Category Archives: Anxiety

Yikes! I’ve Been Hacked!

I’ve been hacked. Granted, it’s not as devastating as being hacked up by some Charles Manson-like maniac, but it still makes me fall to pieces.

Some worm of an individual slithered into my iMac and stole possibly all of the 679 email addresses in my list of contacts, including my ex-husband, doctors I no longer see, parents of the children in my 15-year old daughter’s preschool class, and even the emails of my nephew, my Godmother, and my cousin’s daughter who have passed away, but I don’t have the heart to delete them yet.

I found out that my contacts had been infiltrated when I saw that within five minutes I had apparently sent out enough emails to garner 24 failure notices. And these were just the ones that hadn’t been sent.

Apparently all my friends (and of course contacts that weren’t necessarily friends) were sent an email reputedly by me. The subject line was RE or — and greetings included Hey, thanks for your wishes!, How are you feeling today?, and hello dear friend among others with poor grammar, punctuation and spelling. Each email provided a link that started with words like green, jewelry, infotech, and the oddest one: maninamall. This variety of links all led to the same website, supposedly called Consumer Career Trends. This site features a bogus-looking news article entitled “Work at Home Mum Makes $10,397/Month Part-Time” which basically upsells a scam called the Home Cash System. I feel a little slimy even talking about it in my blog because I don’t want to promote it. Even negative advertising is still advertising.  But if you ever mistakenly land on this site, leave immediately.

Easier said than done. If by some tragic chance the recipients click on the link and try to exit, they are given an official-looking four paragraph message:

If they click the OK button, they are given a second message which asks:

I doubt you get these cryptic messages from ebay or Amazon.com. My guess is that the same slimy worm who infiltrated my list is trying to buy as much time as possible to gain access into my friends’ contact files.

The hackers are getting smarter. They used to leave the subject line blank, but now they often write a topic that’s worthy of clickage. My counterfeit email even had a little saying at the end which initially looked like words of wisdom from Mahatma Gandhi or Jesus or Homer Simpson. But it turned out to be a random sentence, which after some investigation I found was from a book entitled Radio Boys Cronies, available for free on the Internet through Project Gutenberg. Talk about random.

I feel so violated, and yet this kind of thing happens all the time these days. I receive an email like this about once a week – usually from somebody I haven’t heard from in years.  It’s a nuisance, but we tolerate it.

This got me thinking about what would happen if instead of a virtual hacker job, the perpetrators sent out a real one. This is what it might look like (Sorry for the inaccurate formatting. I can’t figure out margins in WordPress):

FADE IN.

INT. LISA’S ENTRYWAY – DAY

(The DOORBELL RINGS. Cathy’s friend LISA opens the door to a BEARDED MAN (HACKER) with a name tag that reads “CATHY FLYNN.”)

HACKER

Greetings Sir or Madam!

LISA

Actually I’m a woman.

(to herself)

I knew I should have let my hair grow out!

HACKER

I am your friend Cathy Flynn.

LISA

I’m Cathy’s friend and I would know if she had a sex change operation. And if she did, she definitely wouldn’t grow a beard.

HACKER

My name tag say Cathy Flynn. I be Cathy Flynn.

LISA

English is Cathy’s first language. It doesn’t sound like it’s yours.

HACKER

How are you?

(hands Lisa a business card)

Let us get down to business.

(Lisa reluctantly takes the business card. She SCREAMS.)

LISA

Ahhhh! It burns! I knew I shouldn’t have taken anything from you!

HACKER

You too can make over $4,000 a month with the Home Cash System!

(Lisa’s hand turns red. Red creeps up her arm and through the rest of her body. Then a HUNDRED RED STREAKS RACE out of her body and into the back doors of all the neighbors in her community. SCREAMS pour from all the homes.)

HACKER

This be my closing: “One small step for man. Oh giant limb for man’s kind.”

LISA

That sounds a little pornographic.

HACKER

This be good. Link from you to your friends be for Viagra.

(The Hacker strolls down the porch steps and heads for the next home.)

FADE OUT.

2 Comments

Filed under Anxiety, Friends, Humor, Parenting, Parody

Too Much Poop in the Pipes

What goes down... must come up?

In today’s tough economic times I am lucky to experience pride of ownership, but there are days when I wish I could just call the super to fix the broken (fill in the blank) without pulling out my checkbook.

The latest fill-in-the-blank started about a month ago when I noticed remnants of the garbage disposal drain regurgitating into the adjoining kitchen sink. I assumed that my husband was forcing large pieces of vegetables down the drain rather than discarding them into the green bin. I wanted to call him lazy for not taking the 30 foot walk outside, but I really like it when he cooks, so I figured I’d keep my big eco-friendly mouth shut.

A few days later, the bathroom toilet started clogging so often that the plunger made itself a permanent home next to the royal throne. I blamed it on my son Jake who refuses to eat anything except hot dogs and chicken nuggets. I know he’s only 5 years old and I am the mommy, but I have to pick and choose my battles, and forcing him to eat his dinner vegetables is the battle he seems to be winning. At least he does his homework without a fight.

Then the tub began to clog on a regular basis, and I feared that there was a pussy cat-sized ball of hair clogging the pipe. I would love to have blamed that blockage on one of my daughters, but Mary still has her boy-length hairstyle, and although like me, Emily dyes her hair red, I suspect that the hairball was made up of long red hair with two-inch gray roots.

The final straw came last Monday when I started hearing gurgling sounds in the bathroom. The bubbling was coming from the toilet, and although it sounded like a 5-gallon Sparkletts bottle dispensing H2O, somehow I just knew that whatever liquid was making that sound was not going to be especially pure and fresh. A few seconds later the toilet flushed itself – or rather the water shot down and disappeared into the tank for a moment, then reappeared as murky grey muck. It reminded me of the redneck singing the The Beverly Hillbillies main title theme:

And up through the ground came a bubblin’ crude.

Oil, that is.

Black gold.

Texas tea.

I suspected that unlike Jed Clampett, I wasn’t about to become a millionaire, although it might be likely that this bubblin’ crude was going to cost a million dollars to fix.

That’s the moment that I should have heeded the kinfolk’s advice when they told ol’ Jed to “move away from there,” because that crude-colored feculence nearly spilled right over the toilet rim.

I started screaming for my husband, because that’s what we delicate women do when a river of excrement is about to pour on our manicured toes. Although it was already past his bedtime (he goes to work at the ungodly hour of 6:00 am), he grabbed a flashlight and trekked out to the backyard to investigate the trap. Apparently the “trap” is the lovely place where all the household drains come together, then uniformly flow toward the city sewage line. The trap is kind of like happy hour at a bar where tramps and sleaze balls meet and at closing time make a beeline to the community fleabag hotel. And like that very busy, very sleazy bar, this trap was packed solid.

The next day I checked Angie’s List and found New-Pipe Plumbing & Rooter, the same business that installed our new copper plumbing six years ago. They also donated a gift certificate to the Colfax Charter Elementary School Silent Auction that I worked on last year, so I figured it was good karma to throw a little business their way.

Benny the Plumber ran a camera through the pipe, and my husband watched as roots attacked it like the Whomping Willow tree in the Harry Potter series.  We also had a seam where roots had shifted one of the adjoining pipes halfway downward, leaving a gaping root-filled hole and half the volume available for sewage drainage. Benny gave us three options:

1. Clear the drain with gas hydro jet for $714

2. Repair the broken section of the cracked pipe for $1723

3. Install all new sewage pipes for $5,000

It would be hard to come up with $714, nearly impossible to scrape together $1723, and we would be dreaming in La La Land to think we could afford the price of a used automobile. I told the plumber we’d do the $1723 fix. He politely advised me that he would be happy to do it, but because our home and pipes are 82 years old, that we’ll eventually be calling him again for the same fix on another section of pipe.

I contemplated crying. Then he reminded me that Angie’s List gave me a 10% discount, and that I would get another 10% discount for being part of the Colfax family. If we could do the major fix it would only cost $4,000.

The cost was still impossible.

And then I looked up at our brand new roof. That was impossible too, and yet we were spending a winter without a tarp over our heads and buckets throughout the house. How did we pay for that when our savings was nil? (You can read about that little adventure in my blog “Raising (the Cash for) My Debt Ceiling”).

Cash advance credit cards.

I pulled out one of the dozen or so offers we get each month as a reward for our good credit score. I found the one that advertised 0% until May 2013 with just a 3% fee.

I wrote the check. The plumbers came minutes later with their trenchless pipe-laying equipment and hardworking shovelers who obviously don’t need to spent their off-hours at the gym. And by nightfall, we were granted a 101-year warranty and got the A-OK to drain our human pipes into the new buried pipe.

Today I can run the dishwasher or the washing machine, turn on the faucets to the tub, shower, and kitchen and bathrooms sinks, and flush a toilet filled with the aftermath of the most humongous Thanksgiving meal, and rest assured that the remnants will not be making a reappearance up another drain like some verminous whack a mole game.

As for the money… the 0% $11,700 roof bill will start charging 15.99% interest in April. We’ve managed to pay off some of the balance, but the bulk of it will come from yet another 0% interest credit card and this year’s tax refund. That refund amount is sizable due to our insanely large mortgage payment.

Just another example of pride of ownership.

14 Comments

Filed under Anxiety, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Humor, Husband, Parenting

Why My Husband Scares the Crap Out of Our Kids: Football

"I have been rather naughty"

My husband Tom is a pretty mellow fellow. Nothing fazes him much. He has the kind of job where everyone calls him when something goes wrong and he’s the guy who has to find the right person to fix it. If that right person flakes out (which happens often) Tom is the murdered messenger. Yet he still rarely loses his cool.

Tom didn’t get mad at me when I broke a hole in the bathroom sink, or yell at Jake when he drew all over our coffee table in Sharpie, or chew out Mary when she cut her own hair, or lose his patience when Emily comes up with yet another ridiculous teen angst comment. But there’s one thing that really gets his blood boiling enough to scream bloody murder:

Football.

Tom spent all day yesterday watching football. Apparently there were two playoff games – the Ravens vs. the Patriots and the Giants vs. the 49ers. As a sports novice, I imagine that it would be a no-brainer. With everyone abuzz about the Republican primaries, Patriots would certainly squash any bird (definitely Ravens, but probably not Bald Eagles) and I picture someone akin to Jack in the Beanstalk’s 100 foot Giant stomping out a bunch of old men with bad backs panning for gold.

Tom was rooting for the Ravens, and although he usually goes for the Niners (apparently this is the lingo for Forty-niners), he likes the coach for the Giants. (If you’re reading this blog, Tom… see? I do listen to you sometimes. Or did I get it backwards?).

He has been warning the family for weeks that during the playoffs we’d better stay out of the living room and not bother him. This was going to be his day to park himself in front of the tv and enjoy the games.

I need a new definition of the word “enjoy.”

Throughout the afternoon, Tom was screaming. “Go! Go! Go, dammit!” He was also dropping the F-Bomb a lot. Correction. Not dropping the F-Bomb. He was literally hurling it through the air like a cannonball exploding from Big Bertha. Not just once. Several times throughout the day. This from a guy who seldom curses.

When we were first dating, the girls and I were invited to a Superbowl party at his house. Emily was 8 and Mary was 4 and they didn’t know Tom well yet. He had offered to help Emily with a class project during halftime.

Everyone in her 3rd grade class had to build a musical instrument and Emily decided on a harp. God help me. I didn’t know the first thing about how to construct a harp. Tom was handy with tools and had his own power saw. He told us what kind of wood and screws to purchase at Home Depot, so while other guests walked in with chips and seven layer dips, we entered with extra long 2x4s and a baggie filled with bolts.

Superbowl began, and I immediately realized that the sweet man I had been dating was magically transformed into a madman just by adding football to the mix. Tom spent the game pacing and squirming uncontrollably like a dog about to give birth to a boatload of puppies. Then with no warning whatsoever, he jumped up screaming and cursing at the television set.

“Go! Go! Go, dammit! Move, you f@%$ing tool!”

I had heard about such men, but I’d never seen one in action.

My girls were terrified, and frankly so was I. How could a bunch of steroid-laden goons in helmets and padding bumping into each other at great speeds have such an effect on my beau? Would his maniacal anger continue through halftime? Could I trust him in the garage with power tools and my little angel when he was threatening to murder an entire team?

I shouldn’t have been concerned. As soon as the whistle blew for halftime, Tom was back to his normal sweet, mild-mannered self. Which was comforting because Emily and I were literally shaking in our boots.

Flash forward to 7 years later. We’ve been married for 6 years and have added our 5-year old son Jake into the family. Tom still shrieks at those football players for not doing what they’re told – as if he has a direct line from our little house in LA straight to a megaphone on the San Francisco football field.

The kids are used to the screaming by now, and know that it only happens on Sunday afternoons (and Monday nights, and occasionally Thursday nights. Apparently football is on way more often than I would like). The decibel level of Tom’s caterwaul seems to be directly proportional to the number of athletes on the field who are on his fantasy football team. If the kids’ friends come over, we have to warn them in advance that Tom will not be killing anyone, and he’s probably not yelling at them. That is, unless they wander in front of the tv set.

I know there are other men and women out there who spend Sundays screaming at their big screens, just as there are non-sports-loving spouses and partners who invest in either earplugs or an afternoon excursion far, far away from the game. For us, what is our football equivalent?

I am the dialogue editor for the television show Once Upon a Time on ABC, Sunday nights at 8:00. I’m also a big fan. What would be the reaction of our sports-obsessed mates if we all started screaming, “Just kiss her, David! Mary Margaret is your true love!” or “Don’t make that deal with Rumplestiltskin, Emma! The price is too steep!” or “C’mon, Storybrooke! Can’t you all see that the mayor is really the Evil Queen?”

From my experience, the spouses won’t have any reaction. They’ll be too busy screaming at the game that just went into overtime.

13 Comments

Filed under Anxiety, Humor, Husband, Parenting, Public Schools, Teenagers

From Pageant Contestant to Judge: What I Wish I Knew 30 Years Ago

Here I am as a contestant in the 1982 Miss Brea Pageant

Thirty years ago, I was a contestant in the Miss Brea Pageant, the local preliminary that leads to the Miss America Pageant. I fancied myself as a songwriter, and I had this grand idea that if I could climb my way to a televised performance at the state or national level, millions of people would hear my song and some popular singer like Sheena Easton or Olivia Newton-John would turn it into a huge hit.

Forget the fact that I just had a so-so singing voice or that my song was a terribly depressing ballad about time running away from me (funny how I still keep singing that same tune as a very busy mom). But it definitely was not in the vein of those Miss America standards New York, New York or Don’t Rain on My Parade. There was also the big stumbling block that I had zero self esteem, poor communication skills, and to top it off, another contestant bought my same evening gown in a better color.

No, I didn’t win. I wasn’t even one of the runner ups. However, I did win Miss Congeniality, a title for which I am extremely proud, although that sounds like a contradiction since one would expect Miss Congeniality to be a little more humble.

My problem was, I was in it for me – my fame and a chance for people to look at me and tell me I was pretty. I wanted my moment. And although that seems to be the goal of every reality show star these days, that hedonistic attitude runs completely counter to the ideal of Miss America.

Here it is 30 years later, and today (yes… today: Saturday, January 7, 2012) I have the honor of  being one of the judges at the Miss Placentia/Miss Yorba Linda Outstanding Teen Pageant, the younger version of the pageant I was in. Located in Northeast Orange County, both these cities were my home from age 11 to 18, so it is heartwarming to return to a place that holds so many memories.

Now that I’m older, I wish I could tell my younger self that the pageant wasn’t supposed to be about chasing fame and compliments. Although some people mistakenly refer to it as a beauty contest, it is actually a scholarship pageant, and the world’s largest provider of scholarship assistance for young women. The winners are ambassadors of their communities, and as such they are poised, intelligent, good conversationalists, altruistic, and of course beautiful and talented.

A few weeks ago, I received a packet of information about each of the 13 candidates, and without having met them yet, they already blow my socks off.

The girls are all great students who have won a variety of awards for academics and talent. But the most impressive aspect of today’s Miss Teen Pageant is that contestants must choose a philanthropic platform in which they would focus their efforts if they win the title. Some of theirs include animal cruelty, teen addiction, dyslexia, homelessness, and the Red Cross. They all seem passionate in their convictions and have dedicated themselves to causes that are close to their hearts.

I don’t remember having a charitable platform in 1982. I think it would be another decade before I would regularly donate to a charity.

The bios also include a marketing plan to promote their platform, and a description of what they would want their legacy to be if chosen. I am amazed that girls aged 13 to 17 are capable of putting such lofty aspirations into words. I don’t recall having to write such a testimonial, but if I had when I was a 19-year old contestant, it verbally would have sounded like: “Uh… uhuh… uhuhuh…”

Like many young girls who grew up watching the Miss America Pageant, I only dreamed of being the winner, yet there are more than 12,000 young women who are contestants, and nearly all of them walk away without the bouquet of roses in their arms. Those who do win at their local level will compete for their state, and 99 percent of them will come home with new experiences, but not the title. However, they will be very busy finishing their reign by serving as ambassadors: promoting their charitable platforms, appearing at the openings of new businesses, visiting children’s hospitals, and generally helping to serve the needs of their communities.

It was a wonderful experience to participate in the pageant as a contestant 30 years ago, but I was naïve, selfish and insecure. It has taken me three decades to develop just some of the traits required of the teens I will be meeting today. I am looking forward to spending time with these beautiful young ladies who I know will be able to teach me a thing or two.

20 Comments

Filed under Anxiety, Humor, Volunteering

Amateur Night

Sober alcoholics have a nickname for New Year’s Eve: Amateur Night.

It’s when the normies (what those same sober people call normal drinkers) who usually have a glass or two of wine when they go out to dinner or a few brewskies in front of a ball game go out for one night of the year, start drinking over dinner, continue for the rest of the night, then pop open a bottle of champagne at midnight. The next morning they’ve cancelled their trip to see the local parade, and instead they’re moaning in bed and racing to the bathroom every 15 minutes to puke their guts out.

Then they make their first New Year’s resolution that they will most likely break before year’s end: never again.

Sometimes they’ll do a shorter version of the same song and dance on St. Patrick’s Day with the green beer, or on Cinco de Mayo with a few pitchers of margaritas. There’s a good reason that the Highway Patrol works overtime with extra sobriety checkpoints on these holidays. It’s because of the amateurs.

I was invited to a New Year’s Eve party with old friends I was looking forward to seeing, but ended up at another bash with a bunch of my daughter’s friends and their parents who have all become good friends of mine. Definitely a quality problem being invited to two parties on the same night. Everyone should be so lucky on New Year’s Eve.

As someone who used to drink a lot but no longer drinks at all, New Year’s Eve can sometimes be a little uncomfortable, unless of course I’m staying home – which my husband did. He’s had a week-long ear and sinus infection and if I dragged him to the party, I know he’d be tapping his watch at me before 9:00, and that wouldn’t be fun for either of us. So he was the one who stayed home, and yet he was also uncomfortable. Double bummer for him.

The party was a potluck, and it was a smorgasbord of everything from pizza to lox to brownies to potstickers. Of course the kids woofed down the pizza and baked goods, and about 18 of them were running around, jumping on the trampoline, dancing in unison with the Wii, and blowing horns well before midnight.

There were 10 couples chatting about what it’s like to be new middle school parents, how we spent the holidays, and the new movies that came out this week. A good amount of wine and champagne was being poured (for the adults – not the kids), and yet I don’t think one grownup became even slightly blitzed. The kids and I toasted with Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider, while the majority of their parents clinked with champagne, and it took a good ten minutes to get around to hugging everyone after shouting “Happy New Year!” No one picked a fight, made a pass at someone else’s spouse, passed out, or loudly slurred the phrase, “I am not drunk!”

I’m quite sure my friends didn’t make a quick u-turn in the middle of the street when they saw the flashing lights signaling a sobriety checkpoint or throw up in their shoes. And my guess is that they’re waking up this morning a little later than usual (after being up well past midnight) and they’re bright eyed and bushy tailed enough to cook their kids a stack of New Year’s Day pancakes.

I was thinking of writing my New Year’s resolutions for today’s blog, but I figured every other blogger in America was doing that. I’m just glad that one of my resolutions is no longer to quit waking up with a hangover. I haven’t had one in over 16 years. And the added bonus of that is that I have found some wonderful friends who are responsible drinkers even on New Year’s Eve, and don’t care that I’m toasting with Martinelli’s.

6 Comments

Filed under Anxiety, Friends, Humor, Husband, Illness, Parenting

Red heads have more fun

I finally dyed my hair last night.

I don’t have the time or money to do it the right way – sitting for two hours in a vinyl chair reading a weekly magazine featuring a bunch of 20-somethings I’ve never head of since I don’t watch reality tv. Someday I dream of being flush, with time on my hands and I will have a standing appointment every five weeks with Jennifer at Suburbia Salon. I will be one happy woman.

Instead, I stock up red hair dye when it’s on sale and buy even more when I have a coupon. Every month or so, my grey roots start rearing their ugly heads on my hopefully-not-so-ugly head.  After putting the kids to bed, I throw on my old dye-covered tank top and boxer shorts, put on the cheapest plastic gloves ever made and start soaking those roots.

The problem is, I’ve now had shingles for seven weeks, and my scalp is still burning. I assume that hair dye is a big no-no since the last thing you should throw on a burning scalp is ammonia.

Since last week when I was finally well enough to get out, I’ve been hiding three months of grey roots under a Santa hat, but now that Christmas is over, it’s kind of like floating that heart-shaped mylar Valentine’s Day balloon well after the Easter bunny has delivered his goodies. It just looks sad and desperate.

So I was extremely excited to find among my hair dye stash a product I bought a couple years ago by mistake – Clairol Natural Instincts in #22 cinnaberry with antioxidants and vitamins C & E! (they have the exclamation point on the box… I‘m excited, but not excited enough to add extra punctuation).

Why haven’t I used it? Because when I bought it I didn’t realize that it was non-permanent color and washes out after 28 shampoos. Granted, I could be cheap and lacking in hygiene and let that baby last for a good seven months, but frankly if I didn’t mind if my hair got greasy and nasty on the 5th, 6th and 7th day, I probably wouldn’t be so anal about my grey roots.

I did the math. If I wash my hair every other day, then my cinnaberry hair would be gone in less than two months. And that means completely gone. By the end of the first month, those stubborn grey roots would be three inches long and stealthly peeking their way out of my head, slowly materializing every day of the second month like an overly long magic trick.

I had forgotten to exchange my Clairol Natural Instincts and eventually lost the receipt, so it sat at the back of my hair dye collection, waiting to get thrown out as soon I planned to de-clutter the bathroom.

Until last night. I pulled it out and found two wonderful words on the box: ammonia free! (exclamation point mine this time). I could apply the dye to my raw scalp and it wouldn’t hurt, and it would tide me over until I was well enough to get the real thing.

I can now go out in the real world and tie one on at a New Year’s Eve party, although I never know who or what I should be tying. I just know that red heads truly have more fun than three-inch grey heads.

I’m in the process of clearing away clutter and other needless stuff. I’m happy to have my red hair back, but unfortunately I’m re-thinking about throwing things out. You never know if I’m going to wish I kept that stained “Happy Millennium” t-shirt.

9 Comments

Filed under Anxiety, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Humor, Illness, Recuperating

America’s Got Talent – But What About My Son Jake?

Just like Sleeping Beauty, when each of my daughters was born, a good fairy floated down over their angelic heads and bestowed upon them the gift of song.

The gift appeared early with Emily when she was two and she sang non-stop. She got the Christmas solo in preschool and by the 2nd grade she landed the lead in every school musical. In middle school, as an incoming 6th grader, she won the school talent contest when she sang “Shy” from Once Upon a Mattress and her microphone went out. Her voice continued to ring to the last seat in the auditorium.

Mary is four years younger and we were concerned about her following in Emily’s footsteps. How could she compete with her sister’s reputation? But we needn’t have worried because Mary developed her own voice, which was as powerful and clear and pitch-perfect as Emily’s. After playing the leads in the same musicals Emily performed in, Mary is now singing leads in a middle school performing arts academy.

And then there’s Jake.

If a good fairy hovered over his head when he was a wee infant, I’m not sure yet what gift was bestowed upon him. The gift of joke, perhaps. Maybe the gift of never shut up. He chatters on incessantly about absolutely anything. If Jake’s around there is no such thing as silence. The only exception is if he is meeting someone new, and no matter how many times I’ve coached him on saying, “Hello. Nice to meet you,” he just silently hides under my pants.

Jake ran toward 3rd base instead of 1st in tee-ball and he kicked the ball more than he dribbled it in basketball. Although he’s performing relatively well in school, he’s still a bit squirmy, so it’s doubtful that he’ll make any kind of kindergarten honor roll this year.

The elementary school holiday show was a couple of weeks ago, and it was the first event I went to since I had shingles.I was so excited to see Jake and the other kindergartners sing “Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel” and “Ten Little Angels in the Band.”

Jake's in the front row on the right

Because Jake’s one of the younger, shorter ones, he was in the front row. We’d practiced the songs a dozen times, so I knew he could sing them. And yet, when the other children started singing, there was my Jake – swaying and moving his mouth silently to something that had nothing to do with the tunes the other kids were singing. He looked like Ray Charles, if Ray was singing the wrong song.

It looks like Jake will not be inheriting his sisters’ talent for singing.

Although Jake did not acquire the gift of song, he constantly sings a little ditty his friend Griffin taught him:

Jake's self portrait

A B C D E F G

Gummy bears are chasing me.

One is red. Once is blue.

One is chewing on my shoe.

I have to run for my life

Because the red one has a knife.

Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!

I was thrilled to death recently when I heard my husband laughing hysterically, calling me into the living room to watch Jake. Jake was wearing his new elf shirt and two different Christmas socks. He had built himself a small dance floor with his big plastic waffles and was singing the rap song “Who Let the Dogs Out?” and dancing in a way that was half Michael Jackson, half complete spaz. I caught it on my smart phone and posted it on YouTube. If you’re looking for it, it’s called “Jake sings Who Let the Dogs Out?” and would you believe there is a second video with the exact same name? Ours is the funnier one with more hits. It’s just a minute long, so I encourage you to check it out. Just click on this link:

Jake sings Who Let the Dogs Out?

It looks like the good fairy did bestow a gift upon my infant son Jake: the gift of spaz.

8 Comments

Filed under Anxiety, Humor, Husband, Parenting

Cathy, the Red Head Mommy

Grey roots

I am an inherently grateful person. Every day I recognize that I’m thankful for my health, my family, my job, the roof over my head – which I know sounds like some syrupy religious freak, but it’s true.

So it surprises me that I am well enough to celebrate Christmas with my husband’s and my family, and yet I’m a little pissed off. The onset of shingles occurred over six weeks ago, and I still have low-grade constant pain and raw, sensitive skin. But I’m no longer bed-ridden, and lucky to be able to enjoy the holiday. However there’s one teensy concern – my vanity.

I apply a shiny layer of Aquaphor to my nose and forehead, which means it’s impossible to wear makeup. I tweezed my eyebrows too much in high school, so now I only have scraggly hairs attempting to cover my brow like a bald man with a bad comb-over. Eyebrow pencil won’t stick to the greasy skin. My left eye is still puffy and red and I’m afraid to put on mascara and eye shadow for fear it will hurt to take it off.

The worst part is my roots. I’ve dyed my hair red for over 20 years, so almost no one knows me as the blonde I grew up as. I started turning grey in my 30’s, and now my natural hair is almost completely grey and white. The left side of my scalp is still burning, so I can’t dye my hair and my roots are now over an inch long.

When did I get to be so vain? I’m excited to spend the holiday with my family, but I’m dreading the photos. This is the time I take photos that will be blown up into 8x10s with a frame that says “Family” on it. I’m afraid I’ll look like Lily, the mom from “The Musters.”

My plan is to wear a big Santa hat that will cover my roots and forehead and avoid cameras as much as possible.

My vanity inspired me to write a little Christmas song to the tune of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” If you can carry a tune, you’re welcome to sing it out loud:

Cathy, the red head mommy

Had a very harsh disease

And if you ever saw her

You would want to laugh and tease

Shingles – they covered her face

Set her head and scalp aflame

She couldn’t put on makeup

Like all them other classy dames

She was groggy from the meds

Her roots had turned to grey

Cathy with her hair so white

Got AARP’s invite

Now with the family photos

Taken throughout Christmas eve

Cathy, the red head mommy:

I’m burning every shot of me!!!

14 Comments

Filed under Anxiety, Humor, Recuperating

Shingle Bells

My shingles are actually healing now

It’s been two and a half weeks since my last new post and I’ve been busy sitting on my pity pot. It’s actually somewhat justified since I’ve been recuperating from shingles to my eye, face and head, and the pain has been excruciating. I felt a little better when I was released from the hospital and was well enough to blog about how I was hibernating, but a few days later the pain returned full force.

I started drafting a blog that was paragraph after paragraph of pain and sleep and missed events and how my world had gotten very small.

Boo Hoo. Poor me. Poor me. Pour me another painkiller.

I was too tired to look at Facebook, so I missed a message posted a couple of weeks ago by my friend Amy: “Tonight Gary asked me if you were going to write a song called Shingle Bells for your next blog.”

You can thank Amy & Gary for sparing you my dismal ramblings of recuperation. Instead, here’s a song to the tune of Jingle Bells:

          Shingle Bells

  • Shingle Bells! Shingle Bells!
  • Shingles! Go away!
  • It’s no fun, I have to hide
  • The blisters on my face
  • Shingle Bells! Shingle Bells!
  • Shingles make me pray
  • Take a gun and shoot my eye
  • To take the pain away
  • Gnashing like Van Gogh
  • With a full force of a plague
  • This time to heal is slow
  • I’m crying all the way
  • Yelling from the stings
  • Shaking from my plight
  • It’s no fun to writhe and fling
  • From shingles in my eye

(Repeat)

15 Comments

Filed under Anxiety, Humor, Illness, Recuperating

Hibernating

I'm in here somewhere

I’m hibernating.

It’s not my natural state of being, so I am completely out of my comfort zone.

I’m typically the whirling dervish Mama Bear nabbing a teddy for Jakey Bear, collecting warm fur blankets for Mary Beary and gathering wheat and dairy-free nuts and berries for Emily Bear so the den will be sweeter smelling for all of us during our long winter’s nap.

But somewhere in the midst of my busy-ness I hear Papa Tom Bear pathetically pleading:

“Sweetie, just stop. You’re sick. Go to bed.”

My husband normally doesn’t have a pathetic bone in his body, and he don’t beg fo’ no one. But he’s worried about me.

After two ER visits, a 9-day stay in the hospital and a diagnosis of shingles to my eye and left side of my head, I am finally home with strict orders to rest.

The sad thing is, rest is the only thing that makes me feel better. The pain in my head ranges between 1 and 4 on a scale of 1 to 10, it looks like I’m wearing a Star Trek Klingon mask over half my head, and the IV on my left hand gave me phlebitis, a blood clot that made my hand and arm bruised, swollen and unable to move without a boatload of pain.

phlebitis

My husband tells me that the phlebitis is God doing for me what I can’t do for myself. It forces me to stay away from work, typing, and chores. It also teaches me humility as I ask for help with simple tasks like tying my pants, fastening buttons, and opening lids. My mother-in-law drove me home from the hospital and took care of me my first day home. In the middle of my first hot bath in forever, I had to call her in to ask if she would shave my right armpit. I’m not sure if I was more grateful or embarrassed.

I am tired all the time. I stumble out of bed around 9:00, eat a couple of bites of something and park myself on the sofa. By noon I’m back to bed. I get up again around dinner time, then return to bed a few hours later.

I don’t always sleep. At 3:00 in the morning they call that insomnia, but at 3:00 in the afternoon it’s called… I don’t know what. During the wee hours I grab my iPad, which doesn’t seem to know if it should be horizontal or vertical while I’m lying down, so the screen often resembles a prop plane in a tailspin. I post my progress on Facebook and I’m amazed at the outpouring of well wishes. My friend Gabe responded that Facebook saved him while he was recuperating from back surgery. I read about everyone’s Thanksgiving dinner, their Black Friday shopping experiences and how they’re now setting up their Christmas trees. I press the “Like” button often. It’s comforting to virtually experience their lives, even if it is only in a sentence or a photo.

The afternoons I lie in bed in and out of sleep and listen to the sounds of my family going on with their lives without me: Emily chatting and giggling on the phone with her friend; Mary singing Adele’s Rolling in the Deep at the top of her lungs; Jake dragging his 3×3 foot plastic waffles across the living room floor, building an elaborate house; Tom yelling at the dogs for snagging his lunch. Even though I’m not participating, I love being home to experience it, even if it is just audibly.

The phone rings a lot, mostly with people offering to help. We’ve received two roasted chickens, baguettes, a variety of salads, tuna salad, two turkey roll ups, a dozen deviled eggs and a pumpkin pie. I tell people we’re fine with meals, but when my friend Sam offered to bring baked ziti for dinner tomorrow night, I caved. I love a good ziti. We’re still accepting rides to and from school, and it’ll probably take me all spring to make up the car pool commitment.

My friend Lisa offered to spend a couple of hours cleaning my house. It is a testament to a very good friendship for her to not only sincerely make such and offer, but for me to actually take her up on it.

Mary gave me a hug the day I came home from the hospital. “You’re so skinny, Mommy!” she remarked. I’m embarrassed to say that I was thrilled by that comment. I lost 10 lbs., and I still don’t have much of an appetite. But I would definitely trade the reduction of two dress sizes to get my old life back.

About a week ago, I started to become a little more lucid and asked my husband to bring my laptop to the hospital. I spent about two days drafting my blog Shingles! – More Painful Than Childbirth and somehow thought that it would magically transpose itself from my brainwaves to the Internet. I didn’t really factor in the effort of actually typing the thing – especially with one hand.

I typed a little. Slept a little. Typed some more. Slept longer. I finally finished it and was just checking the typos when my body shut down.

I remember my husband telling me a story of how he was watching a women’s triathlon with his ex wife, and there were two contestants running neck and neck more than a mile ahead of any other runner, when only a matter of yards away from the finish line, both their bodies shut down. My husband imitates something that looks like a headless chicken flailing, rolling, and flapping its limbs helplessly as the other participants ran past them to win.

This is how I felt on the last few typos:

Small i. Need capital I. Where’s shift? Hold shift. Keep holding. Where’s I? Hold shift. Tap I. Almost. Almost… got it.

I uploaded the blog around midnight, then slept through the night and most of the next day. The day after that I was released from the hospital, and I slept most of that day as well.

So now I sit here, my first time typing longer than a few answered emails. I’ll upload it, have a few bites of dinner, then go back to bed.

This post is longer than I would have liked, but I just don’t have the energy to go back and edit it.

It might be a while before I post another blog.

I’ll be busy hibernating.

12 Comments

Filed under Anxiety, Friends, Humor, Husband, Illness, Parenting, Recuperating