Friday, July 15, 2016

World War Pia vs Me

Our First Meeting
My niece is 22 months old; I can't wait until she's two because speaking in months sounds douchey - but it typically explains a lot, developmentally.

Pia is an anomaly.

An average vocabulary for someone her age is roughly 20 words with comprehension of - say - perhaps tenfold that many words; Pia speaks around 300 words and and I'm fairly certain she understands every damn thing we say.

When we first met, it's clear that I was instantly in love, but it's taken me TWENTY-TWO months to see a pattern*.

The fog is lifting; a fog of stupid, blind love. She calls me Me - of course she's my spirit child, right?


Perhaps you'll notice instantly what it it took me nearly two years to figure out - in every single picture, I look deliriously happy and she looks bored, annoyed, like she's trying to escape, or she is sitting on my face - literally smothering me with 26 lbs of stankbutt.

She's a ridiculously smart, absolutely precocious and defiant toddler who currently hates Me. We're into day seventeen of hostile negotiations.

I'll describe the offense that started World War Pia vs Me, and and translation will be provided for those not versed in toddler-speak.

The Scene: Pia's house, staircase leading from main to second level
The Witnesses: Nana, Papa, anyone within a 14-mile radial earshot 
The Perp: Auntie Me
The Victim: Pia

The Crime: Pia playing on the steps. I politely ask her to stop, explaining it's dangerous. Pia smiles and continues climbing around whilst staring Me down. I give a second warning, then position myself within grabbing distance before using a Very Stern Voice.

Me: Pia! I t-t-t-t-t-old you N-N-N-N-NOOOO.

Pia: (Leaps in alarm at my voice and as I extract her from said steps, she goes limp and dangles dramatically from one arm. Her face turns purple and she emits a scream only heard before in the depths of a hell where Celine Dion and Mariah Carey both sing simultaneously into my aching ears.)
Me: I'm putting the gate up now because you didn't listen.

Pia: (Continues multiple rounds of banshee screaming as I wait for the veins in her fat little forehead to rupture. After the fourth or fifth terrornade**, I can see the effort is weakening her. She's faltering - taking just a moment too long between howls.)

Me: (Screams right back in her face.)

Pia: (Jumps in alarm, smiled for a a moment, then remembers she's mad at Me.)

The Interrogation: Me patiently discusses the incident with Pia, the goal an acceptance of fault on Pia's part.

Me: Pia, are you feeling angry?

Pia: Angry! Me! Gate Up!

Me: Yes, I did put up the gate. You weren't listening.

Pia: Angry! Me! Gate Up!

Me: Pia, can you understand that you weren't listening? You weren't following Me's instructions and it wasn't safe.

Pia: (walks away, ignoring Me completely and headed toward her kitchen playset)

Nana: Pia, what are you doing?

Pia: (in a vaguely murderous tone of voice) Knife. Cutting.

I've been avoiding her out of fear for my life, but family vacation starts tomorrow. I'm meeting her in a neutral location with multiple witnesses, and I will come armed with her demands - two puppies*** - plus a stuffed turtle and a purse printed with puppies because obviously this girl has nothing at all in life if she's forced to play on the steps.

Should I go go missing in the next 72 hours, the primary suspect**** is 34 inches tall, weighs 27 lbs and goes by the name of Pia. She has dark, lovely eyes (don't be fooled!) and wild curly brown hair. She can often be found anywhere she is not allowed to be.

My Magic 8-Ball is alarmed that it may go down this way, so in the the interest of precautionary disclosure, I present you with this sketch. Feel free to turn it over to the police if I am determined to be officially missing (and not just in Hayward without WiFi).

Lastly, I will apologize to anyone who may be be offended that I post something so silly and dramatic during these times of literal world strife - but here's the fuckin' deal: if I don't LAUGH at life right now, I will CRY until I drown.

And with that, I will now try to finish packing for a desperately needed and deeply relaxing vacation at the lake with my family and the tiny murderess. 

Au revoir.

*I don't always put one and one together. Sometimes it takes a week - or a calculator - or eons.

** Terrornade; noun
     - a serenade choreographed by a bipolar toddler for the express purpose of ruining your day & eardrums

***Stuffed puppies, because although I want a truce with my niece, I don't want a new World War with my brother and his wife. 

****I actually have video proof of her anger toward me - she agrees on film that she's still very angry with Me. Of of COURSE, I've been trying for two days to upload the videos and they disappear each time. It's likely a conspiracy.

Friday, July 1, 2016

If You Love Me (Even a Little), You'll Read This One...

I implore you to please stick with me through this one; it's lengthy, and you'll never get those twenty minutes back, but maybe - just maybe - you'll learn something very important about invisible illnesses.

I haven't written anything in ages; I haven't been able to. I've been too busy running myself into the ground and learning things the hard way - repeatedly, and more painfully and to more detriment each time.

It's been four years since I suffered a complete multi-systemic breakdown from Lyme disease, which had been wreaking subtle havoc inside me already for years.

It's been three years since my world was turned upside down with love and support. My people came together and raised money for my intravenous treatment for several months.

I discontinued treatment for many reasons - the money ran out, and I felt as though my system was taxed - too many drugs for too long. I needed to determine what was Lyme and what were side effects.

The sheer number of pills I was taking was mind-boggling and horrifically expensive - not to mention the 60 injections per week I shot right into my own heart.

So I stopped and decided to move on with my life...

Like a normal person...

I enrolled in school to pursue a new career in medical massage therapy; an appropriate fit. I made it six weeks in the program before the mental and physical output it required wore me down. I overheated while performing a massage on a classmate - raced from the classroom and made it to the bathroom just in time to vomit and shit myself from overstimulation. So perhaps that wasn't my path.

I flailed for a while, trying to find self-worth, and convince myself I was OK. I dated someone with children and tried to help fill a role in his house, though clearly I was trying to fill a hole in my heart. I was fighting so hard to seem normal, to function as a productive human being - but the effort was killing me and my depression was all-consuming.

I saw no reason to continue. The gnawing pain. The constant fatigue. The vomiting and vomiting and vomiting. The endless barrage of appointments, and paperwork, and bills I can't pay. I wanted to be dead, but was too exhausted to even try to kill myself.

Then my brother and his wife gave me a niece, my spirit child, and I no longer wanted to die.

Since Priya was born nearly two years ago, she's been the nucleus and totality of my world. I've been able to ignore my own health problems while focusing all of my energy on her. I've spent my time with family, with friends, and doting on Priya. I've been giving all my spoons* away.

In the past few months, so much has aligned to show me the path I need to be taking.

I found my soul mate - or rather, he found me. He has Lyme, too. We have tons in common and understand each other in a way nobody else will ever 'get' us. We're pushing each other to take better care of ourselves so we can stop living this bullshit fake existence and perhaps regain enough health to actually LIVE. He's introduced me to his Lyme doctor whose beliefs are in line with mine - a total incorporation of Eastern and Western medicine, along with patient responsibility for necessary change.

I'll be starting a new Lyme protocol in August, likely to include IV treatment, herbal tinctures, vitamin therapy and giving up pretty much every bad habit I've ever had. To give you an idea, write down a list of all the things you enjoy doing, eating, and drinking - now stop doing all of them - for good.


My health is deteriorating rapidly and frighteningly. I've been fighting something now (some bug?) on top of the Lyme for going on four months. My cognitive function is regressing, I'm heavily medicated for vertigo, I've lost hearing in my right ear and partially in my left. I've been vomiting and running fevers and fighting swelling in my face, my hands, my feet and my legs. 

A couple weeks ago I had a seizure that began in a swimming pool. The angels were watching because my boyfriend looked up just in time to see something was wrong - he ran over and grabbed me just as I went under. Five seconds later and I'd likely not be here to write this.

That day I recall looking around the pool and feeling self-conscious that I was the chubbiest and palest woman there. It made me feel sad. But God has a sense of humor and after seizing on the side of the pool in front of all my neighbors, sobbing in pain, pasty fat flailing everywhere**, it was a humbling reminder of what's important in life. 


Without it, nothing else matters.

Invisible illnesses are - often - just that; hard for others to see. I try to show people what I go through any chance I can, to help them understand. In the photo below, my forehead shows just one of a dozen areas of road rash from the latest seizure.

I am so blessed to have many loving friends, but I have a confession to make. I'm expending too many spoons trying to keep up with life right now. It's why I've likely canceled on you more often than I've followed through with plans. I love you. I want to see you. But I can't right now.

I have to focus right now - intensely - on resting, on self-care, and on maximizing this new course of treatment. I want to be here to see Priya grow up, and I won't if I keep doing what I've been doing.

Please don't think I'm disappearing; I'll be back, and my hope is to be a better person, auntie, girlfriend and friend. Message me anytime, I'll need reminders that people still care. But for the next few months, I likely won't be up for doing much of anything with anyone. Just don't forget me. I love you all, and I'm still here.

*Spoon Theory: When living with chronic illness, you begin each day with X amount of spoons, and every effort expended (a shower, an errand, a human interaction) takes a spoon. When you run out, you're done - you can't borrow from tomorrow's spoons; you simply collapse. And the irony is you never know exactly how many spoons you get in a day - it's like a lottery - some days you get none and some days you get a few.

**Silver Linings: The one benefit of being in a wet bathing suit while you seize is that perhaps the neighbors don't notice when you piss yourself.

Friday, February 26, 2016

My Niece is Obvanously Gifted and Talented

I don't like to brag but I've been terribly busy with my niece; you see, she speaks now. She's not even eighteen months old, and she's got a vocabulary of more than thirty words - she's definitely gifted.

She calls me Me - not Auntie, or Tricia, or even Tee Tee - Me. My theory is that she is the evil reincarnation of me but I didn't quite die in time for her arrival, so we're overlapping a bit. A friend, though, gently suggested that perhaps it's merely her version of mine, demonstrating an impressive understanding of hierarchy for her age; she's certainly figured out who is in charge.

Further, she knows that the scientific term for a cat is Thicka Thicka. VaVa is water, which covers drinking water, the oceans, bathwater - and milk. Many other words are spoken with crystal clarity, particularly puppy; she recites her puppy mantra roughly 414 times daily because she's heard that diligence pays off.

Her favorite games include smiling saucily at us whilst triumphantly wielding electrical cords, and peeling her socks off and jamming them in my face to sniff. We have Dance Party in the living room several times a week (which generally lasts at least three minutes before Me is exhausted). Priya's got the moves, though - she can choose later between comedy and dance; her future is glaringly bright.

Her OCD will serve her well in life; while the other toddlers in the Wisconsin Dells were playing frivolously and crumbling cookies everywhere, she spent her time picking their sprinkles out of the carpet - she has a strength of focus that could shame a pro athlete.

Another clear indication of her genius is her creative range - most artists need a lifetime to master a medium, but after only two weeks of dabbling in Crayola, she's taking the local art scene by storm. Word on the street is that nobody has seen the likes of this passion since Pollock; her composition, and the emotional energy she captures, is magnificent.

I'm leaving town for a few days tomorrow and fully expect she'll have earned no fewer than fourteen college credits by the time I return, or have learned to wipe her own butt crack; or, possibly - at the very least - learned my name.

Footnote: Obviously, I know that obvanously isn't a real word (according to Webster, and irregardless of his terrible taste in new words). It was coined by another young girl genius I know and love, though, and I've adopted it*.

* Since I'm not allowed to adopt a dog.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Photo Fail

Recently someone accused me of being stingy with pictures of my niece, so I felt the need to explain myself. I no longer take photos of her, because I'm not allowed to use my phone.

Once upon a time I showed Priya the camera roll on my phone and she shrieked in delight upon seeing photos of herself. "Bebe! Bebe!" This quickly evolved into a daily ritual where she clambered into my lap and we looked through every. Single. Picture. Slooooooowly.

I loved this ritual because it gave me a solid ten minutes of snuggly warm lap time but pretty soon, a once-daily hit wasn't enough. She'd shake and sweat, tremble and cry. "Bebe! Bebe!" The cries grew more distressed as the need for her fix wracked her tiny body with tremors.


My brother told me to limit her photo sessions because he doesn't want her to be a screen junkie, but she's proven with her epic meltdowns that she cannot handle being a casual user. I thought keeping the phone out of view, in my pocket, would suffice.

It does not. 

She frisks me with more vigor than a sadist prison guard and if she knew about cavities, I'm sure there would be a cavity search.

"BEBE! BEBE!" Upon finding my pockets empty, she'll lift up my shirt to inspect underneath. Yesterday I wore drawstring sweats. Bad call. Yep, she yanked em down to check.

I've given up on taking new photos because we now have only one pose, the "I see your phone, why won't you give it to me!?"

So please accept my apologies, but going forward I will have no choice but to chronicle our adventures using interpretative stick figure art. Here are some updated pictures for those who have asked.

Current photo of Priya feeding herself.

Recent photo of me changing her diaper.

Tender moment while I snuggle her 
without a smartphone.

Friday, October 23, 2015

HalloWeenie of the Year

Maybe I was a little sheltered when I was small. 

We didn't have cable television. The first movie I remember terrifying me was Gremlins, at age seven. At eight,  Large Marge nearly made me shit my pants and by nine I'd seen Clue at a slumber party.

I had nightmares after all three, searingly vivid dreams that left me sweaty with terror. Thirty years later, I'm no longer a child or a complete pussy. I can revisit these beastly scenes of PG horror and still sleep at night. 

A mom I know posted the following photograph on social  media yesterday, depicting what are, apparently, someone's personal Halloween decorations. Two fake bodies, wrapped in bloody plastic and duct tape, hanging from a tree in a suburban family neighborhood.

Given my reaction to the waxy onscreen Gremlins, I imagine if I'd stumbled upon this as a child I'd have stroked out. Or I'd certainly still be in therapy.

I'm forced to give props in regards to the artistry - if one can call it such. This is incredibly realistic looking. 

I understand, too, that Halloween is renowned for being fright night. Googling scary Halloween attractions generates nearly a million and a half results, proving that many people will pay good money to be jolted into an adrenaline rush. Sometimes it's fun to be scared.

And while I'm almost never one to argue against freedom of expression, this photo has been niggling me. You can choose to visit a haunted house or see a horror movie, but you can't choose whether someone near you finds this an appropriate lawn ornament.

Are we this desensitized to our communities around us?

People have kids. Victims of violence have families. Cops have better things to do than check out your yard decor.

I have the mouth of a trucker and I've been known to behave in manners completely unbecoming to a lady. I probably offend more people than I attract. Yet, even on my most oblivious days, I would recognize that this is taking things a bit too far.

I don't take joy in terrorizing people and my idea of holiday spirit isn't making children cry.

Trick or treat, Mystery Decorator. You're an asshole.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What I Wish I Knew in High School

I'm crashing my 20th high school reunion on Saturday.

I say crashing because although they are my class, I wasn't there graduating with them. I was lucky to make it out of puberty alive, never mind a diploma. People seem to remember high school as either the best time in their life or their own personal hell. All I remember is thinking - knowing - that everyone thought I was crazy. 

I went to school in prehistoric times before the internet, when social media meant handwritten notes tucked into locker vents. There were no emo web forums where kids traded photos of shredded wrists and angsty poetry. Cutting wasn't something I'd even heard of.

All I knew was that I hated myself and I wanted to die. Physical pain was more manageable than living inside my own head. While the kids around me carried on with their seemingly perfect lives, I was slashing myself to ribbons and swallowing any drug I could find, trying to numb myself

The cutting became such a habit that I didn't even realize I was doing it. I remember sitting curled in my chair in algebra class, absentmindedly slicing bloody doodles on my leg beneath the desk, when one of my classmates called me out.

"What the fuck is wrong with you!?"

He jolted me back to reality and I remember the flush of shame creeping hotly through me as a few others snickered uncomfortably. I was humiliated, because although I'm sure it seemed like a creepy cry for attention, I hadn't even realized what I was doing.

And I couldn't answer his question. It would be more than twenty years before I could*.

I suffered a psychiatric breakdown my sophomore year, not long after the photo above was captured. I was hospitalized twice and ultimately left school. From that day forward, I assumed I'd be remembered as only The Crazy.

With the advent of Facebook, I began years ago to reconnect with old classmates and was relieved to feel no judgment. Some of them remembered me, some of them didn't. We were all so lost in our own little worlds of insecurity and suburban oblivion back then. It was stunning to me to hear how many others had struggled terribly during those years. 

Back then I truly believed that I was alone, that everyone dismissed me as an utter freak. I was the only one who didn't fit in. Talking to these same people now as adults, I've been dumbfounded to see the adversity we've all faced in life. 

Even more amazing, though, is how much kinder and wiser we've all become.

If I could turn the clock back twenty years, this is what I'd tell that angry, broken young girl:

You are never alone. You will get through the hard days. You will smile, and you will laugh and you will love. You will come out the other side. And someday, so much sooner than you think, this will be but a distant memory. So embrace the happy times, those shining diamond moments in the midst of the daily shitstorm - for that, my dear, is life.

These gentle words, though I write them to a lost little schoolgirl many years ago, are applicable to all of us. Today. Every day.

So, even though I wasn't standing there at graduation with the others, I'm going to my reunion this weekend. Even though I'm not skinny or beautiful or wealthy or successful, I'm going to my reunion this weekend. 

We will smile and we will laugh, and we will raise a glass to the many in our class who have left this hard world too, too soon. 

Because reunions aren't about celebrating a high school graduation. They are about celebrating life.

I can't wait.

*Self-harm in adolescents is a textbook reaction to chronic sexual abuse. It's also a common manifestation of the crushing depression that can accompany Lyme disease. I'd been subjected to the former and was harboring the latter and when the hormones hit, it was like a match to gasoline.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Lyme Loonies - Get Loud!

On Wednesday I had a court hearing to appeal my denial of Social Security disability benefits. My stomach was in knots and I mentally prepared myself for another letdown, so when the judge ruled in my favor, three things happened in quick succession.

I cried in relief.

Then I felt jubilant.

Then I realized I was feeling triumphant for being deemed disabled and the depression descended like a cold downpour. I didn't even want to write about it because who wants to admit they will be suckling the teat of our federal government?

After stewing for a few days, I realized it's important to share my story, and here's why.

The victory isn't in receiving benefits - it's in receiving validation. 

I've been fighting for years. Fighting Lyme disease, fighting my own body. Fighting doctors and insurance. Fighting to maintain the will to even keep fighting. On Wednesday a judge legally acknowledged the havoc that Lyme has wreaked in my body and in my life. That is the victory.

I won this battle, just one in the war, and it matters - to me and to the hundreds of thousands of others suffering from Lyme.

Because Lyme is not always easy to diagnose or treat. It's not all in our heads. And we are not - as some dismiss us - Lyme Loonies. Lyme is spreading rampantly, the most common vector-borne illness in the United States. When left untreated, whether through negligence or ignorance, it can become absolutely devastating.

As numbers of new cases skyrocket, I can only (morbidly) hope that these ticks keep biting people with platforms larger than mine.

While I wouldn't wish this hell on anyone, it will absolutely continue until enough of us get angry and speak up. The sad truth of our world is that we don't really care about the masses. Until important (or simply famous) people - fall to pieces from this infectious disease, policies won't change. So until the ticks are feasting on billionaires and politicians and Kardashians, I feel a responsibility to keep sharing.

The past few years have bitch-slapped me with lessons in humility, in coping and in finding gratitude where I'm certain that I can't.

So, yes - I'm going to celebrate the bittersweet victory of winning my disability case. Right after I throw up again or do the Herxy Harlem Shake.

Cheers to the high life, baby!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Friends Forever

I've been thinking a lot about friends lately, probably because my 20th HS reunion is in a few weeks or possibly because, when you have no career, car, home, partner, family or children of your own, your relationships are all that's left in your life.

I watched my ex-boyfriend's daughters navigate the minefield of middle school friendships, intense bestie affairs founded on a shared love of Snapchat, shitty pop music and excluding others. I talked them through the inevitable tears that followed seeing proof on Instagram that all their friends had just had a top-secret exclusive slumber party. I saw the hurt in their eyes when a girl who had been their BEST FRIEND FOREVER! yesterday refused to speak to them at school today.

We may outgrow the insecurity, drama and passion of those middle school years, but we never outgrow being hurt when friends disappear.

Friends are disappointing.

Of course they are. Because they are human and human beings are really selfish motherfuckers sometimes, often without even realizing it. We've all said and done things without realizing the hurt we cause and we've all been on the receiving end of those behaviors as well.

A curious thing happens as we pass from our twenties into our thirties. As people solidify their careers or start families, friendships often fall to the wayside. Family responsibilities naturally begin to supersede standing happy hours and spouses replace besties as the go-to, talk-about-everything people in your life.

Maybe you used to talk to a friend daily, or weekly. Then it becomes monthly. Then a text here or there. You make excuses. They're busy! The kids have activities! We'll plan something soon! But the truth is that busy is simply an excuse. We make time for the people that matter in our lives, and what smarts is realizing that you simply no longer matter to someone who once loved you.

When dating relationships or marriages break up, there's a definitive end. You explode at one another, or file for divorce, or somebody moves out. Maybe you ended things or maybe they did, but at least you reap the luxury of knowing the relationship has ceased.

There's a unique sting that accompanies the realization that you've been slowly phased out of someone's life. I've been there myself and I've helped others through it as well. Maybe you're no longer successful enough to fit the image they are cultivating? They might disapprove of your life choices or hate your spouse. Perhaps you just bore them to tears now?  Or maybe they really do enjoy you but they are simply too consumed with achieving and accumulating to realize what they are losing in the process.

The why doesn't ultimately matter, which is good since you'll likely never know why. The ugly, undeniable kernel of truth is this: If they no longer make an effort to call you when they're in town, spend time with you, meet your kid or dog or new girlfriend, they just don't have much interest in you anymore.

It sucks and it hurts, as does much of life.

We all have friends we go ages without seeing when life gets in the way, but then we make a lunch date and weeks and months apart simply vanish. These connections are brilliant and beautiful and ought to be cherished, because make no mistake - all friendships will eventually fade to death without effort and nourishment.

Our only job as humans is to determine which relationships are worth nurturing and then do so with gusto.

Regardless of where you are right now - today - in your life, it could all change in an instant. One auto accident could steal your whole family. One recession could cost you your savings and career. One tumor could make you realize your big house and prestigious degree don't matter. You could find yourself (like me) realizing that all you have left are your relationships.

And wouldn't it suck if they'd all died of neglect while you were busy with other things?

Monday, July 6, 2015

Childfree vs Parent - A Helpful Translation Guide

While everyone knows that life with children will be a big change, the reality can still be a bit shocking, like a dip in an icy lake or perhaps a dive into utter lunacy. I don't have children of my own, but I live with my brother and his wife - and the monster toddler - so I feel qualified in writing this handy translation guide to help navigate a crazy new world.

I've learned through experience that phrases that once called to mind saucy images of freedom and debauchery suddenly take on a whole new meaning.

A threesome, for example, once meant a randy romp in the sheets and six tangled legs. Now it refers to the daily household relay race. Rather than passing a baton, though, we pass the buck. The twenty-pound, chubby-thighed, outlet-licking buck. "For God's sake, can you please watch her so I can take a shit!?" She's outnumbered three adults to one child and she almost always wins.

Thunder From Down Under was once a gaggle of shirtless men who gyrated on stage in front of lusty drunken housewives before going home to count sweaty singles with their boyfriends. Now it indicates an impending blowout, a word that, while previously meaning a raging house party, these days refers to an assplosion of epic proportion*.

I used to get cuddles. From dogs, from cats, from boyfriends. In this house we're all so desperate for a relaxing, loving touch now that if Priya isn't violently fighting our grasp, we call it cuddling. She calls it defeat.

Happy hour, those gatherings of camaraderie and cold beer at the end of a workday, are no more - but you'd better believe that 10:30 - 11:30 on weekend mornings is the happiest hour in this house. Priya calls it fucking nap time.

Pool parties of yesteryear involved beer bongs and bikinis. On Saturday we took Priya to the pool. After forty-five minutes of packing and seventeen minutes of standing in the water waving plastic duckies in the hopes of eliciting a smile, we were home - sober and now required to unpack and wash the chlorine from her tender toddler skin.

And the granddaddy of all new meanings? Sleeping in. Gone are the days of lounging in bed until noon before rising from the dead for a mimosa brunch. We've all caught ourselves popping up at 7:00 AM and thanking the other two in the house for letting us sleep in.

She tears around the house like a tiny maniacal athlete with bipolar disorder and a decided lack of coordination and we pray for nap time so we can please...just...sit for a moment. The word no triggers shrieks that pierce eardrums and sound barriers, and her diapers could be used for biological warfare. But she's also taught us the new meaning of another word - love.

Her smiles melt our organs and her laugh is like cotton candy for the soul. Our jaws drop in amazement daily. "OHMYGODDIDYOUSEETHAT!?!? SHE CLAPPED/STOOD/HELD A SPOON! SHE'S CLEARLY A GENIUS WHO IS GOING TO CURE HOMELESSNESS, CANCER AND AIDS!" 

She bites or drools on or destroys everything she touches. Her willpower has earned her the nickname Tenacious P. She's ruined our social lives and she drains their bank account and the only bags we carry now are not checked vacation luggage, but drooping beneath our bleary eyes.

And I can't wait for her to wake up so we can do it all over again tomorrow.

*How do they shit all the way up their backs!?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Never Say No to Cuddles

"There's clearly something going on neurologically."

"It seems like an infection, but it could be heart disease or a systemic cancer. Or possibly a blood clot."

"There are abnormalities but she's an unusual case - we aren't sure what to think."

"At this point, we recommend further blood work, some ultrasounds, an MRI and a spinal tap."

"We can insert a feeding tube next week."

"I think we've spent enough money on this girl and we're getting nowhere. All we can do is make her comfy and hope for the best."

Nope, not me this time. My brother's cat.

Fat Bones skipped a meal last week which was evidence of catastrophic illness. I was suspicious enough to stay up with her that night, only to see her collapse at 2:30 AM, then start dragging her fat hind end around like a clubbed seal, yowling in pain.

Off to the emergency vet. Then the animal hospital. Then the cat neurologist*.

We cried the first two days.

It's been a week and it's been thousands of dollars and I've mastered the art of taking rectal temps in a cat. We are stuffing pills down her throat and hoping she bounces back, and I can't help but realize how much we take for granted.

Two weeks ago, I texted my brother upstairs to complain that Fat Bones was smothering me with her love. She had parked herself on my face (first pic), purring happily and I pushed her away. Repeatedly. It was hot. She made me itchy. She was annoying.

Now she doesn't have the energy to cuddle that vigorously and my bro just hopes she begins to eat and drink again.

She's ten years old and she's family and our hearts heart.

Yet in the short time she's been sick, here's what's life has dealt my friends and theirs:

 - A young family in a car crash is dealing with a paralyzed toddler
 - A mother's teenage son drowned
 - An old classmate died in a motorcycle wreck, leaving a wife and two boys behind

Life is hard, guys, and nobody gets out alive. It's such a reminder to never turn down snuggles.

Nuzzle your pet even when it makes you itchy.

Hug your brother when he needs to cry.

Kiss that toddler who is slathered in refried beans.

Embrace your friends even if you feel sweaty and gross.

Tomorrow doesn't come for everybody and that itchy, stinky, sticky, sweaty hug might be the last.

Enjoy your weekend cuddles. I have a date with a thermometer, a cat butt and a prayer.

*Seriously. A feline neurologist is a thing. So is a thing called End of the Monetary Line in the Resurrection of a Beloved Pet, and it sometimes comes after the cat neurologist.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Genetics are a funny (terrifying?) thing.

Two of my cousins look more like my mother's daughters than I do. My brother and I look alike, yet I think he looks just like one of my uncles while I do not. And now there is my niece, Lil Dickie, who is clearly - and disturbingly - the reincarnation of moi.

She's much cuter than I am, but several of her personality traits are indisputably mine. Dickie's other characteristics appear to have come from my brother, while her poor mother is left wondering why she's being punished, after her own polite, helpful and obedient childhood.

I figure I'll probably succumb to an infection one of these days, but my niece is here to ensure I am not forgotten. Here's how I know she is really just me, part two.

  • We both drool on ourselves and pee our pants
  • We are both known to lean over and vomit in the midst of whatever we are doing
  • Our poker faces are totally unreadable

  • Our dimpled thighs are spectacularly similar
  • Our stubbornness knows no bounds
  • We smile when you tell us no and then do it anyhow
  • She's an unnervingly loyal fan of my book and enjoys eating my words

  • Sometimes we cry when we're told NO
  • Sometimes we cry for absolutely no reason
  • Long torsos plus low-rise jeans are always a fail for us

  • We've both been known to throw fits
  • We share a love of cheese and tattoos
  • We both rely on my brother and his wife to feed us and drive us around
And finally - somehow, some way - our people seem to love us both despite the fact that we are basically really gross and useless.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Spoon Feed Me

Some of my friends are heading to the cabin this weekend. Some are spending time with their families. And some are jumping out of airplanes tomorrow. I'm supposed to be in Duluth with a friend, meandering the shore of Lake Superior, but for the spoon theory.

The spoon theory was created to describe chronic illness and it goes like this - you start your day with a fixed number of spoons and each time you expend energy you turn one in. When they're gone, you're done for the day, physically.

I guess the idea is to save your spoons for the worthwhile moments. I've already given up the tons of spoons required for things like employment, driving, and basic functioning. I try to save my spoons for friends and family, because they are my only lifeline to the real world. The trouble comes in never knowing if I have three more spoons left or twenty. It's hard to ration what you cannot see.

Last weekend I was spending spoons like I was a Trump. I partied with Mama Bird on Friday night and on Saturday I went boating with some dear friends after a baby shower. Sitting on a pontoon is easy, but walking down the 942* steps to the dock is not, nor is clambering back up those steps afterward. I did it twice.

It's been five days of bed rest and my leg muscles still feel like they were run across a cheese grater. My sole physical achievement of the week was walking to the end of the block with the baby and I've been bleeding ends. I'm fighting ear infections and low-grade fevers.

It's a conundrum. I get lonely and isolated at home all the time, so then I get excited when seeing friends. I overdo it and push myself too hard, which in turns leaves me unable to keep the next set of plans.

The time nevers matches the crime.

So here I am on the cusp of the next weekend, wishing I was in Duluth with the lake breeze chilling my face, chattering happily with my friend, but knowing that I need to be within limping distance of my bed. I'm feeling, as often, like a crappy friend for bailing out on plans, and once again, I'm spending my days in bed, writhing in pain, wondering when I can resume life as a normal person.

I have worked incredibly hard these past few years to find positives in the rubble of my life, and my friends are one of the biggest bright spots. I hope my true friends know how much I love them and understand that when I cancel plans, it's not that I don't want to be with them, I do desperately. I've just run out of spoons for now.

This holiday weekend, though the unofficial kickoff to summer, is supposed to be about honoring the sacrifices made by our fallen veterans. Show your respect by making time for your loved ones this weekend - they are the only ones worthy of our spoons. Enjoy them today - right now - because you  may not have enough spoons tomorrow.

*It may have been closer to fifty steps, but whatever. It was a lot.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Tiny Monsters

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, when we and the ticks lumber forth from our winter hibernation, blinking in the sunlight. Lyme Disease is either a simple infection, curable with two weeks of antibiotics, or a devastating and chronic infectious disease. This depends on both which doctor you ask as well as how long you go untreated after being snacked on by these tiny monsters.

Since nobody (and by nobody I mean our government) can agree on diagnostics or a treatment protocol, let's focus instead on prevention. Here are my tips for avoiding Lyme Disease.

Ticks locate hosts by a process called questing, which means they sit on the tip of a leaf or blade of grass, with their front legs poised to latch on as someone brushes past them. Imagine, if you will, a creepy guy lurking in a van with a lap full of kittens and candy, twiddling his fingers in anticipation of the bell announcing the end of the school day. That's what the ticks do.

If you're in a wooded or grassy area, cover your ankles. Slouch socks pulled up over your jeans may be unattractive but so too is convulsing and shitting yourself if the infection gets into your brain.

Use a repellent such as a lemon-eucalyptus blend (for you hippie oilers) or go straight for the kill-everything chemicals like DEET.

Most importantly, check yourself (and your pups!) thoroughly for ticks after any outdoor adventures. If you find a tick that is not attached, burn that little mofo to a crisp. If it has attached itself to you, remove it carefully using a tweezers and save that little bastard. It may be a critical piece of the diagnostic puzzle.

Any time you have a tick bite, whether you see the bulls-eye rash or not, proceed straight to the doctor for your initial course of antibiotics. The good news is that when caught early, Lyme IS usually treatable. It's when the infection goes undetected for a lengthy period that it can cross the blood-brain barrier (as in my case) and wreak havoc on all your body systems.

And for anyone who thinks Lyme Disease is no big deal, I invite you to revisit a post I wrote last fall about the ugly, ugly realities of late stage Lyme -  because I wouldn't wish this hell on anyone.

Now hike up those socks and go have some fun for me. I'll be here at home, holding down the bed.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Gen Me

Who decided that little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice? I have a new niece in my life, and there's no sugar coating. There is definite cuteness, but there is also willfulness, manipulation and a stubborn streak wider than a KardashiAss.

She's not even seven months and she owns me - scarier still is that she knows it. If she doesn't want to sit in her swing for quiet time, she just howls like a banshee until I rescue and hold her.

The other night, I told my brother that poor peanut must be teething because she was crying so hard.

"Huh. Guess she only teethes at nap time," he mused, one eyebrow cocked. And it's true - there she sat wailing and jamming her frozen chew toy down her throat, crocodile tears streaming dramatically down her mountainous cheeks. I grabbed her, she smiled coyly and the tears dried up on cue.


She totally played me.

She's too lazy to sit up on her own, yet blink an eye and she can barrel-roll across the floor to yank electrical cords or cat tails. Her propensity for going straight for anything naughty astounds me. I figure she'll be sneaking out of the house by age three.

The kid has forty-seven baby toys, lovingly selected to stimulate her tiny brain and provide a wealth of tactile experience, yet all she wants is whatever I have. To teach a Gen Me baby to crawl, you simply place your smartphone just out of reach and then move it before the drool rains down.

Her first word, in keeping with today's standards, will probably be iWant.


Babies are a curious breed. This chunk of love is smart enough to control my puppet strings but dumb enough to lick an outlet. The look of satisfaction that spreads across her face upon getting what she wants is terrifying. Today, to be held during nap time -  tomorrow, the world!

No wonder we're raising a generation of spoiled brats - fifty years ago I'm not sure babies and children amazed people so. You simply popped em out and once they were mobile, you sent them to the store with a five-dollar bill pinned to their shirt to buy a gallon of milk and your Pall Malls. An eight-year-old might have been expected to prepare dinner for the family, and a thirteen-year-old would be in charge of diapering and bed-timing her gaggle of younger siblings. 

Now every kid gets a trophy and if you ask a tween to put down their iPhone and pick up their socks, they'll probably just use an app to contact CPS and report abuse. 

I've decided that my goal as an auntie is to reinforce two truths to her:

1) You are incredibly special to me.
2) You are not at all special to the world in general.

Because as much as I love her and think she's perfect, there's nothing very lovable about kids being coddled to the point of entitlement. These adorable babies and sweet-eyed little girls and devilishly charming young boys will be adults someday - the kind of adults we've all met and wished we could slap.

So tonight, let those crocodile tears flow, baby girl - I'm on to you. You're staying in that swing until we've eaten our dinner and if you don't like it, you can hop out yourself and army-crawl to my phone to report it. Meanwhile, we've got earplugs.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Oops, I Did It Again

27 moves in 38 years.

I'm tired.

Tired of packing, tired of schlepping. Tired of hoping that any place will ever feel like home to me, tired of believing that I will belong somewhere.

Tired of trying to prove my worth to people.

I couldn't work or drive, but I did the laundry. The cooking, the cleaning. I tucked the girls in and got them up for school in the morning. I signed the permission slips and packed the lunches. I giggled with them when they were happy and I rubbed their backs when they didn't feel good. I loved them all, as best I knew how.

Somewhere along the way I got confused and thought we were a family.

He thought I was unreasonable because I wanted the girls to pick up a little, to help out a bit. I got frustrated being the kids' maid and my biggest mistake was thinking he'd stand in solidarity with me as the adults of the house.


He dumped me.

Via text message.

While we were both at home.

I wasn't even worth the effort to walk up the stairs and say it to my face.

I moved out. The kids can throw their stuff on the floor in peace. He can be the cool parent who never says no. He lost a housekeeper, and I lost my heart, times four. My boyfriend, the girls, and that crazy dumb dog.

You'd think after so much practice, the breakups wouldn't hurt, but you'd be wrong.

I need to stop giving my heart to people who don't want it.

I need to feel less and protect more.

And I need to focus.

Focus on my health. Focus on my writing. Focus on rebuilding my life, one crumbly, shitty brick at a time so that maybe - one day - I can move again, to a tiny little place of my own. My own home, with an animal or five, because I do have a lot of love to give.

Maybe the 28th time will be the charm. Or maybe it's April and I am a fool.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Bad Luck and Blind Love

Before you think I'm blaming broken mirrors for my lot in life, rest assured I'm aware that many of my choices have proven poor. Yet even when I make good decisions, I have a propensity for bumblefucking my way through life tripping over every black cat on the way. I can't help but notice that the juxtaposition of Friday the 13th with Valentine's Day this year is an accurate reflection of my very existence - one unlucky break after the next, punctuated by random, amazing acts of blind love.

Take my mailbox for example - a vessel I regard with equal parts dread and excitement. My mother once told me she's never known a person who receives as many love letters as I do, and it's true - I am so spoiled. Homemade cookies six weeks after a surgery, while I sulked in bed, writhing in pain, certain the world had forgotten me.

Encouraging cards from all over the world.

Random presents: a cheeky compact, a homemade quilt, mosaics, jewelry!

Once I received a box of chocolate bars and candy from France - one each of every kind they make, I'm fairly certain. It had oodles of handwritten notes, translating all the packaging for me so I knew exactly what I was sticking in my mouth (heaven, if you wondered - that's what I ate).

Recently I opened the mailbox to find a gorgeous handmade necklace and matching earrings from a sweet woman halfway across the country. We've never met - we know each other through blogging, and she noticed I'd been quiet - and accurately surmised that was a sign I was deep in the funk.

The other piece of mail that same day?

A letter of intent to garnish my wages for unpaid medical bills, which is morbidly bad luck (for them) since I have no wages to garnish.

The other day I swallowed the last dribble of my pride and applied for healthcare assistance. With each question I felt my self-worth plummet.

Income? None.

Assets? None.

No property, no stocks, no bonds, no retirement, no insurance, no point.

So humbling to see your life reduced to a number.



Then I realized there was no box to check for emotional assets. I'm rich in those and it's equally humbling to be made to feel loved.

There's something unnervingly beautiful about realizing that somewhere, someone thought of you kindly and then acted on it. Do you know how wealthy I feel reading your notes, stroking your quilt, wearing your necklace? I tuck these gifts away in my heart bank, so that on the days the screen glows ZERO I have tangible reminders that I am rich.

So don't panic over crossing the street today because that bus could still hit you tomorrow - and who cares if you get flowers tomorrow? Someone loves you today.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What Goes Up Must Come Down

Living with Lyme disease is like being trapped in a body gone mad.

You spend a huge percentage of your time fighting dozens of symptoms that migrate and shift constantly. I'll spend days on end vomiting constantly and then - POOF! Suddenly my stomach calms for a few days. On a Monday the tremors will make it hard to even hold a fork but on a Tuesday I might be able to get out my beads and string a necklace. My hip was inflamed for weeks and I limped around. Then one day, it felt fine. Sometimes my vision is fine and other times it's blurry or even double.

I am housebound and stir crazy, no driver's license, independence or purpose. I start to feel like I really am losing my mind.

Then....sometimes...occasionally....a desperately needed reprieve...which creates its own problem.

My judgment sucks ass during those breaks in the pain. After days or weeks of feeling miserable and holding down your bed, if you wake up feeling better, it's incredibly hard not to seize the chance at normalcy and do the things that other people can do.

Like clean the house. Or walk the dog. Or go snow tubing with the kids, and y'all saw from my last post how that ended.

So logic would dictate that even on a day I feel OK, I should still treat my body like an eggshell, something weak, something fragile. But try telling that to the girl who wakes up feeling good for the first time in weeks.

Try telling that to the girl whose pseudo-stepkid wants to go to SkyZone, the trampoline park. Try telling that to the girl who has forgotten the joy of just playing.

You know where this is going.

It didn't take even fifteen minutes.






So now on top of my normal shitpile of a life I have a torn LCL and a leg that needs to stay immobilized for several weeks in the hopes of avoiding a surgical repair. And a dog that still needs to be walked. And ice on the sidewalks. And a split-level house with stairs everywhere.

And a heaping dose of self-loathing at my own stupidity for following my own advice and seizing the moment. For holding onto the towrope because I can - since evidently, I really cannot.

I don't want sympathy, I don't need help. I simply needed to examine why, exactly, a person might make the kinds of stupid decisions I do and writing helps me sort my thoughts. I wanted to explain it to myself.

Because even I know that no sentence beginning with So, at the trampoline park..ever ends well.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Body Image

I wasted so many years hating my body. I missed so many chances to do things because I was self-conscious of how I might look.

By the time I was ten, I'd figured out that my skin was different - while other kids browned and crisped in the sunshine, my pasty-white complexion just sizzled and turned red.

I spent all of my high school years lamenting my flab and as I look back now, I wonder where, exactly, that fat was. In my twenties I lambasted myself for not being able to share clothes with my bestie - she was a size six and I could never...quite...get there.

There. That elusive place where I'd be happy with what I saw in the mirror. That dragon that so many girls constantly chase.

I was creative in my self-loathing and could find a complaint about nearly any body part you might mention. My fingernails and earlobes? Too small. Everything else? Too big. Too white, too soft, too tall, too something.

My man took me to a Cirque show for Christmas a couple weeks ago, my fifth. I sat awestruck, my jaw dangling, as aerialists soared above us. The contortionists folded themselves into unbelievable formations as acrobats performed gravity-defying leaps and flips, and as always, I found myself mesmerized by the wonders of their bodies.

Since falling ill in 2012, my own body has revolted against me in countless ways. I used to wish I could get a tan, now I hope I won't piss my pants again. I used to wish I could lose thirty pounds, now I'd like to be able to shovel the driveway without blacking out from dizziness. I used to wish I could be a cute, thin girl in a convertible, now I just miss the independence of being allowed to drive myself somewhere.

The other day we took the kids tubing. When I was a child, this meant you had to walk back up the hill each time and by the end of the afternoon your leg muscles would be noodly with exhaustion. Now they have tow ropes to pull our lazy butts up to the top.

I made it four times before the exertion of holding the towrope left me nauseated and in tremors. I remember lying on my tube, praying I wouldn't pass out before reaching the top, and slide down backward, taking out all the small children in my path. I bet those Cirque performers could hold the towrope without their eyes tearing up in pain. Bet their knees wouldn't threaten to give out just trying to walk on the snowpacked, slippery ground.

I stumbled behind the chalet and doubled over, vomiting. I was shaking everywhere, soaked in sweat. At that point I retired to the car and watched from a distance as my peeps joyfully careened down the hills without me.

I no longer hate how my body looks.

Because here's the thing - once you begin to lose control of your body, you realize that the only thing that mattered anyhow was what your body could do.

If I'm on the floor in the throes of muscle convulsions, nobody is marveling at the size of my ass. If I'm throwing up out my nose, nobody is looking at me and thinking, gee - she'd look better with some color. And now my infuriating stutter distracts nicely from my crooked, too-yellow teeth.

So forget your jiggly bits and jump on that trampoline because it feels good to bounce. Never waste a chance to dive into the cool water in July because you're worried about someone judging your muffin top. Someday you might have to wait in the car while life happens around you, so for now, forget what you look like and just hold on to that towrope - because you can.

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