Google Something Clever 2.0: April 2013

Apr 25, 2013

I Want a Wedding Do-Over

I am not a romantic person at all, and I think vow renewals are super lame and corny (“hey, look, everybody- we still love each other”), but I totally want to do-over my wedding.

I’ve talked about my wedding before, so you may already know that the music didn’t play right for my ceremony, and my butterflies were halfway out of a coma when we released them. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The next mess started during the cocktail hour, while the wedding party was getting pictures taken. This is when I realized that our photographer sucked. We had an even number of people in the party, save for the butterfly girl. One maid of honor, one best man, four bridesmaids, four ushers... The photographer didn’t even line us up symmetrically. All of our pictures are just a big pile of people. No rhyme or reason. And they’re crooked! Our photographs were so awful, we had to go down to the studio and literally yell at them in order to get what we wanted, which ended up being one 20 x 16 print and a few wallets. Everything else was scrapped. Luckily, a few of our friends got some really good pictures.

Then, we’re all getting introduced into the reception. One by one, the DJ is announcing our names, and the group standing outside is dwindling. Pretty soon, it becomes apparent that she’s forgotten the butterfly girl. I sent one of the last attendants out to tell her, and to her credit, she played it off and pretended that the girl was shy, and had been refusing to come out. Of course, that made my little cousin look bad…

Then, it’s time for the first dance. We took lessons for months for this dance. We had a whole routine choreographed. And it was hard. We are not dancers by any means. But we had this down. We did a foxtrot to “Beyond the Sea” by Bobby Darin. There were spins and jazz hands (at my insistence) and everything. And then, about two thirds of the way through our routine, we ran out of room. It seems the dance floor at the reception wasn’t as large as the dance studio. And we got completely lost. We missed one of the big, show-stopping moves, and it just fell apart. I still don’t even know if anyone noticed. The worst part is, what I really wanted to do was the “Thriller” dance, with all of the wedding party playing the zombies, but I scrapped it because I figured they’d never do it. I later found out that everyone totally would have been down with that (please don’t steal it; I really might try a do-over).

We had a photo matte set up on a table with sharpies for everyone to sign. Within minutes, it got buried by gifts, so most people didn’t sign it.

The lady who was running the wedding kept yelling at all the kids for running around (my nephew, who was twelve at the time, actually pulled me aside to tell me she was a bitch).

People were always grabbing at me to hug me and wish me well, so I only got to have two drinks. My husband, meanwhile, got drunk and annoying (I love him, but when he’s drunk and I’m sober, he’s annoying as hell, and he’ll be the first to admit that).

Then the worst thing ever happened. I had a really comprehensive “Do Not Play” list. There are a lot of songs that you would expect to hear at a wedding. Songs every DJ will play. Songs every guest will request. If you’ve been to the wedding of a white couple in America within the past thirty years, you know where I’m going with this… “Livin’ On a Prayer.” I fucking hate that song. In fact, I hate all Bon Jovi songs. So not only did I put Bon Jovi on my “Do Not Play” list, I specifically listed that song. And she friggin’ played it. I was so furious, my maid of honor had to take me out of the room.

So we use that time for a precarious pee-break, and we come back. I’ve calmed down a little. The song’s ending. And then it got worse. Also on my “Do Not Play” list were No Doubt and Gwen Stefani, listed separately, because I’m thorough. So what does this bitch play next? “If I Was a Rich Girl.” Are you kidding me?

Here’s another thing you need to know: my husband’s family is Jewish, so we added a couple Jewish elements to the wedding, like personalized yarmulkes and the breaking of the glass. What we did not add, was the “Hava Nagila” dance. I’m not afraid of heights per se, but I am afraid of untrustworthy heights. For example, I will climb a tree, but I’m terrified of ladders, because they’re rickety. I also don’t trust four drunk men holding a chair above their heads. What do you think that woman played after a “Fiddler on the Roof” cover song? You guessed it. It was awful.

So after all that, the wedding is over, and my husband and I go back to our room to consummate our marriage, and by that I mean rip open the cards and count our money. Our wedding was on a sprawling property with a hotel and cabins and such. So we’d rented out a large cabin for the after party with all of our friends. What we neglected to do, because we were young and poor, was stock the cabin with alcohol. We figured they could do that themselves. By the time we got back to the cabin, there was nothing but a can of Coke and half a bottle of vodka left. Some people had left. Some were passed out. One was trashed beyond belief and yelling about chain saws. So that party pretty much sucked.

Yes, friends, if I could do anything over, I would have another wedding. A wedding where the DJ and photographer listened to me, where we did the dance I wanted, and not the one that could have broken my neck. A wedding where I get to drink, dammit.  And guess what. Our tenth anniversary is coming up in a couple of years. Hope your dresses still fit, girls.

Apr 24, 2013

Anne Frank: Belieber?

Justin Bieber has caused quite a stir with his recent visit to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. The cause of the controversy is the note he left in the guest book: “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”

Are you angry? You shouldn’t be.

First of all, let’s look at the facts. Extraordinary circumstances notwithstanding, Anne Frank was a typical teenage girl. In fact, Anne covered her bedroom wall with pictures of celebrities, just like today’s “beliebers.” That wall still stands in the Anne Frank House. It’s not inconceivable to think that if she’d been around today, that wall might have been adorned with pictures of Bieber and Robert Pattinson, rather than Joyce van der Veen and Deanna Durbin.

Next, we must remember that Bieber is himself just a teenager. Not only that, he’s a teenager who’s been surrounded by screaming fans and yes-men for the majority of his teenage years. I’d be surprised if he wasn’t a bit self-centered. For the past five years, all he’s heard is people assuring him that he’s the most important person in the world, and that all teenage girls worship him. That’s all he knows.

It’s also important to realize that Bieber is not a political figure. His every move is not scripted by speech writers to ensure that he always errs on the side of politically correct. Think back to some of the things you said and wrote at age 19. Would your every word hold up to the scrutiny of the media? Of the entire world? I know mine wouldn’t.

The bottom line is that Justin Bieber has been bred to be a self-centered teenager. Every time you read a magazine article about his new haircut, every time you tweet about the ridiculous outfit he wore to meet the Prime Minister of Canada, you’re only adding fuel to the fire. Can we really blame him for acting the way we’ve trained him? Let’s not forget that in 1966, John Lennon declared the Beatles to be “more popular than Jesus,” and we all got over that (eventually).

This post originally appeared on In the Powder Room.

Apr 23, 2013

Social Media in the Wake of Tragedy

I'm writing over at The Epistolarians today! Click over to see what I have to say about our moral obligations regarding Twitter and tragedy.

Apr 20, 2013

This Week Was a Marathon

Many you of know that I live in Massachusetts. I live about half an hour from Watertown, where the shit went down last night. I thought you might be wondering what it was like for us, so I'll tell you.

I normally don't watch the news, because it's too upsetting for my sensitive constitution. So I found out about the bombing on Monday via Twitter. I have a very small house. I set up my four-year-old with some cartoons in the living room and holed up in my bedroom with the news and my phone. He kept coming in every few minutes. I told him in no uncertain terms that he was not allowed in my room because I was "doing grown-up stuff" that he wasn't allowed to see or hear.

After the 20th time he came in, I finally told him I was watching the news. "What's the news?" he asked. We have a zero-tolerance policy for lying in this house, so I told him, "Some people in Boston got hurt. You don't need to see it."

All week, I was on pins and needles, just like the rest of you, I'm sure. I recall hearing something on TV about a shooting at MIT on Thursday night just before I went to bed. I thought, Really? After all that's happened this week? Who would do that? Then Friday happened.

The boy woke me up around 7:30. My husband got up around 8:00. When he came out into the living room, he told me that he received an email that the Cambridge branch of his office was closed (he works at another branch). He then went online and learned that... well, he couldn't really say, because our son was right there. And the boy can spell now, so we can't even spell words to each other unless we do it really fast. Which is hard when you're tired. He gave me the vague impression that there was something going on with the bombers, one was dead, and something about Watertown. I went outside to catch up on my phone.

We reconvened and briefed each other on what we'd learned. They killed the MIT cop. They hijacked a car. They were brothers. One was dead. The other was on the lam. You know all of that. We assumed that "Suspect Number Two" would be caught any minute now. I set the boy up with a laptop and some video games, and retreated to the bedroom to watch the news and monitor Twitter.

I felt like it was my responsibility to keep everyone outside of Massachusetts updated on what was going on. I trusted the local media, who was on the scene,. We all know what a clusterfuck CNN has become this past week. I have out-of-towners who care about me, and about my state as a whole. There are people who had loved ones out here who they couldn't get in touch with. It was my job to keep them all apprised of the situation.

An hour later, my husband left for work. I spent the morning, and a good part of the afternoon, running back and forth between the bedroom and living room. My son didn't mind at first, because he got to play video games. After a while, he started coming into the bedroom and asking me what I was doing. I put him off a few times. Finally, I told him, "Remember on Monday, when I spent a lot of time in the bedroom? Because people in Boston got hurt? Well, they got hurt by two bad guys. The police caught one of the bad guys, and they're about to catch the other one. I want to make sure they catch him." He told me he wanted to punch the bad guy (he's started karate and his superhero phase at the same time, ouch). I told him that wasn't necessary, as the police had it under control.

I got the impression that they had the bomber surrounded. Hours passed. Nothing. Then, police issued a BOLO for a green Civic in Connecticut. Wait a minute, did he get out of Watertown? Do they think he's in Connecticut? What the hell is going on?

I finally got sick of waiting for information. I noticed that it was 76 degrees outside- the nicest day we've had this year. I decided to go out and do some gardening and let the boy run off some energy. Then, my husband called to say that he was coming home from work (almost five hours early).

I hung out in the living room with my son for a while. At one point, he came up to me out of the blue and held out his empty hands. "I have a gun. I want to give it to the police, so they can get the bad guy." I told him that was nice of him, but they had it under control. "But this gun has a scope!" he insisted. "So they can see the bad guy!" Sigh. I shouldn't have told him anything. I gave him a snack and lectured him about how these were real bad guys; not the Joker, and the police were real superheros, and they would take care of it on their own. I reiterated that it was very nice of him to want to help, but the police had it under control and he shouldn't worry about it anymore.

My husband came home, and the whole family went outside. I gardened. The boys played with bubbles and a toy airplane. It started to get windy and cloudy, and we decided to head inside. My husband sent the boy to his room for a nap and suggested that I go to Target, which I'd planned to do that morning. An errand alone? You don't have to tell me twice. I didn't even shower. I took off covered in dirt and sunblock.

I didn't get far before anxiety set in. If they think he might be in Connecticut, I reasoned, he could be anywhere. My town is way closer to Watertown than Connecticut is. What if he's here? I tried to tell myself that I was being paranoid, but we all know that doesn't work. I found myself scanning the streets as I drove.

There was a distinct air of unease at Target. Or maybe it was just me. I made eye contact with every single person in the store, something I rarely do with anyone. There was a particular brand of lotion that I couldn't find, so I stopped at CVS on the way home. Just as I put the car into park, I heard a siren. I looked up, and every single person in the area- in the parking lot, on the sidewalks, in cars- they all stopped dead in their tracks and watched. It turned out to be just a minor car accident, but I have never in my life seen a reaction to a siren quite like that.

I came home and asked my husband for the update. Nothing. How could they have lost him? How has this not ended yet? Then they lifted the shelter-in-place order. I was baffled. They have no idea where this guy is, and they're just letting people leave their houses? Are they crazy? Who's going to leave their house?

The boy woke up, and we had to stop watching the news. After a couple hours of frowning and shaking our heads, I got a tweet from my friend Mom With Her Running Shoes On, who lives in California.

I ran back to the bedroom and turned on the TV. This is when we learned that he was cornered on the boat. I spent the next hour running around, trying to watch the news, cook two dinners, and tweet and Facebook my friends outside of Massachusetts all at the same time. As soon as the boy went to bed, the news was back on the big TV. I tried to watch, eat and tweet simultaneously. It was tough.

Finally, it happened. The standoff lasted almost two hours, but they finally got him. My husband was peeing at the time, and I was yelling through the bathroom door at him. I'm not sure it registered with me just how scared I was until it was over. My husband still thinks I'm silly, since we're really not that close to Watertown. But my son and I were in Newton on Thursday. On his birthday, on January 31st, the three of us had lunch at Friendly's in Watertown, two blocks from the scene of the crime. It may not have been that close, but it was way too close for me.

Apr 18, 2013

Easthampton is the Portlandia of Massachusetts

My favorite part of any vacation is when we discover that tourist street. Do you know the one I mean? It’s always filled with eclectic shops full of stuff you don’t need, but you totally do. There are always three hippie stores, a witch store or two, a funky cafĂ© (I’m sorry; I hate that word, too, but it was appropriate), an expensive toy store… You get it. If you’re a long time reader, you may recall me referencing the tourist street in North Conway, New Hampshire where I purchased a sun dial and ate at a restaurant that I swear was really just some Deadhead’s kitchen.

Well, this year I got to visit Tourist Street a little early. Last Saturday, I traveled an hour and a half to Off the Map Tattoo.  If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you already know this because I could not stop talking about it. I pretty much live-tweeted from waiting room to plastic wrap. When we arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Off the Map is actually right on Tourist Street (ok, it’s really Cottage Street). But this particular Tourist Street was the hippy-dippiest one I have ever seen. Allow me to elaborate.

The first thing I noticed when we got out of the car is that the bike racks and street signs were all wearing sweaters. I’m not kidding. Here’s a picture.

That just happened.

Then, I noticed that every single store was completely bananas. Do you remember my hipster SEO experiment, where I joked about getting my accordion serviced at the local independent musical instrument repair collective? Um, that place exists. And they have a giant plywood Pee-wee Herman in the window.

Yup, my brain broke when I saw that.

The atmosphere at the tattoo shop was quirky, but it’s a tattoo shop, so that’s not very remarkable. My husband and son were off at Chuck E. Cheese while I was getting my tattoo, and I had some time to kill before they returned to collect me. I decided to explore a little. Then I ducked into White Square Books to warm up. This place was crazy. All the shelves were actually repurposed armoires and China cabinets. They had a random mix of new and used books, and never more than one copy. The selection was also pretty odd.

Here's all you need to know about typography:
Comic Sans is for hacks.

I slowly became aware that this tiny store was packed to the gills with people (and one dog, who nobody seemed to mind). Then I noticed that it smelled like food. I turned a corner and encountered a man who was cooking in two electric woks. Potatoes in one, red bell peppers in the other. Apparently, he was an author who was there to promote his book. Also? The food he was cooking had absolutely nothing to do with the book. But he did offer to email the recipes to anyone who asked for them.

Venturing deeper into the store, I came across a dresser (of course) with a bunch of wine on it. Because why not. Nobody was tending bar or anything.  I lingered for a minute to make sure this was really happening. It was. So I poured myself a plastic cup of a lovely 2006 Chianti and read the back of a Richard Dawkins book. I almost bought it, because I felt like I owed them for the wine, but it was thirty bucks, so fuck that noise.

Sorry it's blurry; I was being covert.

My family arrived soon after, so we headed to Amy’s Place for dinner, which came highly recommended by both the staff and patrons of Off the Map. My first clue that Amy’s Place was on the right street was when I saw this sign on the door:

Is it a joke? Is it for real? Don't know, don't care.

When our server arrived, I asked if they had Coke or Pepsi, and she said they had generic soda. Generic soda. From a fountain. I didn’t even know that was a thing. I had a chicken parmesan sandwich, and it was amazing. My son had chicken fingers and fries, and they actually gave him a reasonable portion. I’ve never seen a restaurant do that before! I guess his food was good, because he finished every last bite. This was extra-impressive on his part because he was really distracted by my tattoo. He asked to see it about 12 times.

I have wanted this tattoo for 19 years.

In conclusion, if you want a really rad tattoo, go see Joe King at Off the Map. And if you want to visit Portland, Oregon, but you live on the East Coast and don’t like flying, you should visit Easthampton, Massachusetts. 

Update: As I'm writing this, my husband just handed me a hand-written thank you note from Off the Map with a free sticker tucked inside. How classy is that??

Apr 16, 2013

Maybe I Shouldn't Let My Son Dress Himself

My four-year-old dresses himself. He picks everything out by himself, too, and I very rarely give him notes. The only time I intervene is when he tries to mix black and brown (gross) or wants to wear a white shirt to a birthday party (we've ruined a couple that way).

Last Thursday was karate day. I laid out his socks, underwear, a dark t-shirt, and the pants half of his gi (he can't tie the top or the belt himself). He asked for help with the drawstring of the pants, and I discovered that he was wearing two pairs of underwear. Apparently, he'd forgotten to take off the old ones before putting the new ones on. We didn't have a minute to spare, and parking at karate can sometimes be a bitch, so I said what the hell and went with it. Oh, calm down. I wipe his butt; I know it's clean.

That evening, we went out to dinner with his father at Friendly's to celebrate his first belt stripe. He asked his father to take him to the potty, and I told him to be on the lookout for a funny surprise.

Later that night, we were watching TV, and one character was telling another that they had to dress a five-year-old for school. "That's ridiculous," I said to my husband. "The boy's been dressing himself since he was two or three."

"Yeah, but he did put on two pairs of underwear today," he reminded me.

"True," I replied.

"And one of them was backwards."

"Really? Which one?"

"The inside ones."

I hadn't noticed that. "Those were from yesterday," I told him. "He had on two because he forgot to take off the old ones before putting on the new ones... That means he's been wearing them backwards for two days now. And then he added another pair."

Maybe he's not as competent at dressing himself as I thought.

Apr 12, 2013

We Made Our Decision

We decided what to do for Molly.

The surgery and chemo are not cures, and both have a success rate of only about 50%. If we did either one, assuming we were in the lucky 50%, they would only hold off the cancer for a couple of years, at best. And they would not be good years.

She would have to take liquid medication every day. She would need to be sedated for blood work, because she's such a fighter that they need four people to hold her down. She would need to go to the vet constantly, which would terrify her. If she developed an infection, which is common, she would need to be hospitalized, possibly for days.

She wouldn't want that.

The vet can't tell us how much time she has left. It could be a few months. It could be a few years. But however long it is, we want her to be happy. Not scared, not sedated, not hospitalized, not resenting us.

Even after surgery, she still gives impromptu backrubs
She's not in any pain. She's energetic, eating well, playing and snuggling just the same as always. She has no idea she's sick. So we're going to let her go on believing that for as long as possible. We're going to make sure that every day, from now up until her last, is a good day.

I can't even look at her without tearing up right now. And I don't know if that will ever change. But it's my job to make sure she's happy, as well as her sister, and her human brother. So I'm doing my best.

Everyone is being a real trooper about this. Both of the girls are snuggling me a lot more than usual, because they know I'm sad, even if they don't know why. The boy hasn't questioned why I've been running into my bedroom with my phone and coming out with puffy eyes all week.

I don't know how to "get over" something that hasn't even happened yet. If she was gone, I would know that no matter how sad I was, I was slowly inching towards better days. But I'm not. I'm trying to make some good days up until I have my worst day ever, and I know it's coming. I just don't know when. Sometimes, when I look at her, she seems like a ghost. Just reminding me that she'll be gone one day.

I want to take a million pictures of her. I want to record the sound of her purr. I wish I could record the way she feels when she's lying on my lap. This is, without question, the worst I have ever felt in my life. And I've lost other animals before. And people. But I've never had so much up in the air, so much left unknown before. All I can do is pat her and cry and feel this overwhelming dread for what comes next.

I can't imagine how the boy will take it. She's been his big sister his whole life. She actually lets him pat her. What cat allows a four-year-old to pat them? As soon as we took the front rail off of his crib and turned it into a "big boy bed," she was right in there, snuggling him in his sleep. When he cries out at night, she beats me to his door, and then jumps into his bed before I'm halfway across the room. Every time.

And Chevelle. Will she understand? She acts tough, but she loves her sister so much. Who will clean her ears when she's gone? I don't know how to do that. The vet always compliments me on the cleanliness of their ears, and I tell him I have nothing to do with that. They've always taken care of each others' hard-to-reach areas.

This is when I really question religious people. How can you believe that there is someone who would let this happen? How could anyone do this to such a sweet, perfect cat? And how could you worship someone like that? If there was a God, he would be a world-class asshole. And you're not allowed to get offended, because I'm grieving, so can it. And please, if you think that this is the right time to try and convert me, you are on the wrong blog.
So that's that. I'm going to try really hard to be upbeat. For Molly, for my family, and for you. I don't know what the hell I'm going to write about in the coming days. I can't keep writing about what a bummer my life is right now. I have my tattoo coming up on Saturday, so there's that. I'm not even excited anymore. I hope I don't look at that tattoo and think about what was going on when I got it for the rest of my life. That would suck. But at least I'll have one blog topic that isn't about crying and cancer.

This was her gift to me on my 30th birthday.
I want to thank all of you so much for your words of encouragement. I've gotten so many comments, here and on Facebook. I've gotten emails and tweets. Some of you had never even commented before, and I hope you didn't just start reading my blog this week, because these are horrible circumstances to meet under. It means so much to me that you all care. Thank you.

Apr 11, 2013

Don't Be a Damsel in Distress!

Have you ever gotten a flat tire? What did you do? Did you call your husband or your dad? Did you wait 2 hours for AAA? Did you pull your skirt up above your knee and hope that a knight in shining armor would happen by to rescue you? Don’t be a damsel in distress. You can do it yourself. And you don’t even need a pink tool kit.

I want to preface this by saying that I know jack about cars. I’d gotten a couple flat tires and had a big, strong man take care of it for me. When I got my third flat tire, I just so happened to have left my phone at work.

I walked a mile to my house and called the only number I could remember, and he wasn’t home. Then, I thought back to the other times I’d had a flat. While being super helpful and holding the lug nuts for the big strong man, I’d watched. And you know what? It didn’t seem that hard. So I walked back to my car, and I changed the damn tire myself.

First of all, did you know that your car came with a spare tire? I’m sorry if that sounds patronizing, but I actually told someone about that once, and she was totally flabbergasted. So, if you didn’t know, your trunk has a secret basement. Pull up the carpet in your trunk and you will see a tire, a tire iron, and a jack, nicely stowed, just waiting for you to get your DIY on. Got em? Good.

Here are a couple of tips: Technically, you have what you need to change your tire right now, if you don’t mind getting all dirty and gross. But who wants to get dirty and gross? Not me. So keep a couple pairs of latex gloves in your glove compartment. You never know when you’ll need them. And when it comes time to kneel on the cold, filthy ground, remember that your car also probably came with four floor mats which are much nicer to kneel on than asphalt. Tada!

So, you’ve got your floor mat laid out, you’re wearing your gloves, and you have your jack and tire. Now what? Before you jack up the car, you’ll want to start loosening the lug nuts. Once the tire is in the air, it will move a little. Leaving it on the ground gives you the resistance you need to start the unscrewing process. You may even need to put the tire iron on the lug nut and then stomp on it to get it going. Loosen all four (or five, depending on your car), but don’t remove them completely. This probably goes without saying, but if you don’t see lug nuts, that’s because you have a hubcap. It pops right off.

A word about that whole “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey” thing- that’s crap. It makes no sense. You’re going in a circle. If you look at a clock, and start at 9, you could conceivably call both 8 and 10 “right.” It’s just a matter of down and to the right, or up and to the right. Tightening goes clockwise, and loosening goes counter-clockwise. You’ve unscrewed bottles and jars your whole life; you probably don't really need a silly mnemonic to remember that. But if you do, think of winding a clock up tight. Or just get a tattoo on your hand.

Now, it’s time to jack up the car. Look under your car if you can, or feel around if you can’t. You’re looking for a stable spot to place the jack, as close to the flat tire as possible. It also needs to be wide enough to cover the whole top of the jack. You don’t want the car to have to do a crazy balancing act. The wheel well is not a good spot. The door is not a good spot. What you’re looking for is the actual frame of the car. Next time you get your oil changed, go take a peek at your car’s belly and scout out where you’ll need to put it (hopefully you’ll get an oil change before you get a flat tire). Your manual may also tell you where to position the jack. Jacking it up is the easiest part. Just turn the handle until the tire is completely clear of the ground. It's not heavy, because science.

Once the tire is off the ground, you can remove the lug nuts completely. If you have a hubcap, put it upside-down on the ground and use it like a bowl to contain the lug nuts. If you have a son named Raphie, do not, under any circumstances, have him hold the hubcap. He will spill the nuts and then say, “Ohhhh, fuuuuuudge.” Only he won’t say fudge.

Pull off the old tire and put on the spare. You can get the lug nuts started with your hands. Lower the car and then tighten the nuts using the tire iron- same reasoning as before. When you are tightening them, do not just go around in a circle tightening each one. You may end up with a wobbly tire if you do that. Tighten one, then the opposite one, and so on. Get it? Like Nut 1, then Nut 3, then Nut 2, then Nut 4. If you have five, you can tighten 1, 3, 5, 2 and then 4. Or something similar.

That’s it! You’re done! Now, throw everything in your trunk (including those dirty gloves- don’t litter!) and get a new tire ASAP. Spare tires are not meant to be used at high speeds, or for long distances. Seriously, don’t push it.

Now don’t you feel independent? If you even have occasion to use this advice, I'd love to see pictures, you little grease monkey, you.

Apr 10, 2013

Health and Beauty Tips for the Grief-Stricken

I read a lot of blogs. Sometimes, the author has a sad*, and they either stop writing for a while, or they write stuff that totally bums you out. I’m trying to avoid that right now.

Monday was the day I took Molly to the oncologist, and I recapped that here. Later that day (after writing my post), when my husband came home from work, we read the email from the vet where she outlined everything we talked about. I was a little hysterical (but trying to keep it together), and a little distracted by the boy, so I missed some key information. Apparently, the news wasn’t as good as I thought. And let’s be clear, it wasn’t good to begin with.

Basically, we have to choose between an extremely expensive and invasive treatment, or a still-pretty-expensive and very inconvenient treatment, or maybe both. And even then, it will only keep her cancer at bay for a while. There is no cure. We basically have to figure out if we want to buy another year and a half of life for her. And that life probably wouldn't be that great.

I had a bit of a breakdown. You know how, once every five or ten years, something awful happens, and you have that cry where you forget how to breathe correctly? I had that.

In addition to my respiratory difficulties, I had some other symptoms that you may be familiar with. I tried some food-related remedies, to varying results. I’d like to share them with you, because they might be helpful one day.

Stuffy Nose

I used about 17 Kleenexes. Yes, I am aware that’s a proper noun, but it’s also the only brand worth a damn, and as such, that’s what I used. My sinuses were pack so tight with allergies and sadness that if someone had put a sock in my mouth, I would have died.

As luck would have it, before the shit went down, we ordered delivery for dinner from the local pizza joint (because I was in no state to cook). And as super luck would have it, I had ordered jalapeno poppers and a Buffalo chicken calzone.

Hell yes. After 4 poppers and 3/8 of the calzone (I know this because it was pre-cut), I could breathe through my nose again! Spicy food works wonders on an inflamed sinus.

Puffy Eyes

Does this happen to you? When I have a really hardcore cry, my eyelids get so puffy, they look like I got in a fistfight, or perhaps had them injected with collagen. It’s like I have two pink pool floaties under my eyebrows. Not only is it unsightly (and often carries through to the next day), but it’s physically uncomfortable. I feel like I’m weight-lifting every time I blink.

Wait a minute! I’m planning on making cucumber salad later this week for a side dish! I totally have two cucumbers in the fridge, and I’ve always wondered if that works! I cut off two slices. I put a throw pillow on my husband’s lap and asked him to please narrate the upcoming action scenes on “The Following” (no easy feat).  I laid the cucumber slices on my eyelids…

Okay, this feels weird. Kind of burny, but in a cold way. It must be doing something, right? I let them sit there until they didn’t burn/freeze anymore. Then, I flipped them over (cool side of the pillow logic). When the second side lost its magical “this feels funny” powers, I tossed them in the trash and went into the bathroom to check my results in the magnifying mirror. Nothing.

I used my son’s Boo-Boo Buddy on each eyelid for a couple minutes after that and saw decent results. Nothing miraculous, mind you, but better than the cucumber slices.

Bottom Line

Spicy food for sad sinuses: Win.
Cucumber slices for bereaved eyes: Lose.
Ice pack for tear dispensers: Meh. Better than nothing.

If you ever have to use this advice, I’m truly sorry.

* I stole "has a sad" from Sleepy Bard

Apr 9, 2013

I Gave My Son the Death Talk

My son is a little over four. We’d been trying to avoid telling him about the concept of death as long as possible, calling funerals “sad parties” and not allowing him to watch “Frankenweenie.” Then, one day a few weeks ago, on a very long car ride, he told me he was looking for dodo birds in the woods we were driving through.

I told him that there were no dodos in the woods. Of course, he asked me where they were. “Um, nowhere…” And of course he questioned that, too. I told him that was a discussion that we should have when his father was around, as he might have something to add. He accepted this.

A few minutes later, he started giggling. I asked what was so funny, and he said, “Jenn, that building has a point on it!” It was a church. How had he never noticed a steeple before?! I told him what it was, and he asked why we don’t go to church. Ugh. Again, I told him we needed to wait for his father.

The next weekend, the three of us were on the way to Toys R Us to buy a bike when I told his father about his questions. He suggested we tell him about death now. Um, now? “Don’t you want to discuss it first, and make sure we know what we want to say?” He’s the one who’s always talking me out of telling him. “No, you start, and if I have anything to say, I’ll speak up.” Damn. I had no idea where to begin. It went something like this:

“Hey, buddy? Have you heard the words ‘die’ or ‘dead’ before? Do you know what ‘death’ is?”


“Okay, you know how when we pick a flower, it eventually wilts and dries out? And then it’s dead, and it’s not a flower anymore?”


“Well, all living things are like that. If you cut down a tree, it will die. And eventually, everything dies. Fish, squirrels, dogs, spiders, people… We all die.” Big pause, waiting for questions. Nothing. “People and animals usually don’t die until they’re old. You can die if you get really sick. Not like a cold; I mean a really bad sickness that doctors can’t fix. And you can also die if you get really badly hurt. Not like a bruise, but if you got in a very bad accident, you might die.” Another pause. Nothing. “Okay?”


“So when you die, you're gone. You're not there anymore. You know how sometimes we go to sad parties? Well, those are actually called funerals. Remember when we went to the one at John’s daddy’s house?” (John is a fake name for my friend)


“Well, we were there because John’s mommy died. She was kind of old, but not really. But she got very sick, and unfortunately the doctors couldn’t fix her. So she died. She’s not here anymore. And that’s sad. And John and his daddy and his brothers miss her. So that’s why we went to the party.”


“So, everyone will die someday. I will die. You will die. But probably not until we’re very old. Oma and Opa [his great-grandparents] are a lot older than us, and they’re still alive.” Another big pause.  “Okay?”


“Do you have any questions?”


“Alright. Well, if you ever do, you can ask us. And please don’t discuss this with anyone else. I don’t want you telling your friends anything about death, or asking them any questions, do you understand?”


“Because death is something that children should discuss with their parents only. Alright?”


So that was that. We figured he was a little overwhelmed, and he’d have questions eventually. I’d ask him about once a week if he had any, and he always said no.

Then one day, he asked about Arthur.

Arthur is a crow that lives, or perhaps lived, in my neighborhood. I spotted him back in November. Arthur has (or had) a broken wing. The first time I saw him hopping around with that wonky left wing, I felt terrible. I wondered if I should call animal control and have them put him out of his misery. I didn’t call. Then, I saw him again a week later. He was hopping a lot faster, and was able to scramble up on top of small hills with ease. I was so impressed! He was really doing this!

All winter, we watched Arthur scurrying around. We’d look forward to finishing off a loaf of bread so we could toss the heels out in the yard for Arthur. After a while, he learned to trust me when I’d step out on the deck. I was the nice lady who fed him.

Sometime in February, I noticed I hadn’t seen him in a while. We’d had a couple of big snowstorms already, and more were coming. It took some time, but I finally accepted that Arthur was gone. Then, last week, the boy asked me where he was. A perfect opportunity to make sure he understood death!

I explained how birds aren’t really equipped to function without wings, and that it was hard for Arthur to get food, and get away from cars and predators. I told him Arthur was probably dead, and that was sad, but that his wing had most likely hurt, and now he wasn’t suffering anymore. Once again, I asked if he had any questions. He didn’t. I reiterated that if he ever had any questions about death, he could ask us. And if he felt sad, or scared, or any other feelings, he could talk to us.

He nodded and got very somber. He looked up at me and almost whispered, “Um, Jenn? I do have a question about death.” Is it wrong to say that I was kind of excited to hear it?

“Sure, buddy. I’ll answer it. What’s your question?”

“Okay… Is there, like, a button… that makes the Death Star shoot lasers?”

I still have no idea if he gets it.

Apr 8, 2013

The Oncology Consultation

Warning, this post will not be well-written, or even edited. I just wanted to update those who are curious on what's going on with Molly. If you don't know the back story, that's available here.

We're very lucky to live near a veterinary school/animal hospital. Today we had our consult with the oncology department.

Molly (and therefore Chevelle by default) had to fast from midnight on. They didn't like that. At 11:45, I finally took off with Molly, and Chev finally got to eat. I packed the Innotab, the laptop, a coloring book, a workbook and about 50 snacks to keep the boy occupied, because they said the appointment could take up to five hours.

Molly being super brave

First, a fourth-year veterinary student took us to the exam room and examined Molly. We mapped out all her tumors- I thought there were five or six and we found eight. Great. Then, the student conferred with the vet, and they both came back to talk to me, along with another student. She needed blood work (lots of blood work), and they also wanted to do an ultrasound and a needle-stick for her spleen.

They need to figure out if there's a tumor in her spleen. Sometimes, that's what's going on, and the spleen tumor is basically shooting tumors out all over the place. If that's the case, they need to remove her spleen (which, as in humans, is useless). If we do that, it will cost more than my car's trade-in value. It may or may not work. If it does, they wouldn't even have to remove her tumors; they'd go away on their own.

They also need to see if it's in her blood and lymph nodes. If it is, or if the spleenectomy (I'm getting a red squiggle there) didn't work, they could do chemotherapy. Chemo in a cat or dog is not like it is in humans. It's a much lower dose, so the side effects are minimal. It's also not intended to cure the cancer; it merely keeps it at bay and gives them a better quality of life. There are different chemo drugs available, and the one this doctor was talking about trying first is a pill that she would take every 4-6 weeks. While she's taking it, she would need regular blood work, starting as frequently as one a week, and then tapering off. Sometimes, a particular chemo drug doesn't work, and they need to try others.

So I guess we're hoping it's in the spleen. While they were telling me all of this, I found another tumor on her chest and the vet noticed two more just below her eye. So that's eleven, if you lost count. All but one are about the size of... You know those pins with a colored ball on the head, instead of the flat metal head? Those balls. And the one that's not like that, is about half the size of a thumb. Well, a ladies' thumb, anyway.

So, they took her away to get her blood. They came back and said she was really strong. As in, it took four people holding her down to get the needle in there, they had to stick her four times because she kept struggling, and she ended up blowing out a vein. They really couldn't get over how strong she was. They had to put bandages on her legs and warned me that I would see a lot of dried blood when I removed them.

Finally, some cookies! Can you see the bandage?

Tomorrow, we'll get the results from the blood test back, and then probably schedule the ultrasound and spleen stick. Which is not cheap.

The good news is that I only cried a little, and the boy didn't notice because he was super into playing Angry Birds the whole time we were there (and yakking nonstop to student #2 about Angry Birds). All three of the vets kept going on about how sweet she was, and I mentioned that she had actually changed some dog-people's minds about cats. Student #1 told me, "Actually, to be honest, I've never really liked cats that much, but she's just so sweet!" And the other student nodded. Molly is magic.

Sorry if this makes no sense; it barely makes sense to me. The vet is going to email me everything she told me so I can wrap my head around it and my husband can hear it from a non-hysterical source, so I might have more info for you once I get that...

Thanks for caring. Go hug (and examine) your furry loved ones now, please.

Signs My 4-year-old Needs the Potty

I made a little picture for you today. This might be helpful if you have a four-year-old, or if you plan to babysit mine.

Apr 5, 2013

The "Star Wars" Experiment: Episode V (in which we watch "Episode VI")

If you haven’t been playing along, go catch up on the previous episodes first.

I couldn’t hold off any longer. When C3P0 says, “I have a bad feeling about this,” I pause it and ask her if that sounds familiar. She says, “Yeah, he says that all the time.” I explain that a variation of it is repeated in every movie, and although it seems like a very Threepio thing to say (I paid $10 extra for him to narrate my TomTom GPS system, and he says it constantly), he actually only says it once in the series. In fact, both Han and Obi-Wan say it more often than he does.

Once again, she questions how Luke’s Jedi skills got so good so fast. We explain that years have passed since “Episode V,” and also, it’s in his genes (or blood, if you’re into the whole midichlorian thing).

Her commentary on Leia’s bikini: “That looks terribly uncomfortable. It’s metal!” I remind her that Leia is a prisoner/slave, and they don’t get to wear yoga pants.

When we first see the forest moon of Endor, she asks if this is where Jar Jar lives. I tell her no, and she says, “I know nothing about Star Wars… But I know I hate Jar Jar.”

Her observation on Luke’s character: “I feel like Luke is really weak. He’s a really weak person, and that’s gonna be his downfall. Like, ‘Oh, my father!’” Well, for 30 years, we’ve all been calling him a whiny bitch. This is a classier way to say it, I guess.

She doesn’t find Han and Leia’s love believable. Again I say, Lucas is not a romance kind of guy. I think he just crams in love stories because he feels like he has to. She also still hates Threepio. Okay, he is an uppity know-it-all, but I grew up with him, so I tolerate it, like an obnoxious relative. I guess if I just met him, I might feel that way, too. But deep down, I think he’s a good… Droid. And if Droids have feelings, I think it’s safe to say that he really cares about Artoo.

We had a Star Wars veteran over to watch with us this time, and I want to state for the record that we all got in a huge fight over whether the Ewoks lived on Endor, or the forest moon of Endor. And we were all drinking. I had to draw maps to prove my point, and I won. I just want you all to know that I won. Suck it. My blog.

At the end, when Vader is dying, she said, “Is he dying? He can’t be dead! He’s Darth Vader! He’s a robot!” Hmm. I think maybe we need to watch them all again. Or maybe she’s confusing Star Wars with RoboCop, or Inspector Gadget.

She agreed that having ghost-Hayden Christiansen at the end was completely idiotic. She actually ranted for a couple of minutes. And then, of course, my husband had to pull up “Yub Nub” on YouTube to show her how it was supposed to end.

We offered her “Episode I” as extra credit, and she did come over and watch it the next week, but I can’t even parlay it into a whole post. The only thing of note was when Padme was masquerading as a handmaiden. At first she was confused- “But I thought she was the queen?” and I was finally able to explain it by comparing her to Saddam Hussein. So there’s that.

All in all, we were very happy with the results of Machete Order. We found "Episode I" to be superfluous, as did our subject. It was also really fun to "flash back" in the middle. The only issue was that we had to brief her on what happened in "Episode V" before going back to "Episode VI," because it had been three weeks since she'd seen it. I don't imagine it would be much of an issue if you watched them more frequently than we did, though.

Final verdict: we will definitely be showing them to our son in Machete Order. Thank you, Rod Hilton!

Apr 2, 2013

There's No Awareness Ribbon for Mastocytoma

I have two daughters. They are not my biological daughters; they are adopted. That doesn’t matter. I’ve raised them since they were six weeks old. I’m the only mother they know. They don’t care that I don’t look like them. I feed them. I snuggle them. I take them to the doctor when they’re sick. Who cares if I don’t have a tail?

Oh, did I mention that they’re cats?

Yeah. And I do have a human son. And I still stand firm and say that my cats are my daughters. I don’t love them any less, and they are no less important than my human son. Maybe they’re even better, since they came potty-trained, and I can leave them alone for two or three days if we want to take a mini-vacation.

The point is, I love my cats more than most people will ever love a companion animal (don’t call them pets). And yet I failed to notice that one of them had cancer.

Back in 2011, I was patting Molly when I noticed a lump on her left side. It felt like a keloid scar. I figured that she’d been roughhousing with Chevelle, and it would clear up soon enough.  A couple of months later, at their annual vet appointment, I casually mentioned it. The vet said he wanted to aspirate it (suck some blood out with a needle to examine under a microscope).

A few minutes later, he returned with bad news. The lump that I’d been so casual about was actually a mast cell tumor. Molly had cancer. She would need to have the tumor excised, and it would be sent to a lab to see if it had spread to any other organs. I cried like a bitch. In front of her, in front of our vet, in front of my son, who was two and a half at the time.

I went home and Googled mast cell tumors. Don’t get me wrong; we have a great doctor who had told me a lot of information (that I barely heard and promptly forgot because I was hysterical). I learned that there are three grades of mast cell tumors:
Grade I: It’s cool; just remove it.
Grade II: It’s spreading; remove that shit!
Grade III: That shit’s gonna get all up in the spleen and whatnot. You’re fucked.

I was instructed to give her half a Benadryl for three days prior to her surgery. Have you ever tried to give a cat a pill? I’ll try to be as concise as possible: imagine me, a cat, a bath towel, a bunch of scratches and pink foam. Imagine me sobbing and screaming, “I’m trying to save your damned life! Just let me do this!” So, they cut out the tumor, leaving a wide margin, and then tested it to see what grade it was. Molly’s was Grade I. All is well.

Nine months later, we had a cookout. Our friend brought his 12-year-old son. He was patting Molly and noticed a lump on her shoulder. Awesome. Here’s the thing: this one felt like a pimple. Completely different from the tumor last year. But, better safe than sorry, right? So, back to the vet we go. And we were told that mast cell tumors can present in a variety of ways. They aspirate it. They come back and tell us it’s another tumor. Oh, and by the way, they discovered another lump on her forepaw. Hooray, another surgery.

This time, I tell them that there is no way she’s swallowing a pill. I ask them to train me to give her antihistamine injections. I know, that sounds bananas. But I swear, in her eight years, she has never even flinched when she gets a vaccine. I’m confident that I can do it. They say they can just inject her prior to surgery. Okay, so why the hell did I have to wrestle pills down her throat last time?

So we do the surgery. It turns out that the tumor on her shoulder was another Grade I . And the one on her forepaw was a pimple. Super, I just paid hundreds of dollars to remove a friggin’ pimple. Thanks for that. But at least my girl is okay.

Ten months later, AKA last week, my husband is patting her and finds a bump. I don’t even entertain the thought of it being anything other than cancer at this point. How messed up is that- I’m jaded when it comes to cancer? It was a Saturday, so I sigh and say that I’ll call the vet on Monday, and do we have a few hundred dollars to spare? He says yes.

The next day, Sunday, I give her a thorough check. I run over every inch of her skin with my fingernails. I found three more. She has three that feel like BBs, and one that feels like a keloid. This is important: Any type of lump or bump could be a mast cell tumor. They manifest in myriad ways.  Remember that.

Back to the vet. At this point, she doesn’t even fight me when I put her in the carrier. How sad is that? The doctor has this look on his face like he wants to seem optimistic for me… It’s not necessary. We’ve been through a lot together, these last almost-nine years. I know, he knows, and he knows that I know. He takes her in the back to aspirate her cells. They return. We have a winner.

But this time, there is hope! He notes that while some animals get one mast cell tumor and get over it, there are others whose tumors recur… But it’s usually ever two years or so. Molly is way too crazy for cancer, and that it not cool. Guess what. Right down the street, there is a veterinary school. And he thinks we should have a consultation with the oncologist, to see if there is something we can do to prevent more tumors… Because he has every reason to believe that she’s going to keep on keepin’ on. And shit, can’t nobody afford that.

So… yeah. My cat-daughter may be getting chemo soon. And that sucks.  But here’s the point of all this: If you have a mammal friend, be it a cat, dog, ferret, horse, pig, or what have you, please pay attention to their skin. You may find a lump or bump that you write off as a zit or a boo-boo… Please don’t. Please get it checked. We all love to post stupid shit on Facebook to “raise awareness” for illnesses everybody’s heard of, but nobody’s heard of mast cell tumors. And if you live with a mammal, you really need to know about this. Please spread the word. I’m not asking you to put a ribbon-magnet on your car, or divulge your bra color, or grow a moustache. Just, tell one friend. Please. If your animal companion has a lump or bump, it’s worth looking into. In fact, their life may very well depend on it.

Here’s a link to get your education on. Try to avoid the pictures.