Archive for the ‘Ah, Regrets’ Category

Today’s fun fact is that iodized salt contains dextrose

Friday, April 24th, 2015


Thetans! Thetans errwhur!!

Weird week. I had really vivid nightmares all week, and night sweats, and just generally woke up a lot. I realized partway through the week, once cool lesions started opening up on my scalp and my lymph nodes started raising again, that I had gotten corn from somewhere. The list of symptoms is long, and it’s unmistakable now.

I’m discovering more and more that things I buy are often cut with or cross contaminated by something, even if there’s no listing. I’ve been reading about the adulteration of honey, and olive oil, and the practice of adding (corn-based) glycerin or HFCS to some red wines. This made me think about why, even if I was making every sauce and meal from ingredients that read “contains 100% whatever this is called,” I was still having adverse affects sometimes.

So this week it was tamarind paste–I happened to be at a Whole Foods, which carries a different brand than my home store. It said 100% tamarind paste so I bought it and added it to a chutney, which was nothing else but fresh herbs, a little safe seasoning, and whole dates. I made it to go with some onion pakoras that were a terrible fail in the fryer (not enough batter). I salvaged them by mounding them like drop biscuits and baking them on a high temp. Strudel and I ate the chutney for a couple of days with leftovers and she got sick too.

“How are you feeling?” I asked her when she came home. I had gotten a call from the nurse earlier that day, who said she had fallen, knocked her loose tooth out, and swallowed it.

“Well, pretty bad. And dizzy. Which is why I fell down. Also my throat is sore from swallowing my tooth.”

I poured out the leftover chutney.

At this point, I think my best bet is to compile a list of brands with the reactions they cause (and more importantly, brands that do NOT cause reactions) and make it accessible by phone for shopping (I’m about to pull the trigger on a new smart phone so it should do more than just make calls and send texts that my janky old grey mare has been reduced to).

I woke up this morning feeling super hungover (no booze for the past two days) and in theory I am supposed to be running in a 5K on Sunday. I felt marvelous last weekend when I had a houseguest and was wrangling bees. Now I have not been running enough and have been falling into bed exhausted. P. keeps asking me about the race and I am so demoralized right now I don’t even want to think about it. It felt completely attainable last week. Maybe things will turn around by Sunday.

Franny was hanging onto corn for the past few months. She told me she wanted to see how she did, to see if maybe just cutting out wheat and most dairy would do it. She had a pretty serious crash over spring break on a day when she treated herself to a giant Arizona Iced Tea “juice” (HFCS). She came home and tried to do the crossword puzzle in People, of all things, which could really be worked out by a moderately clever grey squirrel, and got frustrated and was going all dyslexic in the letter spaces. Then she wandered around the house for a while, and cried for what she admitted was “no reason.” She was in bed by 8 p.m. that night.

I used to get these odd narcoleptic crashes after lunchtime sometimes where if I was sitting my body would shut down as if I’d been drugged for about ten minutes. Things would literally start to shut in on me and go kind of black–aggressive unconsciousness. If we were on a road trip I could stop midsentence and then come back to life about ten minutes later, snapping awake as if I’d never been asleep, and finish my thought. I used to sleep on the commuter bus from Microsoft daily a few years ago.

So it was all kind of familiar. I talked to her about it the next day after she’d slept it off. “Sooo, I noticed you had a large corn drink earlier that day, and your crying for no reason and brainfog and tiredness seemed familiar….” Later that day she said she was going to try to deliberately cut out corn.

“I have no idea what I’m going to eat at my dad’s house now,” she lamented. “He already gives me a hard time. ‘Don’t you get tired of no variety?’ he says. My choice is to feel like crap or eat nothing sometimes!” She eats a lot of rice there.

This is…kind of frustrating, but kind of just silly. We have a ton of variety here, in the world of spices and flavorings, and every kind of seasonal veggie, and loads of gluten-free grains. As I’ve written about, we make gluten free breads or cookies sometimes. From what she describes, there’s not much chance for “variety” over there because ingredients that don’t work for her are in most meals. I don’t like that she’s being treated like she’s making a strictly moral dietary choice or is being a picky teenager for no reason. She feels her stepmother still has no understanding of what she’s dealing with. (“What is Celiac anyway?”)

P. and I put our heads together and asked if it would help to have some kind of grocery list. Her dad takes her to the store every Friday that he picks her up, which is nice, but expecting a 14-year-old to meal plan on the spot, not knowing what is in his pantry, is challenging. I didn’t really get good at weekly meal planning until I was in my late 20s (and finally had a fixed, consistent cashflow and budget that was barely above the poverty level I’d been living at for years, that was key).

So I sat down with her and made a short list of staples that she could prepare as sides with little fuss or cost, like baked potatoes, or putting fried eggs on rice. I winged a really simple beans and rice recipe for her. I told her to take Kind bars out of our pantry as backup. We tried to think of things her little sisters wouldn’t want to raid–not to be stingy, but so Franny’s “special” stuff would not get eaten, leaving her with things she could not eat.

Okay, okay, so I admit that I am often overzealous about hacking my kids’ lives so they will run better and smoother. It’s definitely an overreaction to having zero help with things when I was a child. Sometimes my brain goes, “Hey, you came out of it fine”…except those times that I was unsafe, or underfed, or hiding the fact that I needed medical attention because asking for a lift to the doctor was a bad idea. I am trying not to do everything for them. I know they will go out into the world and step on 28 rakes on the first day, but I want them to have a shot at realizing that there’s more than one way to solve a problem. And that it is okay to ask for help with things.

Anyway, I am happy that most of the time I can go for a run, especially in light of the fact that I was laying in bed most of the time a year ago, and that most of the time my scalp is not covered in lesions. (HA. There’s a sentence I didn’t think I’d ever write. wtf) I’m happy that Strudel is kicking ass and taking names most of the time now as well.

P. and I “worked” the bees midweek to see what was happening in there and to see if the queens were out loose from their cages. We took the tops off the hives and straightened comb out as much as we could. I didn’t see any eggs yet, but if things are going well we should see larva tomorrow. I will bring my camera for that. I wouldn’t say we were in a rush on Tuesday, but the sun was setting and it was rather cold and miserable. It has been thrilling to see foragers bringing in their fat pollen legs on the nicer days this week. P. says he can feel his brain crinkling because there is so much to think about.

And, for posterity, here is Shan and I on Sunday in my yard after she spent the night. HER phone will deign to take pics. Unfortunately for her she was swamped with monitoring posts for her site/various social media on Saturday night, so I said HEY LET’S BE VEGETABLES. I turned on a few episodes of Flight of the Conchords and we just kind of giggled and had a glass of wine and didn’t talk exhaustively to 1 a.m. or anything. It is nice having the type of old friend who you cannot see for a year and a half and then just sit with them. I am very grateful to her. If she hadn’t gotten in my face on my blog in 2003 or so, I never would have gotten to know her. I get my head pretty far up my obtuse, increasingly introverted ass sometimes, so I am happy that some people have decided to B&E into my life.

In Sickness and in Hairballs; Or, My Harballz Will Go On

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Poor little Goethe! We think she fell off the roof last night. She lost three canines and cut her lip up pretty badly. The emergency vet thought it was a fall in part because she has “front claw trauma”–probably trying to scrabble for a hold before eating cement.

She was swirling around my legs around 5 like she does and then disappeared–the cats usually disappear around dinnertime, probably because of all the noisy flurry of people activity in the dining room and kitchen. Dinner took a long time because like a dummy I was trying to make french fries again. Of course half the fries disintegrated in the boiling water and then the oil boiled over…I really suck at them.

“You should get a Cornballer, Mom,” Franny said. (I have just introduced her to Arrested Development, because she obviously needs more sarcasm in her arsenal.)

I think I will get a Cornballer. I miss greasy fries.

So at 7:30 I retreated to the bedroom to put on comfy pants. I was really sore because I took the dogs on another death march yesterday, all the way to a Jewish cemetery hidden in Shoreline and back. I super wanted to lay down and hopefully be asleep by 8:30 or so, for serious. My sleep schedule has been weird because of my unemployed hobo lifestyle right now. Then I saw Goethe on the bed, panting and with a bloody mouth.

Anyway, Gert’s doped out of her mind now on some kind of “opioid” substance that we squirt on her gums. The e-vet said our regular vet would probably want to remove the canine roots, and that will be that. I will have a kitty that will no longer be able to behead birds and leave them in the laundry room (silver lining). Of course being a cat, she will still probably kill them slowly in the yard anyway.

My cat flap is locked to “in only” this morning for Goethe’s safety right now, and her mother is being a huge tool about it, per usual. She will scratch the flap and meow, an activity that is very popular with her. I let her out into the backyard, making sure her injured daughter isn’t going to try to make a break for it, and Mere comes back in about 10 seconds. Then she goes back into her “I DEMAND TO SEE MY LAWYER” routine. SO TEDIOUS. There is a litterbox downstairs, lady.

Mere does this scratching routine pretty much every night on Strudel’s door. She has bonded with Strudel, of all people, who calls her “MYYY CAT.” (Just like Goethe is MYYY cat, which is why I think she retreated to my bed when she was hurt.)

I’m off to the vet in about an hour. We’ve been really lucky for the past few years. All the animals are pretty young, so the vet bills have been low.

I thought she was geeking out on this outlet in my dining room after I drugged her again (“I can see the music, man”) but then I realized the attraction was probably the sunbeam.

“Cut his hair and watch it grow”

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

“But Sidley Park is already a picture, and a most amiable picture too. The slopes are green and gentle. The trees are companionably grouped at intervals that show them to advantage. The rill is a serpentine ribbon unwound from the lake peaceably contained by meadows on which the right amount of sheep are tastefully arranged – in short, it is nature as God intended, and I can say with the painter, ‘Et in Arcadia ego ‘Here I am in Arcadia,’ Thomasina.”

–Tom Stoppard, Arcadia

Like 99 percent of the Northern hemisphere, as I mentioned I had a couple of colds during November and December. My lingering cough stopped sometimes after New Year’s, and loosey goose that I am right now, I realized I could take some of the pot if I wanted to. Ever since it was legalized here I’ve been mentally bemoaning my lack of time and energy for it. Not a huge thing, but I was like, wow, I am now such a boring adult I am too busy and tired to do this thing that was once (briefly) a pretty major part of my life.

I was making pot brownies for a hot minute in the spring just to get to sleep, and would sleep through most of the experience. I would take a little chunk before bed and it seemed to help put me to sleep and keep me that way. If I did wake up to pee at 2 a.m. I would realize I was high as a kite, stumble to the bathroom, and then put myself back to bed quickly. I woke up refreshed and not groggy or spacey. I abandoned this as soon as I found out that making up for missing vitamins and minerals in my diet would do the same thing and even better.

Recently I decided it might be fun to spend part of the afternoon stoned. I had maybe two hits and went back indoors, and I felt it coming on. Well. I had kind of a terrible afternoon. I was high for a while and felt okay. I don’t smoke myself to puddle-on-the-floor incapacitation levels anymore–again with the lack of time and energy and really, interest.

When I was a kid all that was available was weak ditchweed. I’m sure they were already doing interesting things with cross-breeding for potency in California, but not with the scrag I was getting in the Midwest. You could maybe bet that you’d be kind of giggly for about a half hour, and then would be kind of tired and would need a bottle of mango Snapple, STAT. It’s a commitment now. As a friend of mine once said, “new” pot is like a couple of steps away from acid. So I stop with a small hit or two.

I had a realization the other day, though, and I felt kind of silly about it. Once the high had kind of died down, what I was left with was mental fuzziness. The “brain fog” that I had been experiencing from food on a regular basis for the past five years or so. I never minded it before, because I was always fuzzy, and didn’t notice additional fuzz. But since I am clear most of the time now, this was intrusive and unwanted. I felt like the stereotype of the dumb cartoon giant or troll. Mad, but confused, and not sure where the arrows are coming from. I kind of stomped around my house for a while, crushing villagers in my mind, and then had a lie down.

So I think I am done with jazz cigarettes, at least for now. Maybe at some point the memories of the brain fog will fade, and I will want to be altered like that, but for now I am enjoying the clarity I have most of the time. Now that I feel this chapter closing, I am inspired to write another of my pointless series on my history with pot and some things that happened when I was stoned or trying to get there.

IN OTHER NEWS

I had my camera on some weird setting that made everything a little blurry in the dim lights of my living room last night…


Twelve down, eight more to go


Kennel up!

About a week ago, Death Ray the silkie discovered that she could squeeze herself through the gap in the chicken fence. The other girls are too fatty von fat fat hens to fit, which was the point of the design. Death Ray is now about 6 years old and has survived many chicken incidents and a small handful of drive by raccoonings.

She has greatly outlived all of her peers that I purchased with her and at this point she doesn’t really fit into the pecking order at all. She completely stays away from the other hens, which started about three years ago. I have wondered if she would develop more homies if I got some more silkie chicks, but I am currently at the legal limit of hens. Also, every winter now we assume it’s her last…but nope. She lives through everything somehow. She sleeps in the egg laying box presumably since she is so old and creaky, and even survived when Strudel left the egg-retrieving flap open a couple of years ago. That really should not have happened since the flap opens into her bed directly.

Anyway, I figure she has earned her retirement and a respite away from the other hens, who often peck her if they remember she exists. Poor little pariah. I like to look up and see her noodling around on the lawn all day though.

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

I have an in-person interview on Friday with multiple people. Never has one person had so many interviews for a short-term contract that doesn’t pay that well. Sadly, that’s probably not true though. If I get this it will spit me out on the other side in June, which is slightly into Farmer’s Market season. Hollerrrr!

I noticed I was using all caps again for my title and I went to change it, and then I was like, Hey, this is my blog, I’ll do what I want.

So briefly* I will mention that I went to a fancy restaurant with regular, gluten-free, and vegan menus on Thursday. In my dreamland this is ideal, because I am kind of like a vegan…who eats meat. So if restaurants are geared up to leave the dairy out anyway, but are willing to serve meaty dishes as well, I am good to go. I had a nice talk with the server who is very used to the Care and Feeding of the Modern Seattleite and she walked me through everything. It was just like at home: meat and veg! That I did not chop myself. Natch I got glutened and hit the bathroom as soon as I came home, and kept hitting it for a couple of days.

P. had a day of fallout after I did. He was SUPER CRABBY on Saturday, which was bad timing because I was out all day and he was with the girls. I refer to him and me as Captain(s) Asshole now on those bad days. My bad day was Friday, which was better because I was alone and forced myself to take a walk with the pooches, which helped. But by Friday night I had drunk the house dry (not very much, actually, I think half a bottle of wine and a can of cider…) and was rolling around in bed DYING for a baguette with brie and jam smeared on. I could see it my head, like those cartoons where they are starving and suddenly someone looks like a walking, talking, ham.

What the fuck is this shit. I get glutened, and I want more of what is poisoning me. WHY, BODY, WHY?? In the past I would have just gone for it, and then passed out and woke up with a terrible headache. Instead I made myself some socca and spread jam on them, kind of like a crepe layer cake. I yelled at P. as he attempted to straighten the quilts around me so I would be warm and comfortable. I am lucky he didn’t “accidentally” put the pillow over my face.

So Saturday was my business class and I was nervous because I thought maybe I wouldn’t be able to pay the best attention. But I was really focused throughout it and it answered a lot of little nagging questions I had. It was nice to talk to someone who has actually rented space in commercial kitchens and could answer my questions about that–namely, is it possible to do gluten free preparation in a shared space? The answer is that I am going to have to buy my own equipment, which is not going to break me. We’re talking things like immersion blenders, funnels, and bowls.

Most of the students appeared to be over 30. There was a guy sitting in front of me who was an oddball. He came back from one of the breaks and this wave of booze smell came with him, and after lunch he fell asleep for a while at his table. Seeing people sleep in class took me back to my 8 a.m. class days in community college, but obviously this guy had something else going on.

I’ve done a lot of the research on my own. I understand that I will need various licenses, that for my product I will need dedicated kitchen space outside my home that’s been approved by the health department, I know mostly what supplies I’ll need, so the teacher didn’t drop any unexpected bombs on me. It was nice to have some dots connected by someone who has run a business like this in Seattle.

But I left the class and felt kind of deflated. I thought, oh, I’m just tired, I’ll feel better tomorrow. But I didn’t. I felt anxiety, was sure I would fail at having this tiny business–why bother starting? This is after a few weeks of doing research, taking frank looks at the administrative parts of this challenge as well as working on dressing recipes two to three times a week. Okay, I know that isn’t a very long time, but this is also after 15+ years of knowing I want to work for myself someday (having an inn or B&B).

The voice in my head came back, the one that comes back when I am feeling ill. It said, “You’re a lazy person and you can’t really expect to set goals like this.” And I was exhausted. I slept for a long time on Sunday and Monday, and my body hurt a little again. My “tennis elbow” which was improving, felt worse again. I didn’t want to run errands or talk to people. I imagined myself telling my sister that I had changed my mind about this venture and seeing the look on her face. (She is very excited for me, thinks this makes a lot of sense, and has even offered to help me fill bottles on her one day off.)

I walked Strudel to her before school yoga class this morning, since I had to sign releases and meet the teachers, and on the way home my head finally started to clear. This isn’t me, I thought. Well, it was for a long time, unfortunately, but if I am eating right I have sick amounts of energy and can make plans from start to finish. I bet…thought the slowest, thickest person ever….I am still having fallout from gluten. I last got hit on November 17 and I had to call off work and had a really hard week. It takes me about six days to come back to “normal”–happy, experiencing a normal amount of worry about real problems, but feeling like I have the power to accomplish things.

SO FUCK THIS SHIT I am not quitting ANYTHING. I am going to the Man again with my hand out and will take their filthy lucre so I can make my own business. I will feel better. And next time we have a date night, Captain and Mr. Asshole have resolved to eat at home and then go out for drinks or to a bookstore AFTER we eat.

* Did not happen, forgot what else I was going to write about instead.

Lush: For a Day or a Lifetime

Sunday, December 14th, 2014

A couple of nights ago on the bus I was at the nadir or apogee of being completely out of it (considering how you rate these things), I’d just started my period and my brain felt soft and soupy. One of those nights where I came home and took my thermos out of my bag and put it on the counter, and then tried to do it again a few minutes later, and wondered how I’d forgotten my thermos at work.

I didn’t expect to be alone on the bus; I’d forgotten that P. had a haircut so I left my book and mp3 player at home. As always it was crowded at first, and as it lurched on to my hinterlands, we were all able to disperse and get a proper amount of West Coast space bubble between everyone.

I moved to one of the high seats in the very back and center and stopped focusing on my cramps and tiredness. I stopped being cross that there was nothing to do but think, and remembered that’s a thing I like to do, even if I’m not always great at it. It was cooler in the back. The windows were closed, but the vent in the back was ruffling my hair slightly. I looked straight ahead out the front window and pretended I was traveling on some kind of crappy, noisy litter or flying carpet. I wondered where I (and my teeth) would end up if we stopped suddenly.

It made me think of all the time I spent riding the bus back and forth downtown six years ago, when I was working holiday retail. I had come to the hard decision of picking up some kind of retail work after a few months of looking for a 9-5 contract. I’d been freelance editing and writing, working for our preschool to cover tuition, and I had my tiny writing gig at Blogher, but it wasn’t really the same as 40 hours a week at a tech gig, or even something like retail or coffee, which is at least steady.

No one in the tech world was biting, and I was getting increasingly desperate. I got home from a trip to Fred Meyer and flipped over the receipt and glanced at it without thinking about it. “WE’RE HIRING FOR THE HOLIDAYS!” it announced, among the ads and coupons for local restaurants. I could do that, I thought. I hadn’t worked retail for over ten years, but it comes right back, I figured. Like a herpes outbreak.

I tried to be sensible about it and apply to places where I actually would appreciate a discount, which is why a department store like Fred Meyer made sense. Of course I was scouring craigslist at the time, and widened my net to include the retail help wanted section.

I saw Lush was hiring for Christmas. They noted they were having an open house in the store, bring resume. I quickly scrubbed my master’s degree off my resume and put on something kooky–loud jewelry, red Fluevogs, blue velvet blazer. I had been a customer there for over ten years, when I could afford it, way back to when they were Canada-only. This would be perfect. At least I could be surrounded by smells I enjoyed, and maybe score some discounted lotion and some free broken bath bombs.

I went downtown, clutching my resume, not expecting much. I figured I was five or ten years out of the age range they were looking for. I walked in and got verbally accosted by the shrill and peppy woman who was the assistant manager, Janelle. She was in full-bore weekend mode, which I would get to know well. This involved, in part, shouting at everyone who walked in, and smearing stuff on people. I’m pretty sure she was smearing a cocoa butter bar on a hapless customer when I met her, a popular trick she used to brighten up aged tattoos.

Janelle was one of those people with no volume control, which helps in a shouty profession like Lush’s desired brand of pushy, in-your-face retail. She had a hooked beak of a nose and no real chin to speak of, giving not only the obvious first impression of a bird, but after working for her for a while and seeing how she would go for days without washing her greasy hair, she looked more like a heron who had been caught in an oil spill.

I also met the top dog: the store manager, Lisa, who was able to carry on a conversation in a normal tone of voice, much to my relief. As a company, Lush is known for its sometimes extreme activist stances and funding fringe groups, like people who chain themselves to whales and whatnot. As a dabbler in nihilism, I knew my philosophy didn’t really line up with that face of the corporation, but I knew we had capitalism in common, so the marriage could probably stick. Lisa lavishly complimented my leather shoes when we met, so I was a little surprised later that she had somehow decided I was a fellow vegan, and amused when I found out it affected her decision to hire me.

I got a call back later from Janelle that was so loud I remember holding the phone away from my head. I forced myself to match her level of enthusiasm to accept the job loudly and gleefully. It’s just for Christmas, I told myself. Christmas, downtown. At one of the busiest malls in the city. It was better than wearing a Fred Meyer polo and nametag, if not as practical.

We were told to report somewhere for orientation, for which we would be paid. Janelle gave me the time, and the date, and a name: “The Moore.” I knew it as a music venue, which I thought was an odd place to hold an orientation, but the economy was in the pooper and maybe they were renting space during the day? I met another girl there, Gina, hanging around outside the door, and guessed she was a Lush temp as well because of her confused look and adherence to the dress code of black and/or white, which was already being enforced. She and I conferred and were both confused, and tried knocking on various doors and looking for signs.

A few minutes later I got a phone call. It was Janelle. “WHERE ARE YOU?” I cringed in pain and held the phone away from my ear, so it was effectively a conference call.

“I’m outside the Moore Theatre,” I said.

“Me too!” my new friend said.

“Gina is too,” I added.

“WELL GET OVER TO THE MOORE HOTEL, YOU SILLYS! GEEZ! WE’RE WAITING FOR YOU TO START!”

Having rarely stayed in a hotel in my own city, I actually had never noticed the Moore Hotel existed and was relieved to see it was catty corner from the theatre. As Gina and I were hurrying across the street, I realized was one of those moments, when, if I was younger I would have felt stupid for days and probably would have fallen all over myself trying to apologize, but I knew this wasn’t really my mistake. I think it also set up how I felt about the job in my time there, and set up my attitude about jobs like this in the future: I was going to hit the due diligence mark, but I wasn’t going to get too wrapped up in the job itself, either.

I walked into a room of about 15 women, as I recall, all in the proscribed black or white clothes. Mostly black, because what kind of moron wears white to work retail, let alone in a shop that is full of brightly-colored hunks of beauty potions that would explode when dropped or stared at too hard, or melt if exposed to the sun? I vaguely recall Janelle saying something awkward and shamey to we derelicts when we walked in, and Gina looked chagrined, but I thought that if Janelle could manage her way out of a tatty, repurposed bath bomb bag, she probably would have just started the orientation. I noted that Lisa the store manager was nowhere in sight, so we were at the mercy of Janelle.

We were informed about the structure of our day. For the first part, we would learn about the many products Lush offers, with an emphasis on limited edition Christmas product and gift boxes. We were hired right after Halloween, so we were to learn the theme for that year which tied back to Halloween (and moving leftover Halloween product). This year’s theme was: SUUUUPERNATURAL, Janelle intoned dramatically, writing it on the white board in the room.

It somehow reminded me of what I imagined summer camp was like when the crappy counselor was left in charge for the evening while the cool teens went off and got drunk: “Ghost stories, kids. SPOOOOOKY!” There is nothing like a watching a power-mad person finally getting that juicy leadership opportunity they so desperately crave, and then being captive audience to an entire day of their grandiose over confidence. I knew that we could expect a day of watching lines Janelle had practiced in the shower falling flat.

Of course I had worked Christmas retail in the past (Best Buy, Tower) as well as at Safeway as a checker during the holiday rush. I knew little enraged customers more than clueless holiday help who cannot answer basic questions about products or know where anything is, so I tried to really commit what Janelle was emphasizing to memory. The top enragers for customers were 1. waiting. For anything and 2. being told that something was out of stock. Dealing with bumbling holiday temps was often a precursor to a full-blown customer tantrum, because first they had to deal with a 19-year-old girl going, “Do we have face lotions…ummm…” before being told that the lotion they want is out of stock and then being made to wait in line to buy a second or third choice.

Once I got the basic product lines breakdown, it was pretty easy to think about how to sell the product. Lush follows the typical conventions of the world of product fragrancing, and you could chuck all the products into bins in your mind. The olfactory experience of walking past or into a Lush store is a lot like that of a perfume truck crashing into a whorehouse, but there are distinct categories. There’s my favorite world, which is citrus anything, especially bergamot. There’s kind of weird-fruity beyond citrus, like blackberry or apple. I thought of these products as being targeted at children and someone who never met a Katy Perry perfume they didn’t like. There’s the floral categories–rose, jasmine. There’s the foodie/vanilla/chocolate/honey products. Then there were “green” or herby-spicy concoctions that were meant to smell like you’d been rolling around in the woods making out with Stevie Nicks (SPOOOOOKY). These herby scents were especially emphasized in my Supernatural holiday season.

You can break all these categories down into further patterns. If rose is involved, you can be pretty sure that they are going to add some citrus or carnation to it, too. If there is jasmine, either vetiver or or ylang ylang will probably be involved. And so on. In spite of their we’re-so-wacky image, Lush usually sticks with the tried and true combinations, which is just good business sense. It’s incredibly convenient for me, too, because after working there and smelling, and smelling, and SMELLING vials of essential oils and all the products over and over again, it’s pretty easy for me to eyeball a “new” product via the site and immediately know whether or not I will like it.

This was just one facet of how we were expected to sell products. The other major facet was the benefits of the healthy and natural ingredients. It was distasteful to witness some of the regular staff selling products with purported anti-aging benefits with a touch of the “let us save you from disfiguring wrinkles” fear-mongering. I believe that sunscreens (which Lush products do not contain) delay the aging process and do cool things like reduce skin cancer, but beyond that wrinkles are inevitable, of course.

I avoided this tack all together, and even had some women try to suss out my beliefs about “anti-aging creams,” which I thought was interesting. I never once had anyone walk off in a huff after I said things like, “aging is inevitable, but this cream could make your skin type feel nicest on the long, drying march to the grave.” It always seemed like a test, and as soon as these rare individuals twigged to the fact that I wasn’t going to try to scare them into buying something with a bunch of anti-feminist claptrap they warmed to me and seemed to trust my opinions and recommendations more. It was a funny dance.

There was also a lot of beneficial factoid stuff we were supposed to spout about the ingredients of every product. Janelle recommended we memorize three facts about every product. A tall order in a store with dozens of product lines, with anywhere from two to thirty products in each line! But I had always been interested in fragrances and perfumes, and was actually looking forward to learning about essential oils and principles of fragrance composition, thereby sewing another badge on my World’s Dilettante-iest Dilettante sash.

The afternoon after lunch was spent focusing on gift boxes, roleplaying various customer needs scenarios, and being quizzed on products, scent families, etc. Then we were all given our individual first week schedules. There is no commission at Lush, but it was strongly implied that capable (meaning high-selling) and flexible workers would get more hours as the season wore on. Then it hit us, as we looked around the room at the new colleagues were had gotten to know that day: theoretically, there were slots available for all of us to work, but some of us would get more hours than others.

In the weeks before Thanksgiving, we lost some girls right away. I say “girls” because that is what most of us were: very young, and we were working in such a feminine environment. We pedaled flowery products that looked like cakes and hearts or bears or what have you. 99.9% of customers who walked in were women. We were always addressed as “girls” by Janelle, who was twenty-five to my thirty-one. I think the only people in their 30s were me and one other woman who thought everything was pretty much bullshit as well, but wanted to make a little extra cash over the holiday and score some cheaper Christmas presents. I rarely worked with her, because unlike me, she had a real-deal day job and was only available at night.

So, as I said, we began losing some girls right away. They couldn’t handle the high-pressure sales tactic style that was expected of us, or the kooky singing or dancing or yelling or endless product demo offers. We were constantly pushed by management to offer little impromptu hand treatments to anyone and everyone who walked in the store, and some girls shied away from that. There were some who had bad attitudes or problems or could not hide their contempt for Janelle, which was the death knell for any temporary clerk there.

Lush was at the end of the mall, sticking out into the public plaza adjoining the mall, and was always full of shoppers, protesters, proselytizers, hobos, criminals, police on horses and bikes, horse-drawn carriages, nut vendors, and assorted other rabble. The store really did jut far out like some kind of verruca of a weird architectural afterthought on the building itself, and was basically a glass-walled box on three sides and was nicknamed “the fishbowl.”

Occasionally men were attracted by the display of girls in tanktops and aprons, dancing around in the fishbowl like fools to Off the Wall or Lady Gaga. The ladies’ club atmosphere in the store would change very abruptly and clerks would try to dodge men who we all knew had no interest in actually buying anything. They used us as a captive audience to mack on. There was one guy who claimed to have xray glasses and could see us naked, and would chortle over the bath bombs and how they looked like “tittays.” Other men who showed up, thankfully, were either gay, and so were part of our clubhouse vibe since they were just there to smell good and feel nice, or they were husbands/partners and had been indoctrinated or resigned to coming along.

We were told over and over again than men were repelled by Lush because they had a stronger sense of smell than women, which never sounded right to me, and seems isn’t true anyway. I always thought it was, to oversimplify things, that women are socialized to fragrance their person, their home, their clothes, and have been sold things via fragrance for many years. Imagine these stock photos/ads with all men. Oh, I did that. Here’s men enjoying smells. Women enjoy the smell of cleanliness (which should really be the absence of smells but that is a rant for another day), fruit, flowers, food, babies. I think men are supposed to enjoy smelling meat, brandy, and pussy. Lush does not sell those things, and is indeed very PETA-friendly, so I think meat is out and maybe even pussy unless it’s being humanely sourced.

One night when we were closed, doors locked, I realized were were still a captive display even after hours when a man walked up to our doors that opened to the plaza and exhaled the most enormous lungful of pot smoke that I think I have ever known to come out of a human into the crack where the doors met. Was that harassment? Intended as a gift? A response to the fumes that were emanating from the store? I was irritated and hoped it wouldn’t make me sleepy, since I still had about an hour before I could even make for the bus.

There was a barista who worked across the way who liked to come in when the youngest, bosomy-iest girls on staff were working. He had what seemed to be a legitimate phobia of glitter, which is an ingredient in many Lush products. When we were slammed and I found myself alone on the floor, while watching him attempt to cadge an arm massage from one of the other clerks, I would approach them both, slathering a shimmer bar on my forearms casually. He always fled with a nauseated look on his face. I got to know him better when I picked up hours at his shop as well, in an attempt to patch together forty hours, and he confessed that glitter really made him feel like he was going to vomit.

The mall itself was a funny community, and I missed it when I left. There was a Waldo who walked through the mall regularly. There were bomb threats and fights and shoplifters being hauled out by bike cops. My barista friend would keep me in the loop about who was sleeping with whom, and what a creep the Rosetta Stone kiosk guy was. Sometimes he would take me to spend my paltry barista tips drinking at PF Changs, or I would stop at the Buckaroo on the way home, my children long asleep after my late hours, and spend my money on one beer.

In the food court, the bubble tea people got to know me because I would come for half price, day old banh mi on Sundays, which I also loved, because I would treat myself to free street parking instead of the horrors of the bus. They knew me at McDonald’s, too, because this was the only time in my adult life where I was that desperately in need of cheap quick calories. At first I often packed a healthy and thrifty lunch, but it would sit in the jumbled morass of the one closet in the store where we were allowed to keep our coats and bags, and by the time my break rolled around, everything tasted like perfume, which made it really hard to choke down. Far better to spend a dollar on a burger, which my body would rip through after standing for eight hours. Like the kids I worked with, sometimes I just said “fuck it” and had a bubble tea for lunch.

When I was really getting into the groove of working there, I remember being in the aisle popping and locking to Justin Timberlake or something when a group of ladies walked in. That thing happened where you are glancing at someone right before the moment of recognition and it happens slowly, because you are both out of context for each other. Then we had it, at the same time: library school. She had tried to help me get into the PhD program a few years before, and I knew she had dropped out of it herself since then, but was working as an information professional somewhere. People who did not think I was a chucklehead assbiscuit in library school seemed to think I had some kind of bright future somewhere (still waiting on that one, ha ha) so I wasn’t to surprised to see her look of total confusion as she took in my apron and my sick dance moves.

“SJ…what are you DOING here?” This was said politely but with a sense of genuine bewilderment, as if she had caught me clandestinely smearing myself with feces.

“I’m working,” I said.

“Oh,” she said. She literally turned kind of red and did sort of an awkward lurch-step backwards out of the store again, without so much as a “goodbye” or “I’m sorry.” Her friends followed her. It was like a Victorian novel, and not only was I smearing myself with feces, but I was doing that while being a disgraced heiress who was now a three-penny upright in an alley.

In order to avoid reminders like these that I once had had a promising future as a corporate drone, I aggressively lobbied for day shifts. A side benefit of this was that I now had ample opportunity to work with the regular, non-seasonal staff. I was known as a go-getter who could connect with people, was a hard worker, and could move a lot of product. All of the clerks liked me and a few decided to take me under their wing, which of course involved talking much smack about the other regular clerks.

My favorite clerk quickly became Aoife, who confounded some things I thought I knew about people. First, she was an African-American woman with an Irish name that was challenging for many Americans to spell, let alone pronounce. She was a single mother who spoke in a particular accent that I had previously associated with African Americans from the South. If I had to guess, I would have assumed she was from Georgia. Nope–Alaska. Something else unexpected, since a common American stereotype/belief is that there are no black people in Alaska. When I met her and she told me she was from Alaska, she said, “Yes, that Alaska. The state.”

Janelle and Aoife hated each other. Janelle told me Aoife kept a gun in her bag in the terror pit that was our personal belongs closet. Somehow I managed to tactfully ask Janelle what her opinion was on why Aoife carried a gun and Janelle looked at me meaningfully and said something like, “You know–ALAAASKA.” (Spoooky.) Whoever came in to work would stack their coat and bag in the closet, and by the time your shift had ended, of course a bunch of ladies had put their stuff on top of yours, so you had to fish your stuff out from the bottom, which would send everyone else’s belongings flying and shifting! Woe betide you if you’d forgotten to zip your bag all the way. Every time I had to get my things after clocking out, I thought of Aoife’s alleged gun shifting around in there and I hoped the alleged safety was on.

Aoife told me that Janelle had bipolar, and was on and off her meds, which she said explained a lot of her erratic moodiness and various states of hygiene competence. “That girl just smell sometimes,” she told me flatly, and I could not disagree with her. Janelle usually stank of old pot smoke or hair grease, which seemed to conflict with her forcing me to listen in great detail what bath she had indulged in the night before, using about seven different products. If only she would dunk her head. Janelle would prescribe me various baths and send me away with homework and a promise to give her a full report about exactly what bathing with an Avobath bomb AND a Sunny Side bubble bar was like.

The mall was a clusterfuck and my bus stop and bus was downright dangerous sometimes, but there was something that was working for me about the job, and it had one huge advantage over other, theoretical future jobs: I actually had it and knew how to perform my duties. I was surrounded by mostly women and the two delightful gay men on staff all day. I had whole weeks where I rarely interacted with any men at all, beyond P., which was exactly what I needed then. I would come home and rub balms and face masks all over myself and just relax and smell good, which was nice.

But the downsides (besides the customers, ho ho)…I took a LOT of inappropriate boundary crossing from Janelle, from hearing about her sex life and her finances. She touched me a lot, too. She was fascinated by my breasts too, and asked if she could touch them. They are fine boobs, but really, they are just boobs, not made out of powdered unicorn horn or anything. Aoife told me out of the blue that she thought Janelle “had a thing” for me. I prayed that “the thing” was a raise and some defective product. I don’t think she was into me.

One day I was working the register and she was admiring my chest tattoos, which, fine. “YOU NEED MORE!” she declared, and began drawing on me with a Sharpie to create a piece in the middle of my breastbone that would link the two flowers. It sort of looked like a constipated sun. I couldn’t really run off the floor and scrub this off in the bathroom, so I endured questions from customers about why I had let an uncoordinated child draw on my body with magic markers. It was ironic to me because I knew she fancied herself an artist and had previously worked as a sign painter, which I didn’t know was even an actual job anymore.

Janelle took credit for this masterpiece every time, and I think the customers saw the “dear god, help me” look in my eyes, but Janelle thought we were bonding, I think. She implied that the young girls were twits (they weren’t really twits, just young) and the older girls were trying to backstab her for her job (they were) and I was the only one who “got her.” It takes me a ridiculously long time to tell a person I like what I am thinking or feeling, or anything beyond the barest thumbnail of what my life is like (I think a nicer way to put this is to say I am a bit “guarded”) so it occurred to me that she, a real freakazoid, probably knew next to nothing about me, really. I just spent hours listening to her ramble inappropriately while keeping a poker face, something I learned from dealing with my mother.

I was still relentlessly applying for jobs anywhere, everywhere else. I had a promising phone interview for a taxonomy contract at Nordstrom that went nowhere, and a few other false starts. Christmas was right around the corner and I knew that we remaining clerks (there were fewer than half of us left) would be cut loose and let out to wander the world looking for the next horrible retail gig, unmoisturized and no longer smelling of ginger or lilies. I had heard a rumor that sometimes really good temp clerks would be invited to stay on and convert to permanent, but I have had my dick pulled with that one in almost every temp job I’ve ever had. It’s usually just something they tell you to entice you to behave, like “Santa is watching” or “the IRS still has enough funding to do audits.”

One night shortly after Christmas I closed with Janelle and after the last of the earlier-shift clerks had left (it was usually just two of us after seven or so, a key holder and a little minion like me, who was expected to do most of the stocking and cleaning). It seemed that most of my compatriots had been given their last week of shifts and would be cut loose before New Year’s Day. I had not been given mine. Janelle locked the doors and turned up the music. She seemed a little shakier than usual, but I knew she routinely stayed up for days at a time, so I figured she and her boyfriend had just been up on another one of their sprees, which would involve another horrifying story about his Burner friends or insinuations about polyamory while I just swept the floor going, “Uh hah. Interesting.” (Not pictured: My soul dying just a tiny bit more while the outside of me earns $9.25 an hour.)

But no! Tonight she was excited! She had very exciting news!! “WE’D LIKE YOU TO STAY ON AFTER CHRISTMAS!” All I had to do was sign the paperwork. I knew in my heart of hearts that this was not the end, that I could find a different job that paid better and didn’t involve doing the electric slide while wearing a blueberry face mask, but I still felt my chest collapsing a little. The store manager would discuss it with me during my next day shift and would have the papers.

Sign away I did. Later that day, I kid you not, I was cornered by two dogs, one off leash while I was jogging through Greenlake, and the other in the store itself, and I had a panic attack. This was when I developed my temporary dog phobia: the day I signed on at Lush. Of course I think it was more complex than that, and would not have developed if I also wasn’t experiencing escalating health problems (anxiety related to malnutrition, etc.), but it was interesting timing.

Things got very rote after the holiday madness died down, and there was surprisingly low turnover at that store, so I was the new kid for the rest of my tenure there. The other clerks were very welcoming, and even the ones I couldn’t read well confessed that they were very happy I’d been picked and voted for me. I stayed three more months at the standard 30 or so hours a week so they didn’t have to provide benefits, and then in March I found a tech contract that more than doubled what I’d been making at Lush. I hung on to a few evening shifts, just to keep my hand in and keep in touch with a group that had been a mini, temporary, very dysfunctional family during a very difficult period, but eventually it was all too much, working more than forty hours a week, and I gave my notice.

Every time I go into a Lush store and am assaulted by the rabid employees and I see the trepidation and desperation in their eyes I am reminded of my time there, as I gently tell them, “It’s okay, I used to work here. I know the deal.” The really jesusy ones push on anyway, “WELL DO YOU KNOW ABOUT OUR NEW SPRING LINE?” and remind me of the “pep talks” from the managers (“WE NEED TO MOVE 6K BY NOON LADIES!!!!”). The normal ones look relieved and say, “Oh, okay, have fun then” and leave me be. And I am relieved that I get to leave without clocking out, covered in stale sweat and glitter and regretting all my choices that led up to this point.

“I don’t always take damage…but when I do, I drink a potion.”

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Let’s get this out of the way: I’ve been sick for almost two weeks now. It’s NBD, just a really annoying cold. I’m excited to say that, perversely. My hands aren’t falling asleep and I’m not covered in lesions or anything. Just a cold! Ha ha! *clicks heels together*

Anyway. Like 99.9% of all people on the planet, being sick makes me less creative, even along the blogways. I haven’t been working on my awesome bullshit writing project either. It’s SUCH a shame too, because my job is RIFE with opportunities for time theft. I am to the point where I am often out of work by 10:30 in the morning, and everyone knows it. What can you do? A: read a lot of blogs and sigh a lot.

However, something jogged the writing impulse today. Over the loudspeaker as we neared downtown, our morning bus driver made a very stilted announcement about the potential of protests blocking roads or delaying traffic this afternoon. In part he informed us that “Metro would do its best today to transport people even if those people [protesters] decided to…uhhh…exercise their constitutional rights today.” Please don’t let him say something crackery racist, I said to myself. I felt like he was teetering on the edge of something awkward and was not used to making impromptu, required announcements like this. He did okay, though.

“What if he is transporting protesters downtown RIGHT NOW?” I asked P. “He keeps calling protesters ‘they’ but what if they are right here?”

“Are you planning something today I don’t know about?” P. asked.

I was planning to go to work and waste space and oxygen at my hourly job. But WHAT IF I thought, looking around at all the white people on my bus in their North Face jackets reading their Kindles. Maybe not.

I didn’t think about it again, really. After work, P. and I were walking to the bus together when a man darted out from a bus stop shelter, away from two other people, and made a beeline for me. He started giving me that kind of hostile patter designed to harass and get a reaction. And when you do react, the person often acts indignant and/or swears at you.

One of my tattoos was barely visible above the neckline of my shirt and he began rapid-firing about that. I darted ahead, instinctively moving faster and leaving P. behind, in part because there was a clump of people waiting for the bus at the stop the man emerged from.

“That’s a nice tattoo girl can I see it I got tattoos on my neck what is that tattoo of…”

I decided the best course of action was just to keep walking, quickly, as I always do and not react at all. I assumed P. was right behind me and would pop up next to me as soon as we left the crush of people.

I was wrong. The man started yelling.

“Man, get your HANDS off me, DON’T TOUCH ME!”

I was shocked to turn and see that he was addressing P. with this. I didn’t see what happened. The next thing I knew, the man lunged at P., grappling him and taking him down with an arm slung around his neck. P. fell on his backpack. They tussled on the ground and I froze for a second: go for phone? Start yelling? The man’s ribs were exposed and I considered kicking him with my rainboot to get him off.

Several thoughts flashed through my mind, layered on top of the “what to do?” thoughts. Did P. hit his head? He went down so gracefully. He has this incredible dexterity and he used to salsa and ballet dance. He even fell beautifully when attacked in the street by a random miscreant. It reminded me of seeing Patrick Swayze jumping over the fence in The Outsiders. Swayze was not capable of doing anything but jumping gracefully, like a gazelle. Was P. going to die? Were the man’s friends he was with at the bus stop going to jump in? HOW WAS I THINKING ALL OF THESE THOUGHTS IN THE SPACE OF ABOUT FIVE SECONDS? I settled on yelling.

“GET OFF HIM! LEAVE HIM ALONE!”

After a few more moments they broke apart. The man turned himself over on the ground like an upended turtle. I realized he was cupping a joint in his hand and it was still smoking. It seemed so absurd, launching into a fight with a joint in your hand!

A few more words were exchanged, and the man called P. a fucking asshole, and taunted him, gloating about taking him down. In the next breath he told us to call the cops, and that he would tell them that we started it. None of it made any sense, but when do these things make sense? In addition to the weed, he smelled like alcohol and like he didn’t have much else to lose.

“What is WRONG with you?” I said, standing over him. He just stared at me. We turned and started walking away quickly. By some incredible luck, a bus we could get home on was loading passengers. “Let’s take that one,” we decided, immediately.

Once I ascertained that P. was okay, and that he hadn’t hit his head, I had to ask him. “Did you touch that guy?” It seemed really wrong and super out of character. P. is NOT any kind of fight-picker.

“He went after you,” he said.

“Yeah, okay, but you could have kept walking with me, it would be okay…”

“No, I mean, when you walked away, he lunged and hit his head on your shoulder. You didn’t feel it, did you? I just put my hand on his shoulder and pulled him back away from you.”

“He tried to…headbutt me?” I asked. This was getting weirder. “I guess he got what he wanted–a fight.”

Obviously it could have turned out much worse, but it was very troubling. The man was African American, and once I calmed down I felt afraid for him, especially considering the political climate and the sad current events in the U.S. As one anonymous, unnotable white lady I don’t think I have all the power in the world, nor do I want it, but sometimes I say a little atheist prayer to myself both that I won’t get hurt and that other people, especially black men, won’t get hurt on my account. I had just listened to Jay Smooth’s latest at my desk the day before and cried a little. These issues were on my mind.

A couple of years ago, well before things came to a boil in Ferguson, I was gassing up in one of Seattle’s dodgier neighborhoods in the late afternoon, well before sunset. I was standing behind the car, as is my custom ever since I had a gas tank overflow on me once years ago, while I stood right near the tank. The girls were in the backseat, facing forward.

A young black man, probably midteens, cut through the gas station parking lot towards a bus stop, a fairly common occurrence with pedestrians in that intersection. I didn’t think much of it. He passed very close to me and muttered at me loudly, as I was probably studying a tree or a cloud or something: “Fucking white-ass bitch, I could beat your fucking ass.” He kept moving and I kept my eye on him, and he crossed the street to the bus.

I wasn’t scared or mad. I didn’t really react at all; I recognized impotent rage when I heard it. I’ve experienced it many, many times myself. That was the first time I had that guilty, unpleasant thought: if you laid a hand on me, there would probably be a special serving of trouble coming your way since I’m a middle-class, white mother gassing up my Honda, and you are a young black man in America. I don’t know how to speak or write about this, and I am aware I am klunking all over the place. I know I keep this blog pretty apolitical, save the occasional feminist screed. So I am going to sound vomitrociously sanctimonious saying this, but the awareness of my privilege made me feel sick to my stomach. Not the fear of him. Fear for him.

In a weird way I admired his brashness, since I had been young-angry once, not understanding targets or consequences. Was I the right target for his rage against white ladies and what they represent sometimes? Maybe not. It made me think a lot though. I hope the kid finds peace and an outlet, but I am also weirdly grateful to him for kicking my bubble like that.

When I said “What is wrong with you” to the man on the ground today I meant “why would you attack someone in the street like that?”, since I have apparently become the cliche of the scoldy, middle-aged white lady, someone’s future grandmother, smacking mashers with her handbag and waving her umbrella and being SHOCKED, SHOCKED that anyone would behave without at least modicum of decorum. But also, I meant please don’t let this end badly at all, for you or for us, but especially not because of the color of my skin and the color of your skin.

Out Damned Spot etc

Monday, November 17th, 2014

SO. Great morning, really great. What I like to follow up a weekend of intense gastrointestinal distress with is a Monday morning of it. I have called off work and felt kind of wimpy about it until I went back to the bathroom. Again. I could not even make the hour commute to downtown at this rate. The other bus commuters have low tolerance to people shitting themselves, I hear.

I was putting on my work trousers this morning and feeling grateful that my brain is about back to 80%, maybe. Saturday was all derp derp march to fuzz. This morning I noticed my custom cut shirt that fit me perfectly a year ago now hangs funny and the darts stick out. I’d been a D-cup for…over 15 years? I am now officially a C-cup, which I can’t remember happening since high school. Also they don’t hurt MOST OF THE TIME. Or at all really. I’m going to tell you something, because that’s what I do: sometimes I will be sitting on the couch and I will think of my boobs and I will squeeze them REALLY HARD. Not to the point of damage or bruising or anything. Just much, much harder than I have ever been able to for like 1,000 years.

I demonstrated this to Franny recently, who was amazed. She thinks I am going insane (short trip). We are working on stamping out (bad visual) her breast pain as well. We’re getting there. She is not as consistent with vitamins as I am, but she notices that she feels MUCH better now on them.

P. came in while I was thinking these deep booby thoughts, standing in my bra and trousers, before I put my shirt on.

“Yeah, you’re looking poofy today.”

THE MAGICAL WORDS EVERY WOMAN LONGS TO HEAR. It’s like the honeymoon never ended in this house.

(Seriously though, it was true. I was wearing pants I needed a belt for last week and they were not tight but they were snug on the waist. I wasn’t really offended. It was just a fact. He is very frank about these things. On Friday night he said, “You’ve shrunk a little again.”)

I think there’s probably stages of Celiac for some people, and the one I think I am on is that I lose my mind a little bit if I get “glutened.” I become Detective Obsesso until I figure out what happened. And guess what? Most of the time it is not certain or clear at all.

I usually have effects fast, within an hour or two, so it’s pretty easy to chain back to when it happened. If I feel HULK SMASH ANGRY, have lesions on my scalp or upper back, and itch and fidget like I am a cartoon character with the DT’s, I know it’s corn. If I am pooping myself, have joint pain, and feel confused, it is probably dairy or wheat.

How did I get through life like this for so many years? I had severe joint pain on Saturday night, the kind I remember happening back to ’09 or so, and I used to just blame that on my quality of sleep. Which was poor, because, you know, wheat etc. I was running 5Ks 2-3 times a week then (in addition to other stuff like push ups, pull ups, and lots of walking everywhere), and eating healthy food (so I thought) and I felt terrible most of the time and could not lose “that last fifteen pounds” to save my life in spite of a rigorous training schedule.

So Saturday night I just sat on the couch, folded laundry, and bingewatched three Parenthoods to catch up, my guilty semi-pleasure show. I am on deathwatch with every single character on that show. ESPECIALLY the character of Ray Romano’s daughter (wishful thinking). Also am mad that I actually enjoy watching Ray Romano now. WHAT KIND OF UPSIDE DOWN WORLD IS THIS.

Strudel was home alone with me since Frannie was off with her dad and P. was at his bimonthly game night. “These people are SO NICE,” she kept exclaiming. It seems like there’s much less yelling and crosstalking than in previous seasons.

“Do you like them?” I said.

“They’re kind of boring,” she concluded.

Word.

Speaking of boring, let me tell you what my life is like now. I will say first that I really like it! It’s working most of the time. 98% of what goes into my mouth, I have made myself from single components. Example: salad dressing. Sometimes salad dressing has gluten of some kind. Many, many products are now going gluten free. THAT’S GREAT! Problem: they are “manufactured in a facility where someone once whispered the word ‘wheat’ on the factory floor under a blanket at midnight.” (Cross contamination.) If this is not the case, sauces often contain dairy. Or corn. Or xanthan gum.

Well, fuck that shit. I make my own salad dressings now. I would often bang a vinaigrette together in the past, but now, I make a jar of something once a week, and that’s what we eat that week. Most dressings I make have about five ingredients, give or take. I make a riff on Annie’s shiitake sesame dressing, because we used to love that. I make classic French vinaigrettes. I made a great “Russian” for a noir night.

I am HUGE into sauces. Dressings, hot sauces, bizarro catsups (so good on hash browns). I have been introducing sauces slowly, at the rate of one per week, tops. On Friday I brought home some safe looking Thai sweet chili sauce (made with cane sugar, no thickeners), and that is the only thing I did different. I made one of my comfort food meals, which sounded great on a Friday night–rice and stir-fried broccoli and marinaded chicken thighs to make quick Thai barbecue. By Saturday morning, Strudel and I were both ill. I immediately thought of that new chili sauce, but then, P. hates sweet sauces, so he didn’t have any at all. WHAT WAS IT???

Okay so anyway. I am trying to figure out what happened. I think it went back to Friday night, since Strudel and I were sick by Saturday morning, and P. was sick by Sunday. But I cannot crack it. And the reality is, I will not be able to figure this out.

This is the part where I do the little dance of “I am so lucky that there are so many things I can still eat, and at least I don’t have crotch rot/ass horns/veganism.” And I am glad I am not trying to just jam my square peg into the round hole of most of the food that is available outside my doorstep. I’m aware that I’m probably going to live longer, and I am definitely living better. But it’s weird. I’m very aware that most of the social/leisure part of the world is now out of my grasp without moderate to extensive planning. I’m aware that I’m going to have sick days where I cannot leave the radius of my bathroom.

I’d like to write today (real creative writing, not this blathering) but I am still pretty unfocused. However, this flash fiction I started to keep myself busy this summer when I was working 15 hours a week is shaping up into something, and I am working on an outline for another novel, so that’s good. I’m trying to accept that I am 98% transmogrified into Kilgore Trout at this point and I will never write Serious Important Fiction ever. Because Donkey Surgeon.

HAPPY MONDAY!

Last Name Ever First Name Dumbest

Monday, November 10th, 2014

My first week at work was uneventful, EXCEPT! On Thursday I managed to pull a boner and completely mangle myself. I once had a conversation with someone about how you know you’re not a little kid anymore when you can unknowingly cut yourself and find the blood all scabbed up much later with a, “Huh, how did that happen?” I thought of that conversation on Thursday.

I had one of those mystery cuts on the tip of my right pointer finger, I noticed, as I stood waiting for my evening bus. “Weird,” I thought. “I must have dragged it across something sharp.” It was pretty shallow and obviously hadn’t bled much. My bus came and I forgot about it. I felt my bag vibrate and fished around in my pockets for my phone–it was probably the big kid saying she had gotten on her bus as well.

I felt something on my middle finger of my right hand that felt like an itchy shock. Another tiny slice! It was bleeding a little as well. I began gingerly feeling around the new bag The Man had issued me to hold my laptop. My phone buzzed again and I went for it: ZAP! I fully gashed open my left middle finger.

I stupidly watched blood drip down my middle finger and begin pooling in my left palm. I had–nothing. Not a tissue, napkin, sock, or even a sweater. I was contemplating using my coat when the lady across the aisle handed me a big wad of tissues.

“Thanks!” I said. “I think there’s a sharp zipper or something…”

“There’s a knife sticking out of your pocket,” she said.

Oh god. I brought a paring knife in my bag on Wednesday and completely forgot about it, and it came loose from the pocket it was in, or maybe cut through the pocket, and I was repeatedly cutting myself with it. I was officially the dumbest person on the bus, and a creep to boot, because only creeps bleed profusely on the bus without even realizing it. Was I on the PCP? Did my elevator not go all the way to the penthouse? I imagined people were edging away from me.

I applied pressure by clenching a fist and noticed that I had blood between every single one of my fingers of my left hand, as if I had just ripped out my enemy’s still-beating heart and was about to take a juicy bite out of it. A lady in the back corner told me to apply pressure to my wrist.

My face was hot and I tried to make myself invisible. I accidentally made eye contact with the teenaged boy sitting across from me who finally looked up from his phone. He took one look at me and went right back to his phone. “Crazy old lady on the bus bleeding from hand” I imagined him snappchatting at his friends. I had to stifle the urge to flee the bus and get out into the cold air and cry a little, because your first week is always a long week and I was tired as well as embarrassed.

I could have a fresh start on a new bus, the next bus, I reasoned. But then it would take me much longer to get home because it wouldn’t be an express bus and what if I needed stitches or something? Or a brain transplant, at least.

So I got home and sat on the couch and felt sorry for myself. Nothing tires me out like embarrassment, I think. And now I have a Zorro “z” on my middle finger and something to cringe about when I remember it.

Here’s me and my sister with The Tigerlillies from last Wednesday. She got the DJ Morgan discount. It is fun to go out with my sister, especially when it involves an early evening!

The other side of the hinge now; or, origin story

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

I keep thinking to myself that I feel like a baby, new. Not only is that one of the most hackneyed cliches in existence, but I also think that by all accounts I had a pretty horrible time as one, so I think I probably don’t feel like a baby. At least not a me-baby.

I’ve been told that when I wasn’t screaming, I was vomiting, or running a high fever, or all three, and I was covered in a rash. I was always sick and had terrible fevers, and I truly don’t know how many times I “had to be put in an oxygen tent” but I understood it was a big deal when I would overhear my grandmother telling people about it. I see pictures of myself from around the time my mother got her act together and showed up again and it was probably the worst. I looked like a six-year-old tiny Lydia Deetz, pallid with dark circles under my eyes.

I told myself I was going to take a break from whinging about my health for a while, and I’ve made somewhat good on that, but things are getting…a little weird. I’ve had tinnitus and vertigo since high school (twenty years) and it’s suddenly evaporated. I was holding my breath waiting for it to come back, but it’s been a couple of weeks now. Normally cessation for me is a couple of hours. Sometimes people would be talking and my hearing would just cut out and be replaced by the sounds you hear in a hearing test. I’d just watch their lips move and nod. Or guess.

“Yes, I would like it in the butt,” I would reply, my whole head going BEEEEEEEEEEEP HUUUUUM RIIIING.

“WHAT?”

“Wait. You feel like you’re in a rut? Sorry, keep going.”

Now I am an explorer on an exploration mission that is always christened, “What is making that noise, I don’t think it’s coming from inside my head.” [Spoiler: it is the refrigerator.]

Sometimes I like to play “DID YOU KNOW?”

Me: DID YOU KNOW the porch light makes a really loud buzzing noise?

P: Yes.

Me: DID YOU KNOW the dining room chandelier makes a humming noise?

P: Yes.

Me: DID YOU KNOW the toilet in the guest–

P: YES.

No one else likes this game. Sometimes it makes me cry a little, like in the case of the porch light, but not really in a bad way and I get over it quickly.

And now there’s the wiggling and stretching. I will be stuck in a waiting room and if I’m left for too long I start moving. I tell myself I want to stretch, and I do, but then it becomes a test. What if I do this? Does that still not hurt? What about my neck? Okay, neck’s okay. Shoulder joints are always bad, soo…nope, they’re like butter. By the time I am called I am practically rolling around on the floor, looking like a cat stoned out of its mind on the nip. “Ha ha, I was just testing the back of my knee (IS THE NURSE BUYING THIS??).”

I test myself in bed, too. I had that nasty nine month patch where my shoulder was just a little out of joint, causing constant pain. I didn’t realize until it was over that I was kind of rocking Bob Dole arm since it hurt so bad to move it. I had to get used to moving my arm again. So, just having this fixed, I felt much freer, but sleep was a strategic exercise in trying to minimize pain and praying that I would stay asleep for more then four hours at a time. I used to have very specific positions I could sleep in (sometimes) and if I was lucky I would not wake up with both of my hands dead. Now I sleep ON my hands sometimes, for kicks.

“I am sleeping on you, hand,” I say. “Just try something.”

“While this is probably not the best for our circulation, I am aware that you are sleeping on me because I am not wracked with nerve pain/burning from being dead asleep.”

“Okay see you tomorrow, when I will use you to hold up a book or do a project for more than three minutes without a break.”

I looked out the window on Sunday and realized I could read the street sign across the street. I can write words sequentially and without a million typos. I can write like it’s NBD, it’s just flowing out of me like diarrhea. Which is ironic, because what is NOT flowing out of me is diarrhea. HA. Sorry…I am not sorry.

I’m not wracked with anxiety or unexplained black moods. On nights that I slept deeply enough to dream, I would dream about break-ins, being held hostage, being tortured. I would snap awake at the slightest sound coming from outside. Slowly I am retraining myself that I don’t need to take more than normal precautions, that this house and neighborhood are normal and safe. I knew the fears I’ve had since moving into this house were irrational, but now I really believe it.

There’s actually more little things that have improved, like my nails don’t peel down to the beds anymore. No more pica. A year ago I was with a friend, putting my hair into a ponytail, when a clump of it just came out in my hand. A significant one, like a piece of fettuccine, like my weave was coming out. I was kind of embarrassed, but he was extremely unsettled. “I haven’t seen that since my wife had cancer,” he said.

“I’m fine. That was weird,” I said. I knew I couldn’t stop it so I just accepted it.

I had decent patches as a kid when I wasn’t anxious for no reason, and even as an adult where I would muscle myself into getting things done. But I always felt like something was missing, like normal was just out of sight somehow. This was just a crazy notion from hunchport but I didn’t think there was actually anything off with my brain. I tried anti-anxiety and depression meds when I was younger and nothing seemed to really help. I thought about my family history of thyroid issues, and strokes, and how they took one of my grandmother’s inner ears to “fix” her vertigo, and I thought I was just walking that path.

I think the weird exclamation point on all this that made me want to write about it again happened last night. I was in the kitchen and, naturally, the subject of head injuries and how much they bleed came up. I mentioned what was probably by biggest head injury, which was when one of those 300 pound dart machines you find in bars fell on my head and made a split in the skin. It didn’t bleed as expected, I think maybe because the machine was so heavy it sort of split the skin and then compressed the open vessels against my skull somehow? I was only about 25% Carrie on prom night until they started sewing me up in the ER and then it went full Carrie, blood running down my face.

“I was your age,” I told Strudel.

“WHOA!” she said.

“Your mom has a huge scar on her head, you should feel it,” P. said.

This scar has been with me since childhood, huge and raised. My stylist comments on it every couple of years or so, since it’s so obvious once my hair’s parted. She always asks if it’s recent. Occasionally it starts hurting again, especially in the presence of orcs. He prodded my head to show the kid, since I was up to my wrists in lemon juice.

“I can’t find it,” P. said.

“Hang on,” I said, rinsing. Then I couldn’t find it. It was flat. I immediately checked one of my other ancient scars, the infamous hole in the roof of my mouth. Still holey but no longer painful! I keep prodding it with my tongue, like my rolling around in waiting rooms. Does it still not hurt? HOW ABOUT NOW? Sometimes I like to sneak up on it when it’s not paying attention.

JAB JAB JAB

“Do you, like, need something, man,” my hole says. It’s the Dude now.

Now I have a new hole: a lack of all this shit I’ve been wrestling with for my whole life. What do I do with myself now? I feel like I’ve been playing on the hard setting for 36 years and someone just unlocked God mode. I don’t feel manic, though, just calm. Steady. Productive. Trying to figure out who the fuck I am and what I want. Everyday life is now super easy and not torture or battling back one symptom or another, but I am confused about the big picture. My goals actually seem attainable now, like doing a lot of writing and having my own business someday.

P. and I talked about it the other night and he was very, very honest with me and it made me happy but it almost made my heart break a little.

“Now that you’re feeling so much better, there’s a part of me that’s afraid you’ll decide you don’t need any of us and blow out of here,” he said.

I don’t think so. It’s no fun to cook for myself.

TL;DR: I have had celiac-induced malnutrition my whole life, it’s had an impact on things. Currently I cannot eat wheat, dairy, or corn, and my intestines are mostly a waterslide so this shit 100% does not apply to me. I am going to keep an eye on myself, keep taking vitamins and keep getting my thyroid tested.

An Actual Thing I Actually Just Said

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Week Two: the situation turns much, much worse for our party.

It’s the second week of school. I had been counting down to this all summer. A little time alone, which I desperately need as part of my “GET THIS STRESS AWAY FROM ME” regime right now. A little time to write and nap. Shit.

Last Saturday at the farmer’s market Strudel started asking some questions.

“Mom, didn’t you say you could sunburn your eyes? My eyes are burning so bad.”

“You can, but it takes a lot of light exposure, like working on a reflective surface all day or being on the water usually,” I said. We had only been out for about a half hour.

“It really hurts.”

BAM: pinkeye. So I knew she wasn’t going to school Monday, or Tuesday, probably. It cleared up quickly, and Franny caught it as soon as she came back from her dad’s island on Monday night. So now she is home for her second day.

They were fighting in the kitchen, shouting and butt-paddling each other, which is a thing now. Franny was wearing no pants but an apron (making bacon like that, SIGH), so Strudel took the opportunity to paddle at will. What can you do when there is prime rump in front of you and revenge is on your mind? Things escalated and Strudel was getting it good, since her arms are shorter, and she started giving up and fighting dirty. I stay out of these dumb things because they don’t listen to me, really, and they are not really getting hurt.

Yelling! So much yelling I am flinching through my headphones, trying to get my goddam VPN to work…

“MOM TELL FRANNY TO GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN SINCE I AM WORKING AND SHE IS DONE. ISN’T THAT THE RULE MOM ONE PERSON AT A TIME?”

I had reached my limit.

“STOP YELLING SO I CAN MAKE MONEY SO YOU HAVE ENERGY TO YELL.”

???

Crickets. Franny went to her room. The remaining dishes were unloaded from the dishwasher with no further comment.

My new technique is to confuse them into silence.