Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

Happy Halloween, y'all! Cranky has invited some classes in for my annual horror genre lesson today, and I just showed the classic "Talking Tina" episode of The Twlight Zone for the 4th time. Wahoo! Though if I have to watch a TZ episode 6 times in one day, that's a good one. It's still quite creepy 44 years later.

Despite my love of horror movies, I am a big chicken. I am afraid of a lot. So in honor of the scariest day of the year, I thought I would share (I initially wrote scare!) some of my phobias. Chime in with your own in the comments section!

1. Spiders. Especially large ones that hang out in bathtubs. Or shoes. Or that look like a piece of string, causing me to reach down and almost pick them up, only to have them unfurl eight furry legs and scamper under the couch, leaving me with the horrifying thought, "I almost picked up a spider!"

2. Fire.

3. Flying on airplanes. Mostly because when things go wrong, the crash is almost always fiery, and so we go back to number 2.

4. Small children with supernatural or psychic abilities. Or that talk to the dead. Or are possessed by Satan. Oh, hell, I'll admit it: all children are a little freaky, including my own. They've got those wee beady eyes, and those innocent little voices...

5. Driving over the Brent Spence bridge going south into Kentucky. Especially in the left lane, where you can see just how far your car would fall into the water if you, oopsie! crashed into the concrete barrier and busted through it. Or if the bridge collapsed. (When are they building the new I-71/75 bride? Another decade? Fabulous.)

6. Getting bags under my eyes in the aging process.

7. Plastic surgery. (See why I'm afraid of number 6?)

8. My laundry room after dark. Not because it's downstairs and has no windows and no one could hear me scream...I just hate doing laundry, and the piles of dirty clothes look so much more overwhelming in the dark. OK, it's partly because it's downstairs and has no windows...

9. Undercooked fish and poultry.

10. Loss. Of children, friends, my husband, my family, my car keys, my purse, my sanity...

Speak up, hollow weiners. What gets in your face and says, "Boo!"

Monday, October 29, 2007

Angels Among Us

I've been touched by an angel. I think.

My mom had a "psychic" party Saturday, and I went into the whole thing pretty skeptical. Don't get me wrong; I believe that there are things around us that can't be explained by science and natural laws and that we each have a soul and all that stuff. But I have always thought most of the people out there claiming to see the future and commune with spirits are phonies who are masters of emotional manipulation and whose "gifts" are nothing more than parlor tricks. I think now I have seen the real deal, though. And I have a lot to ponder.

What made me more skeptical is that my family knows the person who came over Saturday for the readings. She has been my mother's electrolysist for many years. See, the women in my family have facial hair issues. Not so bad that we'd get asked to be the bearded lady in the circus at any point in our lifetime, but bad enough that we're all willing to shell out a moderate amount of cash every eight weeks or so to send jolts of electricity or high-energy laser beams into the hair follicles above our lips (without this woman and a few laser hair removals, I may not have needed a fake moustache last week in order to play a convincing man.) We've known for a while that our hair lady is also a medium; we've seen the cards for her spiritual services in her office, but it's been something she never talked about much. She always told us she kept one job separate from the other, and that she would never dream of telling an electrolysis client that their long-deceased uncle Bob was in the room and wanted to say hello. Over the years, she had only told my mother one or two things that she felt she needed to, and in both cases they were right on, but we hadn't seen enough to convince us that Saturday's event was going to be anything more than a good excuse for us girls and a few of our friends to get together and drink some wine and gossip.

I got to mom's after the first person had gone in for her reading. It was a friend of my sister's, a woman who said she was a skeptic but who had been looking for something interesting to do on a Saturday. A little later, she came out of the room in tears. "She's good," she said. And she told us a string of things our hair lady had told her about the deceased members of her family that seemed to go beyond coincidence. These things were very personal and emotional for her, so I won't replay them here, but suffice to say we were getting chills as she was talking.

When the second person came out of the room with the medium, they were both laughing. Our hair lady told mom that mom's "spirits" had gotten in the way with that reading and kept butting in. "Did you do a lady's hair once and turn it pink?" she asked my mom. My mom thought a minute, and then started laughing. When she worked as a hair dresser in the nursing home, there was a woman with solid white hair whose family used to bring in different home hair color kits for mom to try on the lady; they were very particular and didn't trust mom's salon products. One day they brought in a strawberry blond, and against her better judgement mom put it on her hair, and it turned it a pale pink. She died a short time later, and still had pink hair when she was buried, much to mom's embarrassment. Apparently, pink-haired lady wanted to have some words with my mom Saturday and couldn't wait her turn and butted into this other person's reading. Now, the medium knows that my mom was a hair dresser, but mom doesn't believe she ever had time to talk about something that specific during one of her 15-minute electrolyis appointments (and believe me, when she's doing your upper lip, you don't feel much like chatting.) It wasn't even something I ever remember mom telling me, and she has told me a lot of funny stories from the home. Weird.

Finally it was my turn. Like so many others, what she told me was very personal and not someting I feel like sharing online. I will tell you that I cried. A lot. I strongly believe I heard a message from my father. And one spirit she claimed was in the room was a person who played only a small role in my life, and who I haven't talked about to many people, but she got the details of this person's death exactly right. One thing she did say that I am willing to share: she said that Ainsley has been saying a lot lately that she misses her papaw (and she has; she just started talking about him out of the blue about a month ago) and that her papaw wants her to know that she doesn't need to miss him, because he's always there, and that he talks to her, and sometimes she can hear him. For those of you who have heard me talk about Ainsley's cemetery behavior when we go to visit dad's grave, you know why I think this is true.

Of course, some of the things we heard from my dad have given us things to think about and some riddles to solve; the phone lines have been burning up between my house and mom's as we try to figure out one message we all three heard but can't quite get a handle on.

Even if this all was completely bogus, and no one can commune with the spirits of those who have gone before us, it was a good afternoon with ample doses of laughter, tears, remembrance, and wine. The spirits of our loved ones may not have really been among us, but by talking about them and remembering them, all of us felt their presence and their love. And that's more important than any message from the beyond.

Friday, October 26, 2007

You Know What to Do. Bust a Move.

Gosh, I love the PopWatch Confessionals.

Today's is about those wedding reception/class reunion/office party/alone-in-your-house-rocking-the-radio songs that get you up and dancing everytime. There are some classics listed in the comments; I defy you to read through the lists and not get at least one song stuck in your head the rest of the day.

I, too, have a short list of songs that, no matter where I am, no matter how comfortably I have been seated at a table, no matter what kind of engrossing gossip I might be sharing, will make me literally drop everything and shake my groove thing.

1. "Love Shack." Not only does this song have the power to make me dance unabashedly in the midst of complete strangers, it is also the only song that makes me sing/scream along in full voice until I am hoarse the next day. Tin roof...rusted!

2. "Come On Eileen." Though I never quite know what to do when it slows down. And even though I have an irrational fear of breaking my thumb in the middle of it after hubby severely sprained his by swinging his arm up into a co-worker during a particularly, um, energetic interpretation during an office Christmas party.

3. "YMCA." It has its own choreography! How can you look like an idiot doing the same moves all the other idiots around you are doing?

4. "Chatahootchie." Don't judge me. This one has a story. My friends used to torture my Atlanta-native, country-music-hating college roomie by calling her up at 2am and playing this Alan Jackson classic, writing her letters while she was studying abroad that contained nothing but the lyrics, plunking it into their car CD players and hitting "repeat", etc. While we were setting up the reception hall the morning before my wedding, one of these friends put some money into the American Legion jukebox and told it to play this song, and as fate would have it, it got stuck and we heard it, like, 20 times in a row. At my roommate's own wedding, she put "Chatahootchie" on her DJ's "absolultely under no circumstances are you to play this song" list, but my friends talked the maid of honor into convinving the DJ that, secretly, the bride really DID want to hear a little Alan Jackson, and it found its way in. So now, when I hear it, I have to get up and do a little victory dance...(sorry, K!)

5. "Don't Stop 'Till You Get Enough." I defy you to not feel a little happier when Michael Jackson's little "Ooh!" breaks out in the opening of this one. Something weird happens to me when I hear this song; my hands start waving over my head and I really have no control over my suddenly joyful limbs. This song is like Prozac for the soul.

6. This one's for my mom: "Strokin'." You know, that song by Clarence Carter that probably shouldn't be played at family events. Many years ago, when I was in high school, my mom and her friends left their kids and took a vacation to sow some mid-life oats in Panama City. At a little club, "Strokin'" came on and my mom went out to dance and later remarked, "I love this song!" She wasn't listening to the lyrics. The next night, they went to another little bar and my mom went up to the DJ and asked that he play "that 'strokin' song." When her scandalized friends told her to listen to the lyrics, she was shocked. But not so shocked that she didn't come back and tell everyone she wanted a tape of that "cute" song she heard in Florida. I requested it as a dedication to her at my wedding reception; the DJ looked at me funny, but sent it out to the mother of the bride ...

7. "Bust a Move." It was Joy's first-dance choice at her classy little wedding on My Name is Earl. It was the last song played at my high-school reunion this summer. It's on my 5K playlist and usually comes on while I am struggling to finish mile 2. It makes me laugh and gets my rear in gear.

Now that I feel like dancin' right in the middle of my library, you tell me...what, if anything, makes you move it, move it?

Thursday, October 25, 2007


My kid is...well, slow.

Not mentally slow. Though I would love her anyway if she were. She's just veeeeery slow in her actions. To the point where I had started calling her "Turtle" (affectionately, of course). I just chalked it up to her perfectionistic nature and her intense attention to detail and didn't think it was a big deal. Until she started getting teased at school for it.

She came home with a note from the teacher yesterday saying she had been very slow to finish work and to follow directions yesterday and that she had gotten a "warning" for it. In our discussions about that, I learned that some of the students in her class have been teasing her about being slow and about being the last to finish her coloring and the last in lunch and recess lines and the last in their little races. Awwww. Somehow, me calling her "Turtle" doesn't seem as cute anymore.

The name of choice among the little kindergarten bullies in her class is "slowpoke." On the surface, it doesn't seem too bad, does it? They could be calling her "booger nose" or "big stupid dummy-head" or any number of kiddie insults. But I hate having my kid associated with any variation of the label, "slow." It has bad connotations. Growing up, I always heard that my mentally disabled aunt was "a slow learner." The kids in the special education program were the "slow kids." And after I became a teacher, I would hear teachers describe in whisperey tones that this student or that student was "a little slow." I'm having a hard time with it, y'all.

There is nothing wrong with Ainsley's brain. She can read a little already, she has a fantastic memory (which I sometime wish she didn't have when I think about the unflattering tell-all memoir she could write about our little family someday) and she picks up on concepts quickly. Her school work comes back to us with the coveted "check-plus" on most of it. The problem is that it's taking her, like, hours to get it in to the teacher for that check-plus.

The temptation is to rush her. I, too, have gotten very frustrated with the length of time it takes her to do most anything. If I'm aiming to walk out the door at 4:00, I have to rev Ainsley's engines at 3:45 to get shoes on, bathroom duties taken care of, coat on, etc. by "go" time and still find myself hovering over her and counting down from 10 to move her along. She's just never in much of a hurry. If she dumps everything out of one of her toy baskets looking for something, I have to give myself a time-out and walk into the other room while she puts everything back; as I watch her mosey through the task, picking up one item at a time and examining it before putting it back, I find myself wanting to rush in and take over just to by-God get it done. And if her homework involves coloring something, well, I just have to get her comfortable, 'cause it's gonna take a while. She can't just color the sky blue; she has to do rainbow stripes and use every color in her Crayola caddy. Nobody can wear just a solid-colored shirt; she has to make polka-dots or patterns. "Just good enough" isn't good enough.

Do I really want to squelch that? On the one hand, what I affectionately call "farting around" on everyday tasks like putting things away, going to the bathroom, getting dressed, and getting in line doesn't fit with school rules. She's got to do a better job of staying focused and try to learn to do things with urgency (a difficult task for a kid who, at age 2, was taking 45 minutes some days to get through an entire bowl of cereal.) But with some of these things she takes her time on, coloring pictures and writing her lower-case letters and creating works of art from dried leaves and glue, I don't want to rush her. The problem there doesn't seem to be a lack of attention; in fact, it seems she's giving these tasks too much attention. And who am I to tell a kid she's trying too hard to do a good job on an assignment? Shouldn't I be fostering attention to detail and a healthy dose of perfectionism?

As I well know, perfectionism can go too far. As a kid, I used to be reduced to tears if the seams on my socks didn't fall in a perfectly straight and even line across my toes. As an adult, I've been known to go behind my husband and re-do a household task, like hanging a picture or wiping down the stove, in a hopeless quest for scientifically precise parallel lines or an absolutely streak-free shine. Some mornings I spend 5 minutes cleaning my glasses in an effort to remove every molecule of dust. I know this is a problem. I am getting better at the idea that sometimes you just slap some paint on some paper and call it a day.

So for now, we will work on turning my Turtle into a Speedy Gonzales in the realms of shoe-tying, direction-following, and line-gathering. I'm holding off, though, on pushing her to rush her way through her every assignment. How can I tell my own students to take their time and do it right if I am pressuring Ainsley to just color everything red and get it over with at home?

After all, the turle did beat the rabbit in the famous fable, and the moral was that slow and steady wins the race. If slow and steady is how my kid rolls, especially when she turns 16 and starts driving, I am absolutely OK with that.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Pleasant Surprises

It's always great when an eternal pessimist like me has something actually go better than expected. It shakes up my cranky foundation a little bit, but in a good way.

We did our little play yesterday for a third of the school, and it was the first time we performed in front of an audience, and we were without our lead, and very few of us seemed very excited about it. But something magical happens when you perform in front of an audience. I can look back over almost every production I've ever been a part of, both as a high-school and college actor and later as a high-school director, and see a pattern of absolute suckage and frustration in the technical and dress rehearsals with nearly-miraculous performances on opening night. I'm not talking about perfection; in one memorable senior-year performance, one of my student co-stars jumped ahead 6 pages in the script and threw everyone so far off-track we almost skipped the trial scene that was the climax of the play. But the audience didn't know what happened, and we all stayed in character, and it was fine. And though some sound and lighting cues got missed yesterday, and a couple of lines got dropped, and my fake mustache came halfway off, it went beautifully. I love the-ater!

I will also love Friday night at 9:30 pm when it's all over, but I am basking in the after-glow this morning and looking forward to two more student shows and one final performance for friends and family.

If you're a local, and you're interested in coming, let me know and I will give you further details.

And the best part? Wanting to go up to our naysayers who thought we weren't ready, and saying, "Nanny-nanny-boo-boo," knowing that the applause and laughter made all the hand-wringing and tears absolutely worth it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Show Must Go On...Or Not

We are performing (using the term loosely) our faculty murder mystery for students for the first time today. And we are doing it without our lead. Wow.

I can't get into all the backstage drama here (to explain the fracas fully, I would have to write, like, the longest entry ever), but it was ugly. We have a friend of a cast member, who is a professional actor, taking over the part, but he will have to use a script for today's performance as he didn't get enough notice to memorize lines yet. I am amazed that he says he can have them down by Thursday, but I guess that's possible for someone who gets paid to act.

But can we really bill it as a "faculty" show if not all our actors are on the staff here?

And how weird will that be to act with someone I don't know from Adam, who will have a script in hand, while trying to be entertaining enough to hold 500 students' attention?

Methinks we're in for an interesting dramatic experience. Wish me luck. Tell me to break a leg. No, really. A broken leg right now seems perferable to the drama ahead.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Oh, A Hunting Wii Will Go...

In light of our friends getting us hooked on Dance Dance Revolution on their Wii, and Jason's discovery last night that there's going to be a Disney Princess interactive game coming out for Wii, we are starting to talk about searching for the notoriously elusive gaming console. I never wanted to buy a video game system. I still don't know if I really want to; do I succumb to the temptation, or be the stronger woman and not cave to yet another obsession to eat up my free time? I will attempt to capture my dilemna in the following soliloquy:

To Wii, or not to Wii; that is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler for my mind to resist
The temptation and pursue healthier activities
Such as reading and critiquing new television shows,
Or to sling digital arrows at fictional foes in the land of Zelda.
To purchase, to play; to play, perchance to injure myself
And be treated for "Wii elbow" , or worse, to put a hole
In our television with a nunchuck.
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And leaves flip-floppers uncertain of the right decision.

Thank you, thank you. No, really. You're too kind.

So, what do we do here? Who out there Wiis, and who has resisted? And who will come over for a Dance Dance Revolution party if we get one?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

R.I.P., Glory

Have y'all missed me?

I've taken a break from posting to 1) get over the terrible chest cold passed on to me by my darling daughter, and 2) enjoy our fall break. Thank goodness for this long weekend; without it, I probably would have missed a couple of days of work to get my voice back and stop hacking.

It has been a sad weekend in Cranky Land. Glory, aka Glory B., aka Ainsley's First Fish, died yesterday. I wasn't terribly surprised; she had been lethargic and seemed to be gasping for air (in as much as a fish gasps for air underwater) for a couple of days. I think she got a pebble or something lodged in her gullet, as she seemed a little puffy around the gills and in her "throat", and it seemed like her air bladder was off. She swam a little lopsided in her last week. Short of performing fish surgery, I felt there wasn't too much I could do. I read that feeding a goldie peas when it's swimming lopsided can help fix the air bladder problem, but that only worked for a day or so. We just had to watch the poor little thing go downhill. And then we came back from a Saturday at the pumpkin patch, and she wasn't swimming at all; she was just laying at the bottom of the tank. Dead. I can't believe I am saying this, but I am in mourning for a fish.

We tried to distract Ainsley while the, um, burial took place, but she walked into the bathroom and saw her daddy holding the fish net after the final flush.

"Why did you put Glory in the potty?" she asked. And before her befuddled father could come up with something profound, she came to her own conclusions. "Is it so she could get to the ocean?"

Thank God for the wisdom in Finding Nemo.

We, of course, had already broken the news to her and she took it better than I thought. She said she was sad, and she definitely was quiet after witnessing the flush, but in minutes she was talking about getting another fish. She already knew she wanted an orange one this time and that she would name it "Ila" (at least I think that's how we spell it; I have no idea where she got this name, but it's pronounced Eye-la.)

I was more broken up over it than Ains. I hold myself responsible. Jason and I had done so much for this fish; we changed water until the ammonia and nitite levels got to zero, we were careful not to over-feed, and in general worried and fussed and put tremendous energy into preserving a $10 fish. Apparently, it wasn't enough. And I realized last night, as I teared up at dinner (while hubby looked at me like I'm the crazy that I am) that I loved Glory. I let myself get attached, like I always do to animals.

I'm going to miss her beauty. She was a black moor goldfish, which (as the name implies) is a black, velvety-looking fish with big googly eyes that stick way out from its head. She had personality for a fish; she came up to look at us through the glass when we entered the room, she adored eating mashed peas, and she blew bubbles at the top of the tank when she got excited. And she was the first pet my daughter actually chose to have, and helped to look after and care for. I associate that fish with my little Ains somehow, since for the past two months they've shared a room and I have said goodnight to both of them each evening. Seeing that fish on the bottom of that tank broke my heart.

We got the replacement fish, Ila, today, and it's just not the same. Ila is your standard old orange goldfish. She's very spirited and was hard to catch at the store (and Ainsley had already picked her out, so the poor salesgirl had to spend a solid minute chasing this one fish around the tank.) She's a lightning-fast swimmer and seems agressive; she keeps knocking against the bottom part of the filter to pick the plant scraps off of it, and when she does, the whole thing shimmies like it's going to break off. When one of us looks into the tank, she hides behind the nearest plant. She doesn't like people very much. Which makes it hard for all of us to like her.

Which is probably a good thing, given our track record so far with the fishes. The less attached we get, the better.

But it's just not as fun.

So, Glory, as you make your journey to the "ocean", may you rest in peace. You were a good fish.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Some Assembly Required

Hey, remember when we were kids, and we would get a toy, and we were able to just take it out of the packaging and, like, play with it? Oh, occasionally mom or dad had to go find a screwdriver and some batteries, but toys used to be ready to go right out of the box. Not no mo', my friends.

Just getting them out of the packaging takes a bionic hand and a machete. That's one of the reasons why I'm no longer such a fan of Christmas. Ainsley gets half-a-dozen assorted dolls or electronic games every year when she's over at hubby's family's Christmas Eve party, and I sit in the floor, surrounded by cheaply-made toys from China, tearing my fingers to shreds untwisting a hundred million different twisty-ties and plastic clamps just to get Barbie's slutty little sister and her two little prematurely-pubescent friends out of the packaging before Ainsley's head explodes. She'll be standing next to me, jumping up and down, near tears and asking, "But can't I play with them NOW?" while my torn fingernails begin to pile up next to me in a bloody heap.

Once you get them out of the boxes, you still have to deal with the high-tech-ness. Case in point: I spent the better part of my evening yesterday programming a Barbie Fairytopia Magic of the Rainbow Elina doll.

Ainsley and hubby had the day off together yesterday and spent the afternoon at that wonderful and magical place known as Totter's Otterville. For those of you not from around here, Totter's is an indoor activity center where kids can play with every toy imaginable in a variety of rooms and themed areas. It's inside the largest independent toy store in our area, so it's kind of a given that if you take Junior there, you're probably walking out with a toy, too. I usually don't cave to the toy-begging, but Ains still had some birthday money to spend and thus came home with a fancy new Barbie.

Jason thought it was just a Barbie, but it turns out this doll is also an interactive game piece. You can put in the special DVD that came with Elina, and program the doll to work with the DVD player to do kind of a starter version of a flight simulation game. The DVD knows when your child has tilted Elina to the right or to the left and will "fly" on-screen in that direction. Pretty cool if you're five.

Problem is, programming Elina is a complicated mess that involves watching a DVD tutorial (they recommend you watch it twice) and reading a set of directions. I watched hubby listen and learn and try and fail the programming twice, and I took the doll from him with what can only be described as a tone of superiority. Give me that, I said. How hard could it be?

15 minutes and two tries later and Elina still wasn't flying. I was ready to concede.

I consulted the written directions again, and realized I had been pointing the DVD remote at the red jewel, not the clear one, and that I had been holding the remote further away from Elina's necklace than the recommended 1-inch. The directions also said you needed to be at least 10 feet away from your DVD player while doing all this. Sigh. So I grabbed Elina again, moved to the back of our living room, pointed at the correct jewel, watched for the red jewel to flash three times (it had only flashed once on our other attempts, which is apparently a bad sign), and followed the directions as meticulously as if I were disarming a bomb. And then: success!

And all this time programming meant, after all our work and all of Ainsley's excitement, she had about 5 minutes to play with the doll before bath time. That went over well.

The sad thing is, as much as Ainsley loves Elina now, in a few weeks the interactive game and the wing-fluttering action will grow old and she'll be looking ahead to her Santa gifts. If she gets anything like this Elina doll from Santa, the elves making it work on Christmas Eve night may have to be committed to the North Pole loony bin before daybreak.

Maybe we'll be lucky this year and she'll just want, I don't know, a football. A nice, simple, unpackaged football.

Who am I kidding? The coolness of this doll is going to spark her interest and I'll be knee deep in walking, talking, needy little dolls this Christmas. We're going to have to set something out far stronger than milk and cookies this year. And let us not forget some Band-Aids.

Monday, October 8, 2007

I Must Not Like Myself Very Much

Usually the first weekend in October is spent hosting some out-of-town friends and making the annual pilgrimage to the Kentucky Wool Fest, held each year in the town of Falmouth, Kentucky, where Jason and I spent our first year as a married couple. We decided a while ago to give the Wool Fest a rest this year; we've really seen everything there is to see there, and our friends have a new baby, and it didn't seem worth fighting the crowds this year. It's a good time; there are deformed animals to pet in the petting zoo, lots of "craft" booths, and you get to learn everything you ever wanted or didn't want to know about sheep shearing. But there are only so many consecutive years you can stand to see 3-legged baby goats and beer-can pinwheels and mobiles. We had planned on a getaway to Louisville to visit them, but it became clear in the week before that Ainsley's terrible chest cold and asthma issues were going to make it unwise to leave town and spread germs to two other little kids. So, for the first time in a bunch of years, we were left to our own devices on what usually is the first weekend of the year to really feel like fall.

Only, in my little part of the world, the first weekend in October this year felt more like the first weekend in August. It is hot up in here. So, when Ainsley showed signs of improvement after 13 hours of sleep Friday night (awesome!) and my mom asked if she could spend the night Saturday night, my and Jason's first thought was...let's go run a 5K in 90-degree temps! Rock on!

We're not bright sometimes.

The biggest 5K in the Cincinnati area is the Reggae Run, which is an evening race with over 5,000 participants through the scenic (and hilly) Hyde Park area followed by a HUGE party with a Reggae band and free food and drinks for the participants. I scoffed a bit at the party thing, especially the 4 beer/wine tickets each participant gets. Really? Beer and wine after running? After completing the race, though, I completely get it. If they didn't lure you with that, and free food from dozens of vendors, I don't think anyone would be dumb enough to actually want to run the thing.

That race was possibly the most brutal 30 minutes I have ever voluntarily subjected my body to (well, since the "Green Lightning" hooch party in college, anyway.) It wasn't just the heat. It was the heat of the day, plus being surrounded by thousands of sweaty, cardiovascularly-strained people putting out even more heat and blocking all hopes of a breeze, plus two hill climbs that felt like they were never going to stop. Lots of people around me gave up on the hills and started walking. And the sad thing is, even though I "ran" the whole way and didn't stop to walk, I was going no faster than some of the walkers on the final hill. I didn't care. I just wanted it to be over.

When it was over, they were out of cups. So I crossed the finish line, feeling every heart beat in my tomato-red face, struggling to catch my breath in the humid air, and saw that I couldn't even have a cup of water. Seriously, you organize a race on a 90-degree day, and you run out of cups? Seriously? People were just going up to the volunteers and having them pour water from pitchers and garden hoses into their mouths.

Jason had crossed several minutes ahead of me, and was able to get a cup, so we shared. By the time the walkers we went with finished, I had topped off our cup with hose water at least 4 times. And I was still dying.

We kept hearing rumors of bottled water, but by the time we could get to the water booth, it was gone. We eventually did snag some, but only after we had all four been sharing one cup and drank some Pepsi to just try to cool off (nothing like drinking a fizzy, caffeinated beverage when you're already dehydrated.)

After almost an hour of cooling off, and swearing that I would never, ever do that race again because it wasn't worth the aggravation, I hit the beer booth. Suddenly, the party was a lot more fun.

And four beer/wine tickets? Just enough for a few hours of after-partying. If you don't care how you feel the next day.

After hearing this morning that the Chicago Marathon had to be stopped yesterday due to heat (one runner collapsed and died, and many more had to be treated in hospitals) I am both proud that I finished a distance race in such unseasonable conditions and a little mad at myself for pushing myself and willingly running in a heat index that sends people to the ER. Not that a 5K is anywhere near as gruelling as the marathon, but thinking back to how I felt after I crossed the finish line (and how I still feel a little off two days later) I've realized I probably pushed the limits of my physical abilities further than I needed to. A few foamy beers are not worth the risk of heat stroke.

Though it does a good job of making you forget your pain at the time.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

What Now? Seriously.

My eyelashes are falling out.

Oh, don't worry, I still have enough. And I still have oodles more than I had when I finished chemo and had, like, three. But I've lost enough from my left eyelid to be a tad worried.

I've thought for a week or so that my left eye seemed to be a little sparse in spots in the eyelash area. As I've applied mascara the last few days, it's almost seemed as though I have a gap there; a little spot where eyelashes used to be but aren't now. I didn't think too much of it until I was in the tub last night, trying to relax from a stressful week at work, and rubbed my eyes. When I pulled my hands away, my left fingers were covered with a dozen or more eyelashes. None on the right. What the frick?

I called Jason in and told him about it, and he had what I think is a possible solution: the infection I had last week from my unsanitary eyebrow-plucking habits. It is the same eye. And though I didn't think the redness and swelling extended down to my lower eyelid, maybe the germ made it down to my lashline and infected some hair follicles.

I hope it's as simple as that. And I hope I don't lose any more. Right now it's only noticeable to me. I'd like to keep it that way.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Think Pink

I love October.

The color in the trees, the spooky decorations, the raspy sound of kids walking through the dried leaves on the the street, the cooler temperatures (well, in most Octobers; we have highs in the upper 80s here in northern K.Y. through the weekend), and, in recent years, the proliferation of all things pink.

I used to hate pink. It used to be that anything the color of Pepto-Bismol made me need Pepto-Bismol. I cringed at the pink t-shirt I had to wear to my high-school job in a mall yogurt shop and balked at the very idea of buying any item of clothing in a hue along the strawberry-ice-cream spectrum. I watched The Bachelor's Trista and Ryan's exceedingly pink wedding and almost gagged at the blush that hung over every dress and every decoration. Then, 5 1/2 years ago, I learned I was carrying a little girl. Suddenly, I was surrounded by the very color I hated. Pink onesies. Pink booties. Pink hats. Pink blankets and cuddle toys. Pink pajamas and dresses and pants and even pink UK shirts. And once it represented the precious little bundle I was expecting, it started to become...dare I say it? Lovely. Feminine. Gentle. All those things I used to not be able to relate to. And I began to like it a little.

Since my own cancer diagnosis, I've become more aware of the pink ribbons I see displayed every October for breast cancer awareness month. I didn't have breast cancer, or course, but the chemo and radiation regimen I had was very similar to the drugs and radiation fields used to fight breast cancer. My worst treatment side effect, a lymph-drainage problem called lymphedema, is most commonly seen in breast cancer survivors. My treatments have put me in a high-risk category for breast cancer. I feel a part of the sisterhood.

So when I see the flood of pink merchandise every October, I go a little nuts. Literally. I bought a one-pound bag of pink peanut M&Ms at the grocery yesterday. Over the last couple of years, I've bought pink bracelets, pink athletic socks with the little cancer ribbon on the ankle, pink t-shirts, pink undies, pink cake mixes, and pink candles. If it has that little ribbon on it, and the words "Susan G. Komen" on the packaging anywhere, I just can't resist. I even bought Ainsley a little pink rubber duckie to benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation. In October, I'm an easy sell for any pink novelty item I see.

If you are a Kentuckian, our First Lady, Glenna Fletcher, has designated Wednesday, October 10 as a statewide "Wear Pink to Work Day." Even if you're a pink-hater like I used to be, please show your support for the cause. One out of every eight women will get a breast cancer diagnosis in her lifetime. Chances are, we or someone we love will get this disease. Being aware of this cancer, and getting regular screenings, can go so far in an early diagnosis and successful treatment.

So, while you're enjoying this glorious month and Halloween and the beginnings of fall, remember to take a little time to think pink.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Home Alone

I am such a wuss.

I absolutely, positively hate going to bed when Jason's not home. I'm not going to go so far as to say that I'm afraid of the dark, but...ok, I'm afraid of the dark.

I blame it on my mom and sister. They raised me on a steady diet of horror movies long before I was old enough to really understand that what I was seeing was fake. With my only sister 11 years older than me, and in a time before video recorders, DVR boxes, and parental controls, if my adult housemates wanted to watch a scary movie in my single-TV house, I was right there with them. I loved these movies, so there was no sending me to bed. And since Sis was 17 back when I was still 6, she could take me along with her to see R-rated scary movies right there in the 10-foot-reality of the movie theater. We saw Halloween 2, An American Werewolf in London, Aliens, and John Carpenter's The Thing together in the theater before I was even 10 years old. And at home, we had girls-nights-in watching Vincent Price flicks, assorted Friday the 13th sequels, and all the 1980s slasher movies where only the "smart" girl survives the slaughter. Was this healthy viewing for an observant little girl with a lively imagination? Heck no. Was it fun as hell for said little girl? Yes! Until bedtime.

I could not sleep alone in a dark bedroom as a kid. If night-lights didn't cut it, and I was still seeing Freddy or Jason in the shadows, I escaped to my mom's room. I have outgrown the adolescent heeby-jeebies a little, and mostly I need a dark, quiet room to fall asleep. But there are still times that I wake at 3am, and imagine the Mothman outside the window or Emily Rose's demons lurking behind the door, and in those times, I need a body to snuggle close to (even though sometimes my half-asleep and terrified brain imagines that the 6-foot-4 form I share a bed with is a monster, too, but those are rare occasions.)

Now that I'm a mom, I find that I am protective of the little creature in the next room and when Jason is working overnight on a software release or out with the boys, I suck up the fear and turn out most of the lights and know that, should a real threat occur in the middle of the night, it's up to me to be smart and quick. That's pretty enpowering. There are still times, like last night, when I have to fight the urge to light every lamp, take No-Doz, and take every creak and car-door-slam as a signal to dial 9-1-1.

Jason went to the Bengals game last night, and I knew if I had any chance of functioning at work today that I had to crash well before he was able to come home. It was OK at first; I had had a rough day taking care of a sick kid, and I was tired. I drifted off easily, but a strange sound from the side of the house woke me. My rational self declared that it was our neighbors' Bengals-viewing-party in full swing with people coming in and out of the house and calling to each other. My inner child became convinced someone was invading the house through a downstairs window.

I was reminded of the time when, pregnant with Ainsley, I heard a loud crash in our house on a night when Jason was out playing cards with some friends. Something maternal took over, and I grabbed our cordless phone (with the "9" and the first "1" dialed to save time later) and a dull chef's knife (no harm to anyone unless they were made of butter) and started down the stairs of our bilevel to investigate. About halfway down, I was reminded of how most horror-movie victims meet their ends: by going to investigate. So I stood by the front door, posed to run, knife and phone still in hand just in case, and hollered out, "If someone's in here, I'm getting ready to call the police, and I have a weapon, so I suggest you get the #$&% out!" Yes, I know how bad-ass I am. When the boogeyman didn't oblige, I crept back upstairs, sagged into the recliner, and kept watch until the wee hours. At daylight, with the hubby a holler away, I got the nerve to investigate the noise. The source? An overturned drying rack in the laundry room that I had overloaded with clothes.

Remembering how it was nothing that time, I was able to drift off again last night. I was very glad when hubby came home, though, and I definitely slept better knowing he was there (even though his snoring woke me up once.)

I am just no good by myself.

Monday, October 1, 2007

An Ass-thma Kind of Day

Being home on a day I'm supposed to be working is always weird. I've had time today to contemplate the insanity of baked-goods-packaging. (Why, after a weekend of grilling, do we have 4 hot dogs left but only 2 buns left? If Oprah and Dave can put aside their differences and appear on each other's shows, why can't the weiner people and the bun people work this out?) I've also had time to see the new Charmin commercial several times, and be more uncomfortable with each viewing. (Do I really need to know that there's a new Charmin that leaves "less behind"? Really, the less I think about wiping and the mechanics and what all goes on down there the better. I've been picturing toilet-paper-balls in unmentionable places all day thanks to that stupid bear. Thanks, Charmin.) And the kicker? In an effort to purge the whole dingleberry image out of my head, I took on a task even more grotesque than using non-Charmin toilet paper--I cleaned out the hair trap in our shower. And I didn't even gag once (well, maybe once, but that's pretty momentous for me.)
Why was Cranky home on a work day? Only my top reason for missing school: Ainsley got sick and scared the tar out of me.
It was a bad morning in the Cranky House.

Ains has had a bad time with her asthma since Thursday. She's not an audible wheezer, but she gets a persistent wheezy cough when she's having an attack. Her main trigger is a respiratory infection, but I've also heard the "hyena cough" after she's been exposed to a strong scent (I put an air freshener in her room this summer, and that didn't go well), or when she plays outside in cold, dry air. With the weather finally starting to feel like fall, and the ragweed in bloom, I figured this latest bout was allergy- and air-related. But things got ugly this morning.

She was fine last night, though I noticed that the inhaler wasn't doing its usual job of keeping the wheezy hack at bay. She slept well, though, so I had every intention of getting her up today and sending her to school.

Midway through breakfast, she went into a 5-minute coughing fit that left her short of breath and pale. Her eyes looked dark and sunken-in. Not good.

Two puffs of the inhaler eventually got her calmed down, but in giving it to her, I noticed she felt warm. The thermometer confirmed a mild fever. Crap. And all this was 10 minutes after the cut-off for calling in a sub at my school. Crap crap.

Our secretary said she'd work something out, and Ainsley's doctor said she wanted to see her, so 9am found us in the office. In typical Ains fashion, her fever went down and the coughing subsided as soon as we pulled into the parking lot. I love when I call the appointment line all in "Panic Mom" mode, and Ainsley's a picture of rosy-cheeked health by the time the nurse comes in. My mom says I was the same way, and I can remember her begging me to cough in the exam room before the doctor came in so the doctor wouldn't think we were making it all up. Gotta love the paranoia that runs in families.

She wasn't wheezing at the appointment, natch, but she gave a few good coughs and was doing an admirable job of looking pale and pitiful. It was decided she has a nasty chest cold that's going around and making people wheeze who don't even have asthma. After a quick breathing test, the doctor decided to give us a short course of steroids to open everything up in her chest and make the inhaler do a better job.

Several hours, three meltable steroid tablets, and one long nap later she's a different kid. Thank God for modern medicine.

Tomorrow I'll be back at work, though I will be making field trips to Ainsley's school during lunch each day this week to listen to her breathing and administer her inhaler to try to keep her tubes open until this nasty bug runs itself out.

And possibly stopping for that extra-strong Charmin on the way home. Damn you, you disgusting little cartoon bear.