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Archive for the ‘Worries’ Category

I got a call from the nurse at Carla’s camp. I feel like school/camp nurses should be contractually obligated to begin ALL phone calls to a parent with “Your child is FINE, but this is the nurse and I am calling because…” I mean, unless the child is not fine, but we are fortunately not going down that path today. 

Apparently, Carla’s eye was bothering her. The nurse went through the steps she’d taken to relieve the pain: flushed the eye, applied a compress, looked at it. I didn’t have any other advice for her (am not a nurse) and we were about an hour out from the end of the camp day, so I said, “Okay, sounds like we should keep an eye on it. But I don’t think I should come get her early, do you?” The nurse said she didn’t think so.

I mean, things get into eyes, right? Dust and eyelashes and contact lens solution. And it can be irritating or painful, but you flush the eye and blink a lot and just… let it resolve. 

This was my attitude as I went to pick up Carla from camp. Her eye was still bothering her. She kept it half shut and it was red and a little puffy. Otherwise, she was cheerful. She had no idea what happened to the eye! All of sudden, it just started hurting! 

Just to be safe – you know, to consult An Actual Doctor instead of relying on my admittedly lacking Mom Skillz – I called the eye doctor on the way home. No answer at his office. The answering service said there was a Dr. C on call and took a message. 

Carla and I went home and she lay on the floor and I gave her a compress to put on her eye. Boy, she’s really milking this, I thought affectionately/exasperatedly. I took a photo of her and sent it to my parents along with my (near) daily report of Carla’s activities.  

Carla lay there for a long time. I looked at her eye. It was red, yes. But the pupil looked normal and she seemed otherwise fine. She’ll blink it out, I thought. She said, “I think I’m going to go swing,” and I agreed, feeling satisfied that she was Fine, and was done playing the Woe Is Me card. 

My father called. He doesn’t often call out of the blue – my parents are schedule-a-time-to-talk folk. He said that my mom had read my email, and told him immediately that something was wrong with Carla’s eye. OVERREACTING MUCH, MOTHER? I thought, exasperated. She’ll blink it out eventually!

But my dad had a bunch of concerned-sounding questions. And while we were talking, Carla came inside from swinging – after maybe two minutes, which is Very Unlike Her – and lay back down on the floor and asked for another cold compress. 

My husband was now texting me about Carla’s eye. He, like my dad, was asking a lot of questions in a way that made me nervous. Suddenly, my Wait Until You Blink It Out plan seemed foolish.

My dad said that I should call the on-call ophtho back if I hadn’t heard from him in 30 minutes. It had been… 45. So when I got off the phone – significantly chastened and now feeling kind of worried – I called him back. I waited around for a bit – 15 minutes, maybe? And then I texted my husband that we were going to pick him up on the way to the Emergency Room. 

We have been to the Emergency Room a handful of times. Once, my husband sliced open his thumb (if you drop a glass dish in the sink, do not try to catch it in your hand is my hot tip of the day). Once, I was holding Carla’s hand while we were in Target and she sat down and dislocated her elbow. Once, I was working on a project with a friend and she sliced open her finger. There were a couple of other times: Carla’s cheek met a dog’s tooth (it was not a bite, it was a collision); I drove an ATV through a barbed-wire fence neck first; my father-in-law had sudden onset chest pains. It is never pleasant and it always takes a million years. 

I had not even considered bringing something for Carla to look at/play with (see above re: Mom Skillz), so the three of us sat in the ER and my husband allowed Carla to play a video game on his phone. 

Of course, her eye was starting to look SO MUCH better. The redness had faded, and she was looking at the screen of the phone with both eyes rather than keeping the one squeezed shut. My husband and I exchanged Significant Looks.

We only waited an hour. (In addition to forgetting about entertainment, I also forgot about FOOD [Mom Skillz!] and so it was now seven p.m. and none of us had eaten.) A resident checked Carla and did a full physical exam, which is pretty rare among doctors these days and therefore notable. She wanted to a) flush the eye and b) check it with a special dye to see if there were any scratches. But she needed to consult with the attending physician first and see if they needed to call in the on-call ophtho (presumably the same guy who NEVER called me back harrumph). The attending physician came in. She was cheerful and friendly and agreed with the resident’s assessment. She left. After more time passed, a nurse came in with saline solution and a special syringe. Carla required A Lot of Discussion and several demonstrations before she would allow the nurse to flush her eye with the solution. And then she would only do it for several seconds at a time. It was very cold, apparently. She and the patient angel of a nurse would count to seven out loud together and then take a break. It took ten million years to get 100 ml of saline into my child’s eye. Then we waited for awhile until the attending came back. After a lot of coaxing, she got some of the bright yellow dye in Carla’s eye, turned off the lights, and examined her eye with a special light. She didn’t see any scratches, she said. 

Carla said her eye felt a little better! It was only when she looked straight ahead and blinked that it hurt. She was very cheerful. The attending was very cheerful. She said that someone would be in to flush Carla’s eye a second time, and then we could be on our way.

We waited another while. Carla watched a Disney show on Netflix. (There was a TV in the room, but it was off and no one had said we could watch TV. But… My husband just reached behind the bed and grabbed the remote and turned on the TV! I would never in a million years think to do that without explicit permission.) 

A fourth person came in. She was a EMT, she told us, and she was there to flush Carla’s eye! Carla was much more amenable to the flushing this time. 

After the EMT left, another nurse came in with our discharge papers and we left. 

As we walked out, Carla started complaining that her eye still hurt. 

The next morning when Carla woke up, her eye was still red and now it was all crusty. To be expected, after undergoing whatever trauma it had undergone. But she was still keeping the one eye closed and complaining of pain when she looked forward and blinked.

So I kept her home from camp and got her an appointment with her eye doctor. 

He came in, flushed her eye, put the special dye in… But he said that he could see a bunch of scratches on her eye where something was irritating it. And he LISTENED to her when she said that she was fine when she kept her eyes closed or when she looked to the side, but that it hurt when she looked forward and blinked. Also – and this is a skill I deeply admire – the ophtho managed to listen to Carla and be sympathetic to her fears about being touched/having Things Done to her, while moving things along at a good clip. He did not allow Carla to stall and delay, he did what he needed to do. And it was all over SO FAST! 

After MUCH (but efficient) COAXING, he flipped her eyelid inside out. And there it was, plain as day: a little speck of something, minuscule but visible even to my untrained eye. The ophtho used a swab to remove it. He and Carla speculated that it was a little piece of tree bark, although I have no idea how they came to that conclusion; it looked like dust to me. He gave her a prescription for an antibiotic (because of the scratches) and a special ointment and sent us on our way.

She was completely pain free by the time we reached the car.

The moral of the story is: ALWAYS HAVE THE DOCTOR FLIP THE EYELID. We could have saved SO MUCH time and money and trouble if we had asked the resident or the ER attending to just flip! the! eyelid! Or, even better, if we had thought to have my physician husband flip her eyelid himself at home!

Okay, okay. I am going to take a deep breath. This is why we have health insurance (thank goodness) and this is what money is for. Breathing. Breathing.

The secondary motto is DON’T UNDERESTIMATE EYE STUFF. Because even if you think it is just a dumb eyelash that will blink out eventually, maybe it is a piece of metal that could cause serious damage.

Meanwhile, the on-call ophtho never called us back. Never. I am still mad about it. My husband calls people back at 2:30 in the morning when he is on call. Because that is what it means to be on call. You take patient calls and you return them. The returning of the calls is a critical part. My husband suggested that maybe the ophtho wasn’t accustomed to getting emergency calls! And so he wasn’t paying attention to his phone! To which I say PAH. Even if my husband is delayed by doing a procedure or being with a patient, he calls patients back. Even if he gets a call from a patient that is frustrating in its non-urgency, he still calls that patient back. And I called this on-call ophtho TWICE! Still. Mad. About. It. 

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The other day, Carla had a very specific request for dinner: “May I please have a bowl of white [iceberg] lettuce and a separate bowl of [shredded] cheese and another bowl of tomatoes so that I can put them together and make a salad?” 

Sure, child. Why not. 

I mentioned a while back that we are trying to increase Carla’s calcium intake. And by “we” I mean “me” because my husband seems wholly unconcerned by the issue. Not in an “I’m a Physician and Am Unworried” way, but in a “this is not my problem” way ARGH. And a teeny bit in a Thwarting Efforts way. My father (ALSO a physician) suggested we simply give Carla some Tums (calcium carbonate) and so I suggested to my husband that he grab a roll of Tums next time he was at the grocery store. He said a) we already have Tums at home and when I brightened and said “Oh! We can give Carla those!” he said no, that those Tums were for acid reflux. Blink. Blink blink. 

All of this is to say that I am continually working on getting more calcium into Carla. 

Smoothies, as I think I mentioned before, seemed like the perfect vehicle. Especially considering that Carla likes smoothies, and dislikes most other things. 

But there have been two problems.

  1. She hasn’t been in the mood for smoothies. Almost every day I say, “You’re going to have a smoothie for breakfast!” and she says, “No.” And then I argue with her a little bit, and make pleading noises about calcium intake, and she remains firm, and I give up. Because I am not going to waste a smoothie on her when she is clearly going to Stand Firm. And I get it! I like… chili, but I don’t want to eat it every day. If you told me chili had specific life-extending properties, I would still have a hard time drumming up enough enthusiasm to eat it every day. So I get it. I do. But also: JUST DRINK A SMOOTHIE.
  2. Smoothies do not contain as much calcium as I think. I made one for her with 1/4 cup of yogurt, 1/2 cup almond milk, 1/2 cup calcium-fortified orange juice, and 1 cup frozen mango chunks. That makes a LARGE cup of smoothie. And it contains about 40% of a person’s daily calcium. Sigh. It’s a big swoop forward on the calcium-intake-o-meter, but it’s not even halfway, and HOW do I get the rest of the way EVERY DAY?

I wonder if I could mix Carnation Instant Breakfast (200 mg calcium per packet) into her smoothies? 

I found a recipe for frozen yogurt treats that I might try. I broached the idea to Carla and she was a little suspicious, but it would be worth trying at least. Maybe I could mix some Carnation Instant Breakfast into some yogurt and pipe it onto cookie sheets and freeze it? I may give it a try.

I have been Googling like crazy, but the food sources of calcium seem to have so little (50 mg here, 125 mg there – and that’s for a FULL serving of foods she DOESN’T EAT), that it seems impossible to get them to add up to 1300 mg per day. And there is a lot of pooh-poohing of calcium supplements. I get it. I understand that most vitamins don’t have a whole lot of calcium anyway, and that you need to be taking Vitamin D as well so that you can properly absorb your calcium. But it would be really useful to just give Carla a chewable something and be done with it. There are Reasons that I don’t want to get the Viactiv chews (650 mg calcium per chew), but maybe I need to get past them. 

I know I tend to catastrophize. I know I do that. But I keep picturing Carla as an adult, with bones that shatter at the least provocation, and her wan little face asking the heavens, “Why, God, why did my mother not force me to get enough calcium when I was small? Why?” 

Now I understand why my parents were so adamant about me drinking a FULL GLASS of milk every day. (A cup of milk is only 300 mg!)

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Remember how I told you that I had the chance to visit my childhood home? We stayed overnight in my hometown on our Road Trip! and got to see my longtime bestie. I was really on the fence about visiting the house – I thought it would be a bad idea.

It was a bad idea.

But my father had contacted the new owner (they stay in touch because my dad still owns a quarter section of land) and asked if we could stop by… and then my dad had shared such detailed instructions for how to get in touch with the new owner that I felt like it was A Done Deal and I couldn’t back out. 

We drove out to the house. It’s in the country and the drive was exactly as I remember it. I’m sure it looked like generic prairie-mixed-with-badlands to my husband and daughter, but to me every curve and hillock still has meaning after all these years. 

Climbing the driveway to the house – it’s a gravel drive that’s nearly a mile long – felt exactly the same. And aside from siding that was being repaired on the face of the house, the building looked just the same. The new owner had installed a fence that caused a little tear in the fabric of my memory, but it was easy to overlook. There was a new pile of construction materials near the barn, which was jolting – but I’d been warned to expect that, which helped a teeny bit.

Then we got to the other side of the house. The old house was dark grey siding with white trim. The new owner was in the process of replacing the siding with brick. The enormous juniper hedge outside the dining room was gone. So were the steps leading up to the front door. There was a new fence adjacent to the garage, containing an unfamiliar black dog. 

I went up to the door, feeling sick to my stomach. I knocked and waited and knocked again. No answer, and with relief, I turned back to my family who were still in the car. But they were gesturing at me, and I turned again to face the house and a stranger was opening the door. 

I told him who I was – he seemed slightly surprised, even though my dad had made it sound like he was expecting us – and he opened the door so we could come in. 

My dad had mentioned that the new owner is a contractor, and that he is doing some remodeling to the house. But I was not prepared for the fact that he had gutted it. Instead of entering into a high-ceilinged hallway, with the sunken Special Occasions Living Room to the right and the stairs to the left and the powder room ahead and to the left and the door to the family room straight ahead, with the balcony that connected the bedrooms overhead, it was now one enormous room. The stairs that led to what was my parents’ room remained. He had ripped out the two-sided fireplace that connected the family and living rooms and ripped out the balcony. The entire east wall of the new great room was a massive brick fireplace, with a huge wall of firewood lined up beside it. 

There was no longer a Special Occasions Living Room, nor a dining room. The kitchen had been expanded into what was once the dining room. A new staircase that must have led to what used to be my bedroom climbed up the far west wall. 

Carla was delighted by three enormous dogs that were So Excited to have company, and I am glad she was distracted because I just stared and stared, trying to express approval and admiration to the new owner who was saying words whose meaning never reached my ears. 

The worst thing, maybe, was that some of it was still there. The pantry. The porch. The windows overlooking the prairie, with the same view I grew up looking at, only it had been transported into someone else’s home. It was like being in a nightmare, where everyday things are stretched and misplaced in a way that feels unsettling and grotesque. 

My dad had said that the new owner wanted to give us a tour, but he did not offer, and I am so glad. I could not get out of there fast enough. I hope I stayed there for enough time that he didn’t feel miffed, that I made the appropriate comments in the appropriate tones so that he didn’t feel affronted. And don’t get me wrong – the work he’d done was lovely. I am sure, when it’s finished, it will be spectacular and open and cozy and warm. But it wasn’t my house. It isn’t my house, of course. It hasn’t been my house for twenty years. And now someone else owns it, someone else lives there. Of course he would want to put his own stamp on it, reshape it into his ideal of a home, his ideal that has no resemblance at all to the beloved home of my childhood that my parents built and painted with their own hands. 

I managed to drag Carla away from the dogs – of course she didn’t want to go – and beg off on the owner’s suggestion that we go out to the barn. Luckily, the weather was rotten, but there was no way I was going out there to see what stranger animals had made themselves at home in the cozy little stalls where my barn cats had kittens and I brushed my horse. 

I made it into the car before I burst into tears, and Carla and my husband were shocked, I think. I hope that means I did a good job of faking it. I tried to find the right words for what I was feeling and failed. Finally, I told them that it was a mix of nostalgia and sadness that a time of my life is gone and I can’t get it back. 

I wonder if being an adult has something to do with it, being so far removed now from when I lived in that house, from when I was a child. I know The World was far from perfect and stable back then – there was the AIDS epidemic and Operation Desert Storm and Columbine and so many many other things that were awful and terrifying and completely escaped my privileged child radar. But when I lived in that house, my parents were the ones in charge, they were the ones who knew what was going on, who decided what to share with me and my brother and how to couch it. Now, my husband and I are the ones who have to navigate current events that repel and horrify, we are the ones who have to plan for a future that seems uncertain in so many ways, we are the ones who have to protect and guide and prepare our child to make her way in a world that often feels fraught and perilous. My childhood wasn’t perfect – but it feels perfect, from this vantage point. Perfect and sheltered and safe. Maybe my subconscious thinks/hopes that, if my childhood home is preserved as it once was, the world or at least my perception of it could be preserved as well. I am lucky that my memories are a safe harbor, that I can retreat into the happiness of the past when the present gets too unsettling to bear. But that time, in reality, does not exist. And now, no longer does the place in which those happy years occurred.

I shouldn’t have gone. I shouldn’t have gone. And it’s so stupid to be sitting here crying, again, over a house and an era that exist shiny and whole in my memories, where they are both probably brighter and bigger and more beautiful than they ever were in reality. I don’t mean to say that I always have such a dark view of things. I do believe in beauty and goodness and hope. I don’t mean to be so melodramatic over such a small, insignificant change. It was just a house. I know it’s just a house. But seeing my past like that. Windblown and ruined and forever changed. It felt bigger.

Carla was quiet and thoughtful as we were driving back to town, past the shelter belt whose trees were double or even triple the size they’d been twelve years ago, through the wind that whipped around us more violently than it ever used to, alongside the river that was more full and more turbulent than the river of my childhood.  She said, “Mommy, I think you are past-sick. Like homesick, but for the past.” And I think she is exactly right.

A view of the house, from very very far away.

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I woke up at 4:00 am with a splitting headache and then couldn’t fall back to sleep. So I am feeling a bit fretful and complainy this morning. 

I don’t want Carla to get Covid. I have been doing my very best at isolating, but it is slightly tricky with my husband being back at work and me, you know, having to feed and care for my child. I wear a mask any time I venture out of my bedroom. I spend as little time in the “main house” as possible. Carla cries at bedtime because I can’t hug and kiss her goodnight. We have a little stash of rapid tests and have been making good use of them, and Carla and I went to the pharmacy the other day to get PCR tests. (That was nerve-wracking – we both wore masks AND I kept all the car windows wide open the whole time.) (My husband calmly reminds me that we were all just in a car/hotel room together, windows closed and maskless, for fifteen days.) Carla’s PCR test was negative, mine was not. I don’t know how I could manage to be the only one to get Covid, but if that’s how it works out, I will be very glad. Carla did just get her booster before we left, so I’m hoping she was at Peak Immunity when she was exposed to me and my germs. 

Here’s what I want to know about isolating in a home you share with others. How does it WORK? My bedroom is not magically on some alternate air circulation system. Every time I open the door, surely germs are escaping into the rest of the house. My mask isn’t trapping 100% of all the little Covid particles. HOW can we avoid getting Carla sick? It seems impossible. And yet, some people manage? I think? 

The next two bullets are Deeply Boring and yet I cannot bring myself to delete them.

I have been trying to do a little work from my bedroom. This means phone calls, my least favorite task of all. Do you recall the bank that charges us an annual “inactive” fee for an account whose sole purpose is sit there as collateral until we pay off a loan? (All the mind-numbing details are here.) After three years of arguing with people who cannot grasp simple concepts who work there, we sailed through 2020 AND 2021 without a late fee, and I was so delighted! They’d finally made a note on my account that there was no reason for me to make a deposit in an account that I cannot access, and had stopped charging me! You can sense what’s coming next, right? My husband alerted me this past May that we had now been charged a total of $12.00 in inactive fees. (Which means they DID charge us in 2021; we just didn’t notice.) Perhaps the bank had waived the fee in 2020 because of The State of Things. And apparently we simply did not notice when we began to lose $2.00 a month from the account. Whoops. As I have mentioned a billion times, normally I HATE making phone calls. But this one particular issue makes me practically giddy with wanting to tell someone how ASININE and RIDICULOUS it is. I was Let Me Talk to a Manager level irritated, after FIVE YEARS (minus the 2020 exception) of this nonsense. So back in May I called the bank and gave the lucky person who answered my spiel about how we should not be charged an inactive fee because the purpose of the account is to remain inactive. Unlike all the other brainless fools everyone else I’ve spoken to at the bank, she IMMEDIATELY understood that it was ridiculous to expect me to add even a single dollar to an account that I cannot touch. Not just ridiculous, but virtually impossible, considering that I don’t have checks or a debit card for that account, nor do I have digital access to the account, nor do I live within a 20 minutes’ drive of the bank. The account is under the control of the bank until we pay off the loan. The woman I spoke to Got It. Like, without my having to do anything but sketch out the basic issue, she said incredulously, “Well that’s ridiculous. Of course you wouldn’t want to add funds to an account you can’t touch! There’s no reason you should be paying an inactive fee on an account that’s meant to be inactive!” It took the bluster out of my Let Me Talk to a Manager sails, but it was SO mollifying to be understood. She said that she would talk with the bank supervisor and get the charge reversed AND she would have them make a note on our file. I was very pleased with the interaction. (Usually, the person I speak to says that ALL we have to do is deposit something in the account! It can be as little as a dollar! Once a year! And there are branches in X and Y and Z cities! Which, yes, I get that this sounds like a small amount of time and money and a very minimal hassle, but THE PRINCIPLE.) You know, perhaps, where this is heading. We came home to another statement which, alongside the credit of the $12, included a debit of $2 for a new inactive fee. ENDLESS SCREAMING.

Yes, I have a second bullet point about the banking thing. This morning, I called the bank and asked specifically to speak to the person I’d spoken to in May. Her name was similar to a fairly common name, but one syllable was different – like “Carlotte” instead of “Charlotte” or “Car-ree” instead of “Carrie” or “Samintha” instead of “Samantha.” I love her with my whole heart. She made things happen AND fully grasped why this situation is so stupid/frustrating. The person I spoke to put me on hold and then said that Samintha was not available but he would connect me to customer service. Sad, but okay. Customer Service means, as I discovered, the customer service line for the entire national banking system, when really I wanted to talk to someone (Samintha, sob!) in my local branch. Oh well. The customer service agent was very nice. His name was Tryin’ with a B. I explained to him that this is an annual problem, and gave him the quick and dirty details, and then he explained to me what was happening. “Oh, I think what the issue is, is that you have a LOAN, and this is a CHECKING ACCOUNT (it’s not, actually – it’s a money market account that we cannot access), and since you haven’t made any deposits or withdrawals, they are charging you an inactive fee.” Yes, thank you for repeating the exact same thing I just told you. And, nice as Tryin’ was, he couldn’t DO anything about it because the only person who can DO anything about it is the manager of my local branch. Tryin’ promised me he would call me back but I’m not holding my breath. I think I will see if I can get a hold of Samintha tomorrow.

I get canker sores about once a month and they are GOING WILD right now. I think this is a hormonal thing, but maybe it is a Covid thing? Who knows. Seems like EVERYTHING could be a Covid thing. And yes, canker sores are different from cold sores. They are basically little ulcers that occur inside the mouth, usually on the cheeks or under the tongue. Sometimes I get them on my gums, too. They are AWFUL. I have a massive one under my tongue and one on the very back part of my tongue right where my tongue brushes up against my bottom molars. 

The news is so enduringly turbulent. I just typed and erased a 634 word diatribe about one of the various Hot Button Issues that is driving me mad/making me worry that I have made a terrible mistake bringing a child into this fraught world. But I don’t like to write about Hot Button Issues on this blog, so I deleted it. (If I want to torment myself gnash my teeth and rend my garments over The State of Things catch up on world events, I will look at the news or go on Twitter.) Not that I have anything new or groundbreaking or interesting to say anyway; just vents/frets/threats of walking into the sea. There are SO MANY things going on and I have Feelings about many of them and yet I feel like it is utterly pointless to talk about them. The people I might discuss them with either disagree with me strenuously, which means voicing my own thoughts would lead to the type of confrontational encounter I HATE, and not to mention there’s no way I can convince anyone to feel differently from how they do; I don’t know enough of the background and facts, nor am I well-spoken enough to craft a convincing argument… or they already agree with me, and discussing things will just drive us each deeper into the pits of despair/rage we are already existing in.

I have eaten the last of the Reese’s peanut butter eggs.

My father (a physician for 40+ years) (I don’t know why I feel like I have to make sure you know he’s qualified to give advice) suggested that I make sure Carla is getting enough calcium. This is an ongoing concern, but one I haven’t properly fretted about recently, so I’m in Full Fret Mode right now. Apparently, she needs 1,300 mg of calcium per day – or four servings. She doesn’t get enough calcium. She refuses to drink milk – yes, even chocolate milk. She eats a bunch of cheese, and there is 200 mg of calcium per ounce of block cheddar or per 1/4 cup of shredded cheddar, so that helps, but it’s not enough. She only eats yogurt occasionally. She doesn’t even really like ice cream (and has never liked milkshakes) (she IS related to both me and my ice cream loving husband, I assure you). She eats cream cheese – it’s one of her non-pork camp foods this summer – but, despite having both “cream” and “cheese” right there in the name, there is only 26 mg of calcium per two tablespoons of cream cheese. (And NONE in the whipped cream cheese!) My mom and I walked through a whole list of foods that contain calcium and of that list Carla eats two things with moderate consistency: chickpeas and cheese. And sometimes yogurt. Very rarely, almonds. My mom was being really creative, too. What about calcium fortified orange juice? What about almond milk and almond butter? Carla does not drink juice and she will not touch almond milk with a ten-foot pole. I have no idea if I could get her to eat almond butter but my confidence level is low. Some people have suggested Ensure, but my guess is that if she refuses milk/juice/milkshakes, she will refuse Ensure as well. My current plan is try to coax her into drinking a smoothie every day. I can pack it with yogurt, almond milk, AND calcium fortified orange juice. She likes smoothies. We used to drink a mango smoothie together every week on the drive to ballet practice. But I am not sure if I can get her drink one every single day. My father thinks we should start giving her Tums. (We cannot do the Viactiv chocolate calcium chews.) Probably we will have to use a multi-pronged approach, with smoothies on one prong and roasted chickpeas and plenty of cheese on another prong and Tums on another prong. If you have any magical calcium ideas, I will prong them right up. 

Our refrigerator is unplugged and empty right now. This is something we’ve been planning to do, for awhile, and it’s not like I’m making big elaborate dinners at the moment, so it seems like a good time. We bought the fridge in 2011. It has some real advantages, like that it is beautiful and also it holds a TON of food. But it’s been plagued with issues almost from the beginning. To name a few: the door closing mechanism fails on a regular basis (I have learned how to source the replacement part and repair it myself), the ice maker broke and had to be repaired, the water dispenser pressure dropped off precipitously for no discernible (or fixable) reason, the bottom of the fridge fills with water that then turns to ice, the ice maker and dispenser chute are often coated with a slick black mold, the electronic panel frequently disconnects from the temperature readout and makes an incessant tinkling noise. ET CETERA. The most recent repairman I had in the house informed me that the ice problem was A Known Issue with this brand of fridge (GE/Samsung) and that it is unfixable. (He also said that if he’d known in advance this was the fridge we had, he wouldn’t have come out because he knows it is unfixable and wouldn’t want me to have to pay the service fee his company charges for sending someone to our house; he declined to charge me the service fee.) He suggested that best thing we can do is unplug it for three days, wait for the internal mechanisms to thaw, and then plug it back in and hope it works for about six months before we have to do it again. So that is what we are doing: we are thawing out the fridge in hopes that it will magically reset. We are lucky enough to have a second (though much smaller) fridge in the basement, so I have relocated the foods we cannot live without/cannot bear to toss. It is a jumbled mess down there, but at least it functions. However, now I have to run downstairs for every little thing and it’s a pain. (My husband keeps asking me, “Are you breathing heavily because you just went down two flights of stairs to the basement to get a plum and then walked back up two flights of stairs to the bedroom or because you have Covid?”) My father thinks, in a non-pressurey way, that we should just replace the damn fridge already. But I am one of those people who wants a key appliance to LOOK a certain way, and I have grown accustomed to how spacious it is. And have you SEEN how expensive refrigerators are?!?! I am not in the mood to spend one-, two- or three-THOUSAND dollars when a refrigerator should be a ONE-TIME purchase. Of course maybe we will plug the fridge back in and it will refuse to work and we will have to buy one anyway. Fun times! 

Speaking of fun times, summer feels like its coming to a close. I feel like there was so much anticipation about the summer, and our Road Trip!, and now the Road Trip! is over and Carla only has two weeks left of camp and then school will start before we know it and then it’s practically Thanksgiving, which might as well be Christmas and then a WHOLE YEAR will have passed.

A final Covid fret (for today, at least): My husband and Carla are following all the Covid protocols set forth by the CDC, my husband’s workplace, and Carla’s camp… but I am still fretting. I am being Very Strident about Carla wearing her mask, and her camp is mainly outdoors, and they only admitted children who were fully vaccinated, but ACK. I am fretting that Carla (despite having no symptoms and still testing negative on a rapid test) will somehow spread this stupid disease to others. (Also, I am very grateful for my little stockpile of rapid tests.) I hate being contagious. It is STUPID and I HATE IT. Well. As of tomorrow, according to the CDC, I am okay to leave isolation and rejoin the public, as long as I wear a mask. I haven’t taken a rapid test since the one that read positive, so I don’t know that I am negative yet, and that seems Kind Of Important, even though no one else (CDC, I am glaring in your direction) seems to agree. Anyway: I don’t have anywhere I plan to go, but the reasons that I COULD are positive: I have no fever (I don’t think I ever did) and my symptoms are improving. Except for the crankiness. That has, if anything, increased.

What are you fretting about? What’s making you cranky? Any complaints to share?

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Well, we are back from our Road Trip!, which was fabulous. Ten days of driving that paused for a five-day stopover with my parents in the middle. My husband planned the trip in such a way that we didn’t get tired of being in the car until the very end. And then we arrived home, and it was wonderful to be back in our own beds, with a weekend to recover before getting back to normal.

And then I woke up with cold symptoms and rapid tests confirmed that I have Covid. The worst souvenir. 

So far, I am feeling crummy. But mainly CRANKY. 

Cranky at myself. I always anticipated getting Covid at some point; it’s long seemed inevitable. I thought that when I finally got it, I would feel resignation mixed with relief. But I don’t. I am MAD. I got Covid because I took unnecessary risks, and that’s just a fact. Did I expect that * I * was somehow invincible? That Covid would look at the fact that I’ve been pretty measured and cautious over the past two-ish years and say, “Let’s skip her”? That residents of the rural western United States are all roaming around unmasked because Covid doesn’t exist in those areas? Apparently I did expect those things because we relaxed our typical restrictions on our trip and I got Covid. We ate out in restaurants A LOT. We went into museums and gas stations and gift shops and sometimes we just left our masks in the car. We attended events with lots of other people and pretended that the outdoor venues would protect us. I was uncareful and I KNEW I wasn’t being careful and I got Covid. So I feel cranky and mad and a little ashamed and my head feels like a stress ball that’s being squeezed so intensely you can see the little beads inside it through the membrane. PLUS I somehow forgot to do the Wordle yesterday and it RESET my winning streak.

For posterity’s sake, my symptoms: It started with a scratchy throat. So lightly scratchy that it was easy enough to write it off as irritation from staying in so many hotels (I was getting irritated with being on the road, those last couple of days; why not my throat, too?), or the change in atmosphere/climate as we drove eastward toward home. Then a day of an even sorer throat, with an irresistible tickle that could only be soothed by chain-lozenging menthol cough drops. Then a day where the throat felt better and the cough was less persistent. Now, Day 4, I am in the Head in a Vise stage. I am isolating in my bedroom, which fortunately has its own bathroom, but I am resentful and grumpy and have to get up to staunch my runny nose every few minutes. 

Covid. Ugh.

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I DID IT. Based on your supportive comments and gentle nudges toward action, I talked to my neighbor about her lovely lunch invitation.  First, I resolved to talk to her about it. Next, I cobbled together a script from several commenters’ suggestions, and I practiced it in the car and in the shower. Then, I waited for the Right Opportunity.

Carla provided me with a very nice segue – she was playing with the neighbor’s dog, and I needed her to come home to eat lunch. So I walked next door to fetch her. The neighbor came out and said hello, and I told her the reason for my appearance. Then I made my little speech: “Speaking of lunch, I was thinking about your kind invitation that we have lunch together, and I was so delighted by the offer that I said yes without thinking, but the truth is, Carla and I have so many silly food restrictions between us it’s not really worth getting into, and I was wondering if we could do something a little simpler, like afternoon tea or lemonade?” When I practiced it, I was Breezy and Casual and I had a little self-deprecating laugh in there, plus I also had a line about how of COURSE we wanted to spend time with her… and I also wanted to offer to bring homemade cookies or something… but it all came out in a rush and I forgot some of it. Oh well. At least I got out the important part which was LUNCH WILL NOT GO WELL.

Her immediate reaction was, “Oh no, sometimes I give Carla food when she comes over!” and so I had to reassure her that I didn’t mean allergies, but rather that Carla is the pickiest person on the planet. (Deftly trying to put the bulk of the blame on Carla’s food restrictions rather than my own.) Here is where Carla chimed in and informed our neighbor that I HATE tomatoes. So I am clearly not blameless. 

Once I had assured her she wasn’t doing something egregious by feeding my child cherries and red peppers, she seemed to relax a bit. She asked if something like tea and biscuits would be fine and I said that would be lovely and we discussed possible dates (though didn’t settle on anything specific). I am… so relieved. THANK YOU for helping me figure out the right way to handle this sticky situation. 

Now I can turn my Food Frets toward camp. 

Carla is attending a new camp this summer, and they don’t offer meals. So we will be packing a lunch. This is fine

Now that she is nearly NINE (which is nearly TEN, omg), I am looking forward to forcing encouraging Carla to make her own lunch (with supervision). We discussed some potential ideas for lunches, and her Ideal Lunch is a Lunchable. She only eats the ham Lunchable, and she only eats the ham, the cookies, and the crackers. She refuses to eat the cheese. If I pack her slices of other cheese – specifically cheddar that I have cut for her – she will eat that. 

So I was banking on sending her with Lunchables each day, and that if Lunchables become unavailable (again), or if she gets sick of them, we can pack a bagel and cream cheese with some pepperoni.

To round out her lunch, I would add other things she eats, like pickles and grapes and berries and grape tomatoes and red peppers and sugar snap peas. 

So I felt pretty good about our options. 

Then we got a note from camp that said NO PORK PRODUCTS. 

AHHHHHHHHH 

What now???

I suppose what we have to do is revert to PBJ. The camp is not a nut-free campus, so peanut butter is an option. Carla also enjoys eats sun butter, so she (and I) can make sandwiches every day. Carla eats sun butter sandwiches at school all year long, so I know she WILL eat them. But the last time I tried to make her one, she complained because my sandwiches weren’t the SAME as the ones at school. 

Weary sigh. 

I suppose I can just send her with the equivalent of Snack Dinner, but for lunch. But I am just not sure what the protein situation will be in that case. Snack Dinner usually has pepperoni or a couple of chicken nuggets or two.

I wonder if she would eat cold chicken nuggets (hork)? 

The reason that I am fretting about this is two-fold.

The first fold is that the camp really made a Big Deal about ensuring that we sent a LOT of food with our kids to camp. They emphasized that we should send MORE than we think – like, enough food for a week rather than a day. The kids work so hard and are so active, they are ravenous when they get to lunchtime. So I want to a) comply with the rules and b) make sure my particular kid is getting enough sustenance. 

The second fold is that Carla already eats next to nothing for lunch. I assume she eats something at school each day, although her reports are sporadic and often sound like, “Oh yeah, I ate a hamburger bun and a slice of American cheese.” So I am already facing an uphill climb when it comes to getting her to eat. I want to stack all the odds in my favor by ensuring her lunches are full of things she LIKES, not just things she tolerates. 

Well. I am not really asking for ideas, because I feel like it will be an exercise in frustration. (You, reasonably: “Send her with some chickpeas! Or beans! Or hummus! Or tuna salad! Or turkey! Or a protein drink!” and I will cringe at you while shaking my head because she will not touch ANY of that, and the list is endless.) (I am going to buy some turkey pepperoni and see if Carla will deign to try it.) I am just whining. New camp, new frets. 

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Apparently day four is the day when my careful less indulgent eating meal plan falls apart and I beg my husband to pick me up a frozen pizza from Target.

Listen, it’s possible that I could have made it longer if this were a typical year. But we are right back in the thick of Pandemic Living (worst idea for a magazine ever – headlines include “The Best KN95 Masks NO ONE Knows About (Yet)!” and “7 Best Ways to Ensure You and Your Loved Ones Won’t Need to Be Seen in the Emergency Room” and “Is Eyebrow Bling the New Lipstick?”) and I am not drinking alcohol during the week (for now) and so I prescribed myself some medicinal pizza for dinner last night. And some randomosity for today.

  • We continue to be very, very lucky. The family members who have had Covid have fully recovered. The rest of us have somehow avoided it so far. Everyone is vaxxed (with the possible exception of my vaccine eligible niece but I DO NOT WANT TO KNOW) and boosted. My part of the world is fairly pro-mask, so most people in the few public places I visit are masked. I have been able to get my hands on rapid test kits and masks. My daughter’s school continues to take Covid very seriously, and has a mask mandate for everyone and a vaccine mandate for the faculty and staff. We are so, so lucky.
  • I know it’s just luck. I mean, as with a lot of “luck,” some of it is privilege. Where we live and where we send Carla to school being two stark examples. But it also seems so easy to fall into the belief that we haven’t contracted Covid because we are careful. I’m sure that’s helped, but I also know that LOTS of very careful people have been hit by Omicrom. We have either avoided it so far because we are super lucky, or it’s possible (I think) that we’ve had an asymptomatic case without knowing it.
  • Despite being SO LUCKY, I have been filled with despair all week. Early Pandemic-level despair, which I have been fortunate to avoid for many months at a time over the past yearish. The news – which I have been trying, semi-successfully to avoid (except when my husband texts me a particularly upsetting news item THANKS HUSBAND) – is so full of doom and gloom that I feel like I can sense my blood pressure shoot up with every headline. And we have been remote all week, which is a nightmare for my particular brand of child and her particular brand of mother. Plus, there has been the possibility hanging over our heads of another week of virtual learning, which is giving me a stomachache. I mean, there are LOTS OF GOOD REASONS to have virtual learning! Lots and lots! And I am grateful that I am not the one who had to make the decision, that’s for damn sure. But there are also, obviously, MANY BENEFITS to having one’s children physically in school, learning from a human instead of a screen, doing actual math instead of a video game (seriously) and interacting with friends in person. (Not to mention the benefits of in-person learning for the many, many parents who do not have the ability to work from home, or the bandwidth to work while supervising a child during remote school.)
  • We don’t know whether we will have virtual learning next week, too. I have been refreshing my email constantly. I don’t know what to hope for. That we continue to stay home and help drive down the number of Covid infections? Not that our school’s numbers were ever that high. That we return to in-person school for the sake of the children and the working parents and my own sanity? I think I will rejoice/weep at either outcome. Right now, I just want to KNOW so I can PREPARE MYSELF.
  • Possibly due to an urge to soothe the pandemic angst, or possibly this is just my typical post-holiday M.O., I have ordered a few lovely things lately. I got this gorgeous sweater from Nordstrom with a gift card. It is SO SOFT. And it’s totally different from what I normally wear – which tends toward casual and butt-covering. I recently bought a pair of these high-waisted jeans and I think the sweater would look very cute with it. But also… I can’t tell if the sleeves are TOO balloon-y? They are MUCH more balloony in real life than they are on the model. Do they emphasize my arms in a stylish way, or a cartoonish one? Do I look like Popeye after pandemic stress and despair forced him to give up his weight-lifting habit? The jury is still out. We shall see. On the Stay-at-Home Clothes front, I purchased a zip up hoodie that I’m hoping will cover my buttular region. It looks like it will cover my buttular region, based on the photo. But I share nothing in common, body-shape-wise, with the person modeling the hoodie, and I suspect my region is vaster. The hoodie hasn’t arrived yet, but it has “amazing” right in the name, so I have high expectations.

  • Retail therapy is fun even when the purchases aren’t for me. I also ordered this napping kittens calendar for Carla. We’d scrolled through many, many options and this was her favorite and she was obviously correct. I also got my husband another Magic Puzzle puzzle; I’d given him one called The Happy Isles for Christmas, and he loved it. I don’t even LIKE or DO puzzles and I loved it. My husband wouldn’t even let me help (my version of helping with a puzzle is finding one piece and then leaving), and I loved it. It is seriously so adorable, with a million fun things to look at, and even a list of things to find, like in a Where’s Waldo? book. Plus, there’s the “magic” aspect of the puzzle, which was really cool (but I can’t reveal that part because it is magic). If you are a puzzle lover or know one, this MUST be on your puzzle purchase list.
  • Did I tell you about my new salt and pepper shakers? It’s not a new purchase, but looking for those links reminded me that I got them in early December. We had been using one of those Costco pepper grinders for all our peppering needs, but the Costco salt grinders have never worked well for us… so for the last Costco-sized-salt-container-amount-of-time, we’d been salting our food with a Costco-sized salt container. Ridiculous. My husband’s family aren’t a salt and pepper on the table family, but even so, when they were here so often this past fall, I kept feeling so awkward about not having a proper set of shakers for the table. And my family ARE big salt and pepper at the table people, so I was feeling really anxious about it in advance of their visit. My neuroses are many and varied. The result is that I finally persuaded my non-salt-or-pepperer husband that I NEEDED these and I love them. (He does not love them. He only ever uses salt, and the salt grinder grinds crystals of salt that are, to be fair, bigger than your average engagement ring diamond. But it does not seem that you can buy a matching set of pre-ground salt and grindable pepper shakers. And they always [right?] come in a set.)
  • My computer is driving me crazy. the keyboard is not working correctly, and when i try to capitalize things, it either doesn’t work or it WORKS TOO MUCH. As when i am trying to emphasize VIa CApitalization, when the shift key gets over-enthusiastic and capitalizes two letters in a row. I have left the capitalization in this bullet as my computer wants it, for an example. It is Very ANnoying. YOu wouldnt believe how often i have to delete and retype. BLARGH.
  • Speaking of calendars, which we were, a few bullet points ago: if you use a physical calendar, what kinds of things do you fill it with? I do NOT use a physical calendar, even though I love calendars. I have tried many times in the past, and somewhere around February I forget about it and then don’t look at it again until June, when I make a renewed effort to use it… and then forget about it completely until I see Swistle’s annual calendar post and start drooling over all the fun and beautiful options out there. If you think I could resolve this issue with a daily calendar rather than a monthly one, you would be incorrect because I forget about those too. If I didn’t know this about myself, I would own Benjamin Dreyer’s day-to-day grammar and style version. What was the point of this bullet? Oh, right.
  • Speaking of calendars, again, still, I want to populate Carla’s calendar with important things, but I’m not sure what those THINGS should be. Obviously, I will add the birthdays of family members. And I think I can safely add the first day of spring break, the last day of school, maybe even the first day of school for next year if the school has posted that information already. But… what else? Do I add weekly things, like swimming lessons (which we are resuming this month yay/eek)? I WANT to add upcoming trips, of which we have two planned. I WANT to add summer camp (which we had to register for in early December do NOT get me started). But in Year Three of the Covid-19 Pandemic (I started to type “of the Current Pandemic” but that sounded much too bleak), I am wary. So wary. Do I put them on the calendar anyway, as a nod to hope and optimism?

  • Ah, hope. I have an aerogarden in my dining room, and I have been growing a tomato plant for many months. It has been disappointing, to say the least. I think we have harvested maybe six tomatoes total. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. Some of the leaves are yellow; I go in and trim, but branches keep dying. Even so, the plant keeps growing, and keeps putting out these little hopeful blossoms… and once in a while, a baby tomato emerges like a promise kept. I kneel on the floor every morning to inspect the plant, to remove dead leaves, to whisper words of encouragement to the blooms. Many of them spread their petals into a bright reassuring star, only to disappear during the night. It is so discouraging, and it all feels like a metaphor.

  • My husband and I just finished all the Succession there is to watch. It is SUCH a good show, and i spend every episode marveling at how I can be invested in so many people I find abhorrent. We are looking for our next TV show to watch together. I think the two we are deciding between are The OA and Sex Education. I feel like we have watched EVERYTHING, but of course that isn’t true. If you have suggestions, new or old, I am waiting eagerly to hear them.
  • My husband and I have started, but not completed, two satisfying projects. The first is, of course, the basement craft room makeover, which has been paused during the work week. The second, which we did on a whim, was to cull (most of) bookshelves. My husband and I are both avid readers and, perhaps more so, avid book buyers. We also both believe in owning books, which has its benefits and disadvantages. This means that we tend toward keeping every book we buy, when not every book is one we NEED to own. It makes me sad to get rid of books, but really: if I read a book and didn’t love it, and my husband isn’t going to read it, and it isn’t autographed, and it wasn’t a Special Gift from a dear friend or family member… then I think it would be better off going to the library, where they can sell it to someone who really wants to read it. I am very pleased by the stack of books we were able to cull (and the number of spaces we have opened up for NEW BOOKS). Now I just need the libraries to re-open so I can donate them and get them out of my office!
  • Our library system, by the way, is pretty awesome. Even though the branches are currently closed to visitors, you can still order books and pick them up at the drive-up window. Plus, they often give away free rapid test kits. Carla and I went to the library to drop off a stack of books the other day and there was a police car parked at one end next to a sign that said “enter only.” I kept driving to the other end, which is where I usually turn into the library parking lot, but it was blocked by another police car and a sign that said “exit only.” I had to turn around to get back to the new entrance, and then followed a winding path through the parking lot, demarcated by construction cones. At the other end of the parking lot were two people standing next to big stacks of boxes. They seemed to be stopping each car that drove through the lot, so I rolled down my window to find out what was going on. One of the people asked how many members are in my family, and when I said “three,” he handed me three Covid test kits. I took them, because you don’t look a test kit horse in the mouth, and then I dropped off our library books in the drive-through lane. Then I texted everyone I knew that the library had a supply of test kits to give away. One friend replied that she would head to the library immediately, and then she noted that her new supply of Kn95 masks had arrived. I cheered and told her I was excited for the new masks I’d ordered to arrive… and immediately felt a sense of dissociation. THIS is what we text each other about now? THIS is cause for excitement? Free Covid tests and mask delivery? Eeeesh. Welcome to the new world, I guess.

  • These are the masks I got for Carla, by the way. We got a small package, just to try. They are quite expensive, but I saw them listed on a bunch of “best masks for kids” articles and I have some friends who use them and like them. (I have a referral code that can get you $5 off, if you want to try them. It’s not much, but it covers shipping and a teensy bit extra.) They shipped very quickly, and should be here Monday. I hope they fit and that Carla likes them.
  • On the way home from the library, I asked Carla what she thought she would remember about this time, when she is a grown up. She said she thinks her kids will probably think we mean party masks when we talk about masks. (I think she is thinking of the kind of masks that people wear to masquerades.) I laughed and agreed, and oh how I hope that’s true. I hope that masks (and rapid tests and virtual school) aren’t a necessary and regular part of life from this moment on. I hope that she can look back on these pandemic years with a veil of fog, because it was such a small, insignificant part of her childhood. I hope the next pandemic isn’t worse. I hope she grows up. I hope she has kids.
This is the bleakest photo I have on my camera roll. But it’s hopeful too. Those black, empty branches are part of a living tree. Someday soon they will have buds, then blossoms, then leaves.
  • Life is so up and down. It’s always like that, always will be. But the downs – right now – seem so much deeper. I don’t know what I thought, back in 2020. That the pandemic would be temporary? That we’d wear masks for a year, deal with Covid for a year, then be done with it forever? I feel like I always knew it would be a longer-term thing. But thinking something, knowing something, are different than believing them. And maybe I didn’t believe that this would be our way of life for many years, possibly forever. It’s a hard thing, to come around to the truth.

  • We just got an email from Carla’s school. They are back in person as of Monday. Cue the relief. Cue the anxiety. I think I’ll go have some leftover medicinal pizza.

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I need a root canal. Deciding that the tooth pain was bad enough to warrant a dental appointment wasn’t super fun. Confirming that I needed a root canal – first at my dentist’s office, then at the endodontist – was agony. 

The dentist kept saying he was sorry for causing me pain, even though the whole point of the tests he was doing was to elicit pain. It was kind, but I have that reflex where I say, “that’s okay” or “it’s not that bad” in response to someone apologizing, which felt a) silly and b) untrue. 

The endodontist did not apologize; not in a sadist-y way; he was kind, but just sort of stood there watching me clutch at my jaw as tears leaked from my eyes. He also offered me an Advil. His tests – which were very similar to the ones my dentist had done, just 30 minutes earlier – elicited a MUCH higher pain response. One test – he put liquid nitrogen or something on a swab and swabbed my tooth – hurt so bad that I cried. And then I felt ridiculous for crying. I tried to comfort myself by thinking that I couldn’t be the ONLY person to ever cry in that office; that must be why the assistant had tissues at the ready for me to dry my tears.

My dentist thinks, based on how nervous I get for dental work, that I need some sort of extra medication. Either something like V@lium or @tivan prior to the appointment, or conscious sedation during the procedure. He said, kindly, “That’s what I would recommend for my wife; she gets nervous about dental work. But I’m just telling you the options – you don’t need it. I wouldn’t do it, myself. Dental work doesn’t bother me.” Which made me wonder: ARE there people who are unbothered by dental work??????? This was a wholly novel concept to me. I figured that there was a spectrum, of course, from moderately nervous to requiring sedation just for a simple cleaning. But I never once imagined that there exist human beings who don’t mind dental work. 

(As for my spot on the spectrum: I get nervous for a simple dental cleaning; I clench my hands into fists, my arms and legs are rigid the entire time, I have to do anti-anxiety breathing while I’m in the chair, waiting for the exam to begin. I did a LOT of focused breathing today, let me tell you. And then cried in my car all the way home.)

The thing is, for me to do any sort of pre-medication, I need someone to drive me to and from the appointment. And my husband is unlikely to be able to do that anytime in the near future, if at all. And I don’t know that I have any friends who I would feel comfortable asking. So I am feeling very sorry for myself indeed. I suppose there is always Uber, but I have never once used Uber so that’s another hurdle to surmount.

Part of the reason I cried in the car (aside from the lingering tooth pain following the swab) was that I felt so ridiculous about crying. The crying was bad enough on its own. But then I couldn’t stop crying. And even when I finally got the actual tears under control, I still had Wobbly Voice. Ugh. I couldn’t stop thinking of that awful anesthesiologist who commented on my ability to withstand pain when I was in labor. Maybe I have a very low pain threshold, and other people are going around dealing with similar or worse pain without being fazed one bit. And maybe everyone thinks I am a huge baby who is making a mountain out of a molar pain. And I am FORTY YEARS OLD for floss sake, why can I not just GET IT TOGETHER like the adult I supposedly am instead of acting like a whiny child? 

This is just the latest in a run of negative self-talk that I can’t seem to squash. It started with my writing and has since spilled over into every other aspect of my life. 

I am suspecting – and hoping – that it has at least something to do with the calendar: both the monthly calendar, which has spun right around to canker sores and chocolate cravings, and the annual calendar, which has turned once again to the anniversary of my friend’s death. Not to mention, we are now sliding down the dark slope of fewer hours of sunshine each day and facing the looming pressures of the holiday season. 

While I do my focused breathing and wait for the calendar to flip a few pages forward, if you have any advice for how you pull yourself out of this kind of self-talk tailspin, I would greatly appreciate it. For now, I have self-medicated with Trader Joe’s macaroni and cheese and some of my only-on-the-weekends good tea. And, of course, I am blabbering it all to you. (Thank you for listening.)

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What day is it, anyway? I have been off-kilter, day-wise, all week. And I just checked the date and was very surprised that it is somehow the 19th. I guess I think it should be Friday but also only November 15? Well. Time has taken on very strange and malleable properties this year. I should be accustomed to it, by now, but am very clearly NOT.

Last night was a 3:30 a.m. wake up night. I hate nights like that. They happen so frequently that I feel like I should have a better handle on them, or at least know how to get back to sleep. But somehow, in the dark, with the wind doing its best freight train impression outside my window, and the gate shrieking in protest, none of my getting-back-to-sleep techniques occurred to me at all. Instead, my brain decided to first fret extensively about the pandemic and how everything is so much worse than it was in March and yet no one seems to care, and so many people are dying and my loved ones have been spared so far but that extreme good fortune simply cannot hold for much longer. Well. I couldn’t go on thinking about THAT. So I forced my brain to choose a different line of thinking, and it decided to chart exactly how I am a failure, and how I am nearing forty and have not yet finished the book I have been working on for far too many years and how it is now too late and I should just give up in disgrace. Great second choice, brain. You dick.

This is when I pulled up Swistle’s archives on my phone and started reading old pre-Trump, pre-pandemic posts. Very cheerful and soothing. At around 5:00, I fell back to sleep.

That’s when I had a dream about being at some sort of ski resort where four little girls went sailing over a cliff and three of them died in a horrible, violent way. Really, truly gruesome. And in the dream, not only could I do nothing to help, but no one else seemed to register the horrific tragedy that had just happened in front of them, and everyone sort of shrugged and kept on skiing. Thanks, brain. 

So today I am fretful and draggy. Going to walk on the treadmill for a while would probably help, but the act of getting TO the treadmill seems unsurmountable. In terms of productivity level, I score a solid Low. I did have to go to Wal-Mart, for a “contact free” pickup, where I had to wait in a smallish area with another person for the staff member to go get my item. (A present for my niece. She lives in a different state, and I want to wrap her gifts and mail them to her because her mother does not need to wrap extra gifts.) (I do not need to wrap extra gifts either, but I have resigned myself to doing it as I have been doing for several years now. Grim it’s-not-really-as-big-an-imposition-as-it-feels-like face.) (I GET it. Sometimes it just much simpler – and MUCH less expensive! – to order from a website, often with free shipping, and have something shipped directly to your recipient rather than shipping it to your house, wrapping it, then paying to ship it to the recipient. And sometimes gift wrapping isn’t available through online retailers! I totally understand! Occasionally wrapping gifts on behalf of a family member is totally fine!) Then, after eleven minutes of standing around, counting the number of Wal-Mart staff members whose masks covered their mouths but not their noses (final count: 3 of 5), and telling two other staff members who approached me that yes, I was pretty sure I was already being helped, the staff person who’d gone to get items for me and the other shopper returned. He handed the other shopper his item. And then went to a shelf right beside where I was standing and fetched my item. Sigh. Well. I never considered Wal-Mart and efficient to be synonyms.

I was counting the minutes because I needed to get home for my microwave installation. (I made it home in time. And had enough time to wrap my niece’s gift and put it in a box to ship.) Turns out that our old microwave had been installed… badly, is the word I am coming up with. And it’s a good thing a) we never needed it repaired, because the way the previous owners installed it immediately voided the warranty and b) we never had a FIRE. Because they had “installed” it by cutting the wires of the microwave and basically hot-wiring it to the wall. Good times. But! The installation company put in an actual outlet and installed my new microwave correctly and it works and looks basically the same as the old one, so I am pleased. 

(The microwave installation people, by the way, were very nice. They wore masks. I kept the doors open while they were here and also wore a mask. They were gone in about forty minutes. But I asked one of them if they’d been extra busy during the pandemic, you know, just to make awkward conversation, and he said yes, and then went on a [very] little rant about how so many people are going SO OVERBOARD with precautions, and using too much hand sanitizer and wiping everything down, and people just need to chill out a little. Omg.) (After they left, I kept the doors open until the frightful wind started slamming them for me and I also washed my hands and wiped down the entire microwave and everything else they possibly could have touched.) 

What else can I fret to you about?

Oh yes. In Completely NOT Important In The Grand Scheme, Or Even In The Small Scheme, Really, Frets: I am worrying about Santa gifts. 

Let’s take a step back here and offer context: I grew up with Santa. I believed in Santa much longer than most children, in part because my parents were magicians at making Santa gifts appear beneath my watchful eyes, and in part because the magic was so special to me. My parents always gave us gifts, but Santa would give us the big, splashy gifts. A new bike. A Barbie Dream House. A new guitar. A kayak. Skis. (These were not all gifts for me, but various big Santa gifts I remember various members of my family getting over the year.) Anyway, they were the most exciting gifts. And it was such a delight to venture into our living room and see all these fabulous things that Santa had managed to sneak down our chimney. I have always sort of thought of Carla’s Santa gifts the same way. Santa got her a play kitchen one year. Santa brought her a Barbie Dream House a couple of years ago. Big, splashy gifts that really wow her.

My husband did not have the same experience growing up. He has never seen the gifts for Carla as “Santa gives the big gift,” but more along the lines of, it makes more sense to have a Barbie Dream House appear as from nowhere on Christmas morning rather than sit, wrapped, under the tree. And while we have discussed our different views on Santa gifts, and have very carefully said to one another that we know our own personal experience is not The One True Way, neither have we come up with a Defined Way to proceed.

With that context in mind:

As I mentioned in the Gift Guide post, we were planning on getting Carla a sewing machine for Christmas. In my mind, this was going to be her Big Gift from Santa.

But this year, another family member also had the idea to get Carla a sewing machine. And it’s a very generous gift, and very appropriate from this person. But now I am agonizing over giving up our “claim” on the sewing machine because a) now what does SANTA get for Carla? and b) what if the sewing machine doesn’t get here on time? Because this person has a lot going on this year, some very out-of-the-ordinary things that are occupying a lot of time and energy… Plus… even in normal years, this person has a very spontaneous, last-minute type of personality and gifts often arrive the day of a birthday/holiday/event or, sometimes, after the fact. In a year when shipping times and product availability are unreliable, I admit that I am extra concerned about gifts arriving in a timely manner. (That doesn’t give a lot of credit to the family member, I know, which is unfair.)

This is good practice in serenity and flexibility, isn’t it? I can only control my own actions, I cannot control the actions of others. Carla does not know she is supposed to get a sewing machine; she has not even asked for one. So if it doesn’t work out for Christmas this year, we could always get one for her next Christmas, or for her birthday. It will be fine. And, of course, Christmas is not ABOUT presents. It is about family togetherness, and the joy and satisfaction of generosity, and gratitude for all the blessings in our lives. (Yes, I realize Christmas foremost has significant religious meaning, but we are not particularly religious so it is much more of a secular holiday around here.)

And yet the anxious, catastrophize-y part of me is worrying and worrying this not-really-a-problem-problem to death, because I feel like there is tremendous extra pressure to Make Christmas Special this year. What if this is our last Christmas on earth? my doom-and-gloomful brain intones mournfully. What if one or all of us get sick and die and this is our final Christmas together? I realize, fully, that EVERY Christmas has the potential to be our last Christmas because terrible things happen all the time. But that very cheering reminder that this year is, in fact, no different from any other is not as comforting as one would hope.  Instead, it has plunged me deeper into despair and ignited within me a desire to counter that despair with retail therapy. A fleeting and overall ineffective therapy, yet a very appealing one. Except I don’t know what Big Splashy Gift to buy in place of a sewing machine, and I don’t know that I can get my husband on board even if I find one. 

I feel stupid and petty, stressing about these very inconsequential and privileged things when there are so many BIGGER and MORE IMPORTANT things to stress about. But that’s what this is, right? At least partly, it’s a reaction to how helpless I feel about everything else going on in the world. I am trying to regain control over my own little corner, and even that is proving difficult. 

I cannot be the only one wasting energy and angst on ridiculous things, right? RIGHT?

Okay, while you tell me about the inconsequential (or very consequential!) frets you are having right now, I am going to try to climb out of the pit of despair I have mired myself in. Or maybe take a nap.

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