The Most Disgusting Thing You Could Ever Imagine

I know, I know, I know. I’m posting a ridiculous number of times this week.

I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff this week.

I have to admit, I’ve been in a bit of a rut lately, which means I’m not doing much, which means I haven’t been messing things up, which means the universe has been saving things up for me to mess up. The rut, I believe, was caused by book writing stress. Nothing was coming out right; it lacked all of the elements I’m praised for. Bottom line: I can’t follow the rules. And that’s why you all love me, right?

Please disregard my previous post regarding my attempt to compress my work into someone else’s mold. I’m a liar.

I threw it out. Every last word. And I deleted it from my hard drive and my backup drive. I imagined starting over would be horrible, instead it’s been fabulous. I understand that in writing, we have to push ourselves to work when we don’t want to, but I had that confused with working on what we don’t want to.

I wrote a new ‘Forward’ for my book. It’s not part of the story, it’s something optional that may or may not be included. Many authors do this. Think of it as offering up a bit of explanation in advance. AND… I’m letting you read it!!! But not before you read about my unbelievably disgusting experience.

 

The Most Disgusting Thing You Could Ever Imagine

 

We all know how much I love to find overly difficult recipes and attempt to make them and wind up with a mess on my hands. I liken myself to Bridget Jones’s blue soup fiasco. Only without the part about getting together with Colin Firth.

I am a planned grocery shopper. I don’t have a meal plan per se, but every two weeks or so, I put together a list of five or six meals I’d like to cook for dinner in the near future. By cook for dinner I mean spend hours dirtying my kitchen on something my kids are going to whine about and not eat that will eventually wind up in the garbage disposal.

Some of these meals I could make with my eyes closed e.g. spaghetti. The others are new, I tend to shop around cooking sites. Anyhow, few weeks ago I was on Allrecipes.com and one of the featured meals was a panko coated “Japanese” pork chop. It looked good enough, but more importantly it wasn’t something I’d made a hundred times before.

So I put it on the list, despite (as I’ve established many times over) my unreasonable fear of undercooked meat. Pork, unless ground or ham, isn’t something I make often because I saw an episode of “House” where someone got tapeworms from it. This means it’s more difficult for me to prepare than chicken.

It was the last recipe remaining on my list, which meant it was also the only meal I still had sufficient ingredients to prepare. (Can tapeworms survive being frozen?)

The preparation wasn’t terrible, but it took two hours since every time I so much as grazed the meat I stopped to wash my hands. Once they were breaded appropriately (and given time to “rest”) I proceeded to fry them, as the recipe said, for five minutes per side. I’m trying. Really, really trying to trust recipes, I don’t like throwing away food and I don’t like eating food that’s been cooked to “jerky” status.

But it’s me, so this happened in my head.

I’m sure this is done, leave it be.
Okay, I’ll just cut into one of them, the thickest one. If it’s done, they’re all done.
Is this pink? (I hold it up to the light)
I can’t tell if it’s pink (I squeeze it)
Are these juices pink?
I’m just going to cut open another.
Wait. Which side of the pan were these on?
I think one side might have been hotter than the other.
I need to check the ones from the other side of the pan.

Needless to say, I served the pork chops in cubes. My daughter took one look and said, “I’m not hungry.” (She made me taste her yogurt three times today to make sure it was safe)

My son (the one who wouldn’t take a pill I’d touched with my hands) took one look and said, “Is that pork? I’m not eating that.”

I took one bite. I couldn’t do it. I threw them away and prepared tomato soup, which (of course) my children readily ate.

It took me an hour to clean up the kitchen, because I desperately needed to go over every last surface with a Clorox wipe, at least twice. Three times if it had been exposed to pork. I also had grease/fat left in the skillet and that rarely happens to me. After debating between outside or directly in the trashcan, I realized I could use the empty soup can. Then I didn’t know what to do with the can so I just left it.

I’m so thoughtful and considerate I even stopped to take a picture of my wasted meal. I also threw out a bag of salad after I discovered a few moderately wilted leaves and I’m pretty sure if I’d eaten it, I would’ve died of listeriosis. (or whatever it’s called)

On an aside: I live at the top of a hill and the sliding glass doors in my kitchen do not have curtains or blinds and they’re above another set of sliding glass doors, effectively making the back half of my first floor a second floor. I know for a fact (I’ve seen it driving home) most of the neighborhood below can see, quite clearly, into my home. I thought to myself “I bet these people really enjoy watching me take pictures of my garbage.” (I’ve opted not to post, you know what trash looks like)

Thrilling, I know.

After my kids were in bed, as I was enjoying my two hours of Facebook/viral video time, I decided I’d make a recipe someone posted – Carrot cake blondies – in the morning.

The baking process was relatively smooth, with one exception. Grating the carrots, of which I needed two cups. I debated for several minutes on whether I should grate them by hand and risk cutting myself on a grater for the ten millionth time or go through the trouble of using the Kitchenaid shredder attachment. I chose the attachment.

I chose poorly.

As much as I love my mixer, the attachments are awful. And they’re really expensive. On some level, I thought if I at least got some use out of it, I could rationalize having spent so much on it (I think $50?). Awful isn’t a good descriptor. FREAKING OBNOXIOUS AND USELESS is more accurate.

Carrots all over. Carrots coming out appropriately shredded. Carrots in huge chunks. The attachment pretty much shoots them everywhere but the bowl. Carrots in my hair. Carrots on my feet. Carrots on the counters. Carrots on the floor… Carrots, carrots, carrots.

I could’ve hand shredded a thousand of them in the time it took me to run four through the “shredder.” If you’re thinking I’m using the attachment incorrectly, I am not. I watched the tutorial- the one Kitchenaid made.

I was so incredibly angry I hurriedly gathered them up and proceeded to chuck them into the sink by the handful. Immediately after throwing my last few in, I reached to my right and took a swig of my Diet Coke. Except that it wasn’t. It was the soup can. I DRANK THE FAT.

I know you’re all thinking about the episode of “Friends” where they drank the fat.

It’s a real thing. It can happen.

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Easily confused? Right?

Now that you all have a mental image of me taking a swig of fat out of a soup can… Here’s my new forward. ENJOY. (P.S. I didn’t actually swallow any of it, I swear)

Forward

I just scrapped this book. All 22,000 words went through the shredder. Not the figurative shredder, the literal shredder. Every last page.

I was thumbing through it, trying to plot a course of action when I realized I hated it. I’d spent weeks convincing myself to push forward. Get your story on paper! Fix it later! All first drafts are terrible! After all, that’s what the professionals do. I’d even posted an online article about the challenges of meeting the needs of the “Chicago Manual of Style.” I was doing everything right.

I still hated it. It wasn’t the worst thing ever written. It was technically accurate. It was me, taking my voice and translating it into a style that would pass through an editor’s hands with minimal correction. There wasn’t anything wrong with it so much as there wasn’t anything right about it. It wasn’t mine. Everything unique and special about my writing had been omitted in an effort to placate the gods of literature.

There’s no amount of technical accuracy that can account for lack of voice. I’d rather fail with something I’m proud of than succeed with something I wouldn’t want another person to read. I know, how very “starving artist” of me to make such a claim. I stand by it. My writing has garnered a few compliments. Far more than expected. Not a single one of them has been in regards to grammar, word selection or adherence to A.P.A. guidelines.

I have a story to tell. It’s my story. It belongs to me. Why should I be required to say, “The incident was tragic and had a profound effect on my life,” when what I’m truly thinking is, “That sucked and it screwed me up for a long time.” I’d like to believe that’s what readers would prefer. Honesty, that is. It’s certainly my most praised trait. I take more pride in the preceding four paragraphs than my entire 22,000 word, nine-chapter shredder feed.

I’m not saying I’m going to abandon the thesaurus and all degrees of grammatical accuracy. I’m just saying I reserve the right to say “toward” instead of “towards,” for no reason other than personal preference.

In other words, I’m the boss of this book.

Why I Haven’t Written Part 2

What I am writing is real. I’m not padding, embellishing or exaggerating. This is my actual life. These things actually happened to me this month.

No, wait. “Happened” is a poor descriptor. “Happened” implies an inherent sense of innocence. As if the subject in question was a victim of circumstance. As in “The tornado ‘happened’ to destroy my house,” or “The rock ‘happened’ to fall out of the sky and hit me in the head.” Instead I’ll go with “transpired.” These events I’m about to share transpired at the hands of my decision-making skills. I’m never a victim of anything other than my own actions.

You’re going to read this and think to yourself, “Self, this can’t be real. No one could possibly ever make such idiotic choices.”

Oh, but they can. They can do a lot of stupid things. They can even do those things again. Over, and over, and over again…

Why I Haven’t Written in a Long Time: Part 2

If you haven’t read part one of this saga, I highly recommend you do so now. If you have, I’ve provided you with a recap so we can all start on the same page.

  1. I made bad choices and got myself into some serious hot water with the husband and the IRS.
  2. I freaked out and decided to get a job.
  3. I accepted a job offer less than two full days after I made the decision to get one. I did not consult my family.
  4. I was in a neck brace, but didn’t tell you why.
  5. I resolved the tax issue and almost quit the job but decided to keep it with the understanding that I could terminate my employment whenever I wanted.

Somewhere in between resolving the tax issue and my second week at my new job, my daughter was invited to a birthday party at one of our favorite locales, Defy Gravity. You might remember my previous experience at this excessively loud/smelly indoor trampoline park.

The party was on a Sunday evening. When I dropped her off it was immediately apparently that school nights are significantly less crowded and odorous than those on holiday vacations. But more importantly, they had started selling special jumping socks. Reusable jumping socks; for $1.95 I would never, ever, ever have to shove my tiny feet into another pair of sweat-infused soft-soled shoes for the rest of my life. Noting the improvements and being the wonderful (overindulgent out of guilt over being the worst alcoholicy, tax-evading) mother that I am, I offered to jump with my son while my daughter was at her party.

Last time we jumped my daughter and I had roughly three square feet apiece. This time my son and I had the entire place to ourselves. Literally the entire place. We did flips, played frisbee, had distance contests and so on… I should’ve left well enough alone. But it’s me. If I could leave well enough alone, I could stop after two drinks and bake only one dessert at a time.  It’s a physical impossibility. Me leaving well enough alone would be like Jillian Michaels patting you on the back and letting you go home after five push-ups. I take it to the max. Every. Single. Time.

Two minutes… Just a hundred and twenty miniscule seconds before our session was up, I decided to do one last flip. Like a true jackass I yelled, “Hey! Look at me!” ensuring the attention of not only my son, but the entire staff as well. The minute my feet left the trampoline I knew I wasn’t going to make it. My timing was off. Instead of landing on my feet, I landed square on my head, forcing my neck to twist inward. I heard a bit of a “snap” sound, follow by excruciating pain radiating from the nape of my neck, down my left arm. The closest descriptor I can conjure up is “pins and needles,” but that doesn’t do the sensation justice. It was among the highest level of pain I’ve ever felt. And that’s a whole lot of pain. You’re talking to someone who has birthed two children and survived a nasty (near life-ending) case of peritonitis.

(Side note: Do not get peritonitis. It hurts beyond anything I could dream up. Along the lines of spontaneous limb amputation. In fact, I remember thinking that I would be willing to severe my arm to make the pain stop and I really, really meant it. And then they cut you open. And then they sew you up, but only to the inner level. That means you have an enormous, gaping wound. You can see inside yourself all the way down to the part where your layers of skin and fat stop (it’s deeper than you think) and your insides are. Then you live in the ICU for two weeks and they don’t let you eat or drink anything for the entire stay. Not a bite, not a drop. Nothing. Then you get post-op pneumonia and then that makes you need to cough a whole lot, which also hurts beyond explanation, because you’ve got the open wound and all.  And that open wound, created in March, will not fully heal until August, leaving you with a hideous, unsightly scar that compliments your stretch marks quite nicely. Oh, and also during this time you’ll have two children in diapers and your husband will be deployed for most of it. Again, this actually happened to me.)

So there I was, sitting on a trampoline, looking like a fool and trying to save face by laughing it off. My son decided it was an opportune time to throw a ball in my face. It was not. In my most dignified, tear-holding-in, mature tone I half yelled, half cried, “why would you do that to someone? Why?” I got a lot of stares.

We found my daughter and headed to the car. I was still in the yoga pants and t-shirt I’d brought to change into. Unfortunately, having planned to change back into my regular clothes before we left, I had nothing other than knee-high boots and was forced to drive home in my new jump socks.

It was a windy night. Not breezy. Nebraska windy. So much so that pulling my car door open was a feat of strength and keeping my vehicle on the road was a challenge. Within minutes the pins and needles sensation had become so great I’d lost almost all movement in my left arm. I was one-armed driving in socks, trying to steady my car just enough to avoid an accident.

I think I went into shock at that point. Losing mobility in my arm suggested a serious injury. I started to feel faint. I was one-armed driving in socks, trying to steady my car just enough to avoid an accident, hoping to stay conscious.

I’ve never been able to master the art of Bluetooth voice commands, nor have I ever been able to figure out how to lower the volume on my car’s voice command prompt. I wasn’t in the mood to have “MAIN MENU!!!!” screamed into my ear while attempting to enunciate the name of my (unlucky) friend (victim) of choice, so I had to use the touch screen. I was no armed driving in socks, trying to steady my car just enough to avoid an accident, hoping to stay conscious.

I finally arrived at my friend’s (victim’s) house to drop my children off and change back into my street clothes before heading to the ER. I claimed I needed to change so I wouldn’t have to walk in shoeless. In truth I was far more concerned about the state of my yoga pants, which had fallen victim to the trampoline incontinence we discussed previously. (You’re welcome for that, by the way.)

Trying to change in that condition took what felt like a half hour. Cramming myself into skinny jeans is challenge enough with all limbs operative. I insisted on driving myself, which was flat out idiotic given the circumstances. I also refused to allow anyone to call 911 during the whole peritonitis fiasco. Because it’s me. And that would’ve been too reasonable.

When you arrive at an emergency room with a neck injury, unable to move your arm, they take you very seriously. I was bumped to the front of the line, even ahead of a visibly distressed woman suffering from a serious case of influenza. In hindsight I feel terrible that I went ahead of her, but at the time I genuinely thought I had a broken neck. I silently thanked the husband for pestering me into getting the flu mist. Don’t tell him that.

Even thinking I’d fractured a vertebrae, I still winced at the scale and made a comment about how heavy my boots were. Because it’s me. And I knew the nurse cared a lot about my weight.

The abridged version of the ER visit is this: They put me in a full neck brace. I had a CT scan. I was diagnosed not with a fracture, but hyperextension. Apparently this is akin to whiplash. Or as the doctor put it “being in a serious car accident.” They downgraded me to a soft brace. I gave in and accepted the hydrocodone they were determined to force on me. And there I was, foolishly fearing I’d be labeled a drug seeker. (I swear I’m not)

I’m convinced there was some kind of “Who can hand out the most opiates?” contest going on. The doctor clearly knew I take Antabuse: we discussed my medications in detail. If that’s not a red flag, I don’t know what is. Especially considering it was my sixth visit to that ER in four years; making it the fifth time I was prescribed narcotics (one of which was morphine). Six if you count the time I left with a script for my minor child. This is what happens when you don’t “look like” an alcoholic. People trust you too much, even when you specifically tell them not to. Maybe next time I’ll wear shabby clothes and carry a brown paper bag. That’s the official uniform of alcoholics. It’s the only way people can identify us.

I guess I could also just not do stuff that might result in injury.

And so my friend (victim) left my children with a sitter, met me at the hospital, helped me fill my prescriptions and got me home. This is the second time she’s done this for me. Why are people friends with me?

Given that I was in pain, in a brace and heavily medicated, I was forced to call in sick twice in my second week at my new job. I felt incredibly depressed both because I hated the thought of being considered unreliable and because I found myself hoping the injury would sustain itself long enough that I’d have to quit. I knew I’d made a terrible mistake.

After one week of work I’d already had to postpone appointments, make special arrangements, and start telling my kids “no,” more often than not. Due to the commute, the weather, and the parking arrangements, eight hours of work plus an hour break translated to eleven hours away from my home. Forty hours was fifty-five. The idea of flexibility is great, but I suddenly I found myself spending what felt like hours on the phone saying, “I can’t do Tuesday, what about Friday? No? What about next week?” I failed to see the flip side of the situation; when your job has variable hours, you have no consistency. At least on a Monday – Friday schedule I could set stable weekly appointments. For us this includes an hour of super-fun therapy with a drug and alcohol counselor, two hours of occupational therapy (one per child!) and an hour of social group for my son as a minimum. We also have visits with psychiatrists, standard medical checkups, trips to the dentist, a million prescriptions to fill, and on and on. And just like work, every hour long session became three.

I’ve stated many times that there’s no right or wrong when it comes to career versus home versus whatever else you want to do with your time. I had suddenly remembered exactly why I quit my better, stable job: At this point in my life, working doesn’t work. I knew this. But it’s me. So I forced myself to keep working, mostly for the sake of avoiding a “You were right, I was wrong,” conversation. I figured I’d push through a few months. I told you that already.

I hope you all know where this is headed. Baking.

Precisely twenty-four hours after my injury, I decided I desperately needed to use up the three bananas sitting on my counter, threatening to go bad. And so my neck brace and I made our way to the kitchen to make banana pudding.

I went through about two dozen recipes, trying to match what I had in my cabinets with the necessary ingredients. It became apparent that I would not be able to make what I intended without those weird Nilla wafers that no one ever has for any reason other than making banana pudding.

So I went through another two dozen recipes, trying to match what I had in my cabinets with the necessary ingredients to make weird Nilla wafers. I was successful. In just under an hour, I had several dozen faux wafer cookies that neither looked nor tasted “better” than Nilla wafers as promised by the conspirators at allrecipes.com.

And I went to work on the pudding, which was to be made with cream cheese, milk, pudding mix, and whipped cream. But I didn’t have any whipped cream so I made some.

And I went back to work, carefully pouring my pudding mixture over my “better” than Nilla wafers wafers and banana slices (neatly dipped in lemon juice). I thought to myself “hmm. This mixture seems thin. It doesn’t seem like it’s going to set up.” And I thought some more and waited to see if the pudding would start to firm up. But it didn’t. Because it’s me. I neglected to add the pudding to the pudding mixture.

There was no option other than scraping it all back into the mixing bowl, but since it had already been poured over the “wafers” and bananas, it wasn’t going to be a clean separation. I was able to get most of it off of the “wafers” but the bananas were having no part in it.

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In my neck-bracy haze, I imagined I could just leave the bananas in the mixture and they’d just break up in the mixer, resulting in a pudding/banana layer rather than pudding over a layer of bananas. Yeah… that doesn’t work. Instead it became somewhat of a chunky paste, which I poured back over the “wafers.”

Then I thought to myself, “hmm. This seems like it’s too thick. It shouldn’t be so dense. Usually instant pudding and milk fluff up more than this.” But it didn’t. Because it’s me. I forgot to add the milk.

I scraped it all into the mixer again. I added the missing ingredient again. I turned the mixer on again. This time, however, I was met with a wonderful surprise banana/cream cheese/pudding/milk explosion. It went everywhere. The floor, the sink, the overhead light fixture, the stovetop, my shoes, my neck brace. It didn’t explode the second time I flipped the switch though, since the bowl was only half full at that point. I dumped what was left in the pan and shoved it in the refrigerator tilted to the left side since I couldn’t get it to fit any other way.

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Clean-up was less than enjoyable but I managed to get all of it, with the exception of my brace that is. It smelled like fermenting fruit, and yet somehow I was too afraid to take it off. I imagined my self like one of those Kayan Burmese (Should I be saying Myanmarese? Myanmarites?) women with all the neck rings and pictured mine failing and snapping upon removal. I read somewhere once that that didn’t really ever happen. I didn’t trust my sources enough to tempt fate.

My next few days were spent in bed, in a smelly neck brace, pouting and lamenting my foolish life choices while watching something like fifteen episodes of “American Horror Story” on Netflix. That show is less scary than immensely irritating. Those people make worse choices than I do. I spent half my viewing time thinking “JUST LEAVE THE HOUSE ALREADY! FILE FOR BANKRUPTCY IF YOU CAN’T AFORD IT! GET. OUT. NOW! If your daughter refuses to move with you, leave her! She can deal with the spirits alone!… Oh wait, what’s that?… You can’t because you let some strange guy hit the girl you had an affair with in the face with a shovel right in front of you and instead of calling the police you buried her and built a gazebo over the grave and someone might find it?” Now you’ve really done it. You stayed so long people are dying. YOU GUYS SUCK!”

On day four I was given the go-ahead to remove the brace. I’m telling you, there was something terrifying about it. Once it was off, I felt so fragile I was afraid to turn my head. Although it was nice to get away from the smell of fermentation, which was sort of making me think about sangria.

The sangria comment reminded me that I have something funny to show you that’s not at all related to this post. A few days ago I tried to take some pictures on my phone and couldn’t because the memory was full. I had been uploading the pictures from time to time but I never really noticed the culprit: duplicate copies in the photo stream. I don’t understand what that is. I bet it has something to do with the cloud. I don’t understand that either.

Anyway, I’ve had this iPhone 4S since the day they were released. I stood in line in the freezing cold to get one because I had broken the screen on my 3S two weeks earlier and had been using it that way in anticipation of the most current version. Yes, I was drunk when I broke it. All three times. And both times on the one I’m still using.

Having never cleared the photo stream, I still had every single picture snapped since 2011. I found thirteen photos of alcohol. Not me drinking (though there were quite a few of those too), snapshots of the alcohol itself. What?? Was I so in love that I felt the need to carry around keepsakes on my phone?

For your viewing pleasure:

Nebraska’s own Lucky Bucket wheat. It was as tasty as the bottle indicates.

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A half-consumed bottle of what I’m guessing was Barefoot Pinot Grigio. My signature wine, not bad for $5.00. When you’re buying in volume, you have to consider costs. I have no clue what this was about.

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Ah… My sangria phase. It was painfully hot that summer and I found it refreshing. And strong. I made gallons of it. If you’ve ever found yourself at my house, wondering why I have six or seven large plastic pitchers, this is your answer. I’m positive my friends and neighbors remember this. I took it everywhere.

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It was so important to me, I treated it with love.

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Costco pinot. In what I’m assuming is my garage? Yeah… this makes no sense.

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Some unknown red. Probably cabernet.

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I didn’t buy this. I thought it was funny and I wanted a memento. I do remember this. Yes, it’s from Utah.

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I also remember this- purchased at World Market in Kansas City. The chorizo and chips were for the husband. They were not good.

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I’m pretty sure I drank this in a moving vehicle (as a passenger) but I don’t recall the who/what/where/why part.

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My all time favorite. You can’t get Widmere here, so whenever I got my hands on some, it was a special couple of days. I think I got really mad at the husband after I found the case empty after a single day. He kindly reminded me that he’d only had one. I accused him of lying.

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More Costco knock-offs. Don’t buy this.

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Ahhhh. The Brad Paisley concert. I had no idea who that was, but a friend (my hospital pal) had extra tickets and I like going places, so I went. And I drank a giant can of Dos Equis.

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Last but not least, I have no recollection, but I’m positive I was celebrating Miller Lite’s new punch top. I was doing that already. They just made it easier.

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I’m glad I found these. They gave me a good laugh. They reminded me of a time in my life when I planned my entire day around buying (you have to rotate stores or else you’ll look bad) and drinking. And being hung-over. All the freaking time. I mean all the time. More importantly, I noticed there we no pictures of my kids. Now I can delete them and take another step forward. (Slow clap)

Alright, I need to wrap this up. I’m pushing four thousand words, which probably means I’ve lost half of you already. I can’t imagine why. This is such an exciting read.

After the brace came off I went back to work. I would convince myself I was going to quit, then I’d go in and have a good day; that only added to my confusion. I would then convince myself to stay. I bargained and bargained. First it was committing to two months, then it was two pay periods, then it was the next few days. On day ten, after not seeing my children for almost four days, I admitted there was no way I could save face. I turned in a letter of resignation and that was that. Another stupid, moronic, ridiculous, impulsive, insane decision.

If you ever hear me talking about going back to work again, stop me. (Unless it’s writing) Honestly, I’m not sure I’m well enough for it. (Sad face) I’m in the semi-depressed phase that tends to follow a failure. It’s taken me days upon days to complete this post. In the end, I just needed to come out and get it off my chest.

I’ll leave it at that and call it a night. I’ve just suffered several losses at Uno and I’m exhausted from muddy foot races, monkey bars, and stick throwing contests.

Why I Haven’t Written in a Long Time

I don’t know where to start. Two weeks ago I was a stay at home mom who was baking all day and trying her hand at professional writing. Today I have a full time job and I’m wearing a neck brace. For real. I’m going to do my best to tell you all about it from my bed, full of hydrocodone and muscle relaxers, with my computer propped up in front of me because I can’t look down. It’s not going to be a funny post this time. Sorry.

Before you even say it- I’m aware that handing painkillers to a person with known addiction issues is a bad, bad, bad idea. But sometimes you just have pain that needs to be killed. I swear I refused them the first two times I was offered, but the pain grew exponentially until I caved. It was a risk/benefit situation. They’re not really optional. Unless you think I should spend my day writhing in agony, in which case, they are. Plus it’s really hard to writhe in a neck brace. I know this because I was unsuccessful in my attempt last night. Don’t send the addiction police just yet; I am under the supervision of a nurse-friend, per my request. That’s personal growth, my friends.

Why I Haven’t Written in a Long Time

Around the time I published my post about television, the husband involuntarily volunteered to donate weeks of his life to preparing taxes for airmen. If you’re a member of a military family, you probably understand exactly what “involuntarily volunteering” means. If you’re not, here’s how it works:

High-ranking official: Our unit needs to provide a volunteer to do tax returns for airmen. We want you to do it.
Lesser-ranking official: Yes sir.

During the husband’s requisite weeklong certification course, I started receiving random accusatory “Did you take the <insert obscure tax deduction> last year?” and “Did you know we could’ve written off  <insert ludicrous item>?” texts, day in and day out. Ordinarily this type of thing wouldn’t have bothered me much, but he hasn’t so much as glanced at our returns in over a decade and his sudden retrospective interest was making me just a bit on edge. Okay, a lot on edge.

For the most part, everything he asked about had been something I’d looked into but found that either we were ineligible, or that it was preferential to use a different deduction/credit instead. On the fourth day of tax-obsession training he texted, yet again, to inquire about our 2012 returns. In exasperation, I slammed my kitchen tools down, flopped down on the couch, angrily opened my laptop, and pulled up an electronic copy of our 2012 returns.

And there it was. A huge, massive, enormous, gigantic error.

I’m not going to get into the specifics, because even I have some limits when it comes to personal disclosure, though few and far between. But, let’s just say it was pretty (expletive) significant and costly. What’s worse?

  1. It was negligence on my part, due to my unwillingness to spend more than thirty minutes working on our returns.
  2. Instead of dealing with it, I filed an extension.
  3. Instead of being honest about it, I lied about having fixed it, with the intention of doing so before it was noticed.
  4. I forgot to deal with it before it was noticed.

Huge, massive, enormous, gigantic errors made worse by omission (involving the IRS) are among the worst issues a person can have. This one was in the realm of “getting divorced” bad. Like I said, I’m not going to go into the details, both personal and technical, but I don’t have a good track record when it comes to honesty and financial management… and probably morality in general.

It took me about three days to muster up the courage to tell the husband what happened. And I’ve spent the last fifteen minutes trying to conjure up an adjective that accurately portrays his reaction. The best I could come up with was “mad.” He was mad. Mad, mad, mad, mad, mad. The end.

Upon hearing the news, he decided to take a very, very, very long look at our financial situation in general. Then he was even more mad, mad, mad, mad, mad. Mad enough to institute a complete spending embargo, effective immediately… And politely suggested I should probably spill all of my other “it’s okay, I can handle this myself” secrets right away. When I put this on paper, it sounds pretty harsh, but then, if it had been a rare indiscretion on my part, he probably wouldn’t have gone to such extremes. In other words, I totally suck, and I’ve been totally sucking for a long time and also, I’m a liar. But I don’t actually suck at lying.

This is exactly the kind of incident that sets off my most erratic, emotionally unstable behaviors. If you think my not-so well-thought-out baking disasters are comical, you’ll love how I handle important life decisions. I completely panicked and made a few rash “what do I do?!?!?” calls (if you were a recipient, I’m sorry) and began wavering between sadness and self-loathing. I began composing a number of (unrealistic) plans for fixing it all, which I proceeded to record on various scraps of paper, notepads, envelopes and so on, mostly while repeating them over and over in my head, pacing back and forth in my house.

My pattern goes something like this: Incident, emotion, reaction, confusion. Then when the dust settles and things start to resolve, I’m usually stuck with an even bigger problem on my hands. Here’s how this particular incident went:

Incident: Discovered tax error made worse by lies and omission.
Emotion: Embarrassed, ashamed, panicked.
Reaction: Decided the best course of action would be to get a job in order to contribute financially and have more flexibility with funds. If I’m contributing, I have more of a say in how our money is spent, right?

Within 36 hours of disclosing the tax error, I’d applied, interviewed and committed to a job I didn’t even know I wanted in the first place. And I had to utter the words “I swear, <insert over ambitious plan> will work this time,” to the husband for what felt like the millionth time. Although it’s entirely possible it was the actual millionth time.

What’s worse? When I made the decision, I was completely self-aware. I knew I was acting irrationally and I knew what the consequences would be. I simply chose to do it anyway. They should probably just put a picture of me under “Mood Disorders” in the DSM.

And yes, the husband was unhappy when I told him, partly because I waited until the night before my first day to tell him, but mostly because I completely abandoned my real estate/corporate relocation area of expertise in favor of a (lower paying) career in high-end retail management. I basically chose it out of a hat. It seemed like a good idea at the time…

If you’re picturing me working at Old Navy or some other mall store filled with noise and teenagers, stop. Instead, picture me in a quiet, calm environment, surrounded by adults, most being over 30. And a pianist. Yesterday he did a “Grease” medley in classical overtones. Who wouldn’t want that?

I’m going to be honest here and tell you that I wrote everything above this paragraph a week ago, in an attempt to compose another of my “hilarious incident” posts. Clearly, I was trying to persuade myself into believing this whole ordeal would just blow over and things would go back to normal again.

I’m also going to be honest and tell you that during the week between posts, I came this ____ close to resigning my new position over a request for two hours off (not even off, just unavailable for scheduling) was rejected.

I almost walked out without so much as inquiring as to why my request was denied. Seriously. I actually cleared out all of my belongings and composed a dignified letter of resignation, disguising a few irrational rants in slightly more tactful wording. I was not about to build a new career at the expense of my family.

I learned the real reason my request was denied in what was supposed to be my last hour of employment. The topic just happened to come up. I submitted it wrong. That’s it. I almost walked out on a job, without giving it a fair try, over a typo. When I resubmitted it, it was honored. In the end they simply gave me the entire day off. It kind of made me wonder if I’d bailed a bit too early on any of my other under-two-week careers. I know there’s been at least five.

So there you have it: a teeny-tiny, sampling of the thousands upon thousands of reckless decisions that comprise my life. I am no longer trying to be a good stay-at-home-mom and organize my house and also learn how to be the best baker/cook ever. I’ve scaled back my expectations. Now I’m just trying to be a good mom with a flexible job and a house that is at least cleaner than the ones on “Hoarders,” who still aspires to be a really good baker and posts on her blog no less than twice a week.

The truth is, I don’t know if going back to work was the right decision and I certainly can’t explain why I continue to act without regard for consequences. There’s no standard of measurement that defines whether a person is making right or wrong decisions. We just have to do what works for each of us and run with it.

The problem is, I’ve never been able to figure out what that is.

I may or may not keep the job. I may or may not go back to my original goals. I may reinvent them. Either way, I intend to continue writing about the life of a person with… issues… Hopefully more often.

Oh, and the tax situation has been remedied. The embargo lifted. I am in good standing with the IRS. I’ll tell you about the neck brace in another post. I need to get ready for work…

P.S. For your viewing pleasure, my snapshot currently posted on the “new employee” board. Oddly one of the best pictures of me ever taken (or so I think). I hope they let me keep it. It makes me look skinny (or so I think).

Work

The Post About Television

I’m just going to admit it; I love television.

I took a number of film study and composition courses in college. I enjoyed them immensely, but while others were marveling at the works of the Truffauts and the Scorseses, I was watching “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “Twilight Zone” reruns. I suppose my affinity for television reflects my love of short stories. There’s an inexplicable quality about the brevity that speaks to me. Laying out a meaningful tale with all of the required elements (plot, character, conflict, resolution…) in a short space is a unique skillset, both in written word and on screen. I’ve spent many hours in the company of shorts by Dahl, Carver, and even Stephen King (who is my newfound hero) and likewise, the Serlings and Hitchcocks of television. They intersect; many of my favorite episodes are based on short fiction pieces.

Or maybe I just love short fiction because I’m lazy and it provides instant gratification.

I’ve always wanted to write a piece about television and had intended to work it into other blog entries, but it never quite fit. I dismissed it. Yet when I was immersed in New Year’s marathons of “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead,” and yes, “The Twilight Zone,” I found myself scribbling notes on candy wrappers and scraps of construction paper (they’re all my basement has to offer at the moment). I wondered if a post about television could stand on its own, rather than exist as an aside in something bigger.  I think it can. I just need to avoid turning into the “Chris Farley Show,” where I state “Remember the time that guy blew up the school? That was awesome!” over and over without any substance.

The Post About Television

I think television affects us in a manner that directly reflects where we are in our lives at the time. While reading “On Writing,” I found myself wondering if I’d read it when I first received it, would it have meant as much to me as it does today? Maybe not. Watching a show about the death of a child most certainly affects a parent in a different way than say, a 21 year old, single college student. I’m not claiming it won’t affect them both, I’m just saying the effect is unique to the viewer. I looked at a large number of “Best TV Episodes of All Time” lists and found that while many episodes appeared on most or all of the lists (some shows are just classics), there were indeed, variances based on age, culture, audience and so on. I’m going to share my favorites and how they affected me. Maybe we’ll have an interesting dialogue about this. It actually sounds kind of boring. I hope this read isn’t a total waste of your time.

A couple of side notes:

1. Spoiler alert
I will try as hard as I can to be as vague as possible, but if you haven’t seen it and plan on watching it, consider yourself warned.
2. You’re free to disagree with me.
Or make fun of me. I’m the boss of this list; it’s mine and only mine.
3. I can’t guarantee that my buildup won’t ruin these for you.
Example: Everyone from my co-workers to my mom raved about “The Silver Linings Playbook.” It was moving! It was funny at times! It was so well written! But it had been so built-up in my mind that I went in expecting a life-changing experience. To me, it was more “yeah, that was good.” Not because what I was told was untrue, but because I had such high expectations. I was waiting for the epiphany or the big ending or the surprise that was sure to happen at any moment. It was a subtle message. And as I said, where you are in your life counts for a lot. I chose to watch “The Silver Linings Playbook” on what was one of the worst days of my life. I was in bed, shivering and shaking from alcohol withdrawal (again), wondering how I was going survive work the next day without pouring a little blue bottle of Skyy into my Starbucks cup. I could hear my kids playing outside my door. That morning, I had been informed that I was out of chances for good. And oh, yeah, it was Mother’s Day. On that day, at that moment, “The Silver Linings Playbook” hit far too close to home.

(Sad face)

(I’m pretty sure sharing that just destroyed all hope of me being rehired by my prior employer.)

(Sad face)

Ok, I’ll stop rambling now. I have a problem with over-explaining. Here you are, my friends. In no particular order, my favorites, my game changers, my “Please tell me you saw <insert favorite show>last night(s)!”

The Painting, My God, the Painting!
I watched this episode of “Night Gallery” when I was ten and it scared the living crap out of me. I watched it two years ago and it scared the living crap out of me. I pulled it up on YouTube a few minutes ago and it scared the living crap out of me. And this is coming from a person who has a high, high tolerance for the macabre. Roddy McDowall, you suck for stealing my childhood! Go watch it. I want your opinion. There are two other episodes tied in, both of which are decent with some early Spielberg thrown in.

cemtrauma4

Ross’s Fiascos
The leather pants:

Rosspants

“It made a paste!”

The teeth whitening:

Rossteeth

“What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with you? You have a black light! It’s 1999!”

The spray tan:

Rossspraytan

“I went to the tanning place your wife suggested.”
“Was that place the sun?”

“I’m an eight!”

I’m just going to sum these up by saying “LOL”. I think you’ll agree.

007
The year: 2009. The place: Seattle Grace Hospital. The title: “Now or Never.”

I watched “Grey’s Anatomy” for a few years. It was an interesting show; a decent replacement for “ER” (after it finally ended). This is a classic case of TV shock and awe. And sadness and death. The moment 007 is spelled out, you die inside. That’s the best I can do without spoiling it. Just watch. But not until you’ve watched the five previous seasons.

I quit watching “Grey’s Anatomy” some time ago for the exact reason I quit watching “ER”. It’s been on too long. With the exception of a few characters, the cast is mostly comprised of replacements. Too many coincidences. Too much excitement. The odds of the same person experiencing catastrophic storms, a gunman opening fire in a hospital, a plane crash, etc… are so ridiculously slim that it just flat out gets old. The shark has been jumped, the dead horse, beaten.

007

All Hail the King.
This is another case of TV shock and awe. Essentially two episodes of “Breaking Bad” that take your breath away as Gus, Walter, and the Mexican Cartel vie for the title of King of the methamphetamine distribution circuit (covering New Mexico, Arizona, parts of Texas, and Northern Mexico, that is).

breakingbad

“You have no one left to fight for! Fill your pockets and leave in peace. Or fight me and die.”

Again, I don’t want to ruin it. If I say “THIS episode and THAT episode are amazing!” You might have my “Silver Linings” experience. I’ll just say this, watch season four. Someone kills a bunch of people (unexpectedly). Someone different kills someone else by killing themself. Someone straightens a tie. Epic surprise twist ending. The end.

Breakingbad2

I might even be willing to dub this the best episode in TV history. Unless you didn’t like it, in which case I’ll say “yeah, it was good.”

Walkabout
“Lost” was to me then, what “The Walking Dead” is to me now. It was MY show. People sent me paraphernalia and called for my opinion after every episode. “Lost” had so many twists and turns and surprise endings, it’s pretty tough to single out the best. I think everyone has favorites. Mine are:

“WHAT? He was in a wheelchair?!?!?”
“Mr. Echo’s living an assumed identity!”
Not Penny’s Boat!
“It’s a flash FORWARD!”

LOSTjohnlocke

LOSTmrecho

LOSTnotpennysboat

LOSTflashforward

Tell me what your favorites are. Please.

The Undead
Speaking of “The Walking Dead”… I could go on four hours about this show. It’s still in progress and the last episode left us startled and confused. And now they’re making us wait until February to see what happens! I’m caught in a predicament because I really, really, really, really want to talk about the surprises.

You know what? Look away if you don’t want to know. SPOILERS are red below:

The episode where walkers invade the camp. AMY!!!!
The episode where Shane kills Otis and shaves his head in an act of symbolic change. I hate that guy.*
The episode where Sophia’s in the barn. So lame, yet so awesome.*
The episode where Dale died and I died inside.
The season 2 finale where the herd attacks. There were complaints of lack of action and gore in the show… and the heard was the response. I like to imagine Robert Kirkman sitting back and thinking “That enough zombies for you now, bitch?” after watching this one.*
The episode where they chop Hershel’s leg off.
The episode where Lori and T-Dogg die. I may have been more upset about T-Dogg. I loved him so.
The episode where they find out what happened to Morgan and leave the hitchhiker to die.*
The episode where The Governor chases Andrea to the prison and I held my breath for an hour.*
The episode where Meryl uncharacteristically saves the day. I don’t have words. At all. We felt sad when the guy we all hated died.*
The episode where The Governor kills the Woodbury survivors.
The episode where walkers fall through the ceiling and you realize there’s a virus going around.
The episode where Rick kicks Carol out.
The Hershel-centric episode where he puts himself at risk to save the sick survivors.*
The episode where the governor invades the camp, kills Hershel, and in turn gets killed by Michonne and then shot by Lily and the baby might be dead, although the car seat was unbuckled so maybe not.*

*Denotes personal favorites

I need opinions on this too. Is it just me, or has season four been amazing? It’s got high ratings on Hulu, that’s all I’m saying. Please hurry up, February 9th, please.

walkingdeadmidseason

Hitchhikers, Murderer dolls, and Space Invaders
Of course I have to mention “The Twilight Zone,” this post would not exist if not for my early introduction the scary black and white world of Rod Serling. “The Twilight Zone” served as my introduction to deeper thinking (as deep as a ten year old can get anyway) and was a gateway to the literature and screenplay I love so much today. There are innumerable amazing episodes, but I don’t have room for all of them, so I’ll stick with the three that impacted me most (stole my childhood):

“The invaders” – I saw this when I was about ten and I couldn’t sleep for weeks thereafter. I wasn’t afraid of space invaders taking over my home. I was afraid of a little robot cutting my foot with a huge knife when I swung my feet off the bed. For months I looked under my bed before lowering my feet.

tzinvaders

“Living Doll” – It’s everyone’s worst nightmare. A doll that watches you and makes sure you know you’d better be nice to it… or else. I saw this around the time I saw “The Invaders” (why did my parents let me watch these??). Not so long after, while camping, my sister’s friend told us a different scary story involving a doll, thus compounded my fear. Being scared in a tent is way scarier than being scared at home. I’ve already shared the doll story on my blog, so I won’t bother you with it twice. I’m just going to say, my family has a strange sense of humor. It can be found in Will the Real Thanksgiving Stand Up?

tztalkingtina

“The Hitchhiker” – Imagine that you’re driving cross country and you see
the same hitchhiker over and over. How can that not be terrifying?

tzhitchhiker

Slow Donnie
“Just Shoot me” wasn’t the greatest show. It was the kind of program I’d watch if it happened to be on. Well, one evening it did happen to be on and I happened to be watching and I happened to catch one of my all-time favorite episodes. David Cross plays a visiting relative who’s been posing as “slow” his entire adult life in order to avoid getting a job and live without financial obligation at his parents’ house. Okay, I know that sounds offensive, but I swear it’s not. David Cross is a comedic genius. I highly recommend you watch it.

slowdonnie

“Chicken pot pie…”

Never arrange to escape from prison in a coffin
Most of us don’t need to be told this is a very, very bad idea. It’s the basis for an episode of “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour,” entitled “Final Escape.” The moral of this story is: don’t cheat the system.

alfredhitch

Honorable mentions
Let’s not forget the notable individual moments. They’re the lines we repeat to our friends and family, the jokes we can’t stop bringing up. My list is far too exhuastive for this piece, so I’ll just provide a sampling of the finest.

When Buster rescues Gob using the claw machine after having gotten really good at it in the arcade, where he was going instead of his job at the army.  (“Arrested Development”)

adclaw

When Puddy makes Elaine eat at Arby’s. (“Seinfeld”)

puddy

Jerry: Where did you go?
Elaine: A restau- (interrupted)
Puddy: Arby’s
Elaine: I had the roast beef.

When “Modern Family” parodies “The Godfather.”

mfgodfather

Never. Gets. Old. I’ve attached a link for your viewing pleasure.

By no means is this list all-inclusive. It’s what came to me first. I really would love to hear your lists.

I hope if nothing else, you laughed a little.

The Story of How I Spent the First Half of my Holidays

I’m very surprised at the response I received after posting “Christmas Card.” I received more website traffic in the three days following its publication than I had in the entire month prior. What amazed me the most was the incredible outpouring of praise, sympathy, and support I received. I didn’t know that publicly stating just how much of a jerk I am would reach so many people. I only intended to write a satirical Christmas letter. Where the rest of it came from, I don’t know. I’m told it was quite moving.

I’m especially grateful to those of you who wrote in praise of my writing abilities. You can’t possibly imagine how much of an impact your words have had on my life. Now, if any of you could kindly connect me with your contacts in the publishing industry, that would great.

Writing has suddenly become challenging. Words aren’t coming freely as they usually do. The bar has been set so high, I feel I’ll never be able to live up to the standards I inadvertently set. I can’t write moving material on command. Plus I’ve been dealing with the distraction of my children on vacation and also, there’s a “Breaking Bad” marathon on AMC.

All I can do is tell you how I spent the first half of my holidays. I can assure you, it won’t be touching and it’s certainly not exciting.

The Story of How I Spent the First Half of my Holidays:

I opted out of the holidays this year. Last year I spent the entire season wandering between gift exchanges, parties, and luncheons gritting my teeth feeling resentful that I wasn’t able to drink with everyone. It was stressful and miserable. So this time around, I opted out.

That’s not to say I didn’t celebrate Christmas. I did. I decorated a tree and made cookies and spent at least a solid hour gift shopping on Amazon.com. I just didn’t do much of anything else. I declined every invitation and event. I didn’t go to see “The Nutcracker” or drive around looking at lights. I didn’t drag my children to obligatory functions and feel annoyed at their displeasure. I bought only the items on my list and chose not to add more and more, fretting it wouldn’t be enough. I didn’t make a big production of it and my neighbors didn’t freak out like they did in “Skipping Christmas,” which is literally my least favorite literary work in the history of written script. It wasn’t planned. I spent a single day dealing with holiday chaos (as discussed in “Ugly Sweaters and Zombies…) and that was it. I just quit.

Instead I did the following:

1. Learned the difference between a cobweb and a spider web.
My daughter asked me this question and I honestly didn’t have an answer, so we looked it up. A spider web is the intricate web spiders use to catch prey. A cobweb the strands they use to get from point A. to point B., covered in dust. Is this something everyone already knew? I was pretty upset because honestly, I always thought a cobweb was only some sort of fiber made up of dust. Now I have to spend the rest of my life with the knowledge of spiders running around all over my house when I’m not looking. It seems so obvious now. I preferred ignorance in this case. This is a lot like the time I learned that oyster crackers didn’t actually taste like oysters. I spent the first thirty years of my life wondering why anyone would want to eat an oyster-flavored cracker. I’m that ridiculous. Although that knowledge didn’t scar me for life like the cobweb thing did.

2. Got really good at ‘Just Dance’
I’m far better at this game than a 35-year-old woman should be.

3. Had my annual Captain Von Trapp-related argument with my husband
Every. Single. Year. I’m not going to get into the logistic of this fight for two reasons: 1. Because it’s a ridiculous argument and you’ll side with me. 2. Because thinking of it makes me mad all over again and only contributes to further devaluing a beloved story that has sentimental value to me.

Captain Von Trapp - Christopher Plummer

(I know you’re singing “Edelweiss” right now)

4. Changed the burned-out light bulbs in all of my bathrooms
You have no idea how big of a deal this is. This never gets done. I have four bathrooms and each one has a lot of lights and I’m 5’2”. It’s too much work to do more than every 18 months. I’ve been putting my makeup on at synthetic dusk for a year.

5. Discovered that in a pinch, egg roll wrappers will work for tamales
We used to have tamales every Christmas Eve, but somewhere along the line the tradition got lost in the holiday shuffle. So naturally, when I remembered this on noon, this Christmas Eve, I decided I needed to make them immediately. If you aren’t familiar with tamales, I’ll paint you an abbreviated picture. They’re made with a mixture of corn flour and shortening (I didn’t say they were healthy) filled with shredded meat, then wrapped in a cornhusk and steamed. I know that sounds gross, but they’re actually quite delicious. They’re just a bit of a pain to make. Cornhusks are common and easily found at any grocery store. Except at noon, on Christmas Eve, this year. I drove to every store I could possibly think of without any luck. I live in Nebraska. I passed roughly fifty cornfields while driving around, looking for cornhusks. Just as I was leaving the last store, a package of egg roll wrappers caught my eye. I rationalized that the cornhusks aren’t an ingredient, they’re more of a receptacle. In theory, the wrappers would work. And I went home and made my holiday tamales in egg roll wrappers.

Tamales 1

Other than being difficult to unwrap, they did the job nicely. They came out looking like pot stickers with tamales inside.

Tamales 2

Later that evening my daughter informed me that next time I need cornhusks, I should go to her school playground where apparently, they find them scattered all over.

6. Changed all of our bed sheets
If I told you how infrequently I wash our sheets, you wouldn’t want to be my friend anymore. Please don’t call DHS on me.

7. Went both ice skating and roller skating
In summation:
It’s perfectly acceptable to leave your daughter’s room looking like this to go skating.

Ava's room

(Told you I washed the sheets!)

Being a good ice skater doesn’t make you a good roller skater.
Roller rinks have not redecorated since 1973.
Adults who go roller skating alone scare me.
I will never be cool. Ever.

Skating

(That’s me in the skirt)

8. Got this new shirt

Shirt


Well, I didn’t get it. It was given to me. By my sister. Who is awesome. I also got a sarcastic spatula from my other sister. Who is also awesome.

Spatula

9. Made the decision to stay home on New Year’s Eve
I know I have the option of stopping by the party early on. I know I could make it through without drinking. I just can’t this year. I concede defeat. I can’t continue to be the person I was before, minus alcohol. It doesn’t work that way. I know I could make it through without drinking. But that doesn’t do anything but prove a point that doesn’t need proving. I choose to stay home and watch 48 straight hours of “The Twilight Zone” with my daughter. Challenging myself isn’t necessary.

I told you it would be unexciting. Be prepared to hear the conclusion of my holiday saga soon. I know you’re holding your breath.

Christmas Card

I’m sure you’ve all seen it. The infamous “Christmas Jammies” viral holiday card.

If you haven’t had the pleasure yet, I’ll fill you in. A family of ridiculously attractive overachievers, with what appears to be a pretty nice house, put their heads together and created a video Christmas card, in which they spell out their various achievements to the tune of Will Smith’s “Welcome to Miami,” replaced with “In our Christmas Jammies.”

Here’s rundown:

They bought a new Prius V.

The daughter (7-8ish):
Completed a triathlon
Counts to 100 in Chinese
Reads advanced literature
Plays the piano
Sings

The son (age 4):
Wears superhero shirts every day
Bats his eyes and the teachers swoon
Had a featured role in a play
Began hip hop dance lessons where he is fine-tuning his emerging musical abilities

The mom:
Met Robert Downy Jr.
Had a role in “Iron Man 3”
Completed an Iron Man triathlon, which I believe was 70.3 (miles???) in 6:40

Dad:
Had a vasectomy (though I’m pretty sure a lot of men did that this year, but thanks for sharing)
Ran the same Iron Man triathlon
Also had a (tiny) role in “Iron Man 3”
Interviewed the state governor on television
Was the hilarious guy we all wish our husbands were and cut his leg doing the worm
Has taken on Crossfit
Is quitting his job as an anchorman to work with his wife

I usually steer clear of viral videos, but this showed up on my Facebook feed around eight times in the same day, so I figured I needed to check it out. For the first thirty seconds, I was horrified that anyone would create something so embarrassingly… well… completely and totally dorky. Then I got sucked in. It went something like this:

What the??? This can’t be for real. Nobody could possibly think is cool… Wait, what? How does a kid that age run a triathlon? Counting to a hundred in Chinese? No way she’s reading those books. Why don’t my kids play the piano or sing?… Look at that kid in that play. That’s adorable. He’s not a half-bad dancer…. 70.3 what, miles? How is that possible? I can’t even jog an entire 5k!… “Iron Man 3?” are you kidding me?… Oh, man… That could be used as some serious blackmail in the future, ‘You want to go with John, the kid who has two DUIs at 17, to the prom? Sure. But first let me get out this video of you throwing frozen peas at your dad’s junk…’ … So he ran the triathlon too… and also had a role in the movie…  the governor… too bad it wasn’t the governor from “The Walking Dead” that would’ve been awesome…. Look at that. That’s hilarious, I wish my husband would put himself out there like that. He won’t even go swimming… No way. I would never in a million years, be able to work with my spouse. Sorry, but we require time apart. If we tried to work together within six months one of us would be dead and the other in prison…
 
I feel so inadequate.

After watching the dancing Christmas jammies extravaganza, I started wondering what an honest holiday card from my family would look like. So I wrote one.

Christmas Card

Dear friends and family,

We hope this letter finds you well. It’s that time of year again! Can you believe it? 2013 has been quite the whirlwind year for our family. So much has happened that we’d love to share with our valued friends and relatives. I just couldn’t think of a better place than a Christmas card!

Dad is currently recovering from a serious case of bursitis, which he actively ignored for many months, resulting in several torn muscles in his legs, all the way down to the meniscus. Though he is assigned to a relatively elite mission, he has been taken off flight status indefinitely. He continues to give his all and is still going in to work Monday through Friday, though the family has absolutely no idea what he does all day. He certainly still arrives home angry! He is working toward his goal of obtaining a commercial pilot license, but his progress all but slowed to a stop due to increasingly poor weather and lack of funds. In October he made the decision to upgrade to a whole-home DVR system. It’s been such a blessing. No one in our home ever has to be in the same room anymore!

Daughter has grown so much, though she still experiences a number of age-inappropriate meltdowns. Early in the year, she completed second grade and was forced to spend most of her summer at a youth center so that both of her parents could work full-time. In August she flew all by herself to visit her cousins in Portland and came back with an adorable case of “Teen Beach Movie” fever! I tell you, we must’ve listen to that soundtrack five hundred million times! She’s presently obsessed with the Disney channel and has seen “Good Luck Jessie: NYC Christmas” an impressive six times. After a series of uncomfortable nights, she chose to make the switch from comforter to electric blanket. The results have been amazing, she has even quit waking me up in the middle of the night to complain about being cold! She’s so spirited, just yesterday I was forced to reimburse her school for a lost library book.

Son continues to grow and learn. He’s spent most of the year fine-tuning his Minecraft skills and building Lego structures that are so complex, it’s unfathomable. In August we took him to the Legoland Discovery Center in Kansas City and he upstaged a builder holding a seminar. He has so many interests, each of which border on obsession. He’s been through everything from Dreamworks Dragons to the violin! He just moved to paper lunch sacks over a traditional insulated lunchbox due to his tendency to forget them at school and eventually return home with rotten food. Most recently he’s expressed interest in dropping out of his school’s high ability learner program to free up more time for his Lego building.

Last but not least, there’s mom. She’s definitely been up to a lot this year! Her year started rough due to multiple relapses into alcoholism. She managed to drink in secret for months before anyone knew! In April she made the choice not to return to inpatient rehab, but instead attend outpatient therapy, which was extremely difficult due to work and home stress. In May she began Antabuse and thanks to being physically unable to consume alcohol without becoming violently ill, she hasn’t had a drink since. This is a genuine miracle. In September she was forced to choose between dentures or $8800 in dental work. She chose to keep her teeth and currently has an outstanding balance of over $3000 at her dentist’s office. In October she left her job to make her children and mental health a full-time career. Due to a combination of Lamictal, Antabuse, Wellbutrin, and Seroquel, she is stable and content for the first time in her entire adult life. Thanks to her life changes, she’s lost 53 pounds. She has decided to worry less about the state of her home and drop everything at a moment’s notice to take her children ice skating or play board games. Most of her free time is spent blogging about her various baking mishaps and other predicaments such as dropping a urine sample in a public place.

Happy holidays and best wishes for a prosperous 2014,

Family whose last name ends with a Z and can’t figure out how to sign Christmas cards.

Now that you’ve had a good laugh, I’ll tell you how I really feel about “Christmas Jammies.”

The bottom line is, holiday cards are tough on both ends. On the giving end, one has to decipher just where the line between celebrating and bragging is. On the receiving end, one has to remind him/herself to look at the bigger picture. It’s nice to be acknowledged and there’s nothing wrong with being proud of your accomplishments. Do some people go overboard? Absolutely. Do most people mean well? Absolutely.

If dancing around like fools in pajamas makes you happy, by all means, dance on. That’s more than a lot of us will ever have in our lives and there’s no reason they shouldn’t shout it from the rooftops. It takes a lot to offend me and pjs don’t even crack my top 100.

Here’s my real holiday letter.

Dear friends, family, and readers,

It’s been a tough year. The last few years have been tough.

I made some really poor decisions that I’m not proud of. I don’t know how to make it right, except to continue making better choices. I’ve worked harder than you could ever imagine to become healthy. Yes, I do take a lot of medication and I will for the rest of my life. I’m nothing but better for it. I am willing to admit that I was very sick for a very long time. I’ve decided to stop beating myself up because my life didn’t turn out the way I expected it to. Last I checked, my life was still in progress and hadn’t yet “turned out” any way. Despite my stay-at-home status, I have turned into an exceptionally poor housekeeper who continues to ignore housework in favor of acting like a fool with her children. In 2013, I learned to choose my children first.

Dad works hard. Period. He’s put 22 years into the military and he’s trying to figure out how to move on because like it or not, he’s going to have to quit when his time is up. He’s worried about how he will feed his family and he’s got about a year to figure it out. He’s happy and frustrated at the same time and no matter what we do, he keeps coming home at night and putting money into our bank account.

The children are fine. They are exasperating at times. All children are exasperating at times. They’re also resilient and their grades are average. They aren’t academically gifted, but their mom is just not worried about it even a little bit. She knows they have a better understanding of life than most children their age(s). They are unbelievably intelligent. They tear apart the basement to make movie sets. They forget their lunch boxes and their rooms are messy. One of them succeeded in setting my couch on fire. They are kind and hold doors open for others and always say please and thank you (to other people, not their parents). They make their mom laugh. A lot. They win at board games against adults and others often comment on their use of  “big words.” They don’t compete in triathlons. They are enough just as they are.

We are infinitely better today than we were in 2012 and hoping to say the same about 2014. Happy holidays,

Once again, the family whose name ends with a Z and can’t figure out how to sign Christmas cards

And I really am excited about the whole home DVR. Really.

 

Ugly Sweaters and Zombies: A detailed account of my attempt to recover from The Week of Infinite Pain

I have great news. I’m not sad anymore! <Insert thunderous applause here> Well, I kind of am, but I’m doing a fantastic job of repressing my feelings in hopes of being a functional human being once again. As long as no one mentions pets, we’re in good shape.

I’m absolutely bursting at the seams with nonsensical stories. And pictures. Man, did I ever shoot some keepers this weekend. I have to tell you, after the horrid week I had, which I have affectionately dubbed The Week of Infinite Pain, I welcome the craziness back into my life. Sometimes I feel as if the world saves up insanity just to drop it into my lap and the most inopportune times. Inopportune or not, I’m thankful for the ability to laugh again. I understand that coping with problems is necessary but when I have a week like last week, life gets too dark too quickly. I can only cope with so much coping.

I’m the kind of person who needs to be doing something at all times. I can’t be without some kind of goal or project. If I’m not working on something, I will pace around my house. When I am experiencing personal difficulties or having trouble handling a serious issue, the need grows exponentially. So, after The Week of Infinite Pain, I was absolutely dying for a task to occupy my mind. And so began the following series of events.

Ugly Sweaters and Zombies:
A detailed account of my attempt to recover from The Week of Infinite Pain


When I woke up on Saturday, I was pretty sure I was the most talented Christmas baker in all of time. I had a plan. It was simple. I was going to run to the store, find some adorable holiday tins, then come home and make double batches of mocha brownies, peanut brittle, chocolate fudge, chocolate-dipped crackers, raspberry thumbprint cookies, and peanut butter cup cookies, then I was going to fill the tins and label them appropriately for my children’s teachers and each of my neighbors. Also while I was out, I was going to swing by Sports Authority to register for the 5K I was set to run in the next morning and pick up some wrapping paper so that after I was done baking, I could sit on my bedroom floor and wrap all of my Christmas presents while watching “Love Actually” and marveling at how strange Andrew Lincoln sounds as a sexy British guy versus a sexy small-town sheriff caught in a zombie apocalypse. I was pretty much going to be the boss of Saturday.

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One of the perks of living in Nebraska is that you almost never have to fight over parking spaces and rarely get caught in traffic, so sometimes you forget to take those factors into account. I chose to take on the intersection of 72nd and Nebraska Furniture mart at noon, on Saturday, in December. I don’t have any official statistics in hand, but if I had to guess, I’d say Nebraska Furniture Mart is the size of about five city blocks and I’m pretty sure has a sales volume that rivals the entire volume of most other furniture companies in one store. Just to reiterate: I chose to go to that intersection at noon, on a Saturday, in December. To enter Sports Authority and pick up my packet took less than a minute. To get in and out of that intersection took thirty. Thirty minutes to go about three car lengths. I used the steering wheel flip-off technique at least twenty times. If you’re not familiar with that, it’s where you put both hands on the wheel and wrap all of your fingers around with the exception of the two in the middle and effectively give the finger to everyone around you at the same time while they remain oblivious.

I rationalized that I’d probably run a little behind, but it was a weekend and I had no plans. I didn’t need to hurry. I decided to head to Super Target for the tins and wrapping paper. I chose Super Target in lieu of the one down the street from my house for two reasons. One, because I didn’t find any tins I liked at my local store and two, because I’ve shopped at that particular store so much, so often, that quite frankly, I’m getting embarrassed.

Every time I go to Super Target, I remember why I don’t go to Super Target. The parking lot was crowded, the layout was confusing, and they were out of carts. Super Target is always out of carts. I tried to look dignified cramming everything into a hand basket and walking around with an “it’s okay, I’m just getting a few things,” look, but I was extremely unsuccessful. I couldn’t find anything (because the layout of a Super Target is stupid!) and I was in excruciating pain from that ridiculous basket digging into my forearms. You know what doesn’t fit into a hand basket? Wrapping paper. I dropped the four rolls I was attempting to nonchalantly carry in my “I’m just grabbing a few things,” basket several times, each incident more painful and embarrassing than the last. And I never found any holiday tins suitable for the beautiful arrangement of assorted Christmas treats I was going to bake that afternoon.

While we’re on the subject, would someone please tell me why on earth there is a sign on the disinfectant cart wipes that says “Do NOT use on hand baskets”? What could possibly happen that is so critical as to warrant such a hostile warning? Please, someone tell me! Because from the looks of that sign, the minute a disinfectant cart wipe and a hand basket make contact a hydrogen bomb will go off. Is that it? Is the combination of a cart wipe and a hand basket the secret authorization of nuclear warfare?

I left the store knowing that I was going to have to go to the one place I hate most. Walmart. When I say “place I hate most” I’m not just talking about stores. I’m talking about all places. My reasons for hating Walmart are so numerous it would take me a month to spell them all out. I will drive twenty miles out of my way to shop elsewhere if I have to. But at that point, I had exhausted all of my options. I’d been to every store I could think of. If I wanted holiday tins, I was going to have to face my own slice of personal hell. Just in case I haven’t made it clear enough, it was a Saturday afternoon, in December and I was headed to Walmart.

If I had to estimate how long it took me to find a spot, I’d say around twenty years. Between Walmart, Chick-Fil-A, and the new Pizza Ranch, that strip mall is a regular party this time of year. I parked my car, opened the door, and headed toward the entrance, pretending not to notice a wayward cart positioned to hit the car next to mine at any moment. Then I thought to myself, “I should go back and move that. If it were my car, I’d want someone to do the same for me.” So I turned around, walked back to the wayward cart, put both hands on the handle and promptly pushed the cart back toward the store and right through the sideview mirror of the car I was attempting to protect, ripping it clean off. The temptation to jump back in the car and drive away was overwhelming, but being the decent person I am, I left a note. On a Target receipt.

I made my way inside, along with about ten thousand other disgruntled shoppers and began the arduous task of looking for the impossible-to-find tins that I had in mind but didn’t seem to actually exist. The seasonal aisles containing Christmas cards, ribbon, wrapping paper and yes, holiday tins, were so jam-packed I had to take turns with other shoppers in order to wedge my way in. When I finally got to the tins, I discovered exactly what I needed. In the cart next to mine. The shelf was empty.

And so I decided I would be the cleverest shopper in Walmart history and find tins in the craft department. As I was headed that direction I received a text and the following conversation ensued:
Husband: You will not believe what your daughter just did!
Me: -Emoticon surprised face- What?
Husband: (Long pause) I smelled something burning so I started room to room. She was downstairs with space heater up against the couch on high. The couch was smoking and smoldering! And she was just sitting right next to it, staring at the TV!
Me: -Emoticon surprised face-

Per my iPhone, that conversation took place around three o’clock. By three o’clock in the afternoon I had spent a half-hour in a packed parking lot flipping people off, dislocated my forearms trying to look casual carrying a hand basket (And whatever you do, do NOT use a wipe on it!), made a fool of myself dropping wrapping paper again and again, ripped someone’s sideview mirror off while attempting to protect their car from damage, and my daughter just. Set. My. Couch. On. Fire.

I turned my cart around (the same one I vandalized a car with) and headed for the exit, only to accidentally stumble upon some red plastic trays that would probably be a decent substitute for the non-existent-except-for-in-the-cart-next-to-mine tins. I bought ten of them. They were ninety-eight cents apiece, which was good because I needed to save up money for my sideview mirror replacement fund.

I didn’t arrive home until almost five o’clock that evening. Determined to make use of the day yet, I began baking. I made the peanut butter cup cookies, I made the fudge (to be fair, fudge literally takes five minutes and can be made in the microwave), I made the brownies (but not the frosting since they were still warm), and I started on the peanut brittle. Peanut brittle is the one holiday candy I have never made. It seemed simple enough though, since all I had to do was boil some corn syrup and sugar, add some peanuts, boil it some more, add some vanilla and baking soda.

And so I boiled the corn syrup and sugar. And then I opened my neatly organized baking cabinet, filled with every single kind of spice, flour, sugar, and nut known to man. Well, except for peanuts that is. For a few seconds I actually considered seeing what would happen if I tried to use almonds, but I decided it would probably be better to waste a cup of sugar and some corn syrup rather than a cup of sugar, some corn syrup, and a perfectly good bag of almonds.

And so I went back to the grocery store and bought peanuts. And then I made peanut brittle for the first time. And I thought “that doesn’t look right,” but I didn’t care because it was late, I was tired, and I had a 5k to run the next morning.

The next morning I headed out to Omaha’s one and only Ugly Sweat Run, along with my friend Jessie, whose name I cannot say without thinking, “It feels like a party every-day! Hey Jessie!” If you have a child between the age of 8 and 12, you probably got that. If not, just think of it as something you have to look forward to. Our team name is… wait for it… The Running Dead. I know, awesome, right?

I love fun-themed 5k’s. If you ever need your faith in humanity restored, go to an untimed 5k with a senseless theme. I’m not kidding when I say they bring out the best in people. I have yet to see any negativity in a participant, everyone is energetic, laughing, and supportive of their fellow runners. One of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in my life was my mom running a zombie 5k this fall. I swear, at one point I actually heard the words, “Don’t touch my crotch, zombie!” come out of her mouth. No one cares what your skill level is, which is good because my skill level is “jog for a quarter-mile and then speed walk the rest”. I had such a fabulous time and was so thrilled to see that the guy who stands on the corner in a Buddy the Elf costume screaming “Santa’s coming! I know him! Saaaantaaaa!” was back. I didn’t even care that I was wearing a light shirt and it was less than twenty degrees out.

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DIY ugly sweater

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Or just come dressed as random Christmas items

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Justin Timberlake! Omaha is awesome!

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See that shirt? My mom picked it out at Goodwill. It’s a junior size XS. Excruciatingly tight. I probably didn’t even need a sports bra.

It was around one o’clock that afternoon when I arrived home from my run (mostly fast walk). As usual, my home was in a complete state of disarray.

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See that bottle of Resolve fabric stain remover? I had to use that on my carpet after I dropped two of the peanut butter cup cookies facedown while they were still hot and melty. It would be far too reasonable for me to keep something like carpet cleaner in the house. Don’t worry, I still ate them. Really.

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See that package of light bulbs by the sink? The husband changed the light bulbs in our stairwell light fixture that day. Normally that wouldn’t be worthy of mentioning, but I feel it should be celebrated, as they were burned out for six months. I am not joking. Six months is how long we lived without light in the stairwell. 1. Because the two of us have a combined height of 10’7” and we couldn’t figure out how to get up there and 2. Because we’re just that lazy.

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This one’s a good one too. Just a knife, lying around. There was a time, not so long ago, when my children were little and I recall being slightly annoyed when we’d visit other people’s houses and they had had unprotected light sockets or breakable items within a toddler’s reach. Now I’m just that guy who leaves a huge knife out in the open. Last week I found a rolling pin on the stairs. Please don’t call DHS on me.

If you’re interested in visiting to see this for yourself, my house is easy to spot. It’s the one with the Christmas lights that stop about four feet short of the outer left wall and the improvised extension cord made out of non-working light strands. I did that all by myself. I bought two packages of white icicle lights (at Target, not Super Target) thinking, “I’m sure two nine-foot strands will be plenty.” Two nine-foot strands are not plenty. Not even close. I had to improvise the extension cord because when I went to use my regular extension cords I discovered that they did not accommodate the whole, “one prong larger than the other” thing. Apparently they were manufactured in 1974. I realized this after I already had them neatly pinned to siding. By the time I got to the four-foot deficit I decided to quit while I was ahead. Besides, there’s just something about me being on a rooftop that feels wrong.

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I just decided I need to write a book called “Fifty Shades of Great Parenting.” That is literally the best book title ever. I’ll make sure to use the phrase “double crap” a lot in it.

Anyhow, it was around one o’clock and I decided I needed to finish up my holiday baking. I had yet to complete the frosting for the brownies, the chocolate-dipped crackers, the thumbprint cookies and of course, the new batch of peanut brittle.

It’s almost impossible for me to try hard candy. All but my first four upper and lower teeth are crowns (yet another reason drinking is bad), so I had to let my children act as guest judges on the peanut brittle. They said it tasted like glass and Laffy Taffy. That can’t be good.

I started with the mocha frosting, it’s one of my favorite Pioneer Woman recipes. I made the batch as usual but when I tasted it, it had no coffee flavor at all. It didn’t taste bad, it just didn’t taste right. So I added more coffee. And more coffee. And more coffee. It still didn’t have its signature coffee taste. I’ve made this recipe at least five times before without any issue, but for reasons unknown it just didn’t come out as it should’ve. At that point I had added so much coffee to the mix it was runny and useless anyway, so I threw it out and started over. That recipe requires five cups of powdered sugar. I’m glad I picked up ten pounds on my last shopping trip.

The thumbprint cookies were next. Just like the frosting, they’re simple, fast, and something I’ve made several times with success. And just like the frosting, they turned out wrong. The dough was so dry it crumbled in my hands. I read and read and reread the recipe. I did nothing wrong. I added another egg yolk. Still too dry. I added four tablespoons of butter. Still too dry. I added another four tablespoons of butter (which adds up to an entire stick). Not as bad, but still too dry. I ended up adding two extra egg yolks and an extra stick and a half of butter. The end result was only so-so. On the plus side, these are clearly a good choice for dieters.

Now, I think it’s important you know that while I was making (ruining) the frosting and the cookies, I was also making my children French fries. Sometimes I make my kids anything they ask for out of sheer guilt for being such a terrible parent. I’m giving my children unhealthy food out of guilt. What could possibly go wrong there? I should put that in my book.

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That’s right, I own a deep fryer. And I use it often.

Fries are a huge pain. You have to peel potatoes, which I am now terrified to do after a particularly deep cut I received a few weeks back. Then you have to cut them up and soak them for hours. Then you have to deep-fry them not once, but twice, working in batches. Okay, you don’t have to do it that way. Unless you want them to taste good.

By six o’clock I still had not gotten around to the (new) peanut brittle or the crackers. I was desperate for some rest. So I did what any responsible adult would do. I took my kids ice skating. For the second time in the same day, I spent hours outside in the bitter cold all in the name of fun. You see, I’m that parent. The one who says “Sure, we can sled down that hill. But that hill looks better.” So naturally, I decided the kids and I should disregard the “NO speed skating” signs posted every few feet and have a race. I was truly enjoying myself until I had the most epic fall known to man. My feet came out from under me so quickly, I could swear they were at eye level before I landed with all my body weight directly on my tailbone. It was both painful and humiliating. That’s my style.

But wait, there’s more. I woke up this morning barely able to move courtesy of my ice skating injury and I had… a bladder infection. Like I said, painful and humiliating. Fortunately, I keep medication on hand for such emergencies. Medication that has a wonderful side effect of fluorescent orange urine, which I had the pleasure of presenting to the lab at my doctor’s office. Feeling particularly embarrassed about having to place my day-glow sample on a very public counter, I stepped gingerly out of the bathroom and proceeded to stumble and drop my fluorescent orange urine sample. A specimen cup hitting a linoleum floor is surprisingly loud. I was around the corner from most of the others in the lab, so don’t think anyone actually saw. I’m sure they heard though.

Painful and humiliating. It’s my new motto.