Vacuuming At Midnight

I am supposed to be sleeping. Failing that, I am supposed to be reading academia. But instead, I am spraying an area rug repeatedly with a vinegar and water solution, then sprinkling it liberally with baking soda, then waiting five minutes and vacuuming it all up.

In other words, I have an ancient cat with a death wish.

The cat is 15 1/2 years old, if we’re going to count half-years. Since I think humans get to start counting half-years again at 90, I think cats get to do it by the time mine is this age. She’s lived with me her whole life save the first three or four months, and in that time, we’ve had our problems, but none as sordid as the one we’re having now.

She’s basically taken over the entire basement, which is to say the carpet is going to have to be ripped up and replaced. But that can’t happen as long as I have the cat, because at her age, it is impossible to remind her of exactly where her litter box is during the 9 to 12 hours a day that I’m not home. (When I am home and I see her make her way down there, I follow her, pick her up and actually put her in the litter box. That works.)

This results in the dreaded Cat Smell. You know how you hate walking into the homes of certain people who have a cat? Mine has become that home. It’s not as bad as a lot of homes I’ve been in, but goddamn. And I can’t do a thing about it. I have sprayed so many things on the basement carpet recently that I will absolutely have some form of cancer by morning. Nothing actually works. They all say they work. They all have helpful hints to make carpet pet stain/odor cleaning successful.

“Cats avoid the scent of citrus. Our citrus-scented spray makes sure they never eliminate in that spot again!”

LIE. She goes back again and again. Which isn’t to say she doesn’t find new spots, too. I could smother the whole carpet in lemon-lime-orange-grapefruit barbed wire. She’d still go back.

“Don’t use vinegar or ammonia. Cats smell it and link it to their scent, so they’ll go back to that spot again.”

IMMATERIAL. I’m pretty sure if you named the polar opposite of vinegar and ammonia, I’ve used that, too. Doesn’t matter.

“Be sure you clean the spot completely before you spray, or the cat will return to the spot.” IMPOSSIBLE. Do you know how many times I’ve soaked, patted, blotted, rubbed, scrubbed, and stood on towels? She always knows where it was. Or picks somewhere new. Or both.

Tonight, upon returning home from the halfway mark of another doozy of a work week and a class on top of it, things smelled unusually ripe. I checked the basement, and yes, the basement carpet still stinks, but it’s a different smell. I checked the garbage. I ran the garbage disposal. I got on my hands and knees at sniffed the vents to see if something crawled in there and died. I couldn’t find the source.

An hour and a half after I got home, while I was trying to read a textbook, I happened to look over to my right.

Oh heeeeyyyyy, huge pile of cat diarrhea on my area rug. You explain a lot.

(The cat, by the way, just slinked slowly up the stairs to my bedroom as I typed that. She is ashamed. She had better be.)

I have thus far attempted to remove the smell four times. After each attempted cleansing, I have gotten on my knees and put my nose to the carpet. If I were facing east, I could claim a new religion. If that religion could get rid of this odor in my area rug, I would claim it.

Alas… abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

More and more, this points to me needing to take the cat to the vet. I know some of you are currently gasping at the horror of the fact that I haven’t done this yet, but here’s what: I have no money for the vet. The vet, as we all know, is a racket, and I already have several required rackets sucking funds from my bank account in order to be allowed to live indoors with running water and electricity and the internet to work this here WordPress machine. So I’ve been stuck with this situation. But I think soon I’m going to have to take the cat to the vet and explain the absolutely out-of-control situation I’m dealing with, and face the music.

For now, I have to get on my knees, face the floor, and pray for a miracle.

Fifty Things You Would Have Been Fine With Not Knowing About Me

Misty over at Misty’s Laws, while consumed by an alien being that is taking all of her nutritional sustenance and strength for its own personal gain, has revealed to me that 50 Things About Me is the blogosphere’s new 25 Things About Me thing that went around Facebook circa 2009. Since I haven’t posted in a dog’s year, and since I’m both an open book and mysteriously mysterious at the same time, I thought you might jump at the chance to learn more about me that you could not possibly care less to know.

Yes, this is my lazy way of posting. But it’s also my way of saying hi, I miss you, I still read the people who show up in my reader feed (oh, btw, Hey WP, WTF is up with all the people who no longer show up in my reader feed)?

1. What are you wearing? The same clothes I wore to work: black pants, sky blue elbow-sleeve sweater. I did just take my contacts out and put my glasses on. *shazzam* New look!

2. Ever been in love?  Um, yes.

3. Ever have a terrible break-up?  Do you not read this blog?

4. How tall are you?  5’7″

5. How much do you weigh?  During which week of the month? Before or after the dirty martini?

6. Any tattoos? Nope

7. Any piercings?  Double-pierced ears (Usually don’t wear the earrings in the second holes, but, strangely, still run an earring through them at least once a day to keep them open. I make little sense. Also, pierced navel, still sporting the original ring with which it was pierced 11 years ago.)

8. OTP (One true pair, favorite fictional couple?)  Adam & Eve. Those two literally could not find anyone better.

9. Favorite show? I don’t get to watch TV much anymore, but I love The Daily Show. I DVR Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. But my all-time favorite TV show of all time in the history of ever is The West Wing. (My readers from the year before the last presidential election will not be surprised by this.)

10
. Favorite bands?  So, I don’t really listen to current music much. Apparently I’m 81 years old. I’m pretty faithful to Counting Crows even though Adam Duritz’s retreaded lyric ideas sometimes get on my nerves. Turns out I like solo artists a little more.

11. Something you miss?  The days when nothing hurt.

12. Favorite song?  Impossible to pick one. Can’t. Moving on.

14. Zodiac sign?  Aries.

15. Quality to look for in a partner?  Does “Willingness to be my partner” count?

16. Favorite Quote?  “Do you wanna invoke the wrath of the Whatever from high atop the Thing?! Go outside, turn around three times and spit!”
~Toby Ziegler, The West Wing
(I know. It’s pretty deep. I’ll give you a minute to process.)
 
17. Favorite Actor?  Kevin Spacey is pretty brilliant, even if he’s kind of a dick.
 
18. Favorite Color? Blue
 
19. Loud music or soft? Yes.

20. Where do you go when you are sad?  Bad places. You don’t want to come.
 
21.  How long does it take you to shower? Depends. Am I paying the water bill in this shower?

22.  How long does it take you to get ready in the morning? I can do it in 45 minutes if I have to, but it somehow usually takes me 90 minutes from the time I get up until I get out the door. This is inexplicable.

23. Ever been in a physical fight?  Ever? Sure. I have siblings.

24. Turn on?  Humor and intelligence.

25. Turn-off?  Assholery.

26. The reason I started blogging?  I like to write. I think a lot. My professions have been very writing-intensive and very thinking-intensive, but not very personal-expressiony.

27. Fears?  At present? I’m about to start watching the first episode of this season’s American Horror Story, so…clowns.

28. Last thing that made you cry?  Reading a testimonial about Planned Parenthood’s breast cancer screening service 37 minutes ago. Goddamned breast cancer.

29. Last time you said you loved someone?  Last night, on the phone with my dear old friend, Will. Or just now on Facebook when I said I love Jon Stewart. Depending on your interpretation of the question.

30. Meaning behind the name of your blog? I tend to turn one tiny thought into an entire onslaught of neurosis. Single=one thought. Cell=neuron.

31. Last book you read?  The last book I read for fun was “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt.

32. Book you are currently reading?  Well, I’m reading “Manufactured Consent” by Noam Fucking Chomsky (the “fucking” is silent) and some other douchebag windbag for a class I’m taking. I read textbooks. Some day I’ll finish “Dark Places” by Gillian Flynn, which was what I started after “The Goldfinch” but didn’t quite finish before this term of grad school began.

33. Last show you watched?  The Daily Show last night.

34. Last person you talked to?  A classmate.

35. The relationship between you and the person you just texted? Last person I texted was Javier, my Colombian friend/neighbor/pseudo-crush. (Text was of strict Neighbor nature.)

36. Favorite food?  Anything terribly unhealthy and delicious.

37. Place you want to visit?  All of them. Maybe not something that ends in -stan. Actually, I’d love to learn more about the people in those places.

38. Last place you were?  The bathroom…?

39.  Do you have a crush? See #35.
 
40. Last time you kissed someone?  Kissed nine people goodbye on Sunday.
 
41. Last time you were insulted?  Probably on Sunday. I was with family.

42. Favorite flavor of sweet?  Chocolate. Are you kidding me with this question?

43. What instruments do you play?  Snarfblatt.

44. Favorite piece of jewelry? I wear two rings. Each one features the birthstone of a godson. One is sapphire, the other is citrine.

45. Last sport you played?  Played? Is gossip a sport?

46. Last song you sang? Presently, the Bach Magnificat is on repeat in my head.

47. Favorite chat up line? Hoping “hey” qualifies.

48. Have you ever used it?  Can’t imagine it would be my favorite if I hadn’t used it.

49.  Last time you hung out with anyone?  Sunday. Family birthday dinner festivus + football proclivity.

50. Who should answer these questions next?  All of you. Do it.

Shaken, Not Stirred

I have just finished cleaning up… I don’t know… how many ounces are in a magnum bottle of vodka?… off my kitchen floor. Along with the glass in which it used to be held.

This is how that looked.

I haz a sad.

                                I haz a sad.

It’s basically how the week went, embodied in the cruel denial of all those drinks that now occupy space in my dish towels, grout, and the area under the refrigerator I can’t reach.Twenty dollars’ worth of probably-not-high-quality-but-eminently-drinkable freezer-stored distilled fermented wheat (not potato) byproduct is now seeping into every crevice it can find and getting the housebugs drunk instead of getting in mah belleh whenever required. It was the only alcohol I had in the house, since I broke up with the wine club over its refusal to come to my house because some law meant it couldn’t cross state lines, so I always had to go pick it up somewhere else. Made me feel dirty.

This week, you guys.

I feel sure that you will all understand that at least half the reason we blog is because it gives us the freedom to write what we choose in the manner and time we choose. Though writing is a significant portion of my professional life, I am nonetheless constrained to write the way my professional superiors feel is best. And I understand that, even though a web feature piece I felt strongly about and constructed with a real-life character and real-life conflict set up by said character got dismantled when the web content manager (who is great at copy editing and proofreading, but not so good at recognizing how to tell a story) banished the character to the sixth paragraph in favor of literality and deleted entirely the quote that set up the conflict which would be resolved throughout the rest of the piece. A piece, now, that resolves a conflict to which readers have not been introduced.

My VP approved the edit because my version “was more New Yorker, and the edited version is more USA Today.” I get that. I get that the audience for which I have to write is not necessarily the audience for which I want to write, and her observation was valid and one that I will keep in mind going forward. But it was nonetheless disappointing in light of all the time and energy I had spent developing, crafting and writing the piece, and in the way I had interviewed the subjects in pursuit of that concept—a concept, I should add, that the web content editor had known from the beginning.

Add to that a major publication blunder, a bunch of misplaced frustration heaped onto my shoulders by others, a raft of relatively unimportant but highly time-consuming tedium and some internal personal oodginess, and you have a week of Suck that leaves yours truly feeling torn between fair questions about ego vs. effort and unfair assessments about worth.

There was some good news. Some Best Possible News that redeemed the week at least in part.

Amanda’s first restaging scans since her Stage IV metastatic triple-negative breast cancer diagnosis came back showing significant reduction in cancer activity.

It is the best possible thing she could have heard. It means, for the first time in four and a half months, she can breathe. She can, for about two more months, stop worrying that the chemo wasn’t working.

It makes me feel a little silly about being mad that my vodka bottle shattered and ruined about 20 future cocktails.

Still… if anyone needs me, I’ll be over here…sucking on a dish towel with my hand in a jar of olives.

Flowers Are Red

Twin Nephs started first grade on Thursday. They were blithely dismissive of the fact that there must have been some sort of mistake and they must still only be about three years old. They were excited to get school supplies—well, alright, Neph 1 was excited—and bore the burdens of heavy backpacks well on Day One, as evidenced in the photos I received. But along with all this excitement came not only the usual tinge of sadness for us grown-ups, but a little extra kick in the head. And not the way Sinatra would mean it.

Sister 1 took Neph 1 (Neph 2 chose to stay at home) and her mother-in-law to the store to get the supplies listed in the emails the boys’ respective teachers had sent. There was a distinct difference between these lists, I’m told. Neph 2’s teacher requested the usual stuff: four folders, a few sharpened No. 2 pencils (awwww, remember No. 2 pencils?), a pencil box, crayons, markers, paper, etc. Neph 1’s teacher, on the other hand, was much more precise.

  • 12 No 2. pencils, sharpened
  • 12 No. 2 pencils, unsharpened

(“Can I get a pencil sharpener?!” Neph 1 excitedly asked. Sister 1 and her mother-in-law looked at the list.

“Sorry, honey. Not on the list.”

Cue minor dejection.)

  • 1 pencil box, primary color
  • 4 folders: red, green, yellow, blue – no other colors

(“Mom, what about this one?!” asked Neph 1, holding up his favorite color: orange.

Sister 1 checked the list again. “Nope. Can’t be orange. Sorry.”

Cue rolled eyes.)

  • 1 marble composition notebook – black and white only (awww, remember marble composition notebooks?)

(“‘Com…poh…sssih…’ I found a composition notebook, Mom!” exclaimed Neph 1, proudly holding it up. 

Sister 1 wrinkled her nose. “Sorry, buddy. That one’s purple. It has to be black and white.”

“But I like purple!” Neph 1 declared, wide-eyed and smiling with remaining hope.

“I know. Sorry.” My sister frowned for him.

Cue big sigh.

“I hope I wasn’t this tough on my students’ parents,” remarked the mother-in-law, a retired elementary school teacher.)

  • 1 eraser, pink, rectangular
  • 2 1″ binders, black
  • 1 16-pack Crayola crayons, standard colors
  • 1 8-pack regular size (not fat) Crayola markers, primary colors

…et cetera.

Neph 1 was still enthusiastic despite having some creative hopes dashed during the shopping trip. So was Sister 1, who was later photographed sitting at the kitchen table with her label maker, carefully branding all the kids’ stuff with their names. Amazingly, she did not label the kids themselves.

At a family get-together a day or so later, Sister 1 was telling a cousin, Callie, this story. Callie is a third grade teacher. She explained that she bets Neph 1’s teacher is older, more experienced, and more structured, while Neph 2’s teacher is probably younger and less organized. “By the time I get them in my class, I can tell which teacher they had in first grade,” she said. “The kids who had the tougher, structured teachers are more organized by the time they’re in third grade.”

My sister realized she’d forgotten to get Neph 1 the hand sanitizer from the list. Brother-In-Law 1 ran out on a quick trip to grab it, and, since there were no rules listed about what kind of sanitizer it had to be, he grabbed a bottle with an orange cap. It turned out to be peach scented stuff. Which thrilled my nephew. Less so, my brother-in-law.

I called the boys at 7:15 a.m. on their first day. My sister was combing their hair before sending them downstairs to get breakfast. “I’m going to do my hair sideways, because I think my teacher will like it,” said Neph 1. (“Do my hair sideways” means “part it on the side.”) He likes to impress people. He and his brother chatted to me energetically via speakerphone about how they get to ride the bus and how Neph 1 knows one other child in his class already but Neph 2 doesn’t know anybody in his. Neph 1 was giddy as he told me, “I get to have my own hand sanitizer! And it smells like peaches!” I’m telling you, it really doesn’t take a lot to make this kid happy. Realizing that they probably weren’t chewing their nutritious breakfast while they were talking to me, I wrapped up the conversation and let them prep their bellies for a day of learning.

That night, I got a message from my sister. She’d come home from work and asked the boys how their first day of first grade went. Unsurprisingly, my darling, exuberant, people-pleasing, sensitive, curious, purple-and-orange-loving, peach-scented godson piped up first.

“Well, I had a GREAT day!,” he told her. “I only got two time-outs—”

Two time-outs?!” my sister cried. “On the first day?! What did you do?”

Neph 1 screwed up his face in a classic expression he may have inherited from his favorite aunt. “I talked. I talk a lot, Mom.”

He may have inherited that from me, too.

“And do you know what?” he continued with vivacity. “Did you know that you’re not allowed to sing in class?”

He turned and looked sadly out the window.

“Today I learned that you’re not allowed to sing in class,” he finished.

Well. I went all Harry Chapin “Flowers Are Red” about it. Do you know the song? It’s about a little boy who goes to school all excited and starts coloring a picture, and the teacher says, “What are you doing?” and the boy says he’s painting flowers, and the teacher says, “It’s not the time for art, young man. And anyway, flowers are green and red.” She lectures this boy: “Flowers are red, young man. Green leaves are green. There’s no need to see flowers any other way than the way they always have been seen.”

But the little boy says, “There are so many colors in a rainbow, so many colors in the morning sun, so many colors in a flower, and I see every one!”

And the teacher says, “You’re sassy.” And after he argues again, she puts him in a corner, where he gets lonely, and he goes to the teacher and tells her she was right, that flowers are red and green leaves are green, and there’s no need to see flowers any other way than the way they always have been seen.

Then the boy’s family moves to another town and he goes to a new school and the teacher is smiling and says, “There are so many colors in a flower, so let’s use every one!” But do you know what the little boy does? He paints all the flowers green and red. And when the teacher asks him why, he says, “Flowers are red, and green leaves are green. There’s no need to see flowers any other way than the way they always have been seen.”

Like lots of other Harry Chapin songs, it means a lot more than a cute story about a fun kid and a dour teacher. It means that kids start out in life all excited and full of joy and natural curiosity and natural creativity, and stupid rules and the way they’re enforced start beating all of those great things out of them starting in first grade.

I read my sister’s story and thought, “That kid is going to get all that precious, wide-eyed excitement and innate joy beaten out of him, starting today.”

I actually cried.

This is another reason I can’t have kids, by the way. I’d be that mom who’s always falling apart at some perceived injustice or another.

Hell, I cried just typing the story out.

I totally get, by the way, why the kid can’t sing in class. I remember first grade, and I don’t recall being scarred by the realization that I wasn’t allowed to sing in class. (I don’t recall getting in trouble for singing, anyway. I recall getting in trouble for talking and being out of my seat without permission. And I recall standing in corners. In fact, I recall a particular moment in second grade when, standing in the corner, I glanced up at the crucifix nailed to the wall above my head, and my teacher saw me and said, “Yeah, you’d better pray!”) I am not psychologically damaged or less creative for these rules. I think Callie is probably right about structured teachers instilling organizational skills and an understanding that there are times and places for behaviors. It’s not the teachers’ fault. You can’t have a kid busting out with a Katy Perry song in the middle of an addition lesson.

Still… I think I might buy Neph 1 a few supplies he can keep at home. Like a purple composition notebook, and an orange folder. Because there are so many colors in a flower. And I want him to see every one.

And I’m glad my brother-in-law accidentally picked up peach-scented hand sanitizer. 

Now on my bookshelf: The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

I Suppose I Should Have Seen This Coming

It’s a wet day. It’s raining, and everything I’ve been doing in the house is related to water: washing the floor, scrubbing the bathrooms, cleaning the kitchen (and the dishes in the sink), doing laundry. I’d decided to run the washer through a self-cleaning because I’d accidentally left a wet picnic blanket in it for a week. I put some laundry detergent in it and set the cycle. The only thing the electronic read-out tells me is Cln, so I have no idea how long it will take. It does what it does. It’s done when it’s done.

So I don’t know how much later it was that I went to check on it and decided to squat down and watch the process through the door. I was a little surprised that I couldn’t see anything.

That’s because everything was suds. It was up to its top in suds.

Huh. 

Did it do this last time?

Everyone knows a front-loading washing machine is hypnotic. It spins this way and then it stops, and then it spins the other way, and then it stops, and then it does a crazy superspeed spin thing, and you’re just there with your mouth open like, “How does it work?” Or maybe that’s just me, because most people don’t really spend that much time staring at their washing machine. But at some point, a noise broke my trance. A tiny, delicate noise.

Hey… what’s that sound? Is that the rain? 

I cocked my head. Listened.

Waaaaiiit…. that sounds like…

It did not sound like rain.

…SUDS.

Shit.

THAT SOUNDS LIKE EXTERNALLY ORIENTED SUDS.

I peered into the space between a stack of stored paint cans and my stacked washer and dryer.

THE SUDS WERE ESCAPING.

I believe my first thought was, Oh, for fuck’s sake.

You see, it has not been an ideal week. Lots and lots of very bad things happened to good people I know this past week. Four things just on Thursday. That’s, of course, in addition to all the bad things that were happening in all the places with the good people elsewhere, as the universe continues its seemingly unprecedented conspiracy to make everyone on Earth feel like there is absolutely no order to things anymore. And Friday started with a part of my car falling off and dragging beneath it as I drove to work, so that I had to pull into a parking lot, grab a large stick, and shove said part around until it was no longer dragging, so that I could at least get it to a gas station, where a nice young fellow told me I didn’t really need that part anyway, and ripped it off.

"Why did you run over that man?" Eliza wanted to know when I sent her this pic.  "Only way I could get him to stay still," I replied.

“Why did you run over that man?” my friend Eliza wanted to know when I sent her this pic.
“Only way I could get him to stay still,” I replied.

I feel sure the universe will prove him wrong about the car part. Also: does it seem odd to anyone else that there is even such a thing as a car part that isn’t necessary? Don’t misunderstand me: I’ll accept the answer, because the ordeal cost me $20 and not $2,000, but still, that seems odd to me.

I was attacked by a vicious curling iron the other day and have two pretty ugly burns on the inside of my left forearm that would be alarming to anyone who might see them.

One of them looks like a hickey. It is not. It just happens to be two or three colors.

One of them looks like a hickey. It is not. It just happens to be two or three colors.

Today I discovered that the cat had broken one of my grandmother’s porcelain dishes (don’t ask), and then I cut myself with it when I was trying to clean it up.

It's just too gruesome to show you without the bandage. Suffice it to say I had to stop cleaning. Obviously.

It’s just too gruesome to show you without the bandage. Suffice it to say I had to stop cleaning. Obviously.

Obviously, all of these things that have happened are far worse than the cancer diagnoses and wars that have been going on with my friends and other countries. And now I had this sort of Bobby Brady laundry situation happening. Because why wouldn’t it be happening? The universe is coked up and blitzed on an epic bender, hell-bent to prove its power while also being cross-eyed with irrational mania. Of course my washer is vomiting soap bubbles.

I grabbed a towel and squeezed into the space I had to work with, throwing the towel on the concrete floor to sop up as many of the suds as it could get (we were working on about two inches).

This is the space I was squeezed into.

I should not have had that ice cream the other night.

I should not have had that ice cream the other night.

While I was back there, I found the valve the suds were spewing forth from.

Escape hatch

Escape hatch

To  keep the constant output of suds from running down the machine to the floor, I had to hold the towel over it while contorting myself as much as my back would allow to see what was going on inside the washer.

Impenetrable.

Foam fortress.

Once I got everything sopped up, I stared at the washer door for a very long time. The suds were impenetrable. In seeming desperation, the washer kept trying another rinse cycle, but that was only making it worse. I kept squeezing back into the space to wipe the suds off the back of the machine before they’d make it to the floor, then coming back around to the front to stare at the door, willing the suds to thin just enough for me to see some sign that it might be over soon. I didn’t feel like I could leave my station for more than a few minutes at a time, so I kept running up and down the basement steps to try to get other things done before going back to check on what was going on with the machine. I think it took about two hours before there was a break in the wall of white and I could see steel.

Really, really clean steel.

Eliza and Jay’s youngest daughter is staying with me this weekend while her sister is on vacation with a friend and her parents are out of town on a quick romantic getaway, and she had come knocking while all this was happening. Fortunately, she’s used to a relatively steady dose of madness, and, being the rare delightful 14-year-old girl, just sat sweetly on the loveseat upstairs in the living room, texting her friends, while I pretended to have my household in hand. Now that she’s hanging out with a friend who’s been overseas for several months, I’m pretty sure I’m going to get a text that she’s accidentally gouged out an eye.

It’s just the way the week has been going.

The Problem With Privilege

I can’t possibly have anything unique to say about pretty much anything relating to over-reactive police, racial tension, media, or  anything else that factors into the trouble in Ferguson, Missouri over the last week.  But in the constructs of American life, there is a certain element that we just can’t seem to see our way through.

I’ve read a lot of reports and opinions from professionals and amateurs; one of the great ironies of the Internet is that it gives everyone the same volume at which to speak, which means people who should probably just sit down and shut up get a megaphone that amplifies their voices just as loudly as those who know far more than anyone else about whatever topic is discussed. The result, often, is the wider dissemination of what is inflammatory rather than what is rational and measured, because inflammation is more visceral and therefore more instinctive. I believe that’s why demonstrations that begin with one goal end up a melange of goals and opinions, and things that start off peacefully end up sporadically disruptive.

In everything we’ve read and seen, it seems there is a lot of visceral reaction, natural and instinctive, that leads to accusation and defense—or defensiveness. Sometimes these are overt. Other times, less so. It’s when the accusations and defenses are less obvious that I think the most trouble arises, because it’s harder to know what just happened.

To me, one of the most interesting forms of inferred accusation and applied defensiveness centers on the concept of white privilege.

For the record: I’m white. So I can’t pretend to fully grasp the perspective a person of color would bring to this situation. But I also live in a dense urban area, in a city whose majority population is black. (And I use the term “black” deliberately; not all “black” people trace their heritage to Africa, which means they are not all African-American.) In my environment, to not acknowledge white privilege is to basically stay in my house and never look out the window or turn on the news. Which isn’t to say there aren’t people in my environment who don’t understand the construct.

I used to rebel a little against the idea of white privilege, because I didn’t understand that I wasn’t being blamed for something and I wasn’t being defined as better-off, necessarily. I’m not sure when I realized what it really was, but I think it was some time around when the stalker thing happened, because it had a lot to do with what motivated me to take activist action; I realized I could use my privilege to benefit other people, not as some great, benevolent white lady, but as someone the system automatically took more seriously and cared more about because I was white. (I also speak what people would categorize as proper English, with no discernable accent.) In all of my reading this week, I have come across a few essays and op-eds from white people who are upset about being assigned a kind of privilege, saying things like, “I refuse to apologize.” The content of their writing reveals that they just don’t know the definition of white privilege.

White privilege is simply about the fact that white people do not have to deal with the possibility of being underrepresented, mistreated, suspected or demeaned, as persons of color.

For example: If I walk down the street in the dark, no one is going to look at me sideways, unless he or she is concerned for my safety. But if a person of color – a black or latino person, in my community – walks down the street in the dark, someone is going to wonder, “What’s he up to? Where did he come from? Does he live here? Where is he going?”

If I get pulled over by a police officer, I will have no reason to wonder if it’s because of my race. (The only time I got pulled over and didn’t deserve it was when an officer thought I was talking on my cell phone, and all I had to say was, “Oh! No, I wasn’t.” That is literally all I had to say. He believed me even before I offered to let him see my phone’s call and text message logs, and he let me go without checking them. If I were a man of color, the odds would be much higher that he wouldn’t believe me, or that he would take me up on my offer to see my phone’s logs.)

In fact, getting pulled over after having done nothing in violation of the law is much less likely to happen to me than it is to a person of color, and my story is more likely to be believed.

When I go through airport security, no one thinks they should look in my bag; if it’s searched, it’s purely because of a randomized approach. But when my friend Adhira goes through airport security, there’s a greater chance that someone will think that because she is Pakistani (they might not know she’s Pakistani; they’ll just know she’s brown and looks Middle Eastern), they should search her bag.

And the chances of me, a white woman with no criminal record, being shot by a police officer are essentially zero. Whereas the chances of a person of color with no criminal record being shot by a police officer are higher. Statistically speaking, even if I was armed, even if I was threatening, the chances of me being shot by a police officer are still lower than if I were an unarmed person of color. Thirty-seven of 45 people shot by police in Oakland, California between 2004 and 2008 were black. None of them were white. In 40 percent of the cases, the person who was shot was unarmed. (No officers were charged. Other shows of force were not categorized in the data set.)

My whiteness means not only that I am presumed innocent more often, but also that I am presumed more innocent than a person of color. I am presumed to be a better person. Even when I have done something wrong, and even when a person of color has not.

That’s white privilege. It’s not my fault. It’s just a side effect of my having been born white. For persons of color, suspicion is a side effect of having been born something else.

You’d be irritated about it, too, after a while.

But here’s what dawned on me while reading an essay today written by a Princeton University student some months ago: white people tend to look at privilege differently. We think of it as socioeconomic. Of course we do; we’ve never faced discrimination—or incrimination—because of anything else. So we reflexively resent when someone seems to accuse us of having an advantage, because, if we’re socioeconomically comfortable and not trust fund babies, we probably did have to work to get where we are in life. Because we have never had to struggle to be considered equal in any other respect, our only understanding of privilege comes from the idea of money. But for people of color, the struggle to be seen as equal goes way beyond lines of credit and sizes of homes. It’s rather telling, isn’t it? We define everything by our own perspective…including our own privilege. Maybe if white people were better able to understand how other people define privilege, we’d be collectively more able to understand why so many people don’t have it.

Maybe then a lot of things would get better.

This Is Not Yet 40

“Are we old enough for this?!” the Ohio 5 tends to ask each other. We’ve kind of morphed out of “We’re too young for this,” because we’re pretty much not too young for a whole lot anymore. But the nuanced former question comes up with somewhat surprising frequency.

It’s not really because of our own respective, and relatively minor (though increasingly surgical), maladies. Two are married with children, two are aging, single gays (oh, they would just hate me for saying that), and then there’s me. Our lives, in general, while happy, are fairly banal.

I have had occasion to think about a lot of things in the last week or two. A lot of very heavy things. Thinking about heavy things makes me feel old and tired. It’s lovely to avoid that. Being an old soul who has recently found a sort of invigoration of forgotten youth, I have been able to shut out some heavy thinking. I needed to develop that ability.

But if you’ve been reading my blog long enough, you have come to know that I can be both incredibly shallow and really pretty deep, sometimes at the same time, and I can’t have one without the other. I would like to believe this is true of most, if not all, of us. If not, I imagine this must be maddening to try to understand from a not-me perspective.

And so it is with the stuff I’ve thought about for the last couple of weeks, alternating between a cavalier thought, a smart-ass comment, and a stare-at-the-wall-for-an-hour bout of What Does It All Mean? There’s the shootdown of MH17 over Ukraine. The actual warring there. The warring in Israel and Gaza and who is the more murderous party (I have my thoughts, and turn them over, regularly). The chaos in Libya. Ebola in Liberia. Endless instability and insurgent takeover in Iraq after more than a decade of American blood and treasure to save it from itself.

There is the House GOP deciding to sue the president for delaying something they’ve been screaming about being against, anyway. The refugee/immigration struggle and its heartbreaking human toll.  The disappointment, even for a lot of his supporters, that is President Obama. The general nightmare that is Congress, which nobody likes anyway, but now likes even less. There is what I see in the streets of my city every day: generational poverty, lack of education, joblessness, ill health, homelessness, lack of opportunity, lack of respect for self and others. I think about that a lot. Every morning on the way to work, and every night on the way home.

I thought about this stuff when I was younger, but usually from the perspective of an impassioned academic or idealistic observer. Now I think about it with a sense of connection I didn’t have before.

My cousin, already a single mother of a ten-year-old, is pregnant. Her father—my uncle—died of leukemia 14 years ago. She just finished putting herself through school for her BSN and got a job as a geriatric nurse. She moved out of my aunt’s house. She’s pregnant by a… well, I won’t call him what we call him in today’s vernacular; I’ll just say he’s a casual partner, who already has two other children. In this twisted world and her struggle of a life, sex in a car that she swears did not result in his satisfaction has somehow resulted in her conception of fraternal triplets.

I understand biology as much as the next person, but what. The. ACTUAL. FUCK.

I wonder sometimes, as a relatively spiritual person, how God or the universe or whatever you want to call it can be so overwhelmingly mysterious on a good day and just really messed up on a bad one as to govern a world in which so many people despair of their inability to have a child while people who could not possibly want one less can wind up conceiving three at once and announce their intention to keep all three. (Unspoken risks remaining unspoken.)

You might realize already that the news of her pregnancy led me right back to the generational poverty/lack of education/lack of opportunity/lack of respect for self and others thing.

My dear friend Will’s father died yesterday. He’d been in the hospital for six weeks with diabetes-related heart and kidney problems. Thursday morning, he arrested. They did CPR and intubated him, and Will jumped on a plane from Seattle. He arrived in Ohio just after midnight. His father died 14 hours later, as hospital staff were transferring him from a bed to a gurney to take him to inpatient hospice and take him off life support. Will had gone to carry some things to his mother’s car. Will’s father is the third parent in the Ohio 5 group to die. None have been older than 65. Two had diabetes-related heart problems.

My friend Kyle’s father was just diagnosed with a rare duodenal cancer. He is 51.

Amanda learned she has a stress fracture in her femur from the tumor and her weight. She has to find out whether she needs surgery to stabilize the bone, and whether that will derail her weekly chemo treating stage IV metastatic triple-negative breast cancer. She is 43.

My former coworker, Cedric, also died yesterday. Out of nowhere. He owned a gym, which is where his wife found him right after he collapsed, surrounded by personal trainers using the portable defibrillator. She’d had a funny feeling and doubled back on her way to work. He was 45.

Also, Facebook crashed yesterday. For like an hour. It was awful. I could not post pithy status updates about Facebook being down because Facebook was down.

Some of our brighter citizens called 911 about it.

Did not make that up.

So I think about all these things, and I wonder if we’re old enough, we Ohio 5, to be dealing with them quite so frequently. It’s a moot point, obviously, with three of us having lost a parent and one having lost two siblings already. Meg is part of generational poverty. She’s not just thinking about it; she’s living it, despite a college degree, largely because of a lack of motivation on her part or her husband’s. I worry about her four kids’ opportunities, too.

I don’t really know where all of this is going. I started writing this post last night and then, bleary-eyed and exhausted from so much of life’s thinking, went to bed and left it to marinate. Today I find myself with even less direction. The initial plan to get as many of us to Ohio from our far-flung reaches for the funeral, with the understanding that Joey couldn’t be there that day, but would see the family a few days later on a trip he’d coincidentally already planned, has morphed into a plan to converge 36 hours later because Will would prefer that we could all be there at once. (This, for the record, never ends well.) We have joked more than once during funeral plans (we’ve had one every year since 2009) that it’s our version of “The Big Chill.”

That movie is 31 years old.

So I guess we are old enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Which You Maybe Learn Some Stuff About Hearts

On Tuesday, a cardiologist and her happy minion tried to kill me and then assessed how close they came. Fortunately for me, not close enough. *Buzzer sound* Sorry. Try again next year.

The stress test was the least irritating of all the parts of this appointment, but that’s part and parcel with doctors. You wait in the waiting room for 60+ minutes (which is why you’re called a patient) and, when you leave, they’ve said a lot of words but haven’t really actually told you anything.

Travis, the Stress Test Tech Person, was delightful, actually. He called me “baby” a lot, but somehow it wasn’t creepy. Sort of like how diner waitresses call you “hon,” whether you’re three or 103, and whether they’re 55 or…

Wait. They’re actually all 55.

Anyway.

Travis was telling me what he was doing all along. He did an echocardiogram first, propping my back against his in a totally clinical way to position me where he wanted me so he could get the images he needed, and explaining very nonchalantly why I really couldn’t keep craning my neck to see the picture on the screen. (“Look, see what happens? The picture gets fuzzy.”) He also told me that he was super-annoyed that he kept getting 30- and 40-somethings for stress tests that day. “If one more person has to walk for 15 minutes before we get them to their target heart rate, I’m jumping out a window,” he said.

It took me 11 minutes. You’re welcome, Travis. I shaved four minutes off that last guy’s time. What’s that you say? That’s not a good thing?  The last guy is 58 and had a heart attack at 41 and is, from a fitness perspective, the lifespan equivalent of four minutes’ better endurance multiplied by a differential of 21 years and mitigated by one heart attack better off than I am? Well, what of it? You want to get your schedule back on track, right? That’s what I thought.

Travis is a very put-you-at-ease person. My blood pressure was 100/62, and he didn’t like it, because it meant I’d have to walk longer, but it was a testament to his calming presence. (At the beginning of my first appointment, two weeks ago, my BP was 120/80).

Happily, they did not make me run. They just made me walk faster by three-minute increments on a steadily increasing incline to get to the required target heart rate (220 minus age and multiplied by 0.90, or, in my case, 165.).

I basically still have no official comprehensive diagnosis, because doctors are annoying, but here’s what I’ve been able to figure out so far:

I have what’s called a 2nd degree Type 1 Wenckebach block. Wenckebach is pronounced WENK-ee-bock, which sounds really silly and is difficult to take seriously as a heart condition, but I guess that’s okay, because it’s not necessarily a serious heart condition, and Germans have funny names sometimes.

The two days I was beeping from the waist on the Holter monitor, minus the ten total hours required to be off-telemetry so the highly advanced cell-phone-cum-science-gadget could charge, resulted in the revelation that my heart skipped 3,842 beats during the other 38 hours. Which is considered “frequent” in a seemingly half-assed, three-sentence report of said monitoring.  The Wenckebach block is the reason for the dropped beats. It’s an electrical impulse disruption between the atria and the ventricles, in which the length of time in milliseconds between the electrical signal that contracts the atria and the one that contracts the ventricles gets progressively longer until it gets long enough that the whole heart skips a beat. Because it’s Type 1, it’s benign and generally, on its own, does not require treatment. If it were to be Type 2, they’d have to consider some options—pacemaker, etc.

It looks kind of like this on an ECG:

Wenckewonky.

Wenckewonky.

 

You’re looking at a series of waves, cleverly named P, Q, R, S and T. The P wave is the bump just before the spike. The Q wave is the lowest point just preceding the spike. The R wave is the tip of the spike. The S wave is the trailing low point of the spike. And the T wave is the bump right after the spike. A 2nd degree Type 1 Wenckebach block results in that flat line you see between the second T wave in the image and the next P wave. You see it happen again three beats later, on the right side of the image. That longer flat line is where the heart skips a beat entirely because the time between the P wave and the R wave (for some reason, the Q wave doesn’t matter to Wenckebach) got long enough that the heart said, “Eff it. Start over.”

This is where it gets fuzzy: This is not considered an arrhythmia. An arrhythmia happens when there’s a premature beat in either chamber of the heart, independent of the electrical signal conduction we’re talking about here. (It’s fuzzy because it’s still an irregularity and both of them are results of electricity within the heart, but different kinds of electrical conduction. MY thing is not considered “abnormal.” Even though it surely seems abnormal to drop 100 beats per hour on average and not even be a hip-hop star.) I have no actual arrhythmia. Apparently, that’s remarkable. I don’t know why, but the doctor said so. I win.

So, the block shows up on the ECG. Fine. The stress test is to see whether the block is consistent even when exertion makes my heart work faster and harder. Adrenaline naturally forces the heart to function more efficiently, so they were looking for correspondence. Excellent news: my heart does what it’s supposed to when I’m walking a stupidly significant incline at a rather good clip for 11 minutes.

Somewhat less excellent is that, after that, during what a normal person would call either a “cool-down” or a “Jesus, let me sit down for a minute,” and which cardiology types call “recovery,” they pulled me back over by my telemetry straps to the table, flopped me down all sweaty and heavy-breathing on it, and put their hands up my gown. It was the least awesome time that has ever happened.

This is when they do the second echo, to compare heart appearance and function under “stress” to the first, relaxed echo.

The echocardiogram revealed that, structurally, everything appears normal. This means it is not heart failure, cardiomyopathy or disease in the valves or arteries apparent in the ultrasound. Huzzah! Mac and cheese for everyone!

However, while I was lying there all schvitzy, the rhythms went wonky – I could feel and see on the monitor the way my heart tends to trip over itself, even when I’m not doing anything but sitting on my couch watching Orange Is the New Black. This essentially looked like the lines were trying to draw the Rocky Mountains instead of the usual rhythms. I have tried to find an image of this, but it’s tough to do a Google image search for “electrocardiogram that looks like Rocky Mountains.” To the best of my memory, it looked a lot like this highly technical medical thing I drew:

WTF wave

WTF wave

I got no explanation of what this Rocky Mountain Wonkiness was and, as strange as it sounds, couldn’t ask, because in those few moments, I wasn’t allowed to talk, and afterward, the doc who administered the test (different from the one I saw two weeks ago, because he was on hospital rounds) had another patient waiting and had already explained the block and the difference between the dropped beats and the arrhythmia and basically told me she had to go.

I did get to talk to my other doc the next day, and while he hadn’t seen everything at that point, I did manage to get him to look at the report and he said the Rockies were about the “P wave getting buried in the QRS complex.”

I hate it when that happens.

Basically, he’s a little surprised by the frequency of the dropped beats, and he says the fact that I drop them in recovery is “not quite normal.” Clearly, he doesn’t know me well yet, or he would realize that everyone knows I’m not quite normal. The upshot of these two surprises is that he and I will have a standing annual date to make sure things don’t get any more caddywompus. Because that’s possible, and then we’d have to discuss pacemakers or what-have-you.

Remember how half the reason I called the cardiologist with my hair on fire a month ago tomorrow was that I was swelling inexplicably? Yeah, we still don’t know what that’s about. But since my Lyme titer definitely, definitely says I may or may not have had Lyme Disease one time in the last 37 years, I might be able to pursue the 341 other possibilities for swelling with my general physician when I see her tomorrow to find out how many tests and dollars it will take to rule out the Lyme Disease thing.

So. Current diagnosis: Heart-wonk. Treatment: Eh. We’ll see. Recommendation: annual check-up. Follow up with general physician to find 27 other things that might or might not be a problem.

Ah, medical practice. Twenty-four hundred years after its beginnings, it still hasn’t made perfect.

 

Lub-a-Dub-Dub, Three Cords and a Flub

I am currently hooked up to three electrodes that aren’t transmitting anything.

Just for fun.

Not really. I have a wonky heartbeat, and I have for years —too many for me to care to admit, but almost half my life. Recently, a couple of other things happened that I thought were unrelated, and then all of a sudden it occurred to me that slightly swollen ankles and feet and calves and a few extra pounds and a seemingly undeservedly fluffier midsection might all be related to my wonky heart.

And I freaked. The fuck. Out.

I called a cardiologist and scheduled an appointment, for which I had to wait two weeks, which commenced two weeks of freakout. I stopped all alcohol intake and started paying very close attention to sodium. In 24 hours, I dropped four pounds. In ten days, I lost eight. Some of that might have been because I was never home to eat; for two straight weeks of nightly rehearsals and concerts, I sat on stage, squirming on backless wooden benches for hours at a time, singing Mendelssohn and Adams and Beethoven, and monitored my heart, my ankles, my breath control. Was that racing/thumping/tightness because of adrenaline or anxiety or impending death? Did I need to get a spot on the end of the row in case I felt suddenly morbidly unwell? What if the heat of the lights and the crowded space and the all-black concert dress got to me?

I was convinced it was heart failure or cardiomyopathy.

I’m still somewhat convinced.

The swelling has largely abated, and when I finally did see a cardiologist, he seemed to think it might have been a coincidental result of sodium overload paired with cyclical fluid retention. I’m not sold on that theory, but as long as the swelling stays at bay and the weight stays off, I might be willing to believe it. Though I will be super-annoyed at the new tendency to retain water.

I was so scared that when my friend Eliza joined me at the cardio appointment in case he said something devastating and asked how I was doing, I burst into tears.

I was so scared that I was actually thinking about how I would tell my family, what might happen to my house, how long I might still be able to climb the stairs, how long I might be able to work, and exactly how far shy of, say, 50, I might be gone. I was thinking that maybe this is why I don’t have a husband. I was thinking about how I’ve thought for a while now that I will probably die young.

No kidding, guys. That’s what I was thinking.

I even thought about whether, or when, I would blog about it. I thought about my old blog acquaintance, marjulo, who seems to have lost her brief battle with inoperable pancreatic cancer, whose final post was about her diagnosis and whose site no longer exists. I thought a lot about my friend Amanda, just starting her impossible-to-win battle with stage IV metastatic breast cancer, finally finding her fight even though the tumor in her femur still has her in pain and the thought of fighting for the sake of a bunch of months of weekly chemo and then maybe a little time in remission only to be followed by more chemo and less remission is a lot to take.

“Well, of course you think something terrible is wrong with you,” Eliza said in the hospital lobby after the cardio appointment. “Terrible things are happening to everyone around you.”

There was probably something to that.

I had to have a couple of blood tests, and I’m set for a stress echo, at which time they will first try to kill me on a treadmill and then do the echocardiogram I thought was rightfully mine at the first appointment, to find out whether I have heart failure or cardiomyopathy or some other dysfunction greater than the AV1 block and the suspected pulmonary stenosis the cardiologist mentioned at the first appointment. (An AV1 block is a first degree block of the electrical signal between the atrium and ventricle, which, doc says, means it “takes a little longer to get from the lub to the dub,” but isn’t treated; pulmonary stenosis is when the valve between the heart and the pulmonary artery doesn’t open all the way and builds up pressure in the heart chamber as it tries to force blood out to be oxygenated.) My thyroid checked out fine, but my Lyme titer was “indeterminate,” which is the medical equivalent of “Meh… maybe you had Lyme Disease… maybe you didn’t.” Which is basically irrelevant to the situation at hand, but has forced me to schedule another appointment to find out whether I did, in fact, have Lyme Disease once. All evidence to the contrary.

And now I’m hooked up to all these electrodes that are plugged into a gizmo that sends signals to a former cell phone that is now a PDA, and it is all pissing me off.

The first time I felt my heart go weird, I was 20. I was stressing out in a serious way about a married man who had professed his love for me and with whom I did not want to be involved except that I was already kind of involved, not adulterously, but in that way that you get involved with men you work with who say they are willing to put everything on the line for you because their love is just that strong, and you happen to be a total shipwreck in the self-esteem department at the time. I was lying on the couch in my college apartment, which I shared with three of my friends, and Jerry Springer was on, and it was something ridiculous and gross, and I suddenly realized that my life, at that moment, mirrored the show.

Since then, my heart has been skipping beats not with thrills or joys but with impunity. In recent years, it has seemed to frequently trip over itself in an effort to catch up after a dropped lub or dub: lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub…lub-lublublub-dub-dub-lub, lub-dub, lub-dub…

I had an echocardiogram something like 11 years ago. I don’t even remember the name of the cardiologist. In fact, I remember nothing about that appointment except for the echo, and the declaration that nothing appeared out of order. And I haven’t had it checked on since. I’m not the annual physical type, so apart from the gynecologist, there isn’t a doctor I see regularly. I’m off the grid.

For the last 36 hours, however, two small devices have been tracking my heart and sending its patterns to a place that then sends it to the cardiologist. I think. Except for the five hours last night during which I got so monumentally irritated by the incessant beeping indicating low battery or poor connection that I ripped the electrodes off my chest, yanked the battery out of the monitor and turned the PDA off entirely so it could charge and I could sleep.

The PDA, which in a previous life was a Samsung Omnia II cell phone, cannot hold a charge. It prioritizes sending data over charging, which means that even if it stays plugged in all the live-long day, it uses up all its energy and dies, which seems counterproductive to a 48-hour heart monitoring system. When it blinks out, such horrendous beeping ensues that I feel like C3PO in mixed-up pieces on Chewbacca’s back. “OMG! DID YOU DIE?! I THINK YOU DIED!!! OH WAIT, THAT”S ME,” it says.

At the moment, it is turned off and plugged in to charge so that my cardiologist can get some idea of what my heart does while I’m sleeping tonight. Since the jumping my heart experienced last night was due to the damned infernal beeping waking me up juuust as I would doze off, rather than its own screwy, jazz-infused rhythm.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, day one of my 48-hour monitoring just had to coincide with Field Day at work. The PDA and the monitor have to be no more than ten feet away from each other at all times, which meant I had to carry the monitor around in the wristlet I use as a keychain/ID/credit/debit card holder the whole time I was swinging from ropes and walking high-wires and hiking around campus, sweating my boobs off, building team spirit with my coworkers. And since I didn’t really want the coworkers to know I was on a Holter monitor, I had to try to be surreptitious about it.

My wristlet is red, b-t-dubbs.

The monitor was clipped to the waistband of my pants, so the work polo I was wearing had to stay untucked. I was relieved to see most others had left theirs untucked, as well, so at least that didn’t seem weird. And happily, the shirt was long enough to cover it even when I had to reach up to swing from ropes like a goddamned Amazon woman.

I managed to keep my monitoring hidden from the coworkers all day. I did not, however, manage to keep the heavy wristlet from smacking me in the face while I clung to ropelines.

You know what blew me in?

The World Cup.

I went home, started writing an essay for my summer class, and had the USA vs. Ghana game on TV. I don’t know much about soccer, so basically I’m all, “Goal is good,” and that’s it. At halftime, The Colombian texted me to tell me to come over. He had one of other other neighbors there, and said neighbor is a bit profanely vocal and demonstrative during sporting events. Javier didn’t think he could handle it alone.

Since I am still very wary of Javier (his relationship with Lydia, however infirm, endures), I let him sweat it out a little while before I went over, armed with my former Samsung Omnia II and its charger, because it was already showing a yellow battery life level.

After our other friend left, and somewhere between the coach’s interview and Dempsey’s interview, I started beeping.

Not the phone, which lay on the windowsill, plugged into an outlet below. The monitor that was attached to me.

Javi did a pretty good job of pretending not to notice that I was emitting electronic sounds from the area of my panties. At least, he did the first four times it went off. And he pretended not to notice when I got up, heaved a sigh, and went into the powder room to check on the monitor.

But finally, after another loooong beep, he said, “Why are you beeping? Whass going on? Why are you stress?”

I’m a terrible liar, so I had to tell him. I thought for sure that this whole I’m-attached-to-a-bunch-of-wires-that-have-been-largely- unsuccessfully-adhered-to-my-midsection-with-steri-strips-all-day-so-that-a-cardiologist-can-keep-an-eye-on-my-heartbeat thing would be a pretty substantial turn-off.

Evidently, I was wrong. Evidently, it translated to a kind of “The Fault In Our Stars With Hearts Instead of Cancer.” Javi told me he had recently spent 12 hours overnight, alone, in the local emergency room for chest pains, and when we hugged goodbye, he tenderly and briefly kissed my neck.

Hope the monitor didn’t notice.

It was so brief that I didn’t even have time to say, “Stop kissing my neck, you South American seducer!” Which is not to say that it’s not still happening in my head, 24 hours later.

Dammit.

Why am I attracted to emotionally unavailable men? It’s a question for the ages. I have been, by all accounts (mostly his and mine, and also Angie’s because she’s heard about them) very clear with him about why his attempts to kiss me (four of them in the last nine months) are absolutely not going to be met with reciprocity because he is still with Lydia. And also, what I haven’t said is that he is to Lydia what Jack was to me, and I don’t need another Jack. He doesn’t know anything about Jack, but I know enough to know I don’t need Javier to be another Jack. On this I am absolutely resolute.

But those shoulders, and the back of his neck, and the way he has to peer over his glasses to see his phone, and the way he looks in a shirt and tie…

Settle down, heart. You’re being watched.

 

 

 

Glass half-full. I’m going with that.

The ice cream truck is playing Christmas songs and I’m getting mistaken trash dumping citations. It’s springtime in the city.

The trash citations are supposed to be for the house two homes north of me. Instead, some dolt who works for the city and doesn’t know north from south took all the requisite photos of proof and failed to understand in which direction the house numbers ascend. He’s got the front of my house in with three photos of the back of the house two doors up. He’s also got a photo of the rear of the house in between, which was also inexplicably cited, and it’s clear in that photo that the rear of my house is clean and the rear of the house to the north is where the trash is.

I expect this will be easy to fix, as I know the councilman for our district and I’m pretty confident he knows how to count and which way is north, and he is now in receipt of my email. As is someone in litigation for the city’s code enforcement division. If nothing else, I’m sure I can get the rats to send some emails, too.

Oh, relax. It’s a city. There’s water nearby and the trash gets picked up in the alley. Rats happen. You know you’ve grown impervious when you see one that’s multicolored and have no reaction whatsoever except to immediately characterize it as a brindle. Besides, the alley cats help control everything.

I love fighting the Man. Fortunately, it’s a lot easier when you know people. Of course, I’ll have to take care that city code enforcement doesn’t notice the sections of drywall propped up against the concrete wall behind my house, which are there because my guest bedroom got rained in. They used to comprise part of my ceiling. Those who have been reading me for a while know that this happened right before I bought my house, when Hurricane Sandy menaced the entire east coast. That time, there were stripes down the wall the day I was supposed to close, and I told the builder I wanted him to rip the wall out and redo it. He didn’t, but he seemed to have had a good reason. He said he’d fixed the problem on the roof and gave me a builder’s warranty.

Then he basically ignored me when I actually needed him to do something about water I was finding in the basement. Not a lot, but it’s still water – rain water, to be precise – and it comes through…

…wait for it…

…the electrical panel.

I think I know why it’s happening and how to fix it, but the builder is in the wind. He’s ignored me for 11 months now. He has ignored my realtor as well. I have looked up the records and discovered that he has been sued 40 times in the last 15 years, mostly for breach of contract, and he owes people millions of dollars.

Soooo that’s probably a fruitless pursuit.

Back to the guest bedroom… After a super-fun night of ignoring the paper I had to write so that I could, instead, help my former contractor friend and neighbor rip out an 11 1/2 x 3 1/2 foot section of my guest room ceiling to discover completely saturated fiberglass insulation, we figured we found the problem. The evidence hadn’t shown up in the ceiling, though it was just a matter of time. Rather, it had shown up halfway across the back wall. The water, having saturated the ceiling insulation, then found a path along beams and whatnot, and ran down that way.

Oh, physics. Oh, properties of liquid.

I gave the insulation a little time to dump its continual streams of fiberglass-flavored rain into buckets before I pulled it down. And looky what I found!

0503141430

How nice of them to label it!

Yeah, nobody I know wrote that. That’s from the builder’s guy. Helpful, no?

You might think that, upon coming home from work after a rainfall of several inches and finding a puddle on the windowsill and then following context clues to discover that half of the back wall of your guest bedroom was a sopping mess, you would have a few choice words at this revelation. You might think that I, historically willing to document choice words, would not be at a loss.

I really just laughed.

Because seriously?

Anyway, I got a roofer to come out, and he told me with every bit of stereotypical city Italian affect that the actual problem is three-fold: there were holes worn in the roofing materials around two pipes that vent up through that ceiling to the roof (the one pictured is the bathroom plumbing vent pipe, and the other one, about 18 inches toward you if you’re looking at the picture, is the air vent pipe for the bathroom fan), allowing rainwater to collect there and then drip through around the pipe;. Also, the air vent pipe was not capped.

I’m going to give you a minute to process the fact that an aluminum pipe not fitted for any kind of moisture because it’s meant only for air was left just as open as you please on my roof, so that it could just rain directly into said vent pipe and then leak from the elbow fitting into my ceiling. Probably for a long time, and directly onto my head at one point, as I stood there staring at the pipe marked “roof leaks” during a subsequent rainfall, waiting for the marker’s prediction to come true.

So, yeah. Two leaks. Long time.

Blessedly, that roofer, who is totally legit and came with multiple recommendations, said he’d only charge me $150 for the fix. Which is $9,850 less than I expected. I haven’t gotten a bill yet, so we’ll see how that actually shakes out.

And it appears his fix has done the trick. We’ve had a couple of rainfalls since, and everything’s dry.

My guest bedroom is still rather… rustic. So the next step is to call in a contractor to tell me what it will cost to remodel the room to look exactly like it did before it got rained in.

For now, the door is closed and I’m pretending that room doesn’t exist. Fortunately, I have an appreciation for learning, which comes in handy when you’re standing at the top of a ladder waiting for drops and can instead wax kind of nostalgic about the gorgeous, wide beams that made up the original ceiling, above which, between gaps, you can see the original slate roof. Since my house is about 100 years old on the outside, that was kind of cool.

Glass half-full.

Of rainwater, but half-full.

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