Thursday, October 28, 2010

I'll Be Seeing You (In All the New, Familiar Places)

This time tomorrow, I will either be able to throw away my glasses and contacts forever, or I'll be having a seeing eye dog help me to the bathroom.

Yep. I gave in, as I so often do, to peer pressure. Following the lead of several friends, co-workers, and my spouse, I am getting Lasik. Years ago, in the middle of the great Eye Allergy Catastrophe of 2006, my opthamologist tried to get me to see the light in regards to elective eye surgery.

"You may never be able to wear your contacts again," she said, after discovering that I actually had a rash on the inside of my eyelids. "But you could always get Lasik, so long as you don't get it while your eyes are actively inflamed from your allergies."

I laughed and told her there was no way I was going to let someone cut into my eyeballs, even with the help of a what I was assured was amazing technological advances, and that if I couldn't ever wear contacts I would just get along with some spiffy glasses.

That was then, and this is now.

I am possibly not as nervous as I should be. I know a lot can go wrong. I know people have complications. But I feel ready for this. Maybe not the laser-cutting-into-my-cornea-while-a-suction-cup-holds-my-eye-still part, but definitely the life-without-thick-glasses part.

So, wish me luck. I keep thinking that the procedure can't be as bad as some of the other stuff I've had done to my body while I've been wide awake in a medical facility; bone marrow biopsy, breast MRI when they didn't have me postioned correctly and I was face-down into a pillow in a narrow tube for 40 minutes,  needle biopsy. But these are my eyes, the only set I'll ever have, and I may be singing a different tube once I start smelling burning organic matter tomorrow morning while the laser does its thing.

I will be taking some time off from writing to let my eyes heal. I'll see you all later...hopefully.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Over The Hill

I could see nothing but the sky above me as my body was carried higher and higher. My heart was pounding in my chest; I could hear the roar of my own blood in my ears. I was in mortal peril. How, oh how had it come to this? Would this be how it all ended, with me stuck inside a car about to free fall off of a mountain?

"At what point are we too old for roller coasters?" my friend asked.

"I'd say about right now," I answered. We had waited in line for an hour for the privilege of feeling our own impending doom. Why had this seemed like a good idea?

And so went my ride on the Diamondback, the newest, tallest, biggest, baddest coaster in my former childhood haunt, Kings Island amusement park. We survived, and I can honestly tell you it's the best ride I've ever ridden. But I can also honestly tell you that, if I could have chickened out about halfway up the first hill, I totally would have.

It wasn't always this way. For several glorious years in adolescence, my family purchased season passes to Kings Island, which is less than an hour from my hometown. When you can go to a big amusement park any time the family gets bored on weekends or for a few hours on lazy weeknights after work, even the big rides lose some of their thrill. I became a kid who would try any ride at least once and not feel so much as a flicker of nervous butterflies. The only time I can remember being certain I was going to die on a ride was the time a girlfriend and I rode the Beast (still the world's longest wooden coaster) right after a downpour; we knew the ride had felt out-of-control, and when we pulled into an empty station, one of the ride workers congratulated us on being the last ride of the day and informed us the train had jumped the tracks on more than one occasion during our ride.

Now that was thrilling.

I grew up, and so did the park. I haven't been since before Ainsley was born. Fighting oppressive river valley heat and long lines hasn't appealed to me in a long time. But we knew someday it would be time to introduce Ainsley to some rides a little bigger than the festival tilt-a-whirl and the flying Dumbos at Disney World.

That day was Saturday when we found ourselves invited to a company picnic during the park's fall festival. The centerpiece of the park now is a huge new metal coaster that you can ogle from anywhere inside the grounds. It's a far cry from the coasters I grew up with.

And I may never have ridden it. We got Ainsley on a few "starter coasters" within the first hour we got there, and I learned that I have acquired a vivid and morbid imagination. I can see all the ways a thrill ride could go wrong; aging, possibly rotting wood supports, lax safety inspections, a loose screw here, a sagging bolt there. I couldn't enjoy my old favorite Racers. I was too concerned that the three of us would succumb to the laws of motion and gravity and find ourselves careening off the side of the first turn.

Ainsley herself had been overjoyed at first that she met the height requirements for every single thrill ride there. But after coming out of her seat on a couple of smaller coasters, she made an astute comment about the new Diamondback, that monster that dominates the landscape:

"I'm just not ready for that thing yet."


But then we were joined by a couple of friends, and a seed was planted. 

"You know, I think the ladies should go ride the Diamondback," someone said.

The other lady in the group shrugged and looked my way. Ah, peer pressure.


We were joined in line by a couple old enough to be our parents and kids as young as Ainsley. It's hard to chicken out under those circumstances. Though we both discussed it.

"We could get out of line now and tell them we rode it and they'd never know."

But we would know. And so would the AARP-subscribing couple behind us.

The ride itself is a blur. I know my scream got stuck in my throat on that first hill; I know that after that I laughed more than I screamed because it felt so good just to still be alive. The bones in my legs turned to rubber from the adrenaline surge and I could barely use them to get to my family, who were waiting for us at the exit.

"Well?" Jason said.

"Momma, was it fun?" Ainsley asked.

"It was...awesome."

Someday I may even have the guts to ride it again.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Sweetest Day

Sweetest Day is such a ridiculous thing.

We all know that the only reason there is such a day is so that the greeting card people can make money from the sad fact that not everyone has a boyfriend or girlfriend in February. They figure by throwing in a lovey-dovey holiday in the fall, they're at least getting one romantic greeting card a year out of you. Surely, if you don't have someone special on February 14, you will have someone who wants to hold your hand while the leaves are changing color.

Sweetest Day was not really on my mind Saturday. I saw the balloons floating all over the place at the grocery store, and saw it advertised on a flower shop's marquee, but it didn't click until dinner Saturday when dear hubby reached over and grabbed my hand at the dinner table.

"Happy Sweetest Day, dear," he said.

"Oh, yeah. You, too. That's why I made fettucine alfredo. It's our 'romantic' dinner tonight with the kid." It totally wasn't why I made that for dinner; I really just wanted to get my cheese on.

"Remember that date we had at Olive Garden when we were kids and had fettucine alfredo for the first time?"

Ahh. How could I forget? It wasn't on Sweetest Day, but rather on our one-year dating anniversary when we were all of juniors in high school. We got dressed up and then, since neither of us had driver's licenses yet, met up on a bus that would take us to our restaurant. I remember that dress shorts were in fashion, and I was wearing a pair of unfortunate dark orange wool shorts. Seriously. I thought I was so cute.

I felt on top of the world that night. Earlier in the day, during some free time in chemistry, I used my teacher's state-of-the-art Apple computer to create an anniversary card for Jason. It was such a new and complicated program that I had a classmate help me.

"Wow. I can't believe you two have been together a year. I guess things are pretty serious?" My computer helper, an "it" girl who I used to be close friends with until she became uberpopular with the boys, gave me a mischievious look that made me blush.

"Well, yeah. But not like you're thinking." I could barely get the words out; I was such an innocent little thing, sexy orange wool shorts notwithstanding.

The look on her face changed; I think she was actually jealous. "He must really love you."

As Jason and I enjoyed one of our first romantic dinner together, and he footed the bill from his meager Kroger bagger earnings, I knew that he really did. And I was one of the luckiest girls in the world. 

Fast-forward to the present day. We never have much celebrated Sweetest Day, but talking about that big date to Olive Garden (and how we met up after with our friends at the mall yogurt shop where a few of us worked in high school, because that's just the kind of crazy kids we were) and telling our daughter a little about our early years made it special.

But the real sweetest days are all the days between the holidays and special occasions.

Yesterday Ainsley got off the bus with a present for me. Made from a piece of paper towel left over from some class activity, it was a little homemade stapled envelope of the kind we used to have to make for Valentine's cards in elementary school. At the top she'd written, "I love you! From: Ainsley" and inside the pocket was a little red cut-out heart.

Who needs a greeting card holiday when you get that kind of love on a random Monday?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Out of the Mouth of Ains: Spelling Counts

"Momma, can I spell a bad word if I don't want to say it?"

No conversation with an 8-year-old that begins this way is going to be comfortable.

"Why do you want to spell it?"

"Because some of the kids in my class say it's a bad word and they say it all the time and I want to ask you if it really is a bad word."

Sigh. New vocabulary is a part of every kid's education, even in Catholic school. "Okay. Go ahead."

"D-I-K-E. Is that a bad word?"

Mercy. I almost choked on my dinner. She just recently asked me if she was allowed to say the word "gay" after an episode of Glee; she had heard at school that that was a bad word, and she knew what the word meant, but after she heard characters on that show use the word in a calm discussion it didn't seem to her like it was always bad to say. We had a long talk about how some words aren't good to say in one context, but are okay to use in others. I thought maybe this was coming from that same realm of playground talk, but just in case...

"I want to make sure I understand what word you're talking about. Go ahead and say it out loud. It's okay; you're not going to get in trouble."

She took a deep breath. "Dick."

I dared not make eye contact with Jason. I could see a smile trying to lift up the corners of his mouth as he sat all too amused by the predicament we found ourselves in.

"Yep. That's definitely a bad word. You certainly don't want to be either saying or spelling that one. Except when it's someone's name, and then it's okay...umm...hey, you did a great job eating all your dinner tonight! Go get yourself a treat."

She didn't ask what the word meant, and maybe I should have gone there, but I was still a little in shock. Shocked that the direction I thought we were going in was not the direction we were really going in, and shocked that her spelling and phonics skills are that weak. She aces spelling quizzes; how did she not remember that words that end in "e" have a long vowel sound? So much from that conversation to ponder.

And now I just brace myself for the next set of "dirty word" questions.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Out of the Mouth of My Friends: Aw, Nuts

I love a good double entendre.

Nothing quite tickles my funny bone more than a seemingly innocent statement that, upon further reflection, is just a little bit diiiirty. This the genius beind, "That's what she said!" She said a lot, apparently. And it's best when the off-color meaning is completely unintentional and organic; it never works when you're trying too hard.

One of the funniest things I've heard all year falls in this realm.

A couple of weeks ago, we had some dear friends visit us to make our almost-annual pilgrimage to Kentucky's Wool Fest. Don't knock it 'til you've tried it. Part of (maybe all) of the fun lies in the food. Our ritualistic visit to the Wool Fest demands a stop at the booth that sells hot roasted German almonds and cashews. It's not fall for me until I have eaten some of these still warm from the roaster while walking around the fairgrounds listening to the dry leaves crunch under my feet (and smelling the sweet, sweet smell of the petting zoo.)

Each family bought their own bag; Jason, Ainsley and I were enjoying one while our friends and their kids were noshing from another. I was walking point when I heard my girl friend say,

"Well. I'm digging around in someone else's nut sack."


Thanks for this, DRoss. Every time I've thought about it in the last two weeks (which has been often, as I've been meaning to post it) I've launched into a much-needed fit of giggles.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Selfish Day

I used to be so selfish.

Most young people are, but I really did think the world revolved around me the first decades of my life. I was the youngest sibling in my family by 11 years, so I had my parents pretty much to myself. Not only that, but I was the youngest grandchild on both sides of the family; I was the proud recipient of a lot of my two grandmothers' praise and affection. They all indulged me. Such is the life of the baby of the family.

I was not necessarily spoiled (we weren't well-off financially enough for that) but I didn't really have to think too much about how my actions or inaction impacted others. I didn't have to share toys, clothes, TV time, or a bedroom. My schedule could be as jam-packed or as open as I wanted it to be without having to worry about my mom accommodating another kid's activities. When I wanted to come home and nap for 2 hours, I came home and napped for 2 hours. When I needed to stay at school until 9pm, I stayed at school until 9pm. Any snacks in the house were fair game, and if I took the last Little Debbie Fudge Round, no one was going to be offended. I worried only about my own needs. Looking back, I know that when I got to college I was a bad roommate because of this. I'm sorry, girls. At least I didn't keep any exotic pets (other than Jason.)

Then I married, and then I had a child. There are some people who stay self-centered after they have children; you know who these people are because you hear about them in the news. These are the mothers who get DUIs while their kids are in the car, or who get charged with endangerment because they left their 7- and 5-year-old home alone while they went clubbing, and in the worst of cases, the ones who kill their children and try to stage it as a missing child. But most of us start forgetting who we are the day those precious little creatures burst forth Alien-like from our wombs. Just like people used to believe that the earth was the center of the universe until a man named Galileo said this wasn't so, we mothers eventually realize that we are just another piece of cosmic rock orbiting something greater than ourselves.

I thought things would get easier as Ainsley got older. I can't wait until she is able to go to the bathroom on her own! I thought when she was still in diapers. I can't wait until we don't have to plan our afternoons around her nap time! I thought when she still needed an after-lunch snooze every day. I can't wait until I no longer have to be at her swimming lessons/basketball practices/church children's activities with her and can just drop her off and go shopping, work out, sit at home and read...

It didn't work out that easily. And oh, what I wouldn't do for just one more Saturday afternoon where Ainsley really, really needs a nap after lunch.

Every now and then, you have to cry out, "Enough!"
I am not here today to complain. I've done that before. A lot. Here's what I do want to do: institute a day of selfishness for moms. Just one day a year when we live like we did when we were selfish little kids who knew our parents' world mostly revolved around us. No, Mother's Day does not count. If we're lucky, we still have mothers of our own we want to make feel special that day, and that day can end up being as action-packed as any other Sunday of the year.

What I want, and I know I can't be alone, is one entire day where I have nothing on my "to-do" list. At least, nothing that can't be put off without the world caving in. I don't want to have to be a chauffeur, a cook, a maid, an event planner. I don't want to be needed for anything. I just want to BE. To wake up, look out my window, and let the day carry me somewhere instead of the other way around. If I want to exercise, I'll go exercise. If not, I'll take a nap. If I want a massage, or a pedicure, then I'll do that without worrying that the world will stop turning on its axis without me there to direct the spin. If I want to go to a wine tasting, or a book signing, or go meditate in a park, I can do that, too. On Selfish Day, any or all of these things are possible; someone will watch the kid and the laundry pile while I'm gone, and when I come back everyone will want to drop everything at a moment's notice to go frolic in the backyard or perform a song on Rock Band.

I want just one day where it's all about me. Don't you?

It will take some work, though, and maybe that's what will hold us back. We'd have to get sitters, make appointments, break appointments, and clear schedules. But I'm committed to doing this, and that right soon. My mental health depends on it. I am craving free time like a man in a desert craves water.

Who's with me?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Update--The Spider Is Dead! Long Live the Spider! (Or Not.)

Creature update! (If you are just joining us, please read last week's post.)

I killed it. Oh, yeah. I killed it GOOD.

It tried to sneak out of the laundry room, but I saw it.

"Jason," I found myself whispering into the phone right next to the lanudry room. "Where did you put the Raid?" Yes, it's perfectly acceptable to call your husband at work if you absolutely, positively have to kill a massive spider in his absence. 

"It's in the cabinet under the sink. Why are you whispering?"

"Because I don't want it to hear me." Some people just don't exercise common sense.

With every hair standing on end, and with Ainsley a safe distance away (all I had to say was, "That big spider's back downstairs" and she made like the wind) I sprayed enough Raid at the thing to give myself another case of cancer and to possibly poison the water supply for years to come.

But as spiders tend to do, it just kept moving.

Half a can of Raid, if you can manage a direct hit, is enough to confuse the spider and make it start losing limbs, so it's easy to track. A few good whacks with an old magazine (thanks, Real Simple, for being hefty) mashed my friend to a pulp.

"Die...die...die..." I was saying in my deadliest tone as I smacked the thing over and over the way Hannibal Lecter does when he takes out the cop in Silence of the Lambs. I could all but hear Bach piano music tinkling serenely in the background of my own personal murder scene.

"Umm...are you still there?" Ha! Forgot that I still had Jason on the phone. I guess I have a witness.

We have friends who left a huge spider carcass in their garage as a deterrent to other spiders. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. This is not my style, so dear hubby disposed of the body when he got home. It took everything I had to kill the thing; my work there was done.

Now I just fear retaliation. If God turns out to be a spider, kind of like (spoiler alert!) the evil space alien creature at the end of It does, I am so totally screwed.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Big One

I've told a lot of spider stories on the blog. There was the one about the spider I found crawling up my pants when I was out mulching, which caused me to put on quite a show for our neighbors as I danced and screamed around the yard trying to get the darn thing off. Then there was the infamous Bathtub Spider, which was so hairy it rendered me speechless and made me worry that it was going to carry my toddler off in the night. Finally there was the gang of spiders that came out of the grass when I was cleaning Scout's litter box outside at Mom's; it gave me one of my favorite Mom quotes ever: "Wonder what they've been eating...probably kittens."

My spider stories take on a mythical quality with each retelling. Like a good fish tale, the creatures get a little bigger and the fight to net them a little more dramatic. In my mind, the Bathtub Spider has grown to roughly the size of a Volkswagen; the spider battalion numbers around a million and fought bravely until Mom and I vanquished every last one by bravely stomping them into that good night.

But just as every fisherman has The Big One, I now have a showstopper. The One That Got Away. A creature so huge in real life that it needs no embellishment in the retelling; reality is impressive enough. Plus, I have photographic proof that will forever back up my claim.

This is the spider I found in our laundry room last night. This is no exaggeration: I've seen tarantulas smaller than this. Not in real life, but on TV. But still.

I know! By the way, those cobwebs are old and I really meant to get around to sweeping them out this summer, so I really don't think that's its home. If that web really is its home, then yeah, I totally should have known something big was living back there.

It was spread out on the wall behind the dryer as if  it were a specimen in a child's insect collection, straight-pinned to a piece of foam board. It stayed there, unmoving, wanting us to be both horrified and awestruck by what an excellent specimen it was. When I first spied it, a mere foot from my face as I threw a load of laundry in the dyer, I of course screamed. But then I couldn't look away from it. I fought the urge to capture it in a jar and take it to a scientist. Perhaps it is a new species of wolf spider; I'll get to name it, and it would be called The Cranky Arachnid.

So far as we know, it's still living somewhere in the walls of our laundry room. After making excuses for why he didn't want to get close enough to it to kill it ("There's too much stuff in the way, like a cord and electrical stuff and the cabinets and things with molecular structures...") Jason swung away and missed. The Shelob crawled back to the portal of hell from which it came, which is the hole where our inside AC unit connects back to the outside unit. I can tell myself that it probably went outside, but it was cold last night, and I have a feeling it was looking for some man flesh. A spider that size can't just be living off of flies.

"Maybe it will help keep mice out of your house," a friend said. I know she was joking, but like Mom's irrational fear that the spider family out in her yard possibly had a small feline wrapped in a cocoon somewhere, I can't help but picture a small rodent caught in a web, squealing for its life while facing a grisly death by fang. This does not make me feel better about having the thing in my house.

I'm behind on laundry, so I've got to spend a lot of time in the laundry room over my upcoming fall break. I am being completely and totally sincere when I tell you I don't know how I'm going to get through it; my heart races from more than my cup of coffee as I write this. Will I find it by accident when I reach down into our hamper of dark clothes? Will I spy it on the same wall as last night and just be forced to pretend it's not there while I toss a load of clothes in, all the while freaking out inside and never taking my eyes off the thing? (Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming...) Will I think it's gone away, only to feel prickles on the back of my neck and know, "He's behind me, isn't he?" like in so many horror movies?

Until it's dead (and I am a realist enough to know that we may never find its body and it may just live the rest of its freakish life in the comfortable warmth behind our dryer) I won't be able to really rest. I've felt imaginary spiders crawling on me all day today, and just knowing that it's down there makes me want to pack up and sell the house. But I don't know how to kill this thing; it's too fast to smoosh, and too big to go down with a shot of over-the-counter bug spray. I've had much smaller spiders than that just crawl away laughing when I spray them with Raid. I've thought of arming myself with a blow torch, but something tells me that might create an even bigger problem. I like having a roof over my head, even though said roof might be harboring dessert-plate-sized wolf spiders.

So I know that The Big One is still out there, and I may never catch him. But at least I've got a good fish story to tell.

If any of you have a solid recommendation for how to hunt and kill this thing, I'm open to suggestions.