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Archive for March, 2008

Note: This is the second installment of a three part post. The story will conclude tomorrow.

So there I was at the Ford dealership in Chicago. I was desperate to have my car serviced but they wouldn’t touch it because it was a Chrysler. They were, however, kind enough, to give me the name of the nearest Chrysler dealership. I also got the number of Ford service, but they were no help because I didn’t have any of my extended warranty paperwork with me. It just so happened my crystal ball had smashed that morning and I had no idea I’d be in need of such paperwork in Chicago.

I found the Chrysler dealership the Ford people had directed me to, but their service department was closed for the weekend. I talked to a very nice man with a sympathetic look on his face as I described my ordeal and pointed to the two ladies in my car who had very early bed times and really must get home that night. The very nice man with the sympathetic look gave me the name of yet another Chrysler dealership who might be open to taking my car. I asked him to call to confirm. I was like, “Dude, I’ve been all over this city today trying not to cry and look like a stupid lost tourist, so please just make the call for me.” He did, and I was sent on my way.

The thing is, this other Chrysler dealership was open but their service department was not. So the nice, sympathetic looking man who told me their service department was open was really a lying SOB who just wanted to get rid of me. At that point I was done. I asked the dealership if I could use their phone and left the most pathetic, tearful message for Nathan on our answering machine because he was still out golfing with my dad. After that, I called the dealer who sold me the stupid car and left a similar message for the salesman we worked with, who was also not available. After that I sat in that strange office for a few minutes and just bawled my eyes out.

As luck would have it, the second Chrysler dealership was just a couple of blocks down from a car rental place, and I made arrangements to rent a car and leave my clunker with the Chrysler people. They couldn’t even start fixing it until Monday, but at least I had a plan in place.

All I really wanted to do was go home, but my mother and Marge convinced me to at least try to have some fun and do what we came to Chicago to do. Personally, I would have preferred to leave the two of them there with money for train tickets back home, but I figured I’d try to salvage something out of the day even though I was pretty sure nothing was gong to make me feel better.

After all was said and done, we made our way home in a tiny Chevy Metro and I collapsed in a heap in Nathan’s arms that night. But that’s not where the story ends. My car was broken, I was driving a rental, and I was pretty sure I’d be heading back to Chicago soon.

It wasn’t soon enough.

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Note: This is the first installment of a multi-part post. Installment two will come tomorrow.

Since I have all this time on my hands, I thought I’d tell a story about one of the worst days I’ve ever had. I was inspired to tell this story after reading a recent entry over at A Happier Girl. She had a bad day. A really bad day that reminded me of my really bad day, so I thought I’d have some “fun” and recount that day’s events here. Before I do, let me say that my bad day may be tame in comparison to your Worst Day Ever, so if you wish to one-up me go ahead. I’m all about sharing misery for the sake of entertainment.

This bad day began nearly seven years ago in June of 2001 during a day trip to Chicago. Me, my mother and my mother’s friend Marge were enjoying a leisurely drive in my “new” 1995 Chrysler Cirrus. We were about 15-20 miles out from the city and had just hit a toll booth when I first noticed a problem with the car as I tried to accelerate back into the flow of traffic. I didn’t think much of it because I’d only had the car one month and one day, but as I hit yet another toll booth and had more problems accelerating, I couldn’t ignore it any longer. The RPMs were off the chart, yet I couldn’t get the car to get up to even 55 mph. Even with my limited knowledge of cars, I knew this was a problem with the transmission.

So there we were, me, my mom and Marge, 150 miles from home with a broken car, on a Saturday no less, when just about every service station that could have fixed the car was closed. Also, remember how I said we’d had the car one month and one day? If the transmission had crapped out on us just 24 hours earlier this whole thing would have been the dealership’s headache and the only thing I’d have to worry about was how to get home. But no, the dealership’s warranty had expired on Friday and this was Saturday in Chicago, where I knew how to get from Union Station to Shedd Aquarium or from the aquarium to Navy Pier but had no idea how to get my now hated car to a safe haven where it could get fixed.

I tried not to lose it at first. I tried really hard because my mother and Marge are very nice ladies who didn’t deserve to be treated to Stress Heather. Stress Heather isn’t very nice. Stress Heather is my version of The Hulk, minus the green, and can become very nasty when she doesn’t have immediate solutions to big problems like where one might find a new transmission in Chicago on a Saturday. Of course it wasn’t just as simple as finding someplace to get the car fixed. I had to find the right place to get the car fixed because we had bought a Chrysler car from a Ford dealer and had also invested in a Ford extended warranty that required us to bring the car to a Ford dealer first.

So I’m driving around the city and spot a Ford dealership. I pull in and wait for a few minutes for someone to attend to us, but when I finally get the chance to explain the problem they’re all, “Um, this is a Chrysler. We fix Fords here.”

And I’m all, “Yeah, I know that, but I have a Ford extended warranty and I know I have to bring the car into a Ford dealer to get it fixed.”

“But we don’t fix Chryslers.”

This was the point at which I started to lose it. Just a little bit.

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At least I'm feeling better

My nursemaid needs a nursemaid. Nathan’s come down with a bit of nastiness that has plagued his stomach and kept him in bed all day. I think he’s doing better now, since he’s now awake and sitting beside me watching the fifth Harry Potter movie. I guess it was his turn to get sick. Everyone in this house has had stomach problems this past week, including the dog.

Yesterday was pretty bad for me pain-wise. Once that shot wore off I felt everything. The pain meds made me nauseous and I had to make a trip to the doctor’s office to have my drains removed, which was another kind of pain entirely. Thankfully, today is much better and I’m getting by with fewer pills (though they are very nice pills once my stomach gets used to them).

Thankfully I won’t be off work for long because I’m already getting bored. My mom loaned me the entire series of “Friends” to watch if I want, though I highly doubt I could get through ten seasons even if I wanted to. I can only take so much of Ross and Rachel.

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Post-op

Do you know how hard it is to blog while lying on your bed with your leg elevated while balancing a huge bag of ice on your knee as your toddler bounces up and down next to you?

And then the toddler continues to bounce up and down on the bed after you’ve asked her not to and falls off, screams at the injustice that is gravity and wants you to pull her back up. Yet you can’t really move due to the elevated knee and the balancing ice pack but reach over anyway and, in a scene reminiscent of the opening of Cliffhanger, try to pull her back up as she screams hysterically.

Welcome to the next two weeks of my life. At least.

I finally had the knee surgery yesterday. The good news is my knee was not as bad as the doctor originally thought and I’ll probably only be off from work for two weeks. I’ll have to use crutches for about four weeks, but that’s not as bad what I had originally feared; eight weeks of no weight at all on the bad leg. That was the worst case scenario that is no more.

There’s not much to tell about the surgery itself seeing as I was out of it for the whole thing. Speaking of which, there are a surprising array of anesthesia options nowadays, one of which was a lovely shot that numbed my leg from my thigh to my knee so that I needed no pain medication during my overnight stay. Of course that is wearing off now and I am very much looking forward to the narcotics Nathan just brought home from the pharmacy.

Oh, and I totally got sick yesterday morning. I had eaten a lot on Sunday because I couldn’t eat anything after midnight because of the surgery. I thought maybe the chocolate shake I sent Nathan out to get for me had put me over the top because I spent the entire night waking up and trying not to puke. At about 6:00 I woke up and could fight it no more. I don’t know if it was nerves or if I caught the stomach bug Autumn came down with Friday morning, but I was sacked out in a miserable, shivering heap until I had to get up and go to the hospital.

I debated on whether or not to tell the doctor about the tossing of my cookies, fearing he might postpone the surgery if I had the flu. All sorts of scenarios played through my head, the most vivid of which being folks discussing how my death could have been avoided if I had only told the doctor that I had been sick. So I told him. He looked a little concerned and asked if I had told the anesthesiologist, which I hadn’t, but he went ahead with the surgery after I made sure I told everyone I had thrown up that morning.

So now I’m feeling very much like I did four months ago when I originally hurt my knee. After I’m all healed and off crutches I should finally be able to take the stairs like a normal person instead of pulling up the rear behind my two year-old daughter.

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Mom: I just love Chinese food. I could eat Chinese food every day. I love Chinese food so much I’d move to China.

Me: Oh really?

Mom: Yes.

Me: You do realize people in China don’t eat the Chinese food we eat here in America, right?

Mom: I know.

Me: They eat much better than we do. What we eat is Chinese-flavored crap. Still good, but not really something you should eat every day.

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If you don’t know who Jeannatte Walls is, you should go out right now and get her memoir The Glass Castle. It’s one of the most amazing stories I’ve ever read. Walls grew up in poverty with two eccentric parents who knew very little about how to properly provide for their children. The remarkable thing about the book is its tone; matter-of-fact with a touch of sentimentality yet never judgmental. In spite of going to school dirty, wearing torn clothes and having to dig through the garbage for food, Walls never once condemns her parents.

My mother’s a biography nut, and I introduced her to The Glass Castle shortly after it was published. I had checked it out of the library and read it within a matter of days. Mom then polished it off in two days and now calls it one of her favorite books ever. Walls’ daytime gig is for MBSNC.com’s gossip column “The Scoop”, but she’s making the rounds throughout the lecture circuit right now to talk about the book. Needless to say, it was a no-brainer extending the invite to mom to join me to hear Walls speak at the university today.

Let me just say Jeannatte Walls is a gazelle. She’s absolutely gorgeous. To look at her today, you’d never guess this was the same girl who used to eat other kids’ discarded sandwiches. She walked into the room, all red hair, dark suit and high heels and instantly classed the place up. And that’s even before she spoke. When she finally took the podium to talk about her book, you could tell she was just a small-town girl as surprised by her success as anyone else.

I had a great seat. So great, in fact, that the university photographer guy was planted next to me nearly the whole time snapping off pictures. I’d had enough foresight this morning to bring my own camera and got a few shots off myself, though camera guy obviously considered his Canon gear superior to my Nikon. Whatever. I still got what I wanted.

At the end of her lecture, Walls took questions from the audience and then sat down to sign books. My mother and I stood in line for about 30 minutes and each got our books signed. Walls was even kind enough to let me take a very nice close-up picture of her. She offered to take one with me, but as my only alternative would have been to give the camera to my mother, I politely declined and jokingly said my mother’s not the best photographer. My mom was cool about it because I’ve told her before she’s no Annie Lebovitz, but I probably didn’t have to disclose that information in front of someone famous.

In all honesty though, there’s no way I was going to be able to stand next to this woman and not look like a big steaming turd. A big steaming turd wearing a green hippie sweater with fringe hanging from the hem.

Amen.

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Sunday afternoon I had no desire to create a grocery list, so I shirked my domestic duties and sat down to create a Facebook account. Up to now, I resisted joining a social network because I have this blog and I really don’t need another thing drawing me to the computer when I have other things to do, such as create a grocery list.

The nice thing about social networks is you can actually find people you haven’t seen in years, and within minutes of creating my account I had hooked up with an old friend from high school who I had not seen or talked to since my wedding day. I’ve since “friended” a host of others from my past as well as my neighbor across the street because, you know, that path from my front door to hers takes all of a minute.

The bad thing about social networks is that they are yet another avenue through which one can make an ass of herself. For example, I was perusing the list of Facebook profiles from people who had graduated from my high school and happened upon a man I remembered fondly from my days in marching band. He was one of our drum majors and a really sweet guy with a great sining voice.

His profile was private, but his picture was posted as a thumbnail on the list. In the picture he’s seen sitting on a rock wearing white pants and a bright pink shirt. The whole ensemble screamed early 90s to me so I figured he had posted an older picture of himself. I sent him this message:

You’ve either posted your senior picture on your profile or have gained access to Dick Clark’s anti-aging serum. I’m guessing it’s the former because I’m pretty sure those flashy colors were outlawed after 1999.

It’s nice to see you here. I hope you’re doing well. You probably have no idea who this is so I’ll give you a hint: my last name used to be ——.

I sent it off without a second thought. After I had time to process what I had written, I was horrified that I had chosen to make fun of his picture after not having spoken to him in nearly 18 years. What if that really is a recent picture? It was very small and perhaps I was mistaken in thinking he looked exactly as he had in high school. Who the hell can tell from a teeny tiny picture? Certainly not the woman who still knows nothing about how to talk to boys.

Note to Facebook: bigger profile pictures and a “save draft” function for your message system might prevent several folks from disclosing their dorkishness to the general public. I’m just saying. Some of us are lost causes and can use all the help we can get.

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Family ties

As much as we’d like to deny it, Nathan and I are getting old. So old, in fact, that we can no longer stay up until 1 am on a Saturday and not expect to pay for such behavior. Nathan is currently at home in bed, his immune system apparently compromised from lack of sleep. I am desperately waiting for the coffee to steep in my French press so I can keep my head from hitting the keyboard. I’m really hoping I don’t get what Nathan has. Whatever it is involves the use of a lot of Kleenex and the inability to process simple questions like, “Where did you put the checkbook?”

We entertained Nathan’s brother Dirk and family at our house Saturday night. The evening involved pizza and Wii play, the latter being the reason we were up so late. About midnight, I handed the remote and nunchuck to my niece and asked her to take over for me. There’s really no sense in playing anymore if your reflexes are giving way to narcoleptic dozes on the couch.

We’ve grown a lot closer to Dirk and Lisa this past year, Saturday night being one of many fun evenings we’ve spent with them lately. On the flip side, however, are Roman and Joy and their kids. We haven’t seen much of them since Christmas. Before my mother-in-law’s death, we all seemed to be on somewhat even ground. We had similar cordial, albeit distant, relationships with both brothers and their families. That all changed once my father-in-law announced his engagement to another woman two months after Pam died. Roman and Joy did not take issue with the situation like the rest of us.

Now that the dust has settled, we’ve found ourselves right where I thought we’d be. We’ve never talked to Roman and Joy about everything that happened last year. We were in disagreement about the family situation but never verbally disagreed. We just are where we are and I think that also has a lot to do with personality differences as much as differences of opinion. Nathan has more in common with Dirk than with Roman. Dirk is the middle child, the buffer between the eldest and youngest, and has more in common with both his brothers than his brothers have in common with each other. Roman and Joy live a different kind of life than we do, with weekends full of lots of friends and lots of drinking. While Nathan and I aren’t teetotaling shut-ins, we do prefer quiet evenings at home. Besides, it’s kind of difficult to get your drink on when your two year-old keeps sneaking out of bed.

We’re enjoying this newfound closeness with Dirk and Lisa.  Autumn is over the moon whenever she gets to spend time with her cousins, but I sometimes I wish we could all go back to the way things were. I wish we could go back to when Pam was alive and was the one who kept us all connected. She was our anchor, and when she died we were set adrift.

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Playtime for all

Yesterday Nathan and I took the day off to spend with Autumn. This past year I’ve not had much good luck with vacation or holiday time. I was either sick, injured or lost a dear family member during most of my days off last year. Yesterday was great, though. It was the best day off I’d had in a very long time.

It started with getting the bejeeezus scared out of me by my daughter, who can now get out of bed, creep into her parents’ bedroom and stand by the side of the bed until her mother opens her eyes and screams at the unexpected sight of someone hovering beside her. Autumn thought that was hilarious. Me? Not so much.

After breakfast, we spent about an hour and a half at the city’s children’s museum, where Autumn was in heaven. She went from one display to the next, playing with colored balls, soap bubbles and giant Tinker Toys. She touched anything and everything she could get her hands on, and I won’t be surprised at all if she winds up with some kind of sickness these next few days. I have no doubt that place was a breeding ground for kiddie bacteria, but she had so much fun that we invested in a museum membership that will allow us to bring her back as many times as we want this next year.

After the children’s museum we found ourselves at the doctor’s office for a quick visit to check Autumn’s ears. She’s been complaining about pain in her right ear for about a week, but the doctor didn’t see anything but clear fluid. The exam itself did not go well. Autumn does not like being poked or prodded and knows very well what goes on in the examining room now. She screamed “Daddy!” the whole time and could not be consoled until the doctor left us.

After a trip to Costco and the Chinese buffet, where Autumn ate almost nothing but egg drop soup, we headed back home and put the girl to bed. She hadn’t had a nap at all and was out by 8:00.

Nathan and I closed out the day with a couple of hours on the Wii playing Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. Nathan recently sold his X-Box 360 and bought the Wii because he wanted something the whole family could enjoy. I never thought I’d see the day when he’d sell his 360, but about 90% of his games involved combat scenarios or just plain old gratuitous violence. He didn’t want Autumn exposed to that kind of crap and I have to give him a lot of credit for realzing that.

So instead of being perched on a hilltop waiting to smoke the enemy with a choice head shot, he joined me as we dismembered Imperial soldiers with our light sabers and watched the blocks scatter across the floor.

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Spring forward, fall down

I’m so not a fan of Daylight Savings time right now.

Normally I’m on the DST bandwagon. I view it as the first sign of spring and happily go through my house to change the clocks before bedtime. This year I was not so diligent, perhaps because DST was pushed up three weeks or maybe because we were so stinking busy on Saturday that DST just slipped my mind. Whatever the case, I’m functioning on five hours of sleep and my survival instincts have forced me to choke down the crappy work coffee that even Juan Valdez would consider shameful.

Saturday we forgot to adjust our clocks. We did the same thing last fall, but back then we were relieved to find we had another hour at our disposal on Sunday. Yesterday, however, was a different story. The only clocks that reflected the right time were the ones that adjusted themselves, while the clocks we actually use all the time were left to our faulty memories. Only when I was reading the funny papers and happened upon Hi and Lois’ commentary on the time change did I realize it was actually closer to noon than 11:00.

Wouldn’t you know I chose Saturday night to let Autumn stay up an hour later? She napped for nearly three hours that afternoon and slept until after 5:00. I thought she wouldn’t go down as easily at her normal bed time after having slept so much. Bad move number one.

So we get to 8:00 pm last night and Nathan mentions it’s time for Autumn to hit the hay. I knew she wouldn’t go down so easy considering how 24 hours earlier it was just 7:00 pm. We tried anyway, and I hoped at the very least she’d listen to The Wiggles for an hour and then fall asleep.

The thing about this child is she’s a master at resisting sleep. Whenever we close the door to her room each night, she winds up calling us back, mostly to utter random declarations of her likes and dislikes. “I like Mickey Mouse,” she’ll say, or “I like Johnny and the Sprites.” Sometimes she gets really anal about the random bits of junk she insists on bringing to bed with her and will send us out on reconnaissance missions throughout the house to retrieve whatever she needs. Last night was no exception.

Between Nathan and me, we were called back into her room about 200 times. Were we a little too indulgent? Probably, but by the 201st time we were pretty sure she had settled down.

But then she cried.

Nathan was downstairs, I was upstairs and I heard her cry. I went in to check on her and she was wide awake still. I tried to pry out of her what was wrong, but trying to get a toddler to verbalize complex emotions is like trying to suck a watermelon through a straw. I figured maybe some TLC from Mommy might settle her down, so I pulled her out of bed and rocked her for a bit. Then I put her back in bed and climbed in with her. That right there was mistake number two because once I was in bed with her she went all Slumber Party city on me and would not shut up.

She farted and blamed the dog, who wasn’t even in the same room. How she knows how do this I have no idea. She declared she did not want the Elmo pillow and replaced it with the Tinkerbell pillow. Then she saw that the Elmo pillow actually had Oscar, Big Bird and Cookie Monster on the other side and wanted it back. She sent me to the closet for a blanket that turned out to be for my use then decided the Tinkerbell pillow was the one she wanted after all. As much as I tried to get her to settle down, my presence in her bed only made things worse. She yakked and yakked until I just had to leave the room.

Of course that did not go over well either and she wound up escaping from her bed twice before I made one last-ditch attempt at getting her to sleep. I climbed into bed with her. She was quiet, and I knew if I remained quiet too she’d fall asleep.

And she did.

The time…11:30 pm.

There will be hell to pay tomorrow. Our daycare provider is going to earn her whole salary in a single day. I’m quite sure.

Last night was not without it’s comic moments. At one point, while Autumn was still lively and I was in bed with her, she popped her head up and said, “A kiss?” I obliged and puckered my lips only to see her lean in and smack the cotton visage of Tinkerbell on her pillow. I got my kiss, but only after I asked for it.

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