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Posts tagged “road trip

The War on Christmas Road Trip (with PICTURES!)

Wow, I realized that this last month I have sucked at actually completing a blog post and then posting it. Again, I’ve been writing them, or perhaps I should say, I start writing them, get in the flow, getting my words on, and then I start to feel nauseated and have to get the medical equipment and address it. Then, as those of you who are familiar with the medication are well aware, one of three things happen:

  1. I continue writing but by the time I get to the end, I’ve rambled on for seven pages and feel that I need to split it up into sensible chunks before I can post it. (rare)
  2. I say, gee, I just need a little nap now, and I’ll finish it in in a hour. And then two days later, I have to recover said document and save it because I never titled it, and then the computer froze. It’s still not done. (happens pretty regularly)
  3. I see something shiny or flashing on the internet, or decide I need to make some Christmas doo-dad, and then fall down a fuzzy rabbit hole in which I learn that baby reindeer start growing antlers almost immediately after being born. Oh wait, I haven’t watched https://reindeercam.com/ today. (and off I go to watch reindeer – happens all the time) (I just went to the interwebs to get the URL for reindeer cam and found out I have been eating pancakes all wrong, you should make a hole in the middle of the stack and pour syrup in there. Wow. Yes, I’m medicated)

And as you can see, the likelihood that I ever finish what I was doing becomes very small, and I promise to do it tomorrow, just like I do with letters, bills, unanswered text messages and laundry. But not today my faithful readers, I will complete this. I have sworn not to do anymore origami Christmas wreaths for my Christmas card until I write this entry and post it with the photo collages I spent hours creating this morning. (do you want an origami Christmas wreath ornament, or a Christmas card? Because I am so on that this year – send me your address). That is not to say that I have not completed some things. The house is well decorated for Christmas, although not quite finished. Fear not, the pictures of the house where Christmas threw up will eventually make their way to the blog and social media. As will the entry about what happened at the Dr. on Monday in all its gross and graphic detail, but I am here with a purpose today. So with no further delay.

Well the plan was to leave at 3am. Which was actually 5am. I cannot sleep in the car no matter how medicated I am, and no matter how tired. So Andy drove first for a while, and then I drove through the visual wasteland of Ohio and the flatness of Indiana. Andy took over and drove the rest of the way when we got to Illinois. I let him drive in cities because he thinks he’s better at it than me. It’s one of those battles I don’t care to fight. We got to the hotel earlier for check in because I forgot the time change, so we checked in at 2ish, and I finally got to nap. We ordered delicious Thai food, watched criminal minds and were asleep by 9. The hotel was very very nice, amazing beds, and pillows and quiet and right next to Lake Michigan. I would be amiss in not noting that while we were driving, I saw two hawks. I may or may not have talked about hawks and what they mean to me, but I was not pleased to see them because they always are a harbinger of change for me, and it’s never initially good. Saw a hawk, got laid off, saw a hawk, find out my cancer is back, see a hawk, overdraw my account. There’s a pattern. I know change is always ultimately good, but I still hate to see them, and this time, one of those motherfuckers flew straight at the windshield like that damn pigeon did on our 2013 Mother’s Day road trip to the beach. Except it didn’t actually hit the windshield. Anyway, I was on alert. I know that is sounds superstitious, and I typically don’t get all wound up by those things, but hawks freak me out. I can’t really explain it.

Day two started with Andy deciding to let me know he was going out to wander the city at 5am. Have fun honey. Bring me breakfast. I’m still sleeping. Off he went, and I slept and slept and then he came back by nine-ish with some lukewarm cocoa. And no breakfast, so I ate leftover curry. Then I decided to go for a swim in the hotel pool. It was a lap pool with no children in it so it was heavenly. I actually swam at least ten laps and felt amazing. I knew I would pay for this later, but hell, that’s what the medication is for. Then I even enjoyed the sauna. Since we were planning to go to the aquarium, I woke the sleeping Andy and we headed to the see the fishes. Curiously, Chicago’s aquarium and museum have odd admission prices. Like the GA admission to the aquarium is only $8, but if you want to see the sharks, and the stingrays, and the penguins and something else, it goes up to $30.95. Having seen sharks, penguins and rays, we elected to get the $8 tickets, which was the wise choice, because the penguin exhibit was under construction, the rays were closed for the winter and well, I’ve see sharks. It was a cute little aquarium without all the bells and whistles of the special features and had many penny-flattening machines. The Amazon exhibit was exceptionally humid and it started to make me feel a little sick so I was sitting down a lot during a visit. I was only able to take pictures in the very well lit places so I think I took three. Then I ordered Andy about to take more since his phone camera doesn’t suck the way mine does. We saw monkey and frogs and birds, as well as fish. I must say my favorite were all the big fish that had funny fish faces, the lumpfish, and the giant snapping turtle. And I gave every pufferfish I saw the finger and told them I hate their fucking presence everywhere.

We headed back to the hotel after buying expensive souvenirs, magnets and the photo package of the photo they take of you when you enter the aquarium. It was time to get ready for The Lawrence Arms First Annual War on Christmas show, and I needed a nap and a shower. This is where the not so good changes from the hawk comes in, and I am about to get graphic, so if that bugs you, STOP HERE. You can resume at the word RESUME. Anyway, I had to pee before I took my shower, and as you may or may not know, the pufferfish that lives inside me has been growing back to it’s original size after the last draining. It really started to cause issues the last week before leaving and all I wanted to do was have my trip to Chicago and I swore I would call the Dr. when we got back. Especially since I did not want to end up in the ER with tubes. Wednesday night, I was having some issues with being able to pee, and was worried, but that worry was gone by Thursday evening. Not only could I pee as I can when the cyst was drained, there were waves of fluid leaving my body. I was like, hell I didn’t drink that much water. When it finally stopped, I went to flush and realized is was a weird bloody mucus fluid, just like they drain out of my cyst, but then (GETTING EVEN GROSSER HERE) I also have had the gift of hemorrhoids since I was pregnant with Andy, and they occasionally burst, so I thought maybe that was it too. Whatever, I had a show to go to. I wasn’t saying anything to Andy, and was just gonna hope it was a fluke. I padded up just in case, and off we went. Whatever it was, could wait until after the show, unless I began hemorrhaging, and then we’d have to reassess the rate of blood loss to see if it could wait until after Off With Their Heads’ set. You may RESUME HERE.

So we got in the car and headed to the Double Door. We found it no problem. We should have taken Uber or public transportation, but then we FINALLY found a parking space just an ½ block away. Of course we started walking in the wrong direction and then realized that the one minute walk had turned into a ten minute walk, and I turned to my trusty GPS to get there on foot. The will call line was literally down the block. And we had to wait. I was beginning to get nervous because it was close to the time of OWTH set and I was like, we did not just drive 10 hours to miss this. We got in at the nick of time, just before they took the stage. The first person I saw was Tommy at the OWTH merch table and after an exchange of hugs and such, he told me to stand behind the table for the set, because he was going down front, and I would have a great view from where I was. And I did. And I did the best ever job of selling nothing for OWTH for their entire set. Then Tommy came back and took over, and introduced me to his friend Sarah who then because the merch girl while Tommy socialized. And I must say she did an excellent job, particularly with the complicated notebook sales recording system.

OWTH were great, it was very festive set, and as always, amazing. During the break, Ranae suddenly appeared and we too exchanged hugs and stuff and snuck away downstairs to talk during part of the Lawrence Arms set. We decided that Brendan Kelly looks like a golden retriever with his bandana around his neck and you just want to scratch him under his chin. I drank cranberry juice straight, as I am still protecting the kidney from any more tubes, and asked Ranae what hospital I should go to if I needed one. The rest of the time, I pretended to be perfectly fine. Ranae and I had a great time chatting, and hanging out, and of course I got to see Ryan, Nice Jon, Robbie and Ryan Fisher too and get hugs. I can’t believe I used to not be a hugger. They were going to go across the street after the show, and as much as I wanted to go too, I was just wiped out and more than a little nervous about the whole blood thing. And my body has a way of just shutting down when it has had enough. I get cramps in my legs, a pain in my lower abdomen, and cramps in my sides. It’s like it just says stop. And it was saying stop. So I had Andy take me home – I told him to go back and hang if he wanted to, but he worries and stayed with me. I had a medicinal mixture when I went back to the hotel and passed into a coma. At least I didn’t see anymore blood.

No more blood in the morning. I went for another swim/sauna deal, while Andy when and got breakfast – yummo. Challah bread french toast and home-fries with ham, swiss, and mushrooms. He ate many plates of eggs and potatoes with chorizo and cheese. I then took a nap and we watched Christmas specials like Rudolph’s Shiny New Year and The Year Without A Santa Claus before we got ready to go to the zoo. Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo is free, and has Zoo Lights. Again, my camera pictures suck so what you’ll see here is my shitty pictures. It was beautiful. And and awesome zoo with no major hills. It has tigers. And lions. They gave out cool 3d glasses that turned the lights into little elves’ heads. I wished I was medicated. Because not only were the glasses cool, so were the lights on their own. We had a great walk and the lights were amazing. Even Santa was there. Again, an ridiculous amount of money was spent of souvenirs. And we headed to the Big Bus Tour Holiday Express which is a nighttime tour of Chicago’s Christmas-y attractions. We started at the Chicago Hershey’s Chocolate World, which is not even close to the well-loved Hershey attraction. We waited and waited for the bus, as it was really late, and Andy was being a cranky baby because he ate way too much food and had a belly ache and was being a buzz-kill Finally the bus came and the bus driver was like, no you have to go get a paper ticket before you can get on, and I was like for real? We just waited for you for 40 minutes (they are supposed to be on a 10-20 minute cycle) and now you want me to walk to another stop and wait for you there? Do you see this miserable 20 something with me? Do you think I want to tell him he has to walk somewhere? So she said stay on the bus, and I’ll take you to the scanner stop. Yay! A small win. And I’m still not bleeding. Maybe things are fine.

We ride up in the top part of the bus, and enjoy the lights and what not, and decide to check out the Christkindlmart which had some beautiful things, but you could not get close to them because PEOPLE. It was a mob scene. I am not a big fan of people or crowds to begin with and this place was insane. Any food stand had a line 100 people deep. You could barely walk. Andy wanted hot apple cider and got in line for it. I managed to walk the entire market, even pausing to look at a few things, and by the time I got back to the hot apple cider stand, Andy was just being served. We took a sip or two of cider and headed back to catch the bus. We rode it to the rest of the stops, and then returned to Chocolate World, got our free hot chocolates, bought some cookies and headed back to the hotel. Again, my body was letting me know it had enough. And now the blood was back. I ate a cookie, drank a ton of water and went to bed. I wasn’t bleeding enough for it to be an emergency, but enough to be annoying.

On Saturday, I tried to get together with Sarah and Christy for breakfast or something but Sarah had already left to the airport and I wasn’t feeling very good, so we just packed up our shit (or most of it, forgetting my toothpaste and brush, all the leftover food, beers, and most importantly, the medication in the safe, at the hotel) We were going to go to the museum. Which like the aquarium has a GA price and then all the really cool exhibits are extra. First we were going to try to hit the Christkindlmart again, but when we drove by it was already a mob scene and NOT EVEN OPEN yet. Scratch that. Onto the museum. By this time, we decided we would just get out and take pictures of the cool Chinese zodiac sculptures and then get a Chicago hot dog, take a picture of outside of the museum and head home because I don’t feel my best, and well, blood. And that’s what we did. We also planned to stop to see some of Andy’s fellow Milts, Christina and Eric and their little guy Zane outside of Indianapolis. This is when I discovered that Jack in the Box exists in Indiana. Next to seeing OWTH and hanging out with Ranae, this was the best part of the trip. I was able to get and devour the unidentifiable flavors of the Jack in the Box tacos and egg rolls, bringing back California memories of looking for some place to get food after being out most of the night and heading home. Still tastes the same.

We stopped at Christina’s and were going to stay a couple of hours, but that’s when I really started to bleed heavily, so since I didn’t have enough supplies and I was afraid to sit down anywhere, we had to leave early. Andy is such a trooper and ran in Target to get pads for me; I am thinking maybe we should go to an ER, but really, I just want to get home, and if we have to drive straight through to Hershey to the ER, then that is what we’ll do. I tell Andy we need to stop at the first rest area because I need to change clothes and when we do, it’s virtually impossible to discreetly make it to the restroom to change when you’re drenched in blood. But I do, and things stay heavy for a while, and then slowly taper off. Andy and I switched driving around 11 and I drove through Ohio and into PA. When we got to PA, I started getting really tired, and would stop every 50 miles because I couldn’t keep my eyes open, but I also wanted to get home ASAP so I can decided what I need to do next. As I mentioned, I can’t sleep in the car, no matter how tired I am, so every time I stop, I end up just sitting there with my eyes wide open. Finally I woke up and Andy and had him drive the final 150 miles home. We got home around five, and the bleeding seemed to have stopped. I slept the sleep of the dead for at least 5 hours.

I’m gonna end this here, because it’s pretty long, and I can pick up with the call to the hospital when I tell the tale of the Dr. visit. No matter how much blood I lost, it was entirely worth it to have had this adventure. I can’t even put into words what it means to be able to do this stuff with Andy and make memories of good times for us. It was a fabulous time, and I would do it all over, even with the bloodshed, again because it was so fun. With that said, and it being Christmas time, do fun stuff with the people you love – buying shit doesn’t mean nearly as much as having adventures. Andy and I never really had “vacations” when he was growing up, and I regret that now – not that we didn’t go on day trips and stuff – but I wish we had taken more vacations, had more adventures. So take my advice and have as many adventures as you can. And now that I am done this entry, I can resume writing a whimsical holiday poem as is my tradition. Enjoy your evenings, lovelies, and don’t forget I still didn’t get a real puppy yet, or a miniature pony, so please let Santa know. I do have my other puppy sitting right here though, but he doesn’t like to go on walks. And I am always available for cookie tasting. Now, be off with ye…

And excuse grammar and such errors. I really don’t feel well today and I am staying medicated, so I can’t properly proof-read today.

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Beating Back the Blackness

So as I was shoving that third piece of pizza into the yawning chasm of my mouth, I finally gave in and accepted that I am sunk in blackness and I was stuffing my feelings. Also why I have put off writing for so long again. Because I’m a scaredy cat. Not like a cheetah or a lynx, but like a big ol’ cowardly lioness. And it’s paralyzing.

I promised myself that I would write first about the good things, because there have been a lot and when I look back at them, I feel like a whiner for feeling the way I do. Of course that doesn’t make my pain and weakness go away, or make it any less valid, but I am grateful for so much and for the people in my life, and I don’t say it enough. So let’s do this, and if I am not ready to pass out when I get through the good, then we’ll move on to the bad. If not, there’s always tomorrow.

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OWTH

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Silent Bell

So first there was the fabulous road trip to Minneapolis. Once again, Andy and I hit the road for punk rock adventure. Andy got me tickets to Dillinger Four’s 21 birthday 4th of July Show at the Triple Rock in Minneapolis. We drove straight from home to Minneapolis, speeding through the dark night through the states of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Well, okay, it was getting a little light out as we drove through Chicago, but for the most part, dark Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio are similar to the daylight version. Wisconsin was pretty and has a curious number of large animal statues at different roadside shops and hotels. Like a giant moose. Or a giant mouse with cheese. There were more, but Andy wouldn’t pull over for everyone. Minnesota is also quite lovely. We hit the aquarium in the Mall of America, which was small but very cool, unlike the Mall of America, which is, though large, a mall. Okay, okay, it has an aquarium, and that Nickelodeon amusement park area, and a way cool lego store, but bottom line, its a mall, and the massive amount of people and the mindless consumerism reminded me of why I shop online. Of course, that was the first time during the trip my body betrayed me and we headed back to the hotel, which was fabulous. My sore sick body fell in love with the bed, and even more so after I swam for an hour in the pool. The next day, we went to the Minneapolis sculpture garden which was very cool. (Note to self: EARLY mornings and LATE afternoons are best to be outside when your body likes to randoIMAG2366mly overheat to 1000 degrees throughout the day.) They have a giant spoon with a cherry on it that’s a fountain, and a bell that doesn’t ring, for which Andy and I posited theories about what a silent bell represents before moving on to two sculptures which we both decided were representative of vaginas. Once again I had to retire to the hotel to rest before we could go to the D4th show. After a quick nap, we headed out to the Triple Rock. The show was amazing – albeit hot – and I hid behind a tree most of the time avoiding sun. Even cooler than the show was getting to meet Ranae and hang out with her at the show, not to mention that Ryan gave me an awesome gift of the vinyl Jesus and Mary Chain’s Darklands, which is my favorite record of all time. I also got to meet a bunch of great people and make fun of a selfie stick. After the show, Andy and I went back to the hotel to catch a quick nap before the after party, but Andy is a still a young pup and he fell asleep so I ended up going back to see The Underground Railroad to Candyland by myself, which was a big deal, since I never have gone to a club in a strange city by myself. I was glad I did, because they were amazing. Really, every band that played was excellent, we missed some of the openers, but thanks to seeing the line up posted on FB, we got there in plenty of time for OWTH. We also saw Toys That Kill, Dillinger Four, Lftr Pllr (the special guest whom I never heard before but were amazing) Scared of Chaka, Tim Barry and Against Me! It was just one of the best days ever, and after the show, I went back to the room and tried to trick Andy into letting me sleep in, but no, he was up and ready to head back at the crack of dawn. So with a stop at the cheese shop where we bought a ridiculous amount of snacks, we headed home, tired, bruised, but happy happy happy. And Andy and I had only two screaming matches at each other during the whole trip – once at 5am when I needed to pee and couldn’t find a bathroom and the second when we were stuck in traffic in Chicago for 2.5 hours because of those damn hippies at the Grateful Dead thing going on there. Still, it was a fantastically fun weekend and I am so glad we did it. Plus spending the time talking with Andy always is worth it. And Andy got a ton of fireworks that could not be purchased here, so he was very happy too.

Then I got to see two of my oldest and dearest friends, Donna and Denise, who were in town for a wedding. It was 15 years since I’d seen either of them, and it was like we never had been separated. We drank and laughed and looked at photos to point out all the people we knew who were dead. I also got to see all of the kids, which was great. Then we also got together for breakfast which was another laugh riot. It would have been complete if our friend Anne could have joined us, but she had an event that she needed to prep for, so hopefully another time. Nevertheless, we had a blast and we need to not wait so long to hang out the next time.

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me, Denise and Donna

After that, my friend and former common law domestic partner, Debbie, her husband, kids, and her parents, brothers, sister in law, and niece and nephew came to Hershey to meet Andy and I to hit Chocolate World and get some dinner. I hadn’t seen Debbie since Andy’s graduation, and I hadn’t seen her family since Andy was 10. It was a day of great hugs, great laughs, and fun. The girls, Tyler and Kylie, are gorgeous and I adore them. And again, it was like the miles and the years between us just disappeared, I only wish we had had more time to just hang and talk, but I’ll find my way home to the west coast eventually.

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me and Deb

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Jenn, Kellie, Sue, Heidi and moi

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Komodo Dragon

Then was my surprise trip to DC with my friends from work. We left early Saturday and got to DC around noon. After a fun drive with mimosas and my breakfast of brownie, we parked and headed off the Natural History Museum. Now, you may or may not know that the National Mall is under construction which means if you want to get to something on the opposite side you must walk ALL THE WAY AROUND. Now, had I known this I would not have worn my black OWTH shirt and would have applied sunscreen, but I trudged through the heat (and it was fucking hot) darting under shade trees as we traveled along. We paused for rest and put our feet in the fountain on the mall, which was enjoyable until you realized how warm the water was. I saw my favorite strange bunny sculpture,  but my phone dieIMAG2453d so there are no pictures. We checked out the museum, which was crowded but fun, and then took a pedicab back to the hotel which was ultra fun, as I waved, queen-like, to the masses as we traveled. The guy who pedaled our cab was interesting and it made a great way to get back to the hotel. The hotel was very cool, and I had my own room, with another one of those comfy beds. When we got back, we grabbed some drinks and headed up to the rooftop pool, and I got kicked multiple times by a rambunctious child without parental supervision. My leg buckled under me after getting out of the pool, and I had a major cramp, but it went away, and and after a nap, I had a brownie and we headed out to the dinner cruise on the Potomac. Our cab driver was an idiot and it took us twice as long to get there as it would have if we walked, but I couldn’t handle anymore walking. The cruise was very nice, the food was awesome, and I ended up hanging out with Jenn on the observation deck most of the night, just enjoying the night air, the lights on the shore and sailing. Unfortunately there was non-stop “cool jazz” playing and it was making my eyes bleed by the end of the night. After the cruise, we’d planned to go to the hotel bar, but once I got to my room, I was cooked. The next morning we got up and headed out to the National Zoo where we rented me a scooter and began the zoo adventure. Unfortunately, the red pandas were unavailable, and the elephants under quarantine, but the Komodo dragon poked his head out when I got to his enclosure. We got to see some special “double turtles” (see photo) and vultures. I tried to race a cop who was on a segway, realizing after I IMAG2478dared him that I had had a brownie for breakfast and probably shouldn’t have been driving a scooter at all, not to mention racing cops. There were three lazy pandas there though and that was pretty awesome. We made it through the zoo by noon before it got REALLY hot (it was already blazing by then, and not even mid-day). After the zoo, we were all really tired, and headed back home. We stopped to get some fabulous Thai takeout and have lunch at Quaker Steak and Lube, which none of us had been too, and now having been, really have no desire to go again. Tired, and full we finally made it home. It was very fun, and I am jusIMAG2573t glad none of us were arrested. What was even moIMAG2466re special about this trip was that ALL my coworkers contributed to it – they had a pot luck luncheon where we all paid $5 for lunch and we brought a dish, and then the next day, we had a reduced lunch for $3 – which was actually a fundraiser to raise money to do something fun for me. I know I’ve said it before, but I can’t say it enough, I work with the best people – our job may suck, we may bitch and moan, but my friends at work have the most generous hearts, and the fact that they did this for me made the trip even more special – I only hope I can return the kindness for others later. Needless to say, after the trip, my body decided I needed to stay home with crampy legs and nausea, but it was well worth it.

And that brings us today. All that goodness took the edge off the gloom that’s clinging to me. I expect I will write more over the next two weeks as I stress about my upcoming CT scan and Dr. appt. I am bummed that my CT scan is the day before Andy’s birthday, and I am going to try not to read the results until the day after, but let’s be realistic, I’m gonna be hitting refresh until the scan is posted on my online med portal. The next couple months will be busy too, we’re planning to go to Riot Fest, and then I have OWTH tickets for September in Philly and Baltimore, and we got Bouncing Soul tickets in October, and if I can manage it financially, and physically, I want to go to Fest in October too. I’ve been putting these things off for years and I need to do it now or it may never happen, especially since I think there may be chemo ahead and the pain that was my constant companion last year, has returned and PA is still lagging on the medical marijuana bill. Sigh. Call your local representative.

But before I go, I strongly encourage you, if you are a fan of OWTH, or Bad Religion, or good music in general, to go to Ryan’s Anxious and Angry web store and buy something so you can get the free flexi of OWTH covering Bad Religion’s Sorrow. It’s amazing. Just buy something from Ryan even if you don’t want the flexi, because he’s a good guy and is super generous, and is always willing to help people out. And because his cat Stray Charles is blind. Or don’t buy anything and just make a donation to suppor the podcast. And listen to his podcast, which is very interesting if you like punk rock and mental health issues, and has helped a lot of people dealing with mental health concerns know they are not alone. Really, it’s worth the listen. And now it’s time for bathroom trip 5 tonight and then try and sleep. Let’s hope it comes quickly. Sweetest dreams, my dahlings!


The Most Wonderful Day of the Year

Okay, it was three days, but that would make a super-long title, and I was trying to be succinct. (As if that ever happens.) I bet you thought I was going to write about Chemo Day, but that’s today, and hasn’t technically happened yet, except for the pre-gaming with Decadron and water and the daily cancer killing tea. I still need to shower and pack my stuff for the day, and am faced with the usual decision of do I take my cute pink back pack and carry the lap-top separately or do I take the black one with wheels? I am leaning towards wheels today because it fits more and well, has wheels, and I’m not feeling my best but I don’t seem to have a cold or ebola, and I don’t have a fever – which is awesome because I was scared I would be sick today and then have to postpone today’s fun fun fun. My chemo-buddy today is Kellie, who I know is thrilled beyond anything to be accompanying me to today’s festivities.

BUT! This entry is about the best three days I have had in a long, long, long, long time. If you have reading my blog, you know Off With Their Heads is one of my very most favorite bands. Listening to their record In Desolation (“Drive” video here) got me through my first six weeks of radiation and all that first round of chemo and their music accompanies to nearly all of my drives to and from Hershey over the last 3.5 years. When I remember my headphones, I listen to Ryan’s Anxious and Angry podcasts at work, or in the car. The music has become part of my support system. Well, Thursday, Andy and I drove to Pittsburgh on what was supposed to be a beautiful day to see OWTH play at Howler’s Coyote Cafe (note: saw no coyotes – I would make a cougar joke here, but I find the term cougar offensive, I prefer tigermom). Their show was amazing, the energy and passion of the band was amazing. They played songs from all of their records, and Ryan was awesome. The energy was awesome. The opening bands – World’s Scariest Police Chases, Barons, and PEARS – were all incredible. I met an internet friend, Erica, her husband Brian and some of her friends at the show – we became friend because we both like OWTH and punk music in general, and surprise, we are both work with kids in the system – I snatch ’em and she assists the ones that the court declares incompetent. After the show, I got to get hugs from Ryan and talk to him for a little while, which is always fan-girlie for me, because I can’t believe someone that I look up to takes time to talk to me. I got to introduce him to Andy too, which was cool. I had to have a drink with him, but alas, Howler’s is a bar that allows smoking, and by the time the shows were over, I was dizzy and shaky and a little nauseous and just wanted to go home. Ryan said they would probably be playing in Philly in September, so I hope to have that drink with him then. It was an amazing night. I also got to meet and talk to Zack from Barons while I was standing outside the bar waiting for Andy to bring the car around. Fucking stupendous night. (and if you read this Ryan – THANK YOU for being who you are – you made my night)

Day two was supposed to be the Warhol Museum, but Andy and I decided that even though it was snowing, we were doing the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, because when I have to choose between becoming more cultured or seeing animals and making animal noises, I will ALWAYS choose the latter. Bring on the Komodo dragon, red pandas, and giraffes. And very sad elephants. And PUFFERFISH. Several different kinds of pufferfish, evil, evil pufferfish. Did I mention that the Zoo is on a hill? Or should I say a mountain? Because it’s a mountain. A huge mountain. And Andy would not push me in a “safari cruiser” IE. wheelchair. So I had to walk. Wearing heavy Doc’s sandals. Carrying water. It was brutal. We probably walked at negative 1 mph. Lots of heaving breathing and a frequently sweating head that was frosted by the subzero wind chill and flurries. It was fun though, spending time with Andy, telling him about the trips to the zoos and aquariums when we lived in California, making animals sounds, trying to find the animals that were clearly not home, and making flattened pennies like when he was 5. Afterwards we went back to the condo, got some great Italian beef sandwiches from a tiny place called Tooties (yum!), then just hung out and watched non-cable tv and napped. Later we got pizza from this greek pizza place called Ephesus, and again, awesome food. We just hung out and talked and slept the rest of the evening.

Saturday, we got up, cleaned up the condo, packed and headed out to an overlook to see Pittsburgh from the top of one many hills. Pittsburgh is an awesome city. We found an overlook, not the one we were looking at because in addition to sucking at taking night pictures all of the sudden, my phone’s GPS takes us to places that don’t exist. Or rather, when asked to take us to a location, it agrees but then leaves us in spots that are clearly not even remotely near where we asked to be. We did get to see a lot of Pittsburgh though, and Andy is even considering going out to Pittsburgh to finish school (YAY, FUCK YEAH!) Fortunately, the GPS cooperated with taking us to Abby Lee Miller’s Dance Studio, where I stalked cars pulling into the parking lot to see if there was a real Dance Mom getting out for class. None were available, but there were the cutest little people being brought to class. The studio was less impressive from the outside that it appears on the TV, but it was still cool to see it. Then we headed to Philadelphia. Did I mention it was FREEZING? Like super freezing. And snowy. We got to Philly by about 4, and hung out with Blaine and Lizz and had a delicious dinner from a real Mexican restaurant called El Jarocho that made scrumptious lamb tacos. Then we headed to see TBR/The Wilhelm Scream/ Pennywise, which was a fabulous show, but in my opinion, lacked the energy of the bands on Thursday, although it was very cool to realize that Pennywise has been a band for longer than Andy is alive, and I finally got to see them with their original vocalist. I hadn’t seen them since 2008. Long time. Unfortunately, I got a horrible horrible pain in my side and had to go stand in the back to try to work it out – we ended up leaving before the last song or two, but at least the pain subsided for the most part. We caught a cab back to Blaine’s to get the car, and headed home. But not before we stopped at Wawa, and got to see two drunk girls in ridiculously high heels almost wipe out several times in the store as they tried to outlast the state police DUI checkpoint. Good times.

We finally rolled home about 2 am. The house was freezing, but honestly, it was a small price to pay for such an awesome weekend. It felt so amazing to be among my people, enjoying simple things with my son, and talking about life and lessons and futures and hopes and dreams, and meeting awesome new people, singing at the top of my lungs to songs I love, and finding some peace in all of this. I basically slept through the next day – I was exhausted. I made it to work on Monday, and realized that if I died that day, I’d have no regrets – not like I don’t have plans for the future – but I was pretty damn happy, and would be okay if there wasn’t anything else ahead – I’d made peace with what could lie ahead. And made arrangements with Andy to be turned into fireworks whether things end in the next few years, or 50. I’m okay with it all. That’s not to say that I am not concerned, and wouldn’t prefer to live another 50 years, but whatever is ahead, I’m gonna be okay with it.

I’m actually finishing this early Thursday morning – post chemo. I’m going to stop here, and write about my Dr. visit and chemo later today, because I decided to wind down tonight with a cocoa-vodka/oxycodone mix, so I can sleep pretty soundly tonight. I also drank a lot of water today, so I am trying to avoid waking up ever hour to run to the bathroom. And I’m still feeling okay with my life, and what’s unfolding in it. The three day trip really refreshed me, reminded me that despite the horror of the last year and a half, from the time the pain started to today, dealing with this stupid fucking disease, I’m learning about me and what matters to me again, and finding the strength to make plans again, even if I still can’t act on them. Life is still hard, I’m still not always making the best choices, but this weekend reminded me of the person inside, and what brings me joy. I just need to bring more of it into my life.

So with that said, here’s some of my favorite pictures from the weekend – I didn’t take any pictures at Blaine and Lizz’s house – I don’t know why because their puppy Pancake is a sweet dog and fun to play with. It was great to see them again, and just hang out. But I am derailing again – here’s the pictures, including the evil pufferfish, enjoy them and come back later today to learn what the Dr. said my future looks like…sweet dreams my dahlings, I will have a peaceful early morning rest, hopefully, before the sickness starts.

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The Robin Hunt

I made myself get out of bed and shower this morning. Blame the sun, all warm and golden, blasting through the multiple blankets that I use as curtains during the winter (over the real curtains) to block out the delightful breeze that cools my head which comes through these old windows in my bedroom. (also the reason I can hear every dog-damned word that is spoken/yelled/chattered in the street outside which is why I am sitting here typing instead of sleeping because I took two pills to try and sleep and no sooner than I was sliding into blissful opiate dreamland, inconsiderate people arrived home at 11:30 and had to make sure they slammed ever fucking car and house door they could find while merrily chattering all the way, and ruined that attempt.) So here we are.

In truth, I was going to write this entry early. Then I didn’t because I was consumed by a wave of darkness and to avoid contemplating the sucking blackness, I took a nap. However, after showering, I decided I needed to waste half of a tank of gas and get out in that sunshine and try and dispel the gloom that is wrapping itself around me like a blanket with static cling. I tossed on some sweats, a hoodie, and flipflops, because it is spring you know, and was at least 35 degrees, and out I went. I plugged the phone in for music, and then headed out to the valley. Driving around mindlessly while singing loudly always seems to sort things out, one way or another, so drive it was. I decided I wanted a peanut butter milkshake and a hot dog from Sonic, so I headed in that direction. Of course, my music of choice was loud and fast, as it usually is, unless I am trying to enhance a black mood, when we turn to something in the way of Elliott Smith. But today I needed to sing loudly about pain and depression and sorrow, past regrets and hopelessness, which would also be Elliott Smith, but without the painful plaintiff beauty of his chords. When I hit the quarter mile on the Brandonville Road, I laid my foot down on the gas as took it as it was meant to be driven, easing up as I hit the decline. It felt so good to be out, with the sunroof open, and have that minute or so with nothing more on my mind but that feeling of speed and screaming the lyrics to “Keep Falling Down” loudly, frightening the birds and friendly woodland creatures in earshot.

One good thing about winter is that it covers a lot of sins. Like garbage. Now that the snow is melting and everything is still dead dead dead, all the trash so carelessly tossed out the windows of cars is heaped along the roadside in the little streams of melting snow that run along the road, and around dead deer carcasses. Carcasses, carcassi? Whatever. The Ringtown/Brandonville valley roads are beautiful in spring, summer and fall. In winter, they leave something to be desired. Driving them brings up a lot of memories – from trips to the dairy to get milk with my dad and siblings, driving past the first home I ever knew but can’t remember at the #5 damn, picnics at Stauffer’s park when my parents would spend the day arguing and the kids getting splinters from the rickety old wooden merry-go-round, summer vacations “back home” when I was living in California when we would drive all day, cooler in the back, listening to a mix of Springsteen and Led Zeppelin, and top 40 and that new “punk” music I brought with me from California, and late night drives with quarts of beer between our thighs, laughing and carefree. And hours of driving and thinking. It’s my go to to try and sort shit out, just like driving the coast in California was – well not exactly, because well, oceans make everything better, right, whole. But drive I did. To Sonic. Got my milkshake and some popcorn chicken with barbecue sauce because I hadn’t eaten yet to day. And which I later regretted, because it wasn’t really chicken per se, just some chicken like substance with coating. Should have just stuck with the milkshake.

Anyway, as I drove I noticed that many more homes in the area are littered with shit. No other way to describe it, because it’s just like extra stuff that people own that they won’t throw away but have nowhere to store it so it’s just outside their houses in different states of decay. And I started thinking about whether the outside reflects the inside, or if these people don’t care how their house looks, and when did we start being so concerned with collecting so much stuff that we don’t even have enough places to store it. I always used to envy the houses in the valley because they were so neat and tidy, so pretty, and always wished I could live there, to be away from our too small, too old, too mismatched house. To play in a yard with grass. To not be surrounded with ugly black coal banks everywhere (for you young ‘uns, there was a time when our little town was in the midst of gaping scar of strip mining, surrounded by slate banks – much of that is covered with trees and shrubs now). The valley was where all the happy people must live. Now, I’m not so sure.

Anyway, in my critical analysis of what these signs of decay and garbage mean to society as a whole, I realized it was spring. And spring means robins. I must now find a robin. (Fact: Robins, while not seen much in the winter, do not migrate, they just stay huddled together for warmth. When spring comes, they emerge to seek food – robins are individualistic birds. They only get together to mate and survive winters).

This is now a quest. There are crows. Hawks. Geese. Red-winged blackbirds. Sparrows. Chickadees. No robins. (or bluebirds, for that matter) Where are the robins? I am not going home until I find one. As I continue to meander, I drive past places with memories, still trying to deal with all that is going on in my head. I figure that cemeteries, with their vast open spaces, will be a prime source of robin findage. I head in that direction. Then out of the corner of my eye, I spot a red breast, but I am driving way too fast to clearly confirm robin sightage. I am fairly certain that it was one, but until I can definitively confirm that it was robin, we shall continue to drive.

People who know me, know that cemeteries are like one of my favorite places in the world. I love the peace and sanctuary of cemeteries. Unfortunately, and in my opinion, oddly, the cemeteries are still mostly snow covered despite the last two days of sun, and their clear open spaces with direct sunlight. Much of the snow elsewhere is melted, but not really in the cemeteries. And no robins. I do notice a tombstone of a friend’s husband – her name is on it too, waiting for her. I think how odd, that your space is already reserved. Not that I don’t have plans for my own death rituals (which some of you will now be please to know, no longer include Andy having to chop up my body for the vultures to eat for a traditional sky burial, but do now include my ashes being made into bottle rockets and other firecrackers that can be launched into the sky). I am also looking for a trash can now as well as robins, to get rid of the evidence that I have been to Sonic. I check three different cemeteries, and nope, no robins. Just crows.

I’ve been driving for a little more than two hours now. I have managed to negotiate the roads well, missing all of the deepest and widest potholes. I feel bad for feeling sorry for myself just because I have cancer, since my drive has reminded me that many of my friends have recently suffered tragic losses in their lives and illnesses in their own families, and that there are people who live in countries that have no electricity or water. Some watch their families slaughter or live in countries at war where their homes could be torn apart by missiles or a tank at any moment. And here I am whining about having cancer. I need to be slapped. Don’t get me wrong, I am still depressed. I still feel hopeless, and scared and angry. But I am starting to see that it’s not as bad as it is for some people in this world. I decided I am going to take one more road to see if I can find robins, and then head home. My world is dark right now, but I’ll get through it. I’ve been through darker and more painful times, I’ve faced fear before. I just wallow a few days and get over it. But first, I need that robin.

I drive past the spring where we’d get water in the summer and wash cars and drink beer alongside the road outside of Brandonville. I remember being very stoned and listening to the Cars debut album over and over. And being very wet. We washed a lot of cars there when we were teenagers. And drank a lot of beer. I cruise through Mahanoy City, remembering a time when it was a pretty town, much like Shenandoah used to be, but now is just old and tired, full of rotting/abandoned/decrepit/burned out buildings, and covered in the grime of the coal region. I drive out towards Frackville, past the prison, and co-gen plants, sad that this is what’s left for this area. And then I see it. A fucking robin. No mistaking it this time. A fucking robin. Mission Accomplished. It’s all hopping around, looking for food on a partially snow covered lawn. Boom.

And I headed home.

Now I’m here. I am not sure how I feel, but I know I’m going to work tomorrow because I already promised to cover intake for someone since it’s Monday and they need to be in court. And I’ll be there Wednesday, because it’s a morale event, and I said I would bring cream cheese. Thursday we are headed to Pittsburgh to see Off With Their Heads play and stay at my brother’s condo. Friday, we are going to the Warhol Museum, and I don’t know what else. Saturday, we are going to see Pennywise in Philadelphia. Now this may seem like an expensive week, but the tickets for OWTH were only $12, and the condo is free. Pennywise tickets were only $25, and Andy is paying for those as well as for the Warhol Museum. We need to do something fun, to get us out of this rut we are both in. Fortunately, we like many of the same bands, so it’s something we can do together. So at least I have something to look forward to this week – and next week is…drum roll….CHEMO and another stretch of being confined to my bed for a week while I try to like the way water tastes. Life could be worse, and that is what I am hanging on to. Because when I lie in bed, tossing, it seems like there’s not but a black hole that’s sucking me in.

My friends, it appears that most of the neighbors have finally gone to bed, and the next sound to wake me up with be newspaper delivery in about 4 hours. Fortunately I had a nap this afternoon. Tomorrow is work, and more blood tests (it’s CA125 test day) and I get two stickers this time, because last time someone was in the sticker room when I was done my blood draw, and I couldn’t get one. I will have to share a pic of my prizes in the “no sticker, no blood” collection. I’ve got all kinds now, and will have to start another sheet soon. Hopefully, blood sucking will be followed by dinner with my shark sister Ashley at this Himalayan restaurant we both want to try. So there are things to look forward too. Life doesn’t suck that hard, I guess.

The itching of my eyes indicates I should rest, particularly since I still don’t know where my glasses are. Hopefully, writing tonight will keep me from too much tossing and turning. Sleep well my loves, and pleasant dreams to you all, and happy Monday. Be a busy worker bee.


Oh Yeah! We’re Puking Rainbows Again!

So, massive doses of vitamin B, medication, meditation, and writing kept me from sinking into the sucking abyss. You can all go back to poking me with sticks without fear of my mental breakdown again. It’s something you can’t even explain, but I will try to – it’s like waking up one morning and you just don’t even care that you have no money, and no gas, and there’s nowhere in walking distance that you want to go, and the house is a mess, and you have a stack of bills, but that’s all okay, because you’re fine with just hanging out at home, and it isn’t even depressing. Like that giant safe that was dropped on your soul from forty stories above has been pushed off and you can breathe again, and think of sad things without having a sobbing meltdown. You eat things other than chocolate and ice cream. You don’t really care that you aren’t chasing every dream you ever had, you’re just happy that you don’t have to fight to get out of bed, that you are back to considering a future, and the physical feeling of drowning under the weight of your tears is gone. Boom. Like that. Even though I don’t have the power to turn my depression on and off like a switch, some times it comes and goes like someone else has the power to control it. It’s not like anything changed in my life to make it better, it’s just I woke up on a perfectly gloomy day, continued to do the same mundane things I always do, but suddenly, it wasn’t like physical torture anymore. And I am grateful for everyday it gets to stay this way.

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This is a good thing because two year check up is in two weeks. I do believe my baby alien re-inflated itself after the last tortuous surgery, or at least that is what I am hoping. Actually, I’m not hoping that it did, I am just hoping that that is all that is wrong, because something is, and rather than whining about it, I’ve been just patiently waiting for the next day of probing to address it. It’s not like waiting a month would really make a big difference anyway, but I’ve got pain and weird sensations going on in ground zero and I know something is up. I’m pretty sure I’m still cancer-free, but I think that the poking around at the chrysalis in my former uterine cavity did little to eliminate the problem and was just a stop-gap, and at some point it’s gonna be either me, or a qualified surgeon, going in there with a knife and cutting that shit out. And if it is cancer, well, not much I can do about that except treat it – it’s not like it’s flesh eating bacteria or a bot-fly larva erupting from my skin. See? I come out of the darkness, and I’m all like, who gives a fuck? For the record, Vitamin B is nasty, but clearly works. Or I believe it works, and thus I prove the placebo effect valid once again.

puking_rainbows_for_real_by_pacifictoast-d2xv9byHopefully you are all breathing a sigh of relief at my return to normalcy. Normalcy is relative though, and I’m still pondering the secrets of the universe and scheming great schemes. Andy has agreed to go to Riot Fest with his mother, and I am buying his ticket for his birthday. The last time we went on vacation together was when he was five and we went to Disneyland for a week for his birthday – Riot Fest will be much like that trip, except, I won’t be charged with child abuse if I smack him in the head for being whiny. In other words, he will fall asleep in the car, whine about being hungry, complain about the music I am listening too, wander away and want to go in the opposite direction of wherever I want to go. And like when we went to Warped Tour to see AM! and Pennywise, he will spend all his money, and come looking for me only when he is covered in mud and has lost his shoes and is hungry. Mother and son bonding at its finest. If you want to join us, let me know – I will be staying in a hotel – he wants to stay in a tent – or the car – or on the ground – and as he will ditch me to see the bands he wants to see once inside the gate I will technically be alone. We’re driving because I love a good road trip. You can get tickets on layaway, which is the only reason we can afford it – because the universe has some sort of issue with me having a bank account with any sort of substantial balance in it (grasshopper).

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Well friends, it’s almost time to make something for dinner. Maybe if you are lucky, I will make something amazing and you will be treated to pictures of it on FB.  Have a great rest of the weekend, and Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful dads out there, including my “son” Corey, and my dad, if he’s ever allowed to return from where he is being held hostage at my brother’s home (detention camp) in Maryland, and to all the moms out there who are filling in as dads. And the men who are like dads to the dad-less. Fight the power!

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Idioglossia. Idiocrassis. Idiomorphic.

There’s a Dr. Suess alphabet book that has a corresponding video. When Andy was a wee one, I’d plop him in his rocker chair and let the idiot box tend him while I snuck away for a cigarette. But I can still hear the video play in my head, big I, little I, what begins with i? as I sit down to do these entries. Clearly I am behind. I don’t even know what letter I am supposed to be on. I write them and then I save them, to post them at work before my day starts or on break or lunch or after work. Never on work time. Never. I would never misuse work resources inappropriately. Never. Anyway, this is why they appear in lots of three or more entries at one time. Sorry. But the fact that I have made it all the way to I is pretty impressive. And that I am still interested in writing more. That’s not to say that I won’t be glad to get through my alphabet, but I’m somewhat impressed with myself that I continue to indulge.

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So what begins with I?

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Introspection. Something I have been doing a lot lately. Impulsivity. Impetuousness. Like this past Sunday, I made the road trip to see my brother and his wife in Maryland, and every time I got near an interstate that I knew traveled from the east coast to the west, I just wanted to say fuck it, I’ve got my retirement money if I quit my job, I could live on that for a few months until I find a job. I can leave all this shit behind, hit the road, don’t look back and start somewhere fresh and new. Today. Well not exactly today, it would have to be Friday, when I got paid, because I would need gas money. Oh wait, not then either, because technically, the car is in Andy’s name. So that would be like theft. And that would lead to that other I word. Incarceration. I have spent enough time just visiting with clients at Schuylkill County Prison to know that I do not like that I word. Then there’s the other I word that rears its ugly head. Insurance. The health kind. Because I’m only coming up on two years cancer free, and I have three more to go, before I can comfortably say, let’s go, and get out of here, because I don’t need your stinking health insurance any more. This brings me to another I word…impatient. Because I don’t want to wait. So for now, I’m immobile. And looking inward, imagining what it will be like to return to my life on the opposite side of the country. And those are my I words.

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And since today’s letter is I, let us not neglect the other powerful word, intoxication. Which despite the pictures and multiple facebook posts that occurred on Saturday night, I truly was not. I was feeling quite pleasant, but hardly intoxicated. Not like some people who wore chicken suits or engaged in the very sad white boy dance party. A good time was had by all though. And a very necessary one.

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So enjoy this drunken chicken picture from Diane’s Adventures Below the Mason-Dixon Line:

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And some more I words: inferiae, ingluvies, innominate.

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Onto J. You’re gonna want to stick around for that…we’re talking justice.