Of pain and progress

There’s a lot to be said for knowing when to say “no”.

I decided to not go to the memorial service tomorrow. I’m not in a place where I can handle death right now. I’ve been through an emotional meat grinder for the past 6 weeks. Our relationship was so far in the past, I’m largely emotionally detached. When I’m alone. In a group of people who knew him better and were closer to him, I don’t know how I would take that. I don’t know how I would handle their grief. I’m not willing to test that either. My way of saying good bye will be a donation to the charity of his choice in his name. That’s the right choice for me. Which brings me to…

More complications with my dad. I spent half an hour in my little hiding place at work crying and texting back and forth with my nearest and dearest. I finally got up the courage to stand up, go into the bathroom, and clean myself up. I have incredibly fair skin so my face turns bright red when I cry. I splashed some cold(ish) water on my face and looked at myself in the mirror. I said to the puffy, red eyed, leaky nosed mess looking back at me “You can do this”. I was sorely tempted to walk into my boss’ office, tell him I was going home, and drive away. I chose instead to go back to my desk and do the best I could with what I had. My boss wanted to show me something when I got back and he asked how my dad was doing. I told him I didn’t want to talk about it. He gave me a pass on productivity for the rest of the day. It’s the small gestures (and the benefits of proving myself to be an industrious worker) that mean the most. I was so out of it by the end of the day, I almost missed my exit off the highway. Twice. I ordered pizza for dinner because I didn’t trust myself around knives and stoves. Not because I would intentionally hurt myself, but because I have maybe 10% of my normal functional level right now. I figured $20 for pizza was better than a trip to the emergency room because I sliced open my finger or absentmindedly stuck my hand in a blender. Yes, it’s that bad.

It hurts like hell, but pain is progress. I know that sounds like some silly motivational poster in a CrossFit gym, but it’s true. I was thinking back to the beginnings of my relationship with Boy. I was in so deep, I literally didn’t have the energy to cry. There were moments when I really, really wanted to cry. Nothing came. It was only after I began to get better that the tears came. It’s hard to remember when I’m in the middle of sobbing my eyes out. Feeling like someone reached into your chest and ripped out your heart isn’t any fun. As I said, at this point, I’ll take a hot poker to the eye. Pain isn’t weakness. Pain isn’t a failure. Given the choice, I would take physical pain over emotional pain any day. The emotional pain days seem endless right now.

Let us end on a positive note (and the Benadryl is kicking in, so I should wrap this up before I go totally loopy).

Things that make me smile:

  • The cat dreaming
  • Pizza pizza!
  • My amazing friends who have offered to move mountains for my family right now
  • My equally amazing office crew who are ever patient with me
  • An infinite loop of Chris Brown & Will.i.am on my tablet
  • Finding erotic romance books that don’t make me want to tear my eyes out and apologize on behalf of English majors everywhere (The Submissive Trilogy – check it)
  • Slowly mastering the art of accessorizing well
  • Benadryl
  • Fresh cut flowers
  • Shoes I can dance in



Of going too soon and arriving too late

There are certain moments which put your life, and your problems, in rather harsh perspective.

My first boyfriend ever died yesterday. He had just turned 30 in February. When I saw it on Facebook, I didn’t believe it. I was thinking “Wow, that’s a really cruel joke to play. April Fool’s Day was a week ago.” Then his sister posted confirmation. I was completely stunned. I haven’t seen him since he graduated high school (2002) and I only recently found him on Facebook. We dated for all of 4 months over 15 years ago. He was my first kiss and gave me my first hickey (much to the great dismay of my mother). He also had the most ridiculous reason for dumping me I’ve heard since we started dating. There were rumors constantly flying around that he was gay. In a Catholic high school, that’s a loaded statement. He denied it vehemently and kept a string of girlfriends after me. He was a very talented singer and actor which only fueled the gay rumors. Everyone kept telling me he was gay and questioning why I was dating him. He dumped me, so that ended things swiftly. When I was in college, I heard he came out. It didn’t surprise me. I was happy that he had the courage to lay it out there in his very Catholic household. I would idly see his posts on Facebook. He appeared to have reinvented himself. He started going by his full name and gave a pass to everyone who met him before his college days to call him by his nickname. He’d found a partner. There was nothing indicating anything was wrong. Then just like that, he was gone. I’m planning on going to the memorial service this week even though I doubt his sister will remember me.

I read a quote from, of all people, Teller of Penn & Teller. He was talking about rehearsing in the theater and the thought crossed his mind that someday, he won’t ever walk into that theater again. His heart dropped at the thought. Then he said, think about something like that for your own life. Let your heart drop. Then remember that day isn’t today. So I let my heart drop and reminded myself that today is a day I’m still here. Today is a day everyone I love is still here. Give it a try. I promise it will provide the good shake we sometimes need.

Rest well, Jeff. Rest well.


Of weight and wait…

For all its faults, the Internet can be a wonderful place. Officially, the cause of my dad’s hip problem was avascular necrosis. My mom mentioned that everyone was stumped how it came about. Curiosity got the better of me and found information on the Mayo Clinic’s site. Here’s what I learned:

  • It’s most common in men from 30-60 (check!).
  • The most common joint affected is the hip (check!). It’s frequently asymptomatic until the pain presents in the hip itself, thigh, or butt (thigh – check!).
  • The most common causes are excessive alcohol intake (he drinks 2-3 beers a night and a glass of sherry – check!), cancer treatments (check!), and steroid use (quarter of check – he was on steroids for about a month for brain pain).
  • He’s also an avid runner and trampoline jumper. Yes, I know the latter sounds ridiculous but it’s great cardio. I’m calling those checks as well for the frequent high impact.
  • He rarely, if ever, drinks water. He freely admits there are days where his only liquid intake is coffee and beer. He freaks out wait staff when we got to a restaurant and he refuses the free water.

He may have legitimately had an infection in his hip from the previous surgery, but it did a great job of masking the bone death. Even if he didn’t have an infection, the bone death was clearly well masked. He literally couldn’t walk when he went to the hospital the first time. I have this hilarious mental image of my 5’4″ (163 cm for my metric system readers) mother tossing my 6’3″ (190.5 cm) father over her shoulder like a sack of potatoes to get him in the car. This is probably not that far from the truth. The adage says knowledge is power. Now that I had a name and a way to figure out what the hell was going on, I feel better. I took the same approach when he was detoxing from the oxycodone after his first round of cancer treatments in 2007. It’s obviously not fatal and will take a lot of rehab to get him back and up and running (quite literally). My mom really hit the nail on the head when she observed the hardest part is watching him have no energy or interest in what’s going on around him.

My dad is one of the most enthusiastic and exuberant people I know. It’s where I inherited a lot of my personality. This is the man who spent last October working in a haunted house scaring the shit out of people. He loved every second of it. This is the man who was out on the dance floor all night at my cousin’s wedding wearing a feather boa. One of my other cousins asked how much he’d had to drink. I laughed and told him clearly he didn’t know my dad very well. To see him sitting quietly in a hospital bed not cracking a joke or plotting an elaborate escape from aforementioned hospital is jarring. Who are you and what have you done with my dad? They’ll let him out sooner or later and life will go back to normal. Ideally, that day will come sooner rather than later.

In other news, I’ve been using my pedometer (a Withings Pulse) more regularly. It’s enlightening to see how much I walk on a daily basis. It’s automatically set to 10,000 steps a day. In Vegas, I blew that goal out of the water fairly quickly. Today, I haven’t even cracked 500 yet. Admittedly, I’ve been sitting on my ass all day reading and researching various maladies on the internet. The app lets you track your step count, pulse, sleep, and weight. I had the weight option turned off for a long time for reasons I won’t rehash again. Just for fun, I put it back on there and started weighing myself at least once a day. In one day, I can vary as much as 3-4 pounds. I know I’m confusing the hell out of the app because I keep changing the entries so frequently. Sometimes, you just have to see things for yourself. Weight is a stupid measure of health or fitness. It is merely how much the earth wants to hold me toward its center. That number has no bearing on my self worth. Watching the variance over the course of almost a week has driven that point home quite well. It’s like moods. Some days, I’ll feel banging and ready to take over the world. Other days, I’d rather hide under the covers and check Facebook all day. My mood doesn’t remain steady all the time and neither will my weight. That’s how life rolls. I’m not sure how you operate, fair readers, but I have to see something for myself to truly understand a situation. A year ago, I never thought I would be able to step on a scale with any kind of regularity and laugh at the absurdity I saw. Evolution is a grand, grand thing. N’est pas?


Of negative voices and overly effective methods of torture

Apologies for my lack of posting lately, loyal readers. I was in Las Vegas for 4 days. Yay vacation! But that’s not the topic of this post. Once again, it’s negative voice time!

For those keeping score at home, they discovered my dad’s brain tumor on February 19. He had surgery to remove the tumor on March 3. On March 12, he went back in the hospital for an infection that had spread into his left hip (the side missing all the lymph nodes from his cancer surgery in 2007). Once they figured out it was an infection over a week later, he had to have surgery to scrub it out. Then it spread to the right hip and another surgery to scrub that hip out. He was released on Apr 1. On Apr 5, I get an email from my mom saying he’s back in the hospital for pain in the same hip at the surgical site. I checked in yesterday and he was in surgery getting a partial hip replacement. Some unholy combination killed the bone in the socket part of the hip.That’s 4 surgeries in 5 weeks. Every time things seem to be looking up, another hit comes.

Of course, my old pal the negative voice shows up. “Why the hell are you upset?”. “Stop crying and apologize, you’re bringing everyone else down”. “What part of stop crying did you not understand?”. “Apologize again. You’re making everyone else’s day worse”. Hey, negative voice, can I ask you a favor? Really, it’s just a small one.

Shut. The. Fuck. Up.

I had a rather epic meltdown driving home from the airport last night. It’s a good thing I was alone, because I would have scared the living hell out of any passengers. I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m scared and hurting for someone I love deeply. I feel totally helpless. That’s a hell of a lot more painful than if it were me. Believe me, I’ve offered to switch place more times than I care to count in the past month. I know he’s not going to die. Plenty of people get hip replacements. Plenty of old people. He hasn’t cracked 60 yet. I don’t need an excuse to cry. I don’t need to apologize for my feelings. I really should recommend this to governments for “enhanced interrogation”. It’s really damn effective. At this point, I think my whole family would quite happily give up pretty much anything to get off this roller coaster from hell. It’s digging up my unhealthy coping mechanisms which, again, doesn’t help anyone.

Let’s end this entry on a positive note before everyone else feels the need to draw a warm bath and slit their wrists (graveyard humor, happens in these situations):

*Spending the weekend in Vegas with the other man I love most in this world.

*Being able to come in late to work without penalty. Management has its perks.

*A very fat cat jumping on my chest this morning. I’ve been welcomed into the household.

*Wearing my pedometer lately and seeing just how much I walked in Vegas. Longest day – over 6 miles.

*Sparkly nail polish and DIY pedicures.

*Unexpected checks and / or presents.

*Lush moisturizer after 4 days in the desert.


Of fanfic and a shame on English degrees

Since reading the recaps of the 50 Shades trilogy, I’ve been pondering my own ideas about fanfic.

I tried to read Twilight and gave it the ol’ rage quit three quarters of the way through. For someone who claims to have a degree in English, the writing was high school level at best. That’s also doing a disservice to high school students who didn’t sleep through class. Her editor also has a lot to answer for. I’ve heard the excuse that Ms. Meyer was trying to capture the voice of a high school student. I strongly disagree with this point as well. I’ve seen very well written stories (Beautiful Creatures leaps to mind) which successfully captured the voice of a teenager. The idea had the potential to be a lot more than the final product was. The execution fell short of the idea. She was unsuccessful as a writer because of the mechanics and her editor either didn’t catch the mistakes or glossed over them. The fact it became a runaway success makes me shake my head on behalf of all English majors who don’t suck as authors.

When 50 Shades of Grey first came across my radar, I thought “anything that started out life as a Twilight fanfic can’t possibly be good”. In that instance, I was correct. I gave the book itself a rage quit by chapter 9 before switching to the recaps. I question the morals in both stories, but that’s another blog post for another time. However, I do think I was unfair to paint all Twilight fanfic with the same brush. I’m sure there’s a lot of Twilight fanfic floating around online that is either on par with the original or elevates it. I understand Twilight isn’t high art. It’s the literary equivalent of candy corn. The source material is just a jumping off point. Fanfic is a great way for budding writers to get some experience. The characters and setting are ready made. As had been exhaustively pointed out, it’s one thing to borrow from an existing work. It’s entirely another to take another writer’s work wholesale and just change the names. I hated Twilight, but it wasn’t fair of E.L. James to pluck Edward and Bella and plop them in a room with pleather and riding crops. I’m sure the erotica writers are also shaking their heads right now.

I’m not a published writer (obviously). I have a lot of ideas that I’ve put into writing, but they never get past 20 or 30 pages because I get distracted by something shiny. I, personally, chose the original work route. I’m awesome at creating characters who are interesting and real, but I can’t make them do a goddamn thing. Pesky, pesky plots.

For those keeping score at home, my dad is doing much better. The surgery went well and he was even up and walking around yesterday. He’ll be on IV antibiotics for a few weeks, but they’ll send him home tomorrow. It’s very, very likely he caught the original infection from the hospital the first time around. His hip that’s sans lymph nodes was prime real estate for the infection. It took 8 days, but it’s good to have it all behind us.


Of strength, toughness, and tough pills to swallow

Sorry if my updates have been sparse, dear readers.

My dad went back into the hospital last Thursday with severe pain in his leg. After three days of various medications and tests, it was determined he has an infection in his left hip. He’s being transferred to an orthopedic hospital and will likely have surgery to clear out the infection. One of the crappiest feelings ever? Seeing someone you love dearly in horrible pain and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. My weekend wasn’t so much a weekend as an exercise in not sobbing every time we delivered food or went to visit for a bit. It’s by no means fatal and hasn’t spread beyond his hip. Still, it’s like being punched in the chest. To see my former Army Ranger dad, the strongest person I know, reduced to hitting a pain button every 15 to minutes “to stay sane”, is difficult to process. I remember years ago when I was sobbing over a boy, he said something to me that stuck firmly in my head.

The whole point of Ranger School is to break a person, physically and mentally. If you get through it, you’ve exhibited the strength and toughness it takes to survive a combat situation and keep your shit together. He told me that I inherited that same toughness. I might bend to the point I think I’ll break, but I’ve got everything I need to get through it. I just have to know where to look. He was sitting in that hospital bed taking it like a champ. I have no doubt he felt the way I do now when I was going through my epilepsy diagnosis. I may not find myself literally crawling through mud on my hands and knees to finish a course, but I’ve crawled through my fair share of figurative mud.

Today also marks the anniversary of my DUI. It taught me how to pick myself back up after a self inflicted wound. I haven’t had a drink in a year. Moreso, I don’t miss it. All it took was the right motivation. I never thought I’d look at my epilepsy and say thank you. As cliche as it sounds, sometimes the worst situations have the most to teach us. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year. That’s a memory I will quite happily leave behind me.

I’m not so sure where I read it or saw it, so I give credit to the general Internet. For every negative thing or complaint, counter it with 7 positives. Challenge accepted:

1. Boy sitting there holding me while I sob into his shirt because I felt so helpless. It takes a special man to take snot in his shirt without so much as a word. It helps that I’m the one who does laundry. :D

2. We bought a Keurig this weekend. I’ve been eyeing my parents’ Keurig with great lust in my heart. I made my own coffee this morning and brought it to work with me. It will take some experimentation to get the proportions right, but that’s part of the fun.

3. New work clothes. I got rid of a bunch of my work clothes when I lost weight last spring and summer. Now that it’s warming up again, it was time for a wardrobe update.

4. This blog. I was laughing so hard I was crying at some points. I gave myself the hiccups from laughing in Chapter 8.

5. I smell good. Perfume = awesome.

6. We watched the kittens this weekend since they’d been alone for almost 3 days. Maggie was extra cuddly. How can you feel bad with a warm, fuzzy kitten in your lap?

7. My boss and my employees. We can bust each others’ balls, laugh, and still get the work done. We’re one happy motley crew.


Of warm weather and tattoos

In my part of the world, the weather is starting to warm up. Soon it will be tank top season and once again, people will remember I have tattoos. The vast majority of my work is on my arms. I have one on my thigh that all but covers my right quad. Shorts and sleeveless tops make for a whole host of questions. For those of you who don’t know someone heavily tattooed, especially a woman, here’s a quick and dirty guide of how to handle summer weather.

*Don’t touch me without my permission

I’m happy to show you my tattoos if you ask. Don’t just grab my arm and start examining it. Firstly, it’s assault (learned that in my CNA class). Secondly, it’s just rude. You wouldn’t touch another random person without tattoos without their consent. I’m sure my pregnant friends can relate to this. Also, if I hold out my arm for you to look at my tattoos, don’t wrench my arm behind my back to look at the detail on the back of my arm. This isn’t a martial arts class.

*Don’t ask me if they hurt

Of course they did. There were needles involved.

*Don’t ask if they “mean” anything

Most heavily tattooed people are collectors. Most of my larger pieces were done by a well known artist in the Southeast. None of mine “mean” anything. In some cases, apprentice artists will tattoo themselves to get more practice. I’ve seen a lot of strange tattoos on thighs and calves from practice sessions. Also, don’t get offended if someone says they don’t mean anything or flat out doesn’t want to answer. Things like an evil magician pulling an octopus out of a hat or the traditional sparrow on the chest tattoos aren’t exactly deep statements of one’s inner feeling.

*Don’t ask me what you should get tattooed

I’m not going to tell you what to get etched on your body for the rest of your life. I’m happy to give recommendations for artists I’ve worked with. I’m happy to offer placement advice after a design has been chosen. Beyond that, you’re on your own.

The fact is my tattoos have become part of my skin, just like a mole or a birth mark. I don’t notice them at all. I’ve even forgotten about some of them. The ones I don’t see on a daily basis or only in a mirror have all but faded. This post is merely to educate on the greatest hits of ignorant questions we tattooed folk get asked. Education is important, no? 

So let us all enjoy the sleeveless top weather in happiness and peace. And perhaps even frolic in fields singing, tattooed or otherwise.