Sunday, February 26, 2012

I'll never be...

Much to the chagrin of my friend Todd, I'll never be one of those trendy women who know exactly what to wear and wear only the best designers. 

I'll always shop at Target and my purses will be knock-offs. Not because I want to look like I'm trendy, but because I like the style of whatever bag I'm carrying. My shoes will never be Choo or Louboutin. Although, if there's a cheaper replica of a style I like, I may buy it. Not saying I won't ever own something designer, but if I do, it'll be because it makes me look good, not because it's expensive.

I'm usually a step behind when it comes to the latest book or movie. I didn't read the Twilight series until after I saw the movie. I didn't read The Help until it was in theaters. I still read the book first, mind you but it was months after it became THE book to read. 

I was never one of those girls in school who had to have a Guess label on my ass or a Keds label on my foot. In fact, I remember being teased mercilessly about my "generic" style in school. It was miserable. But I never folded. 

I'm the woman who will happily boast about catching a good sale rather than bragging about a $700 handbag I paid full price for. (Mainly because I will NEVER pay $700 for a purse.) I'm not afraid to use coupons or wait in line for an early bird special. I don't consider myself cheap, just thrifty.

As a writer, I'm always nervous about my storylines being original enough. I once asked an author acquaintance of mine "How do you come up with such authentic storylines that haven't already been written?" She told me that every storyline has already been written. You just have to add new characters, twists and original touches to them to make them your own. So even what I write about will always be second-hand.

My furniture is, too. Second-hand, that is. And that's okay. I don't want leather sofas or high-end tables people don't feel comfortable using. My carpets are worn, as are my linoleum floors (that's right kids...not tile...linoleum). I take great pride in the fact that the flooring I used when remodeling my bathroom cost me $8. Not for each piece...the WHOLE floor.

I'll never be someone who demands the best money can buy - not because I can't afford it, but because I'd rather spend my money on other things I enjoy. I want to spend it on my friends....traveling to new places...surprising loved ones with things that mean something to them. I may never own a Coach bag, but if I were to find out my bestie wanted one, I'd make it happen. 

I'm original. I'm me. I don't make apologies for my snagged rugs or the water rings on my coffee table. My house will probably always smell faintly of cats or dogs...and probably burnt popcorn. It's who I am, kids. I'll always be this way. 

I may make it big one day but when I do, you can bet I'll still be wearing my Danskin sweats and that t-shirt I own that says "Mess with me, mess with the whole trailer park." It's who I am.

I don't need a designer label to determine my worth. My friends do that.

** Let me make clear that I'm not judging those who want designer things or buy $700 purses. If that's what makes you happy, then by all means, do it. All I'm saying is that it's not me. :)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I can't remember.

  • 35-47-17
  • 685-2810
  • "When I'm With You" by Sheriff
  • August 13, 1987
  • Dilaudid, Darvocet and Dolophine
  • Kramer's Resort
  • February 5, 1940, June 22, 1938
  • "There's a time you got to go and show you're growin' now. you know about the facts of life, the facts of life."
  • Michael Jackson, Thriller
  • Grease, River Hills Theater
  • Olives, wine and textiles
  • Uncle Jack's tacos
  • Brown leather with a three-inch platform heel and a Happy Days t-shirt 
  • By looping a piece of rope around his fingers and tossing the end of it out a car window
These things probably don't mean a damn thing to you, but these are just a few of the random pieces of information I have floating around in my head. My best friends will tell you that I can remember details as if events happened yesterday. I pride myself on my memory. When people need witnesses for important events, they call me.

Since my surgery, my short-term memory has taken a few pings. Not huge ones, mind you; I could remember the random shit above, after all. But I'm starting to forget the names of everyday things. Like the other day I couldn't remember what waxed paper was called.

Waxed paper, for God's sake. I was holding the box in my hand. IN MY HAND! and couldn't think to look down at the box to figure out what the name of it was. Who does that?

Yet tonight, I sat here watching "It Could Happen to You" on tv and recited Nicholas Cage's line about getting leprosy from the water when he roller-blades into the lake in Central Park.

Two days ago, I forgot the name of that yellow creamy stuff you put on toast but remembered that I needed ¼ c of it to put in the macaroni with the orange powder that comes in the blue box. Tonight, I recited a recipe for my garlic Parmesan salad dressing without missing a single ingredient - except I couldn't remember what the white dressing was called that Hidden Valley makes.

The other day, the cable company asked me for my zip code. I drew a complete blank. (Then, of course, I panicked, thinking the woman on the phone would think I was somebody posing as me trying to hack into my account, which just made it that much worse.) But I could remember the last four digits of my social security number without an issue.

Hubs and my friends tell me I'm being too hard on myself...that this isn't a big deal. That I'll relax and get back to my old self in no time.

But to me, it is a big deal. And what if I don't get back to my old self? What if I have to carry around a notepad for the rest of my life with my own damn phone number written on it because I can't remember it? I'll be at the grocery store trying to buy food for my family and forget which debit card has the grocery budget on it...then struggle to remember the pin when I do figure out which one to use.

I hold myself to a very high standard and I know that. The thing is, up til now, I've been able to meet (and exceed) that standard. I've forgotten things now and then like everybody, but when it comes to remembering to pay the water bill or mailing a birthday card on time? I don't forget those things. EVER. This month I forgot them both. I pray the problem doesn't persist and it's just a side effect of all the damn pain pills I've had to ingest over the last month like my husband thinks is to blame. But knowing that memory loss is a side effect of an oophorectomy, I'm not overly-optimistic. (I'm also not WebMD'ing my ass into an asylum yet either, so relax. I'm just trying to stay realistic.)

Until then, please just bear with me when I ask what seem like really stupid questions. I promise I've been paying attention. I just don't recall at this point in time where I put my memory.


The things above, by the way, are:
  • 35-47-17 : my 7th grade locker combination
  • 685-2810 : my first phone number
  • "When I'm With You" by Sheriff : the song I danced to with Dusty Smith at a school dance (December 10th, 1988, btw)
  • August 13, 1987 : the date of my first period (*Overshare, I know)
  • Dilaudid, Darvocet and Dolophine : the cocktail of medication my mother took on a daily basis when she was battling cancer from 1987-1990
  • Kramer's Resort : The place we always went to on family vacations when I was growing up
  • February 5, 1940, June 22, 1938 : My parents' birthdays
  • "There's a time you got to go and show you're growin' now. you know about the facts of life, the facts of life." : the lyrics to the theme of one of my favorite childhood TV shows
  • Michael Jackson, Thriller : The first "grown-up" album I ever bought
  • Grease, River Hills Theater : The first movie I saw in a theater. (And have seen no less than 400 times since then.)
  • Olives, wine and textiles : The main exports of Portugal. This was on a 4th grade social studies test that I studied my ass off for (and only got a C+, I might add.)
  • Uncle Jack's tacos : The restaurant I ran to in the food court at Southridge Mall where my mother was standing in 1979 when a janitor walked close to me and I panicked and thought he was there to kidnap me. (He wasn't. He did, however, throw my food away. Bastard.)
  • Brown leather with a three-inch platform heel and a Happy Days t-shirt : What I was wearing Easter Sunday in 1976 when I tripped and fell on the sidewalk and skinned my nose. (The t-shirt was mine. The heels were my sister's.)
  • By looping a piece of rope around his fingers and tossing the end of it out a car window : How Ricky Schroder nearly got his fingers amputated as a kid

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Too little, too late, M'com

It's always amusing to me how much a company will kiss your ass when you call to disconnect services. 

Back in January, a promotion that our cable company offered us came to an end, which meant our $95 cable/internet package would be jumping to almost $200 a month. That's not something I care to pay, so we called to see what other promotions were available. We were told that we could keep our current package (basic and expanded digital cable, On-Demand services, all 5 premium stations and our 12 meg internet) for $166/mo but that we'd need to enter a two-year contract to get that price. I told them to forget it. We'd be shopping around and let them know when they could come disconnect.

There were no thanks from M'com for our apologies for not being able to find a suitable package that worked for our budget. Nothing. Just a "Thank you for calling M'com. Have a nice day." (Which, I suppose is better than nothing, but still.)

So we called the two major dish companies to find out rates and bundles for what we were looking for. One of them couldn't offer us anything better than what we had and since we live in the sticks, they couldn't even offer us internet. That wasn't gonna work. Me without internet? They might as well take water and oxygen, too. C'mon, people. The second satellite company was able to get us a great package AND found an internet company who was able to get us hooked up for about $50 a month. It wasn't the greatest price, but it was better than nothing. So we signed up and I called M'com back to let them know that we'd found someone willing to work in our price range -- ultimately giving them a chance to keep me as a customer by meeting the prices I'd been quoted by the other companies.

They failed.

So we continued with the installation with the satellite company and we love it. LOVE. IT. The bundle they'd arranged with the other internet company, however, was a fail, so we canceled our bundle with them. We're keeping M'com for our internet, which is fine. We haven't had too bad a luck with them in that respect and after we talked to the other internet company, their price was competitive anyway, so instead of dealing with the hassle of switching, we just stayed with M'com.

We wanted to make sure the satellite would work well for us before we canceled our cable, so we've had it for a couple weeks now and I called M'com today to disconnect our cable. I spoke with a girl named Katie. She was very sweet, very professional and when I asked to terminate our cable service, like any good customer service agent, she asked me why. I told her. She asked if she could tell me the promotions that M'com was currently offering that I qualified for.

I was polite, but told her that it was pointless and explained why.

She was appalled, reiterating over and over that customer service like that was not how they were trained and she was very disappointed that I wasn't treated better. She said she understood why I wouldn't want to continue cable service with them and apologized for the last person's behavior toward me. It was refreshing, actually. She took care of the disconnect stuff and reminded me that my internet price had been part of a bundle and without that bundle the price, would unfortunately increase by $15/mo. She was apologetic about it, which again, was nice. She then offered me a promotion for 2 years of internet at a deeply discounted rate if I entered into a contract. 

Gee, lemme think about that. I can either pay you $80/mo for internet or I can pay you $40? Hmm. This is a toughie.

YES, please!?

So, long story short, we're getting what we want at a fraction of the price. Buh-bye, M'com.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

This is not okay.

Go ahead. Click the link. I'll wait.

That's only twenty-five reactions that were captured on Twitter during the Grammy's. If there were 25, there were probably 250. 2,500. 25,000? Even one is too many.

Really, ladies? You'd let Chris Brown do THIS to you??

Ladies, ladies, ladies.

I'm honestly not even sure where to begin with this because I don't know when you began believing that physical abuse is an acceptable form of affection.

Were you abused as a child? Did you witness it? Did you see your mother get hit?

These are my parents. They look happy, don't they? My mother loved my father til the day she died.

Despite his alcoholism and physical abuse.

I was only six months old when she kicked him out of our home and told him to never come back. He didn't. I spent many years being upset with my mother because I never got the chance to know my father. I am an adult and I realize that my father as a whole was not the abuse he administered, but it was a large part of my family's history. She protected me by asking him to leave. I don't know what he could have done....would have done, if given the chance. She also protected me by never falling prey to an abusive man again.

I, too, was in an emotionally abusive relationship. There were two instances when he got physical with me. One involved a car and a barely-frozen lake. The other involved his hands. Both instances shook me to my core.

Do I seem like a victim to you? Do I seem like a person who would put up with anyone's crap?

Well, I was. I'm not saying I didn't say things and do things that pissed him off. I most definitely did. But even in all of the backtalk and arguing I handed him, NEVER did I deserve to be hit. Nobody does.


Hitting is NOT okay. Namecalling is NOT okay. Backhanded compliments are NOT okay. Punching the hell out of your girlfriend because she called you out for being a cheating piece of shit is NOT okay!

This? is NOT okay.

My best friend spent fifteen years with a man who verbally beat her down, insulted her appearance, intelligence, talent and spirit every chance he got. When he decided to get stupid one night and take things a little too far, she called the cops and they escorted him out of their home. She's one of the lucky ones. Her mother wasn't so lucky. Her mother was beaten, raped and murdered by her abusive boyfriend.

Do I need to say it again?

This is NOT okay! EVER!

Ladies, the only way you can have any ounce of self-respect (or teach your daughters how to have some) is to refuse to be treated badly. Don't stand for behavior that doesn't make you feel good about yourself or about him. If you cry more than you smile, GET OUT.

Because this? 

is not okay.

Silver Spoons and heartfelt croons

The first time I ever heard her pipes I was nine years old and watching my heart throb, Ricky Schroder on "Silver Spoons." She played herself and was Dexter's love interest for an episode. She belted out "Saving All My Love For You" and won my heart over. Obviously, Whitney Houston did far more than a walk-on in a Saturday night sitcom, but that's where she got her start in my life.

I remember belting out "Greatest Love of All" into my Tickle deodorant bottle in my bedroom. Door shut, tape deck cranked, I sang every note (badly, I might add) at the top of my lungs. I'm certain my mother hated Whitney. But I loved her.

She gave me a song for every turning point in my life. "Greatest Love of All" was played at our assembly the last day of 6th grade. "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" peppered the skating rink speakers every Friday and Saturday night through my junior high years. The year after my mom died, she set a new precedent with her rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. When my high school boyfriend and I broke up in early 1993, "I Will Always Love You" got me through many a sleepless night. In 1999, when I went through my divorce "It's Not Right," came out.

While I'm not sobbing with an ugly cry like I did for Michael Jackson two and a half years ago, I am grieving the loss of such an influential woman. Her music encouraged many, her struggles with addiction and domestic abuse touched a chord with some but her perseverance was inspiring.

I pray for her family and the friends she left behind. May she find the peace in her death she was unable to find throughout her life.

Rest in peace, Whitney.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

In sickness and in health

Today is my twelfth wedding anniversary.

A dozen years ago, I stood in my brother's living room with our pastor and twenty of our closest friends and family members and vowed to love this man for the rest of my life. The service was brief and to the point, but like every other ceremony I've ever seen, there was the promise about cleaving to each other in sickness and in health.

In the grand scheme of things, that in sickness and health thing has been pretty easy-going. Sure, we've gotten the flu from time to time and while neither one of us is a "hair-holder," so to speak, we do make sure our spouse has everything he or she needs to get better. Although, if we were keeping score, my husband has definitely gotten the short end of the stick. Since we got married in 2000, I've been hospitalized at least three times. I've found lumps in my breasts, torn muscles, sprained joints and had reproductive issues that have left me bed-ridden, sometimes for weeks on end. 

Overall, I consider myself pretty healthy, so really these times have been minimal, but when the words "in sickness and in health" are truly put to the test, I am so fortunate to know that my husband will be here through it all. And what a trooper he is. With me, it's never as simple as just being sick. I'm a control freak, so with sickness along comes mood swings, impatience, stubbornness and impertinence. I don't do "dependent" well, but like a God-sent miracle, my hubby puts up with all of it. 

I'm getting better about it, though. He made homemade chili tonight for supper. Not once did I get off the couch to "help." In fact, I didn't even offer suggestions from the couch unless he asked for them. And it was delicious. Did it taste like mine? Not exactly, but that's okay. I let it go. I ate it and enjoyed it and spent my time being grateful for having someone to take care of me. He's taken such good care of me this week. He brought me doughnuts yesterday because he knew I was craving sweets. Today, he brought me an array of candy that he thought I might enjoy. He has waited on me hand and foot since I came home from the hospital Thursday. 

Normally, I'm someone who wants privacy in the bathroom (I don't pee with the door open and don't want anyone else to do it either), but God bless him, he's stood right there with me, handing me whatever I may need and helping pull me up when I lacked the abdominal muscles to get up myself. He's helped me change dressing on my incisions and has rubbed lotion on my back and feet because they're so dry. He's made ten back-to-back trips to the kitchen & bathroom when I've asked for more ice water...then a bowl of soup...then a Coke...then more pain pills...then to take my bowl back to the kitchen...then the ice bag. He's lifted and held me in place while I adjust pillows and cushions in what I'm sure has been painstaking fashion for him. He's had sleepless nights because I've cried out in my sleep, waking him up from his. He's put up with my rants about crappy nursing staff and the pity parties where I begin feeling sorry for myself. 

My husband and I have hit rock bottom and we've seen the view from the top. I know I take him for granted far more often than he deserves, but I don't know what I'd do without him. I'm so thankful for his unconditional love and his full understanding of what "in sickness and health" truly means. I pray that we never have anything more taxing than what we've dealt with so far, but I know if we do, he'll be there without question.

I love you, baby. Happy anniversary.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Little Monsters

WARNING: Medically graphic post and probably one that risks an overshare or two. Proceed at your own risk.

I wish this post was talking about the term Lady Gaga uses when referring to her fans, but in this case, it's referring to the monstrous tumor the doctors found in my abdomen yesterday.

I awoke yesterday morning to severe cramps that I thought were menstrual in nature. I had an endometrial ablasion almost six years ago, so I don't have periods any more, but I do, from time to time, get cramps, breast swelling and migraines. So, over the last few weeks when I've had increased cramping, I didn't think anything of it. I figured it was just PMS-related, took a couple of Tylenol and went on with my day. Yesterday, however, was quite different from the cramps I'm used to having. 

I thought perhaps it was bowel related and once I went to the bathroom I'd be fine. I did, but I wasn't fine. If anything, the pain had gotten worse. Now, I'll be the first to admit I'm a pain baby, but rarely do I cry from pain. The cramps I experienced yesterday morning had me doubled-over sobbing. 

I called my friend Wendy, who's also a nurse, and she suggested that if this wasn't normal cramping that I needed to go to the emergency room. So after a quick call to my bestie, she came and picked me up. That forty minute drive to the emergency room was almost too much. The cramps got worse and by the time we pulled up in front of the ER, I had all I could do to walk into the hospital.

My hubby joined Ann Marie and me a few minutes after I got settled into a room and I spent the next several hours being poked, prodded and scanned. My fear was that it was a blood clot due to all the sitting I'd been doing on the plane and in the airports last week, but the doctor quickly dismissed that fear. He first thought I had kidney stones and sent me down for a CT scan to find out for sure. This initial diagnosis scared me immensely. The pain involved with passing a kidney stone aside, I have plans for these kidneys and nowhere in the scheme of those plans was there room for stones. I had a small meltdown and was proverbially bitchslapped from my bestie for worrying about her kidneys instead of myself. I digress. Fortunately, the results from the CT scan came back and my fears were put to rest for the time being.

Then the doctor mentioned something called a teratoma that showed up on my right ovary and coming from a family who has been stricken with numerous types of cancer, I recognized the term -toma immediately. The nurse reassured me that it didn't necessarily mean cancer, that it was more like a cyst. Having known numerous people with ovarian cysts, I wasn't over worried; cysts are pretty common, after all. The doctor then told me that according to the scan, the cyst was 7cm x 7cm. Metric conversions aren't my forté, but I knew that was about 3 inches. In that area of the body, that's a good sized cyst. The doctor told me that he'd consulted with a gynecologist who was on his way over to look at my scan and discuss the findings. 

When the gyno got there, he confirmed the doctor's diagnosis that it was a ovarian teratoma. He said it was a medium sized cyst that would need to come out, but that it wasn't emergent and unless I wanted to do the procedure today, it could wait a week or two. I expressed my concern about it being cancer, but the doctor reassured me that the chances of it being cancer were less than five percent. This eased my worries a little, but by this point, I was mad at whatever had caused me this pain and I just wanted it out. The gyno understood and explained the procedure would be done laparoscopically and that depending on how involved it was with my right ovary, it too may need to be removed. Given that I had my tubes tied almost fifteen years ago, I didn't care if my lady parts stayed or went. I signed paperwork, the doctor got on the phone with surgery and within an hour, I was being prepped.

By 7 p.m. I was in recovery and the nurses were reminding me to breathe deeply (always a problem for me). Typically, this surgery is done out-patient but because I was having a good deal of pain and one of the incision sites was having some trouble with seepage, they decided to admit me overnight. I spent the night on a Fentanyl pump and the doctor came in to talk to me this morning. 

I had a lot of questions for him because he was gone by the time I came out from under the anesthesia and Hubs isn't the detail-oriented person I am, he didn't ask the questions I would have. I wanted to know if they had to take my ovary, first of all (they did). As an information whore, it was also important to me to know exactly what this thing was called (dermoid teratoma - I'll let you Google that little bit of nastiness on your own). I also wanted to know if there was any way this could've been an ectopic pregnancy gone horribly awry (it wasn't). I wanted to know if there was a chance of it coming back on the other side (there is). I wanted to make sure my tubes were still "tied" (they are). I wanted to know what my recovery period is (two weeks). Most of all, I wanted to know if it is cancerous (doc says no, the biopsy should confirm this). Long story short, this cyst is the most disgusting thing you could possibly imagine but it has been removed. 

(The white and dark colored tissue you see here in the photos
is the cyst that wrapped around my right ovary.)

The doctor said that it was a bit larger than they first thought, explaining that the ovaries are typically the size of an almond and my cyst was the size of an orange and filled with fluid, hair and other organ-type tissues. I was totally grossed out, but he reassured me that this is normal because apparently ovarian tissues are complex in that they draw cells from all parts of the body - hair follicles, sweat glands, bones, teeth, organs like liver and kidneys, etc.This cyst, because it grew from the ovarian cells, also includes many of these cells. Hubs called it an alien and honestly? that's what it feels like this is: some sort of hairy little alien. It's been sent off to pathology and I should know shortly for certain that it's not a malignant tumor. Granted, the doctor has already given his expert opinion and that it's not cancer. But I'm someone who needs proof, so I will wait patiently (ha!) for the results to set my mind at ease.

Until then, I am forced to take it easy and recognize how fortunate I am in all this. If this had happened last week, my family would be frantic here at home while I was recovering at a friend's place in Harlem. My bestie, thankfully, is unemployed right now and was able to drop everything and not only take me to the hospital, but was able to stay with me all day to put my worried mind at ease. Hubs, too, was not only able to take off work and come to the hospital, his bosses had FMLA paperwork drawn up so he can take off the rest of the week to spend with me so I'm not alone. My friend RG came up and tagged in for Ann Marie and Hubs so they could get something to eat (since they hadn't eaten all day) and stayed with me. As it often does, our conversation helped me make sense of the day and the perspective I needed desperately. Even my ex-husband and his mother were there for me. They picked up Midget so she wasn't here alone and scared after school last night. They drove her to school this morning, too, so she wouldn't miss her presentation for National History Day. 

Tonight, Midget and I had the "What if it's cancer?" talk and I think we both feel infinitely better. Since Hubs can be a bit of a tosser and a turner, I decided to sleep on the couch tonight. It's also easier for me to get up and down out here, so this is where I'll sleep. Midget, who is afraid I may need her in the middle of the night, is also camped out here with me. She's asleep on the bean bag and I'm on the sofa.
Even in this narcotic haze, I can appreciate God in all this. His timing is impeccable and He has surrounded me with love. I am so blessed.

**UPDATE** The pathology reports indicate the tumor is benign. It is not cancerous.