Monday, March 29, 2010

NEVER Say Never! Part 2

Okay, RECAP! Walked dog, dog chased rabbit, became a human kite, hit the ground, heard bones break, now on the way to the hospital.

Of course, the first order of business once I arrived at the hospital was how the treatment was going to be paid for. So, I got pushed in a wheelchair to a little office. The money lady started to ask me questions, suddenly stopped, and said “You look a little shocky…are you feeling shocky?” “I don’t know,” I thought, “by shocky, do you mean outrageously annoyed that I am sitting here holding my own bone in place as you fill out a form?”

Finally, it was my turn to be wheeled back to the examination area. Of course, I was embarrassed to tell the ER doctor how I got hurt, and I waited for some kind of reaction. “That makes you the third today” he said flatly. “In fact, there is a broken wrist three beds down that just came in. She was walking a Great Dane.” That’s terrific; I wasn’t even the most interesting dog walking case. Now, I felt shocky and mediocre.

I was taken to radiology, then back to the exam room to wait for the ER doctor again. “Your collar bone is broken in several places” he said as he walked in and held up the X-ray for me to see. My once solid collar bone now looked like a game of pick-up sticks. Wow, I thought, this was going to take some extensive surgery to put it back the way it was. “You are going to need to wear a sling for several weeks, and I will send you home with some pain meds.” “Wait,” I said, “how are my bones going to heal on their own?” “Bones are very amazing, they actually remember where they are supposed to be and will create new bone.”

No way. I wasn’t buying this. If my bones' memory was anything like the rest of me, I was in trouble. Take my butt, for instance. I was sure it didn’t remember where it used to be when I was in my twenties. And, after having children, my abs had no clue how to return to their pre-pregnancy condition! “I tell you, Doc, we just can’t rely on this body!” I wanted to shout at him.

A nurse came in to show me how to use the sling, and after a quick trip to the pharmacy, we headed home. As I was getting out of the car, Mr. Macho Firefighter, who lived next door, was just leaving for the station house. After a quick exchange about my accident, he said to me “If you need help putting your makeup on, I would be happy to do it for you. I do my wife’s every morning.”

It took a lot of time, a whole lot of Percocet, and a lot of help from friends and family, but I did finally heal. Life returned to normal, and the experience became a distant memory. The only real lasting effect are the haunting visions I have of my neighbor with an axe in one hand and a mascara wand in the other. Ugh…makes me feel a little shocky.

Friday, March 26, 2010

NEVER Say Never! Part 1

It all started at a party. I ran into a former co-worker I hadn’t seen in a long time and she was sporting a large cast on her right arm. She told me how she broke it, and I just looked at her incredulously and asked “How do you do your hair and makeup?” “I don’t” she replied. I resisted a quick glance at her hair. My head started to spin, and I said “Well, that could never happen to me, because I wouldn’t be able to leave the house.” She just smiled.

Just a few days later, I was watching TV and our black lab, Skye, came into the room and laid her head on my lap. I realized she hadn’t been walked that day and it was already ten o’clock at night. I asked my husband to do it, and he said he was waiting for a phone call. I asked my son, and he was right in the middle of a computer game. “Okay, Skye, you’re stuck with me” I told her. I don’t usually like to walk her after dark, but I figured I would just go around our block a few times.

I wrapped the leash around my wrist to keep her close to me, and we headed out. At the end of the block is a park where the pool and tennis courts are. We were just passing the parking lot, when I saw a dark shape dart across our path--a rabbit. The next thing I knew, I was airborne. Now, I don’t really understand how a seventy pound dog can pull a one hundred and twenty pound woman behind them like a kite, but I think it has something to do with drag and thrust, or some kind of physics thing. Skye stopped, and something I’m more familiar with, gravity, caused me to hit the ground hard. I heard a crunch.

I was laying there on my stomach, and I reached with my left hand, which still had the leash, to my right shoulder and I could feel my collar bone, which is supposed to be mostly horizontal, was now mostly vertical. I begged Skye not to move, and she sat about a foot from me. Every time I tried to get up, the pain in my shoulder increased. I lay motionless for a very long time, wondering how I get into these messes.

Five or ten minutes later, I saw my neighbor across the street come out his front door and start calling out for his cat. I yelled his name, and he looked out into the darkness. I identified myself to him and he headed in the direction of my voice. Now, what happened next is a real mystery to me. Skye is the kind of dog, who if confronted with a masked burglar breaking into our house, would go to get her ball to see if he would play. But, something instinctual must have kicked in, because as my neighbor approached, she growled and bared her teeth. We decided he should get my husband. Now, this next part is even more of a mystery. I could see my house from where I was, and my husband walked, not ran, chatting away, probably asking my neighbor if he knew of anyone thinking of selling or buying a house. Finally, they got to me and between the two of them; they managed to get me to our driveway, where I crumpled to the ground to wait for my husband to pull the car out of the garage.

My daughter came running out to see me, and it was great to have company, SINCE MY HUSBAND TOOK OVER TWENTY MINUTES. My daughter stopped worrying about me when I asked her to bring my purse outside so I could freshen up my lipstick before going to the emergency room. I mean, really, I was injured, not uncivilized! Finally, the garage door went up, and I got in the car. Turns out Hubby didn’t know what hospital to take me to, so he called our insurance man, who didn’t answer, and took fifteen minutes to call back. Good thing I wasn’t bleeding to death. We headed to the hospital….

Look for “NEVER Say Never! Part 2” coming soon…

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Child Rearing: Are There Lullabies in Lockdown?

I think we have established that I was never a candidate for Mother of the Year. But, in my own defense, I do believe that some of our children’s behavior is out of our hands.

After having my son, I did some research in order to determine how much time should pass before having another child. Okay, that’s a lie. I decided to have another child when my memory of childbirth went from “Holy Hell, I’m never doing that again!” to “It wasn’t that bad.” That took three and a half years.

During my second pregnancy, I gave my son as much attention as I could. I wanted him to feel secure, and not threatened by the arrival of a sister or brother. By the time my daughter was born, I was feeling pretty good about my efforts. On the day the doctor said she could start having visitors, I was amazed at my son’s behavior. He would greet our friends and family, introduce them to his new baby sister, give her a tender little kiss on her forehead, and go to his room to play.

After the last visitor left, I started gathering up the baby gifts, and my son came into the room and offered to take them upstairs to the nursery. I just beamed as I thought “This is my calling. Being a mother is what I do best." I went into the kitchen to wash some dishes.

When I came back into the living room, I noticed there was a leaf on the floor. One of my friends had brought a plant for the baby’s room. I looked around to see where it was, and my eyes went to the coffee table. Sitting there was the plant, or should I say what was left of the plant. Every single leaf had been cut off. Next to the naked stub of a plant was a pair of little scissors....shaped like a stork. Hmmm.

My instincts told me not to make a fuss about it. I was sure this was more about him being four, and less about the baby. Until, I went upstairs. One of the items my son volunteered to take to the baby’s room was a basket of bath products. I was stunned to see that he had shaken baby powder on every square inch of the room, including in the crib. The empty container sat on the changing table. It took four days of vacuuming to finally get rid of the powder. I couldn’t even bring the baby in there until the last of it was gone. My son’s explanation of why he did it? “I don’t know” was all he said.

Weeks later, with no further problems, I was convinced that whatever aggression my son felt, he had dealt with it. He was back to his sweet self. My daughter was in her infant seat, my son was lying on the floor pushing around a little toy car, and I was folding laundry. “What a perfect little family I have,” I thought. I went downstairs to get another load of laundry out of the dryer, and I heard the baby start to cry. “What happened?” I yelled up to my son. “I don’t know, she just started crying!” I ran back upstairs. My son was still pushing the car around, and there in the middle of my daughter’s forehead was a perfect little red handprint. “Okay, this is serious” I thought, and called the pediatrician.

“This sounds pretty normal to me,” he assured me, but suggested I don’t leave them in a room alone together. “Have you ever had a case where one child really hurts the other?” “No, never” was his answer and I breathed a little easier. “Except the once.” And there was a long pause. “I did have an older brother stab his younger brother with a fork.”

I got light-headed. I tried to remember if there was a chapter on murder in any of the child-rearing books I had read. I couldn’t recall ever seeing a handcuffed four-year-old being led to a police car and then strapped into a booster seat. I thought of the Clue game I played as a child. It was Junior in the nursery with the stork scissors.

It was that day that I grew a second pair of eyes in the back of my head. I am happy to say there were no more “incidents” and brother and sister learned to peacefully co-exist. So well, that after a few years we started using real silverware again.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What if Facebook was Real?

I think we would all agree that the world of Facebook is an amazing place. It has so many great features to offer, I think we tend to tolerate the negatives. But, what if Facebook became our real world? How much would we tolerate then?

It’s ten o’clock, and my day is winding down. I’m trying to catch the newest episode of Hoarders, when there is a knock at the door. I answer it and an old colleague is standing there.

“Well, this is a surprise” I say. “Is everything okay with you?”
“I know it’s late, but I just had to share my news. My wife and I were playing Scrabble tonight and I had my highest score ever! I knew you’d want to know!”
“Hmm…that’s great. Thank you for sharing.”

I close the door and sit back down just in time to see the second dead cat pulled out of the hoarder’s house. Yuck… The phone rings.

“Hello friend, I just wanted to invite you to a webinar on implementing sinuous boondogles into your business.”
“Uh…no thanks.”

I hang up. The hoarder is sobbing over a piece of thread that was accidently thrown out. The doorbell rings. The guy who dumped me in high school is now standing on my front porch.

He smiles his still-wicked smile and asks “Do you have something you want to say to me?”
“Not really” and I slam the door shut.

This time I don’t even have a chance to sit down, and there is a knock. A stranger is at my door.

“May I help you?”
“Hi there, I sure hope so. I’ve lost my yak and I wondered if you would distribute flyers to help me find it?”
“I don’t know…it’s kind of late.”

I slam the door shut, just in time to hear my cell phone ring.

“Hi, I wanted to know what time book club is meeting tomorrow night.”
“Do I know you?”
“Sure, my stepsister gets her hair done by a woman whose cousin plays softball with your daughter’s ex-roommate. Should I bring some wine?”

I snap my phone shut. This time I just walk to my front door and open it. The guy who gave me a home loan fifteen years ago reaches towards me and sticks a finger in my belly.

“What the heck was that?” I demand to know, and he runs off.

This is too much! I dial 911 and explain what just happened.

“Oh, so what you’re saying is he “poked” you? That’s not against the law. I’m sure he was just being friendly.”
“Yeah, well it felt like menacing poking to me!”

I give up. I finally sit back down just in time to see the hoarder reunited with her husband who left her three years ago, though she only noticed last week he was gone. Dang it, there’s the doorbell again. The guy who dumped me in high school is back.

He asks the same question “Do you have something you want to say to me?”

So, thank goodness Facebook isn’t real. It isn’t real, right? I'm just not sure. Should I start a group for people who are asking this same question? Yeah, that's what I'll do! I better go now…I have to write five hundred and seventy eight invitations!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Stuff-less in Denver

There was a movie that came out in the ‘80s called “The Right Stuff.” The title was referring to what the Mercury 7 astronauts were made of. These were exceptionally brave men, calm, cool, and dependable in the most dangerous situations. Well, if a movie was made about me in the ‘80s, it would be called “The Wrong Stuff” or better yet “No Stuff.” Let me explain.

The year was 1986. At a routine checkup with the pediatrician, it was discovered that my two year old daughter had a cyst in her neck. Though completely benign, it was recommended she have it surgically removed to prevent it from growing bigger and interfering with her swallowing.

The day of her surgery, we arrived at the hospital very early in the morning. It was tough knowing how much to tell her, but my husband and I did our best. I’ll never forget the sight of her being wheeled away from us, flashing her big trusting smile while clutching the little stuffed cat we had given her the night before.

I was a basket case, pacing up and down the halls waiting for word from the surgeon. Finally, after two hours, he came out to give us the news that everything went as planned. She would be in recovery for awhile yet, so he suggested we go to the cafeteria and grab some breakfast, and by the time we were done, she would be back in her room.

I was so relieved, and could finally relax for the first time in days. I was actually hungry, and after eating a very large breakfast, we headed to our daughter’s room. I had it all pictured in my head. She would be lying there asleep like a little angel, and her eyes would flutter as she became aware that we were in the room. She would give us a weak smile and pull her kitty closer.

What I wasn’t ready for was a very unhappy two year old, kicking and screaming the moment she saw us. I tried to calm her down, but her eyes were just wild. Before I had a chance to grab her arms, she reached up to her throat and tore off the bandages. Okay, I thought, now my breakfast is going to come up. I yelled for my husband to hold her because I was going to be sick. Well, I was almost to the bathroom, when apparently I blacked out, cracking my head on a sink as I went down. According to what they told me later, my husband was so confused which of us needed him more, he just stood in the middle of the room with his hands on his head. A nurse heard my daughter screaming and came to help. I’m sure she was wondering why mom was snoozing on the floor.

Now, when I finally came to, I thought I had been hit by a car and was lying on the side of a road. I had no recollection of being in a hospital at all. I just kept saying “I’ve been hit, someone help me.” But finally, my daughter’s screams cut through the fog, and I opened my eyes to the sight of a hospital room ceiling. By this time, I had acquired my own nurse, and she helped me up to a sitting position. One look at the back of my head, and she called for help to get me to the emergency room. Wasn’t that convenient? I was already in the hospital when I became injured.

I was put in a wheelchair and off we went. Nurse Blabbermouth had to tell everyone we passed what had happened. “Is this the fainting mom?” the emergency room nurse asked, as a small crowd gathered to gawk at me. It took twelve stitches to sew my head back up. I could only guess at the amount of brain damage I had sustained. I just knew that the part of my brain that felt humiliation was completely intact.

My daughter was sent home, and I was given an appointment to come back in a week to get the stitches out. So, am I made of the right stuff? No, I don't think so….because, quite frankly, there is something wrong with my stuff.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Dog Made Me Do It!

I’ve certainly had a lot of pets over the years, but I’ve also had my share of run-ins with wild animals, too. One example is when a prairie dog managed to get trapped in our fenced-in back yard. I had no idea how he got in, but I watched for hours as he tried to get back out. I knew I had to step in to help when he fell into the five foot deep window well.

My inner MacGyver came out as I devised a plan to get him out. I needed a box and a length of rope. I ran to the garage, found the right size box, and started searching for rope. Nothing. I could hear my father saying “What kind of man doesn’t have rope in his garage?” Dad had rope, twine, string, cord, wire, and chain all in various lengths and thicknesses. I was wondering what kind of man, too, as I grabbed my daughter’s jump rope out of desperation. I attached one end to the box itself, and the other to one of the flaps, and lowered it down into the window well. Using a broom, I nudged the little guy into the box and pulled the flap closed. I pulled the box up and tied the rope around the box. Now what, I wondered. I decided to release him on the golf course which surrounded our neighborhood. That meant putting him in my car.

So, prairie dog and I were driving up a hill, when he decided to pop his head out of the box. I screamed, and not wanting to get bitten, I groped around under my seat until I found an ice scraper, which I used to slam the lid closed. This was getting ridiculous, I thought. I just wanted to save the guy, not play whack-a-mole in my Lexus. Thankfully, there was no traffic, as I knew I had crossed the center line several times. Finally, I saw some fellow prairie dogs on the side of the hill. He was happy to be released, and it felt good to watch him run off. On the way home, I started imagining what could have happened…

“Ma’am, do you know why I pulled you over?”
“No, Officer…I know I wasn’t speeding.”
“No, but you were driving erratically. Have you been drinking today, Ma’am?”
“No, I haven’t been drinking. It’s because of the prairie dog.”
“Ma’am, if you swerved to avoid hitting an animal, you wouldn’t be careening for half a mile.”
“Oh, the prairie dog wasn’t in the road.”
“It wasn’t… and just where was it?”
“In my passenger seat.”
“In your…ma’am, I think it’s very dangerous to pick up a wild animal on the side of the road.”
“Yes, I’m sure it would be, but he wasn’t on the side of the road….he was at my house.”
“I’m almost afraid to ask, but what was he doing at your house?”
“I have no idea.”
I would tell him the entire story. He would stand there looking at me incredulously.
“Ma’am, I’m not going to give you a ticket, but that is an unbelievable story.”
“I know.”
He would shake his head, back away towards his car, still looking at me.
“Unbelievable…you say your husband has no rope in his garage.”
“I know…isn’t it crazy?”

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Have You Slept With Your CPA Today?

No, it's not a bumper sticker like "Have you hugged your kid today?" I just wondered if others were sleeping with their CPA, because I am. And it's worked out really well. I haven't had to pay to have my taxes done in six years.

Now, before you make any hasty judgments about me, I want you to know that my accountant is the only person I am sleeping with. I'm not sleeping with the cable guy or my drycleaner. If my only goal was to save money, I would be sleeping with my mechanic and my dentist.

Having been in a close relationship with a CPA for six years now, I have made a few discoveries. Did you know that during tax season they often work 12-18 hour days, seven days a week? Were you aware that October 15th is fast becoming as big a deadline as April 15th? And that for a full service accountant, preparing tax returns is only a small portion of what they do? OK, I'm done quizzing you.

My CPA has clients who own multi-million dollar businesses. When I asked him one day, whose return was the most difficult or time consuming, he replied "Yours.” Now, how could that be? My income is consistently in the four figure range! I always have the majority of my bank and credit card statements. I have a Quickbooks icon on my computer desktop! Sometimes, I even open it!

But, then the memory of last year comes flooding back. The phone this one:
"Elaine, according to your records, no one paid you after August, is this true?"
"Oh, I'm sure that's not true, I would have noticed that."
"Then, why do you have seventeen outstanding invoices?"
"Oh, I guess I got so busy I forgot to enter it when I got paid. Would chicken be okay for dinner tonight?" (Not so clever attempt to distract him, since between January and April 15th, the only meal we share is dinner on Valentine's Day)

I have this recurring nightmare that starts around the end of February every year. I come home one day to find all my belongings packed in a suitcase (you know this is a dream if all my belongings fit in one suitcase). He says he doesn't love me anymore. Sobbing, I drag my suitcase to the waiting taxi (apparently, I don't own a car in this dream either) and I turn to look at him one last time. His lips part, and I think he's going to tell me it's all a mistake, that he can't live without me, that I'm the only person in the world for him. "Oh yeah," he shouts from the front porch, "and good luck finding someone to do your taxes!"

So, maybe sleeping with your CPA isn't possible for everyone, but the least you should do is give your CPA a hug. Not because they work incredibly long hours, not because they don't see the light of day for six months out of the year, not because they have to deal with the IRS on a regular basis...but, because they may be sleeping with someone like me.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pets-How NOT to Damage a Child for Life Part Two

There have been very few times in my life when I have been at a loss for words. Quite often my responses are not very intelligent, but I still come up with something. Here are two examples when my brain and mouth abandoned me:

Many years ago (pre-hamsters) I took my kids to the pet store and let them each pick out a fish. My son chose a black one and my daughter chose an orange one. I told them they could pick out names for their fish, and with no hesitancy (and little imagination) my son shouted out “Blacky!” My daughter’s face was blank, so I asked her if she knew the difference between people names and pet names. She replied “I think so.” A few hours later, she came up to me with a big grin on her face. I asked her if she had a name and she said “Fluffy!”

So, Blacky and Fluffy lived together in a fish bowl in my son’s room. One day, while the kids were at school, I was doing some last minute cleaning before the bus dropped them off. I was coming down the stairs and I noticed some spots on the entryway floor, which was odd because I had just cleaned it an hour before. I bent over and picked up a piece to examine it closer. It was less than an inch long, thin, almost like paper, black, and had lines through it. What the heck, I thought, as I picked up another piece. This piece was similar to the first, except it was orange.

OH…MY…GOD!!! I was holding fish fins, and still remaining on the floor were two fish tails! Then I noticed the puddle of water, and little wet footprints on the stairs. I followed them right to my son’s room, where an empty fish bowl sat, the screen cover on the floor, and water everywhere. Apparently, cat met fish and fish lost. By all indications, Blacky and Fluffy had put up a valiant fight, but they didn’t stand a chance. I hadn’t even bought them a little castle to hide in. As I stood there, still holding the last remains of my children’s pets, I heard the school bus. In a frenzy, I mopped up all the water with a towel, gave the remains a burial at sea (you know what I mean) and jumped on the couch and grabbed a book. My head spun as I tried to think of a way to tell them that their beloved fish had been devoured by their beloved cat. They walked in the door, laughing and smiling. I watched with dread as they went upstairs. Minutes later, my son called down…

”Mom, where are the fish?”

Fishing season ended in our house, and hamster season began. Hamster number three for my daughter was a cute little Golden named Peaches. All was well with her, until one day we noticed a bald spot on her back. We didn’t get alarmed until more bald spots showed up, and her bare little hamster skin looked red and irritated. My daughter was adamant, “Mama, she needs to go to the vet.” Apparently, a hamster patient was rare, because we got a whole lot of attention when we brought her in. The vet was wonderful as he performed a thorough examination under the watchful eyes of my daughter. We left with no definitive diagnosis, just a bottle of drops, and some skin cream. He also provided me with rubber gloves to wear whenever I handled her. Over the next few weeks, I donned the gloves three times a day, picked Peaches up, administered the drops, and gently applied cream to her sores. All I can say is patient and nurse developed a strong bond.

Unfortunately, her condition continued to deteriorate. One day, when there wasn’t much life left in her, I picked her up and she bit me. The plastic glove was no protection, and she left me with a little break in the skin. “It’s okay, girl, I don’t blame you” I told her. By the next morning, we found her under her bedding, her bright little hamster eyes never to open again. I was devastated. Laura was sad, I was devastated.

I called the vet, with my daughter by my side, to tell him Peaches was gone. When I mentioned I had been bitten, he got very concerned. He said that rabies was not common in hamsters, but there have been cases. I asked him what I should do. He told me that the hamster needed to be tested, and I should bring her in. “Sure, I can do that.” And then he said five words I will never forget. “I only need the head.” I froze as these words sunk in. Stunned, I hung up the phone. My daughter looked up at me, all big-eyed and innocent, and asked…

“What did he say, Mama?”

NOTE: Of course, I couldn’t chop Peaches’ head off. I wrapped her in a handkerchief, zipped her up in plastic and placed her into the cryogenic chamber in my kitchen. I delivered her the next day, in one piece, to the vet’s office. And no, I didn't get rabies.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pets-How To Damage A Child For Life Part One

At a recent follow-up visit to our vet, I mentioned to him that our little dog was jealous because our big dog was getting drops in his eyes. His suggestion? Give the little dog “pretend” eye drops. Well, I thought, I’ve done stranger things than that, and it got me thinking about other unusual pet experiences I’ve had over the years.

During a moment of temporary insanity, I agreed to get both kids hamsters. Little did I know that I had opened the door to years of joy and intense sorrow. My son was fairly practical—once his hamster died, he would decide if it was worth the work to get another one. I think he had a total of two.

My daughter was a whole different story. Each furry little death caused torrential tears, a brief but adequate mourning period, and then the predictable begging for another one. I admit that when she looked up at me with her big blue eyes, it was just a matter of finding the car keys.

All her hamster’s names started with P, and one day I had a brilliant idea about her hamster Penny. My son’s hamster was a male—you can see where I’m going with this—and what a great life-lesson it would be for my children to experience the miracle of birth! My son chose to play outside during the get-acquainted period, but my daughter didn’t want to miss a minute. After a quick phone call to the pet store to make sure they were willing to take the babies, I prepared Penny for her date. I slipped a piece of cardboard into her contemporary glass house (fish tank) separating it into two spaces. We placed my son’s hamster, Digger, so he was on the other side of the partition from Penny. Slowly, we raised the cardboard so the two could meet. Immediately, both hamsters reared up into standing positions, and claws out and teeth bared, they entered into an ugly dance of violence, fur and blood flying everywhere. I screamed, my daughter’s eyes got bigger than I had ever seen them, and grabbing the cardboard, I managed to separate them. My daughter asked, in a shaky little voice “They don’t like each other, do they?”

Well, the lesson of this story is when you get a hamster at the pet store and they tell you whether it is a girl or a boy hamster, they are really just guessing. Penny became Petey, both hamsters healed up nicely, but I’m sure my daughter’s scars will last a lifetime.

Don’t miss Pets--How To Damage A Child For Life Part 2!