked with black gunk after about 6 hours of roaming under the baseboards. But he was none the worse for wear. One weird episode involved us cleaning his cage during the day. Hamsters are nocturnal, so we had to wake him up to do it. He wasn’t right for three days after that—sleeping day and night, except for a few feeble attempts to walk in his wheel. He’d walked for a few minutes, then seemed confused at why he was there and retreat to his house. I lay awake listening for the sound of the wheel, and then convinced we’d killed him, I checked on him in the middle of the night. He finally perked up all on his own, and the only other help he needed was when he was very old (at age three) and we turned his cage into a one-level assisted living facility for him. But, you know, none of that was crazy, it was logical animal care.

After a few months of mourning Nibbles, my son was ready for a second hamster, and why not? Since we’d weathered one hamster’s life vet-free, the idea of it went completely out of my head. And for our first year with Hamphrey, we continued in that self-delusional fantasy. That is, until last Tuesday. My son picked up Hamphrey and said, “What’s that?” There something slightly larger than a Cocoa Puff on him, and the color was not any color a mammal should be sporting. Although I previously had not consciously defined for myself what size a weird growth needed to be for me to consider a vet, apparently it’s slightly larger than a Cocoa Puff. So there I was, making awkward calls from work, first finding a vet who treats what one vet website called “pocket pets” and then describing the problem. I was acutely aware that to people who don’t own pets, on the scale of legitimate pet issues, Hamphrey’s was just above fish digestive issues. Lucky for me the Concerned and Highly Responsible Pet Owners at the vet fell over themselves when I showed up in the waiting room with the cage. All dog owners, they oohed at Hamphrey’s well-timed,head poke out of his house, exclaimed his cuteness, and peppered me with questions about him, including his ailment.

The vet examined him thoroughly, which I was very grateful for. But it was also kind of hard to take seriously, I mean, when she looked in his eyes, ears, and even in his tiny nose, what could she possibly see in there? I was mildly amused until she started talking about surgery, the risks, and a specialist south of Boston. And there I was, in that place I’d avoided for so long. Trying to make a difficult, expensive health care decision for a small animal with a three-year life span and hold on my son’s heart. Of course I considered it, because I’m a Concerned and Highly Responsible Pet Owner. What made me hesitate was that surgery was probably just as risky as doing nothing—the anesthesia alone could kill him, and how the heck do you administer it? With a little mask? So as my mind was racing about how I would explain this all to my son, we came back to the more basic approach, trying to clean up the Cocoa Puff. So they took him off for about 10 minutes. When they returned, the Cocoa Puff was gone, there was a small wound, and I swear Hamphrey looked relieved. Seems like it was an infected cut, and not some big scary tumor. Phew. And $107 later, that is how I joined your ranks. Now if you’ll excuse me, Hamphrey needs his antibiotics, ointment applied, and a foot rub.

Photo: Marble the newish hamster in all his cuteness.

Charlotte’s Web

It’s summer and I’m working on a number of fabulous posts for you all, but, um, yeah, it’s summer, and I’m having too much fun again, so they aren’t ready. But I did come across this little slice of fiction meets reality, or the power of a good story. Now if it weren’t for the book Charlotte’s Web, I would have come upon this creepy little scene, expressed disgust, and backed away slowly. I mean look at that spider’s back end! You could hide a moth in there. But when I saw it, all I could think of was Charlotte’s eggs and how tired she was at the end, and then how all the baby spiders were born. So here you are, not quite an Octo-mom, but at least a Quad-mom–that is one busy spider! So, two sacs are hatching, and two to go. I wonder which three (or three hundred, judging by the size of those things) will stay? Also, now that I think of it I also saw Templeton a few weeks back while sitting on my patio at dusk. Maybe I’ll leave some old newspapers around and see what happens…

The Mother of All Aches and Pains

We all have aches and pains from time to time, except maybe people in their 20s who spend a lot of time drinking and ignoring their bodies without consequence, and we all hate them for it, except when we remember we pissed off people the same way in our 20s. It’s the circle of life coming to bite us in the ass.

Throughout our life, our period’s aches and pains change, but mostly they are variations on theme: sometimes you get more cramps than usual or less (ha ha, I’m just messing’ with ya, that never happens). Maybe you get a new headache or your mood swings around a little more like a drunken boxer in a ring, rather than a 1940s swing coat, but mostly it’s just a new pattern settling in. You complain to your friends for a few months, and then forget it was any different until the next shift.

All that goes on for 35 years, give or take. I heard about perimenopause, but I thought it was more of the same variations. But let me tell you, 12 years into perimenopause, I can safely say that experience does diddly to prepare you for the slow creep and then onslaught of bizarre symptoms of perimenopause. I mean this shit is wacky. Sure there are the symptoms everyone talks about and make it into the one-woman Broadway shows. Things like hot flashes that feel like Satan has decided to start a fire inside you, and I’m not talking about fiery passion. More like the fires of hell that don’t give a damn that you might be in a work meeting or on a date, or just generally trying to be a normal person.

Mood swings are also a popular topic people like to parody. I’d like to be able to say that our mood swings are directly related to all the other weird hormonal shit that’s happening to us, but the truth is, it’s random. I wanted to rip a woman to shreds with my bare hands simply because she was wearing a coat with an unusual geometric pattern. I think it was what sharks feel when they taste blood. Lucky for her and me I’d been having these bouts for a while, so when I saw her and wanted to pummel her to the ground, I understood it was only perimenopause. I shrugged my shoulders, let her be, and regaled my coworkers with my humorous insanity and we laughed about it.

But all of you who make fun of us should know that’s the tip of the iceberg of what we’re dealing with. If feels like our hormones are running amuck like drunken teenagers without a curfew, and that shit gets old really, really fast. Here are bunch of other lesser known symptoms:

Every once in a while my heart feels like it beats inward instead of out. It’s just a few beats but it’s annoyingly weird. My friend gets random tingling in her arm, and, no, she isn’t having a heart attack. She checked the first time it happened. I’ve gotten a weird thing in my hip socket where one day I’m perfectly fine, then the next day if I turn sharply right while I’m walking, my leg suddenly collapses. That’s super fun, let me tell you. I only fell once, and then I learned to catch myself before it happened. After a few days it disappears. And that’s the really annoying part. Most of these things come and go, and with each new thing, you get super worried because it always seem to resemble a serious illness. If you freak out, and get an urgent appointment with  your doctor, you soon realize you’re not dying. You’re not even close. Your doctor will ask you questions that describe a serious illness, and you hear words like “uncontrollable bleeding,”  “incapacitating pain,” and “excessive or no bowel movements.” You sit there with your perplexing, yet comparatively harmless afflictions, and sound like a big symptom loser.

“Well, doc, when I make a sharp turn to the right, my right leg tends to give out, but I can walk fine if I’m careful, and then it goes away after a few days.” And then she looks at me with raised eyebrows as if to say, “Are we done here? I need to attend to people with real medical issues.” At that point, I start to wish I did have full-on symptoms so she would be sympathetic and give me something. Of course anyone having the full on symptoms, say sitting in a pool of sweat at work, will want to pummel me as if I were wearing a stupid coat, which I’m not. I’m just wearing stupid.

Other symptoms include getting a nice ax-embedded-in-the-side-of-my-head kind of migraine. For a while it was a sign that my period would come the next day, so that was actually kind of useful, until peri realized she was getting too predictable, and I started to get a headache during and after my period. Thanks, bitch.

Don’t get me started with my periods. They have gotten longer and always show up early, unless they come late. I’ve yet to even get to the point where I skip some months (usually the sign that you are getting close to the finish line), and  I’m 51 for fuck’s sake.

Also don’t talk to me about how much I spend on supplies–it’s obscene. I was with a group of four women, all the same age–two of us still had our periods and two didn’t. The two who finished had, of course, just stocked up on tampons and napkins. We thought we could start a charity that could take the supplies of women who finally finish and re-distribute them among those of us who are still going strong. I know I could really use that tampon money for my kid’s college tuition.

And did I mention I’m 51? I should be done with this stuff by now–is it any wonder I want to pummel people? But maybe I shouldn’t be so eager to quit. I recently saw my two older sisters. One finally stopped, but then she gained 10 pounds doing nothing differently. My other sister is sputtering and was telling me about her thinning hair. Her period comes anywhere from every three days to every three weeks. What fresh hell is this??

So go ahead, make fun of us and have a good laugh. But do so at your peril. I may not like the coat you’re wearing.

Don’t Let the Haters Get You Down

There are a lot of isms going on out there. Racism, sexism, plagiarism—heck, even mindless summer movies aren’t safe from the vitriol. Political passion and excess, I get. Ghostbusters? Really? So you don’t like chicks in your favorite movie franchise. Why get your panties in a twist? Just don’t spend your money to watch it. Vote with your wallet. That’s what we used to call it back in the dark ages of the wild 80s (and even before, I’m guessing). If we didn’t like stuff, we just didn’t buy it, and we moved on to stuff we did like. I know, I know, it’s cray-cray!

So it’s been a tough year for those of us who like to be funny, but don’t have the political comedic leanings of Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, or Jon Stewart. And if I don’t have the chutzpah to make something funny out of the venom, I decided to try to at least find examples of Americans just hanging out and getting along. Which wasn’t much easier. The internet is burning and small groups of my friends don’t count.

But I’m happy to report, I finally found a place of utter equality. No one group has the advantage over another. Men, women, and others are all treated equally. Money will not get you in a faster line. And at least in Massachusetts, every person age 16 or older will most likely pass through its egalitarian doors. What is this miracle of democracy, you ask? It’s not the voting booth or the library. It’s the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). You can say what you like about excessive bureaucracy, but after 35 years of my own complaints about it, I have finally discovered its silver lining. The red tape that frustrates us, also serves to remind us that we’re all equal in the dull, unflappable eyes of the state. Even if you don’t own a car, in my state at least, you still go there to get a Mass. ID.

I was there not too long ago with my son who was taking the test to get his learner’s permit. We waited 15 minutes in a line to get a number. Then we waited 30 minutes to have our number called. Then I waited another 10 minutes while he took the test. And we waited amongst the mass of humanity known as the population of the US. People of all shades, states of dress, ages, sitting together as equals on very hard wooden benches. Strangers slid over to make room for their fellow sufferers. The sounds of a half a dozen languages peppered the quiet room. One man paced around in a long oval, but no one bothered him. Numbers were called in implacable order, no jumping ahead. Lives didn’t matter as much as having the proper paperwork, and the RMV makes a better effort to find out if people do have it at the door. This helps reduce fisticuffs between the workers and the waiters. No place is perfect.

So, if you’re feeling down about all isms and yelling and the intolerance, go sit in your local RMV for 5 or 10 minutes, and have a look around. It’s not a giant waste of time, money, and sanity. It’s all that and the American dream of equality in its purist form. What more can you ask for?

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