Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Death By Neti Pot

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I stand in front of the bathroom sink, preparing to use my new Neti Pot for the first time. Plugged sinuses have driven me to this madness. I've tried nasal spray, which works, but it leaves my inner face tight and dry, resulting in a headache. I’ve also heard that nasal spray can be addictive; I don’t want that. “She lived a good life, but succumbed in the end to her nasal spray addiction." Not me.

I open the box and remove the contents: a small blue plastic teapot, a bunch of saline packets, and a small sheet of directions. I’m going to voluntarily pour water into my nose and these are all the directions I get? turns quickly into Eight steps? I have to go through eight frickin’ steps just to use this thing? I read the first few directions and understand that I am to empty a saline packet into the pot, add warm water, shake it up, then insert the spout into my right nostril. My nostrils are virgins. I take them aside and explain what’s going to happen; they aren’t happy, but they’re willing to do this for me.

Back at the sink, I look at the sheet of directions again. In a small picture, a model is shown using a Neti Pot. She’s a pretty girl, but she has a Neti Pot spout stuck up her nose. I flip the directions over and see the same girl—wearing a different outfit—with a Neti squeeze bottle stuck up her nose. She seems to like the bottle more than the pot because she’s smiling in this one. I wonder how she got this modeling job and if it paid well.

I resume reading the directions through #5, the most important one because it explains in three paragraphs how to actually use the Neti Pot without drowning. I empty one saline packet into the pot and add the correct amount of icky Phoenix tap water. I don’t drink this water…why am I willing to pour it into my nose? I just want this over with.

The first problem arises quickly: Like the model, I’m supposed to daintily hold the Neti Pot by its handle while at the same time using my thumb to cover a hole on the cap to “control the flow of water”. That would be fine if I was a piano player or had man-hands, but my hands are nerve-damaged from thirty years of typing; they are good for flapping to show happiness, and not much else. I grip the pot like a baseball and my thumb is naturally poised over the cap’s hole. Problem solved.

I gear up to start pouring water into my nose, a most unnatural act. I stare at my reflection in the mirror: my virgin nostrils quiver. I remember that my niece and my brother swear by their Neti Pots and highly recommend them. The warning Your mother never made you use a Neti Pot runs through my head, but I forge ahead.

With my head tilted over the sink, I raise the Neti Pot to my nose. I insert the spout’s tip into my right nostril; who knew she would be so accommodating. Tentatively, I slide my thumb halfway off the cap’s little hole to allow some water to enter one side of my nose. I pray that gravity will work, allowing the water to safely run out the other side instead of into my lungs. I called 911 when my gall bladder went out; I don’t want to call again for Neti Pot use gone wrong.

In fits and starts, saline solution makes it way from my right nostril to my left nostril and out to the sink. I get braver and allow more water to flow through my nose. I’m Neti Potting! My cat jumps up to sit on the vanity and bats her paw at the Neti Pot product now freely running out of my nose and into the sink. “Stop that,” I say. “Get down, go away.” I don’t need her frolicking in my DNA.

I am in my Neti Pot groove when I realize that the pot is still nearly full and I have a long way to go. I need to push myself harder; specifically, I need to stop leaning away from the Neti Pot. I straighten back up, resume the tilt position, and resolve to take whatever the Neti Pot has to give. I get distracted again by my image in the bathroom cabinet mirrors: such an awkward girl. I close my eyes and try to relax with a blue spout shoved up one side of my nose and toxic waste pouring out the other. Only a small amount goes to greet my tonsils, and I tiny-drown just once.

Finally, I’ve done it. I have Neti Potted! And my sinuses already feel better: they are moist and nearly clear. I can inhale and exhale through my nose without nasal spray or other over-the-counter allergy meds.

Feeling proud, I set the empty Netti Pot down on the vanity, pat my face with a towel, and decide to read the rest of the directions. I come to the last one, #8: “Repeat the procedure on the other side.”

What!? All that hassle all over again? Seriously? I stomp around the bathroom for awhile before rolling my eyes and surrendering to the Neti Pot once more. This time goes more smoothly and soon I’m really done, breathing even more easily through my nose.

I love my new Neti Pot, my little blue genie lamp from which flows the sinus solution I’ve been looking for all my life. While I resisted it at first, I found that the more I relaxed and relinquished control, the more my Neti Pot worked its magic. Success was all about confidence and angle, which I think can be said about a lot of things.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Pizza for Mando

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A few years ago, my 74-year-old mother came down from Minnesota to help me for awhile. My gall bladder had been removed and my body was none too pleased with the situation: a surgery gone wrong. I was wracked with pain and bruised from my ribs down to my knees. So much fluid had pooled in my groin that my younger cousin remarked during her visit, “It looks like you’re sportin’ a package.”

I stayed in my bedroom for almost a week simply because by the time I managed to crawl out of bed and pull some clothes on, I needed another nap. In the absence of my companionship, my mom decided to clean my garage.

She is a pro at cleaning and did such a great job that I wasn’t compelled to tackle the garage again until a few weeks ago, when the dead roaches lying around started to come back to life. I wanted them out, plus I wanted to walk around in there without tripping over stuff, and I wanted the graffiti on the sheetrock walls painted over. I had lived with it for six years, reminded of the Diamondback’s 2001 World Series win every time I came and went in my car. I imagined the bash that must have taken place in this garage that was now mine, a celebration where cans of spray paint were apparently handed out as party favors.

So I hired a handyman, Mando—short for Armando—and he got right to work. Our deal was simple: Mando would clean out the garage, fix some safety issues, paint the inside, and organize my junk and tools as he saw fit. I had seen another garage that Mando had overhauled and it was practically a work of art: meticulously arranged, everything in its place. On my end, I would pay him a fair wage and provide lunch.

Everything in the garage had to be removed. Before Mando hauled it all out to the driveway, I gathered the only items that I would need inside the house while he worked: my cats’ toys. Feathers connected to plastic sticks with a string, a long piece of twine with an earplug tied to the end, a furry yellow mouse I had attached to a piece of fishing line. Sara and Lucy need morning playtime like I need coffee.

The problem was that I didn’t have a good place to store these toys inside the house because Sara can open every cupboard, drawer, and closet. I knew she would find them immediately, drag them out, and then Lucy would eat them. Lucy would chew and swallow the string and the next day she’d drag her poopy butt all over the carpet trying to get the strung-together poop out. I’d seen it before and didn’t want to see it again. Nor did I want these toys in my fridge, so I settled on the oven since I never use it. The kitty toys would be safe in there until Sara started culinary school, Mando finished up, or both.

The first few days of garage renovation went smoothly. Mando worked hard outside, and I did schoolwork inside. For lunch we would have soup and sandwiches, easy fare. Lunchtime came around again one day and I stuck my head out the garage door: “Mando! Are you hungry?” He was. Both of us were tired of soup and sandwiches though, and I knew Mando wasn’t picky, so I decided to throw in a frozen pizza. I preheated the oven to 400 and went about my business.

A short while later I noticed that my house was filling with smoke. Something was burning. The cat toys! I rushed to the oven and opened it to find plastic sticks melting through the racks, a pile of scorched string, and burned feathers. The little yellow mouse had burst open and now resembled a yellow sea creature with its intestines hanging out.

I made pizza in there all the time, the kind that sits right on the rack, dropping ingredients onto the other racks and burners below. Why hadn’t I remembered that? I broil steaks in there once in awhile too, brown a crust of French bread, roast a chicken.

And I never used the oven? Had my brain misfired? Had I momentarily lapsed into remembering periods of time earlier in my life when I really didn’t use the oven? I felt a pang of sadness for the versions of me who had lived through those ovenless months, lonely days of fried eggs and spaghetti if I was lucky, not caring enough to cook a real meal. That’s what a hard divorce will do for you, or a death of some kind.

And then it struck me: It wasn’t that I didn’t use the oven for cooking so much that I didn’t respect it. I rarely cleaned it, so it was dirty in there already, not to mention that it wasn’t even my own oven really; it had come with the house. After six years, I still I had not befriended this range with its old-style coils and drip pans, its inability to stay level, the oven handle dented from something or someone running into it…maybe during that World Series party when the garage got tagged.

Why not store the cat toys in the oven? Now I knew.

I got the smoking toys out and wiped up the melted sticks as best I could. Even though the kitchen and the whole house reeked of burning plastic, I popped the pizza in anyway, hoping for the best, and it turned out just fine. My ghetto oven had come through once again. I sliced up the pizza and gave Mando more than half: he was doing real work.

I was just putting out fires I’d set myself.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


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As I changed from my work clothes into my gym clothes today, hiding in the far corner of the locker room as usual, I noticed that my ribbed knee-high socks had left vertical lines all up and down my calves. Nice, I thought. Should’ve worn smooth ones. Now it looks like I have flesh-colored knee-highs on. Groo-vay.

I pulled on my short socks and sneakers, and—certain that everyone at the gym would stare at my deeply lined calves, perhaps wanting to run their fingers across the ridges to see if they produced sound—I left the locker room and danced like a boxer over to the treadmills, sly as usual.

“Hey!” I said to my friend Ken, a retired gentleman who happens to work out at the same time I do. I maintained eye contact with him for as long as possible as I started the treadmill next to his, hoping that he would not glance down and feel compelled to check the treads on my calves with a penny.

As we power-walked next to one another, gazing at the TV’s hanging from the ceiling and all the other people working out, Ken asked me what I’d been up to. I’m never up to anything, so I asked Ken the same. He started talking about his golf game. “I’m not a great golfer but I absolutely love it. My long game isn’t as good as it used to be; that’s what happens when you get old.”

He explained his limited range of motion, how he didn’t have the strength anymore to hit the ball hundreds of yards. “Now my short game is my strength,” Ken said as we marched along. “Once I’m on the green, I can make up for extra strokes.”

I know nothing about golf and I did want to learn, but I couldn’t get over what my socks had done to my legs. I glanced down at my calves and noted that the vertical indentations had not yet dissipated. Frickin’ just tattoo a sock on my leg.

Focusing back on Ken, I listened intently to his explanation of handicaps and golf pros, competition and playing against the course. His eyes glazed over as he described the putting green in the greener pastures of his backyard, as if he were there now and not at the gym. Wishing that I was obsessed with something so healthy, I turned to look at my white-haired friend just as he bit the dust on the treadmill.

“Ken!” I yelled. “KenKenKenKen!”

Ken was now hanging on to the handrails, his arms stretched behind him like wings, his nose inches from the rolling mat. With his legs vibrating and his feet hanging over the edge in back, he looked like a fallen angel.

“Ken! Are you alright?” The words were barely out of my mouth before Ken managed to haul himself upright. He had bloody knees and black streaks, scraped ankles and a red face.

I gave him the proper dose of attention and kindness, as far as I knew what it was. “You need to get some medicine on those scrapes!” I said. “And some…”

“Bandaids” we said together. Ken picked it up: “Yup, I’ll run right home and clean out my wounds and antibacterialize them and put on some Band-Aids. That’s exactly what I’ll do.” He made a face and rolled his eyes, rivulets of blood dripping down his calves.

“Well it is what you should do,” I said. I couldn’t see why he couldn’t see that.

“Yeah, you’ll never walk next to me again,” he said. “Nope! You’re gonna be like, I don’t want people to associate me with that old man who collapses on the treadmill.”

“I will not,” I said. “At least you were strong enough to pull yourself up before you went flying.”

“That’s true,” he said.

And it was.

Ken finished first today, and we said our goodbyes. I left soon after on my still-striped calves, feeling lucky to have them that way rather than bloody and dirty with scabs forming for weeks, leaving scars on my overly sensitive self. What would people think of that?

Impressions can be so hard.

Friday, January 20, 2012


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Mammogram: one of the least sexy words in the English language. But there I was at the imaging center this morning, bright and early at 7:45, prepared not only for that procedure but also an abdominal ultrasound, for which I had fasted. Hungry, itchy (no lotion on its skin), and about to be smelly (no deodorant), I sat in the waiting room and paged through a National Geographic. Anywhere else sounded better than the state I was in at the moment.

They called my name and back I went to the business end of this center, carrying my magazine. I stayed in my sweatpants but had to put on a thin cloth top, open in the front, and soon enough was facing the mammography machine, one breast hoisted onto a metal shelf, waiting for the glass plate to come down and smash Lefty. How would they do this with a flat-chested woman? I thought. Like that pretty girl at the gym with the great body except she has no boobs. How could they find any flesh to press? Maybe flat-chested women get nipplegrams. Ouch.

When Lefty was done, the technician helped Righty up on stage, and she too played the role of Pancake. Good girls.

I pulled the cloth shirt around me tight and crossed my arms over the National Geographic, hugging it to my chest. A different lady led me to a new, dimly-lit room: it was time for my ultrasound. Up until the past few years, the word “ultrasound” always had such a positive ring to it: what’s not to like about “ultra”? And where would I be without sound? Pregnant women have ultrasounds to find out about their babies—it’s a boy!—but I have ultrasounds because my body has turned on itself. We need to make sure my organs stay functional: It’s a keeper! Doctor’s orders.

As I lay shivering on the exam table, the new technician went through my paperwork and set up her machine. She asked if I was cold and I said yes, so she covered my torso with a sheet and gave me a warm bottle of transmission gel to cuddle with. It’s hard to find that kind of service these days.

“You should be here in the afternoon!” she said. “It gets up to 80 degrees in this room.”

Cold in the morning but hot later on: that’s a desert winter.

I tucked my cozy bottle of transmission gel under my arm like a doll, feeling the warmth radiate through the rest of my body. The technician rubbed more warm gel over my bare belly and started to sound me out. She got the basics: what I do for a living, what I’m doing this weekend, if the National Geographic over there was mine. “No, it’s yours,” I said. “I would normally be grading papers at a time like this, but I don’t have any yet.”

As she waved her wand over my stomach and ribs, I asked her if she ever got bored. “No! Never. Everybody’s insides look different. Organs shift around and hide. Sometimes I can’t even find them because the skin on some people is hard to see through. Like Indians.”

“Indians from India?” I said.

“Um, no, sorry. Native Americans,” she said. “The reservation is just south of us and we get a lot of Native Americans. Sometimes the ultrasound doesn’t work on them. We have to use a lot of shadowing, shadows to find some definition.”

“Why is it so hard to see through their skin?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” the technician said. “I’m part Indian myself and I still don’t know.”

When we were finished, I climbed off the table and handed back the now-cool bottle of gel. I picked up my magazine so I could return it to the waiting room, changed back into my own clothes, and followed the lady out.

Driving home, I longed for the old days when no one worried about my insides because there was nothing to worry about. Only a few tears slipped out before I forced myself to remember that having thin skin is good for people like me; that way, it’s easier to keep track of what’s going on in there. And who was I kidding? My outsides were just as easy to read as my insides. For whatever reason, I ended up transparent, and remain so even when I prefer to hide.

I thought about the National Geographic, all the pictures of people and places from across the world, and wished I belonged to a tribe.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Not Yet a Spider

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Arizona is having a particularly warm winter, but still: when I crawl into my recliner at night to watch TV, I want a blanket. I want to cuddle under the blanket, cozy and safe, and pretend that it’s cold and wintry outside, like back home in Minnesota. Lately I’ve been turning the air conditioning on to achieve this chilly effect, and using my lightest blankets to snuggle under…not the heavy knit afghans my grandmother made, and most certainly not a full-body fleece.

Last night the Blanket Selection Process was well under way when I picked up an old blue chenille that I keep folded on the couch, tucked behind a pillow. I shook it out and noticed how thin it was—perfect for the light flurries that were not taking place in my living room. Then I noticed that I could see through it, so I held it up to the light and found that it was worn out, just a large sheet of looped blue thread really, my blanket now a blue cobweb.

I should have seen this coming, I thought, chastising myself. I need to throw this out and get a new one. What kind of a homeowner am I? I’ve given this to guests!

After folding up my cobweb and tucking it back under the pillow—because old worn-out anything gives me comfort, I confess—I thought back to my first domestic mistake. I was eleven years old, in the sixth grade, and had volunteered to make supper by myself for the first time.

The circumstances were odd because my mom always made supper, but my older siblings were out of the house by then and she had finally taken a part-time job working at the Hallmark store downtown. This winter night she had to work late, so it was just my dad and me, and I wanted badly to please him with a warm, home-cooked meal after his long workday out in woods, just like my mom would have done if she’d been there.

I charged myself with the task of making macaroni and cheese.

I read the directions on the box and understood what was involved: a pot of boiling water, a packet of cheese powder, the macaroni, some butter, some milk. We had all of that, so I got busy setting these items out assembly-line fashion so that I would not forget a step. My dad arrived home and hovered around for a few minutes, making sure to remind me not to tip the pot of boiling water on myself for the love of God and You don’t need to use a knife, remember that: NO KNIVES. He shook his head “no” violently while pointing at the knife drawer to emphasize his point. I got it.

My dad retreated to the family room with his briefcase; I would call him when supper was ready, just like my mother had always called us.

I read the directions on the box one more time before pouring the noodles into the boiling water. I set the timer for ten minutes longer than recommended because I remembered that my family liked their noodles very soft. I carefully poured the milk into a measuring cup and spooned an extra-large piece of butter off a stick from the fridge, because I remembered that my family liked lots of butter, plus I was not supposed to use a knife. I used scissors to cut the top off the cheese packet, no ripping or tearing for me. This was an endeavor in precision.

When the noodles were nice and plump, I removed the pot from the stove and added the butter first, then the milk, and finally the powdered cheese. I stirred and stirred, waiting for this mixture to turn into the gooey pile of macaroni and cheese that my mom sometimes made—not often, just for special occasions. But no matter how much I stirred, for some reason the cheese was not clinging to the noodles. Nor was the cheese or the milk.

“How’s it going in there?” my dad shouted from the living room.

“Pretty good!” I yelled back. “Just a few minutes!”

Probing the depths of my scientific knowledge, I tried to figure out what was wrong with the macaroni and cheese. Had it been a flawed box, or a cursed box? Had it come from that movie where the girl’s head spun around and they had to call a priest? What was wrong with this box of macaroni and cheese!? Although I was having my first-ever anxiety attack, I knew that I could not be responsible for this outcome because I had followed the directions to a T.

I quickly set the table for two, put out the salt and pepper shakers, and called for my dad. With my heart in my throat, I watched him round the corner into the kitchen looking proud and cheerful: his baby was growing up, making supper for the first time. He came over to where I was still standing, staring into the pot of macaroni and cheese.

“Something went wrong,” I said, dying a little.

“Well honey,” he said, peering into the pot, “you forgot to drain the water.”

Drain the water? I looked at the box again, that rotten box with the bad directions, and there it was, the second step: “Drain.” I had never used a colander before; colanders did not exist in my eleven-year-old worldview—only pots and fry pans. I must have blocked that step out, and now we had macaroni and cheese soup.

Dying a little more, I asked, “What are we gonna to do?” I waited for the words “throw it out.”

“We’re gonna eat it!” my dad said.

He told me to go sit down and I did. Somehow he got the noodles out of the water—the bloated, orange-tinted noodles—and into bowls. He set one down in front of me and one at his place, then we said a prayer and dug into our essence of macaroni and cheese.

I had the habit of asking my dad what food needed pepper and what needed salt. At eleven, I had not yet developed my own taste or standards for seasoning; I always watched my dad to see what he did with the shakers. This time was no different.

“Does it need salt?” I asked.

“Yes, it definitely needs salt.”

“Does it need pepper?” I asked.

“It needs quite a bit of pepper,” my dad said. “It’s already very tasty, but pepper will help.”

He asked me about my day, as my mother would have if she’d been home, and when we were done eating he cleared the table, again just like my mother. He excused me and I bundled up before running outside into the freezing cold of a winter night, the air biting my cheeks and nose. I went to sit with our dog and cried into his fur.

Thirty years later, I hold onto a worn blue blanket just like I hold onto my macaroni and cheese story. My dad taught me to make the best of a bad situation, to not waste, and to find new uses for what others might throw out. I have big plans for my blue cobweb, now resting on my couch, waiting to help me spin and spin again.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Waiting for Juan

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My neighbors’ house burned down two Thanksgivings ago, and they are finally able to rebuild. Like ships and true love, their insurance money finally came in. Late is better than never, right?

Now, instead of living next to the scorched remains of an empty house, I’m living next to a construction site. I go outside in the morning to get my paper and wave at the construction guys parked up and down the street, early to the job, trying to catch a few extra winks before 7 a.m. when work begins. I go back inside and turn on the Easy Listening station as usual, my John Pizzarelli and Jackie Gleason quickly drowned out by buzz saws and jackhammers.

In the bad old days when I was short on patience, I might have marched over there and told them they were only allowed to work when I was running errands or going to campus, and they should keep an eye out for my garage door opening, my car backing out…my comings and goings. That would have been the only fair deal.

However, these are the good new days, and my enthusiasm about getting my neighbors back exceeds my displeasure with the noise, so I’ve kept my mouth shut. I will admit to asking everyone I know how long it takes for a house to come up from scratch, and praying about it at night: God, I want Juan and his family to move back in next door, and I want them to have a big new place to live, but I’m frustrated with all the noise. I’m sorry. God, how long does it take to build a house?

I’ve given up on cleaning because every day a cloud of dirt rises from Juan’s lot and settles on my house, caking the windows outside and seeping in through every crack, layering my possessions with a thick coat of dust. I look like a miner coming out of the shaft whenever I walk out the front door. I grit my teeth and there is actually grit in my teeth. Last night, as I killed yet another scorpion seeking refuge from the construction site—this one on the ceiling over my bed—I wondered again, How long will this go on?

Most of the men working construction over at Juan’s are Hispanic, and I can say for sure that they are not fans of Easy Listening music. No Chet Atkins for them, no James Galway. Instead, they like salsa music, which I enjoy too—when I’m at a Mexican restaurant, when I’m in Mexico, or when I simply want to toss my worries aside and get happy. However, when I’m working from home during the day, by definition I am not at a Mexican restaurant, I’m obviously not in Mexico, and it’s not time to be happy yet. Happy is for after work, not during work. Right?

For the first week of tear-down, salsa music, the sawing up of an enormous tree, salsa music, the sledge-hammering of tile that took Juan three months to install, salsa music, and the jack hammering of a work pit next to my Brazilian pepper tree, salsa music, I held my tongue. I bit my lip. I found a vise lying out front and put it on so my head would stop spinning around. Salsa music. Juan’s house is completely gone, so any sound coming from that area bounces off the remaining cinder block walls, creating the effect of an amphitheater. An amphitheater for salsa music.

Finally, I worked up my one remaining nerve and walked over one morning—crunch crunch over the gravel in my yard, careful steps around the work pit, wheelbarrows, and piles of logs. “Hola!” I called out.

“Hola!” the workmen chorused back.

“I’m the neighbor and the music is too loud!” I pointed at the blaring boom box. “Can you turn it down please?”

The men spoke to one another quickly in Spanish, and in a flash the volume was lowered.

“Sorry!” one man called out.

“That’s okay!” I called back, waving goodbye. “Thanks!”

In the evening, when the workers are gone and maybe I’m weeding out front next to Juan’s torpedoed yard, I might wander over to look at the site and check on progress. But I’m not schooled in matters of construction or extending foundations, so while I know it should look promising, all I see is a mess. I feel bad for the house and the shade tree that had to go; I don’t like that insurance companies take so long to deliver. I don’t like that I complained about the music. I feel like I should take a lesson from the construction guys and be all-around more upbeat. I’m working on that.

Ships and true love I can wait on, but I miss my neighbors, and I want them back. Their return will make me happy, and them happy, and then for sure we will raise the roof with music, a new and welcome home.

Friday, January 6, 2012


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I hate my mail-order prescription service, Express Scripts. Though I’m required to use it because it saves Big Brother at work big bucks, there is nothing at all “express” about Express Scripts. This huge pill-delivery company just happens to be located about five miles from my home, yet they cannot manage to get a prescription to me in less than two weeks. Time and again, my plastic bags of pills show up late, bearing stamps from Brazil, Taiwan, or Canada.

My doctor’s office also hates Express Scripts because when a prescription is lost, they have to write yet another one to tide me over until Express Scripts actually delivers. This happens so often that I frequently find myself waiting in line at the drugstore pharmacy, paying even more money for pills that should already be at my house.

Such was the case yesterday when I went to my local CVS to pick up a short-term supply of Solve-It-All, the drug that quells my chronic nerve pain enough so that I can do all those things you see old people doing in the TV commercials—arrange flowers, bike, serve a nice heavy turkey on Thanksgiving—without screaming. If I had grandchildren, I could pick them up; if I had an elderly partner, we could cuddle…and still, I would not scream. But the key here is Solve-It-All, without which I grimace and groan and cry out at inopportune moments, jeopardizing new friendships and surely preventing career advancement.

Just like any drugstore, CVS has everything you might need, so before I picked up my prescription, I looked around for awhile. Not finding much of anything, I wandered towards the pharmacy section, passing through the Family Planning aisle. I happened to spot a large display of condoms. Condoms, I thought. I don’t have any of those. Do I need those? Not right now. But shouldn’t a single girl like me always have some of those on hand, just in case? Isn’t that the responsible thing to do? I should buy some condoms. I hate buying condoms…it’s so embarrassing. But I can pay for them at the pharmacy where no one will see me; it’s not like I have to carry them all the way through the store.

If you have ever purchased condoms, you know that there is a multitude of choices: they come in all colors and flavors. Some are ribbed, some are extra-large, some promise more than any man I’ve ever met could deliver. I sighed and searched through the extensive selection, squatting down to get a closer look at the value packs on the bottom shelf. Down there I found a $25 bulk-sized variety pack that would surely deliver more bang for the buck. I took it off the shelf and was about to rise when I realized that I couldn’t—not without my Solve-It-All. What to do? Unless I wanted to set fire to my nervous system, I would have to waddle.

And so I did, waddling down the Family Planning aisle with my canary yellow box full of condoms. Emerging into the brightly lit pharmacy section, I was met by the stares of a thousand splendid people sitting and standing around, waiting for their own prescriptions. I stopped in my webbed tracks as I looked up at their faces, wondering what they were thinking of a girl who needed so many condoms, and in such variety as well.

Must be a prostitute. Can’t even stand up.

Good for that crippled girl!

Wish I was gettin’ that much.

I couldn’t bear the thought of waiting with all of these other customers, holding a yellow shoebox full of condoms. I couldn’t imagine crawling into a chair and engaging in chit-chat with my entire sexual future sitting on my lap.

I turned and waddled back down the Family Planning aisle, put the condoms back on the shelf, then made a beeline for the exit. I still needed my Solve-It-All, but I needed my self-respect more.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


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On Saturday, the last morning of 2011, I hated myself. It was leftover self-loathing from the night before, when I realized I had run out of our usual pet food.

I knew we were low—any pet owner should know when the supply is dwindling and it’s time to get more. But with the visitors and parties—and any number of other errors—the fact that my children’s last bag of kibble shook like a baby’s rattle did not register as seriously as it should have until it was too late.

Shameful in my neglectfulness, I had given them some tuna from a can earlier in the day. In the evening, I heated up a package of three-year-old instant peach oatmeal, let it cool, and put it on the floor.

Nope mama, we ain’t eatin’ that. Meep! Tails in the sky.

I wasn’t about to leave canned tuna out all night—as if it would have lasted longer than I could have placed it on the floor.

It was nearing all of our bedtimes, the stores were closed, and these girls had to have something in their food bowl before we parted for the night. I looked at our treat selection: organic wholesome delights, tartar control, hairball remedy, a Luna Iced Oatmeal Raisin bar. I decided on a mix of their most stringent and controlling treat collections, the last few pieces of stale kibble in the bag, and then—for flair—a fried egg on top. I sprinkled kibble dust from the bag over this mixture, setting the bowl on fire before placing it onto the floor of their room with a flourish.

“You guys are spoiled, but I love you!” I said as I shut them into their bedroom and dashed into mine, diving under the covers in shame.

We were all up yesterday at 6 a.m. as usual, them hungry again, me still with no food. The store didn’t open until 9 a.m., so we would have to continue waiting. A tiny more tuna…a few more icky hairball treatments…and then Wondermom was off to the pet store.

Now we’re in possession of lots of cat food, seed for our pigeons, and new fresh treats more along the lines of kitty junk food, just to make up for momma’s faux paw. “I will never mistreat you or neglect you again,” I promised, picking up the old bowl and putting down the fresh one filled with a mound of our regular food, just like it should be every morning.

Hours later, peeking in on the food situation, I noticed that the regular food remained untouched in Lucy and Sara’s bowl. In it was one of my sticky notes from the kitchen, stuck on a tooth pick: Nos gustó el huevo. They liked the egg.

I smiled, my first of the day.