Monday, January 30, 2017

Some Recent Goings-On

As my reader may recall, my company was acquired back in October. I've been acquired twice now. I lost vacation hours in the transaction both times but hey, I need to be steadily employed and you can't rock the boat too much when you need to make sure you stay that way. This recent acquisition has turned out to be a positive event in most ways (at least for me). I was nervous about working for such a large company, but it hasn't been as daunting as I feared it would be. And then something extra-good happened two weeks ago: I was promoted and got a raise. I knew that I was under-paid by my former employer but again, my bargaining power has been limited. I am glad that the new company recognized that my 21 years in the IT field does count for something and that I am a competent employee. So yay for competence and being paid a fair wage!

In other news, I got a tattoo last week. I'd been planning it for a while. For obvious reasons, I like to make careful decisions about this sort of thing. When I was at the tattoo shop on Saturday, a young woman walked in and asked if she could get a tattoo that day. Tara, the artist, told the young woman that she was all booked up.  I made my appointment back in November. Plus, I attended a consultation meeting weeks beforehand. I guess I just find it odd that someone would get a tattoo on a whim and expect an artist just to be sitting around waiting for them. As a matter of fact, I think that there has been at least one drop-in every time I've been in her shop.

As far as the design I chose, I gave this a lot of thought. I decided to go with a watercolor elephant with the thought that I may add other watercolor animals later on - like maybe a giraffe, bird, or rhino. I chose the elephant for a couple of reasons. The main one is that I think the elephant is probably the most glaring example of the atrocities we commit against animals. I guess the other reason would be that I think they are simply beautiful. I decided to add Ahimsa, in Sanskrit.  Ahimsa is an important tenet of several religions, including Hinduisum and Buddhism, and it essentially means "compassion and non-violence towards all living creatures." I first learned the term in a religion class I took in college.

I am very happy with the tattoo.  It's a little bigger than what I had envisioned initially, but the size turned out just fine in the end. I had Tara tattoo the elephant on my back (vs. other possible locations) because a) I do have to do the corporate thing and b) it just seemed to be the most logical spot for it (particularly if I want to add other animals later on).

I arrived at the shop on Saturday morning for my appointment. I wasn't too nervous because I've done this before and knew what to expect. Tara had me lie down on the orange table (that also converts into a chair). She chose the ink colors and off we went. I was face-down, of course. The first hour or so wasn't too bad. I listened to music on my phone and did my best to keep my yoga breathing going - I tried counting to four on the inhale and exhale. I also tried to focus on not clenching any muscles. I turned up the music so that I couldn't hear the buzzing of the tattoo machine.

Eventually, I asked if we could take a break so that I could use the bathroom. I looked at the tattoo in the bathroom mirror and saw that we had a long way to go. I quickly washed my hands and submitted to the needle once again, before I had a chance to talk myself out of it. The second hour was rougher than the first, but I was determined to walk out with a completed tattoo. Tara is a talented artist so I also didn't want her to feel rushed. This art will be on my skin for the rest of my life. Noticing that I was getting fidgety, she asked me if I'd like to sit up instead. I figured it was worth a try. She handed me an enormous teddy bear to hug. So, I was hunched over that bear as the buzzing resumed. I checked the weather and played Words with Friends on my phone to distract myself.  I didn't last long with the sitting, though. "I need to lie back down," I said.

As we entered the third hour, I think Tara sensed that I was ready to tap out. She completed the outline of the elephant and told me she would spray some lidocaine on my back. She couldn't apply the local anesthetic prior to that because it would have wiped out the stencil. Now that the tattoo was mostly done, it was safe to lose the stencil. "I'm going to break up your skin," she told me.

"What on earth does that mean?" I asked. It certainly sounded horrifying. She explained that she would use a dry needle to puncture my skin in multiple spots. She would then using a numbing spray on my back. The dry needle bit felt about as good as you'd expect, but when the anesthetic took effect . . . ahhhh.  As she got back to work on my tattoo, the pain was still very real but the edge was taken off. She was able to finish her work without me bitching and moaning. I mean, I think I have a pretty high pain tolerance but three hours is a lot for anyone, I think.

When I finally stood up and viewed the tattoo in its entirety, I loved it right away. Tara is very talented.  Plus, she's an all-around nice person. As I was waiting for the gel bandage to dry, a young woman came in with her mother and her baby. She had an appointment, so her presence was legit. Tara turned around and mouthed the words "Why would they bring a baby?" to me.  Why indeed.

The hour-long drive home was a little rough because, essentially, I had an open wound on my back. I regret nothing, though. Like I said . . . careful decisions.

The only other news of late is that we are fostering a pit bull for the local shelter. Rudy (AKA Rudy-Tooty-Fresh-n-Frooty) has a visit with an applicant on Saturday. That applicant happens to be a friend of mine. I thought it would be a great match. Alas, it turns out that the little goofball gets a little protective when strangers come into the home (we've learned that he does better if the visitor is already there when he comes out of his crate). I have a couple of volunteers from the shelter coming over to help me work with him. It was disappointing because Rudy is such a great dog! He gets along great with my dogs and has always been fine with me, my daughter, and my husband. He does jump up and can get mouthy, but it wasn't a big deal because my dogs jump up on people, too.  The only version of him we'd seen (at least until Saturday) was just pure silly/goofy/knucklehead.  I know there's a home out there for him, though. I just need to convince him that we don't need to be protected from the visitors who enter our home.

So, that's about it for recent happenings. When I'm not at work, I'm driving my kid to guitar lessons, choir practice, or Aladdin rehearsals. It's all worthwhile, though, because she's super grateful and never leaves a single tap shoe at home so that I have to drive across town to deliver it and am 15 minutes late for work.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Molar

Last week, I took my daughter to her orthodontist for a follow-up visit. We're done with all of the orthodontia (palate expander, head gear, braces) for now, but we were obligated to go in for "let's see how things look" visit. My assumption is that the doctor is just waiting patiently to see if my daughter's adult teeth turn out to be as jacked up as her baby teeth, in which case I assume he has a solution to the tune of a bajillion dollars. The visit turned out to be worthwhile, though, because he quickly spotted a problem.  The kid had a new molar coming in from the top. However, the baby tooth had neglected to vacate the premises. That wee little tooth was like, "Nah, I'm good." So, having nowhere to go, the new tooth decided to take up residence next to the old one. The new tooth was jutting right into the palate.  "This will have to be pulled," quoth the orthodontist.

So, I made an appointment with our next dentist for the following week. I'm sure my kid knew that she had a problem brewing in her mouth, but she tends not to tell me about these things. If I even suspect that a tooth is loose, I will nag her relentlessly to pull it out and make room for the new one.

I started dreading the appointment the very second I made it. My child has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to discomfort of any kind. She had a blister on her foot recently, and we had to hear about it for days. She will not swallow vitamins or pills of any kind. She will only take medication that is in liquid form and then only if it is grape flavored. She goes through band-aids like water. Pure drama. She called me from the bus stop one day last week. We've had some icy conditions lately. "Mom, I just wanted to let you know that I fell down three times on the way to the bus stop."  Now, just exactly what was I meant to do about this? Turn back time and somehow keep her upright on her two-block trek to the bus?

I did not know the procedure for pulling her tooth, so I was unable to explain it to her in detail. I talked to a co-worker who said that her dentist uses laughing gas and then uses the needle to inject the anesthetic into the gums. So, I thought the process might be like that. By the time I picked her up from school for the appointment on Thursday, she had whipped herself into quite the frenzy. "Dr. M is not in the business of hurting children," I told her. "I don't exactly know how he will get your tooth out of your head, but I really don't think it will hurt."

Before long, she was seated in the dentist's chair and Dr. M was explaining the procedure to her. She was nervous, I could tell. He loaded a cotton swab with some pink gel and deposited the gel inside my daughter's cheek. He then stuck one gloved finger in there and wiggled it around like crazy to distribute the goop.  Then, we had small talk with Dr. M's assistant while we waited for the gel to take effect. The kid was amazed by the changes that were taking place. "Mom, I can't feel part of my face!"

A few minutes later, the dentist returned to the exam room. He put some plastic glasses over my daughter's eyes. Then, he very casually draped his left hand over her eyes (but not in such a way that would cause her to think, "Why are you covering my eyes?") He then pulled back her cheek as the assistant handed him the needle. He told my daughter that he was going to push on her gums with his finger. "You'll just feel pressure," he said. Very deftly, he made a couple of quick jabs with the needle, and then passed it back to his assistant. We just recently switched to this new dentist and although I already liked the guy a lot, he definitely sealed the deal with this procedure. I mean, the kid never saw the needle and never knew she'd been injected.

Dr. M. left the room again for a few minutes to let the anesthetic fully take effect. When he returned, he grabbed one instrument, jabbed the stubborn molar out of place, and bam, it was over. He high-fived his patient, shook my hand, teased the kid about boys at school, and bid us adieu. I feel like he sort of makes up for all the shitty medical professionals I've encountered in my adult life.

As we were leaving the building, I told my daughter about the needle. I felt like I wanted her to know that extracting the tooth was more involved than just plucking it out. As luck would have it, she spotted Dr. M talking to someone in a side office. "You!" she exclaimed. He laughed.

So there you have it, the saga of the tooth extraction. They sent us home with some extra gauze. However, it was a good thing she didn't need it because the dogs chewed it up as soon as we got home




Saturday, January 7, 2017

Here you go, Rachel

Here's my annual "new music I like" post for 2016.  My friend Rachel is the only one who reads it, so this one's for you, Rach!

The Shelters - Never Look Behind Ya

Courtney Barnett - Three Packs a Day.  Courtney Barnett could read my Facebook feed to me and I would buy it.

Paul Simon - Wristband

Barns Courtney - Glitter and Gold

The Pixies -  Um Chagga Lagga  My loyalty to Black Francis knows no bounds.

Gaelynn Lea: Someday We'll Linger in the Sun Talk about talent! She won NPR's Tiny Desk contest and I've been haunted by her music ever since.

Lucius: Born Again Teen

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa'i - We Know The Way (From "Moana").  I love the music in this film.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Little Lesson

For many years now, members of my church have volunteered a few times a year to provide a meal at a local homeless shelter.  Different churches and organizations take turns cooking and serving a meal at the shelter.  I have never been able to participate because our church's turn always came up on a weekday. I have to work for The Man on weekdays. However, this time around it (a lunch meal) was scheduled for New Year's Eve and since it was a Saturday, I had the day off. I added my name and my daughter's name to the sign-up sheet.

Treat bakers were also needed, so I signed us up for that, too.  I bought a couple boxes of brownie mix and told my daughter to get started.  She did most of the baking on her own, but I set (and watched) the oven timer carefully because I'm pretty sure she'd leave something in there for a hundred years if she was wrapped up in some tweenie show on Netflix at the time.

When Saturday morning rolled around, it was a struggle to get her out the door as usual.  We had to be there at 11:15 so, you know, not the crack of dawn or anything. Honestly, the real heroes of the day were the volunteers from our church who got there two hours before we did in order to chop/bake/cook.  We were serving some sort of ham casserole, bread, salad, fruit salad, and dessert.  The kid and I took our spots behind the serving windows.  I would dole out the salad and she would  handle the fruit. Our friend Paul stood next to us on dessert duty.  In addition to A's brownies, there were some odds and ends (biscotti, chocolate chip cookies, etc.) from our church bake sale the week before, and some other newly-baked goodies that had been added.

A typical meal at the shelter serves a couple hundred people. It is all very orderly. They opened the serving windows at precisely 11:30. Folks grabbed a tray and then worked their way through the line, starting with the casserole and ending with dessert. Some passed on the salad and made jokes about not being a rabbit. I smiled and made jokes about what their mom would think of them not eating salad. When each person got to the dessert spot, my daughter would pipe up and say, "I made the brownies!"

Unable to resist the allure of the chocolatey goodness made by the jovial sixth grader, almost every person said, "Well, I'll have a brownie then!"

Some folks said very little as they came through the line. Others chatted us up quite a bit. Virtually all were very polite. The thing about homelessness is that there is no single adjective that fits all.  There were families with children. Veterans. Old people. Young people. A few who appeared to have mild developmental impairments.

A couple of people asked me what kind of dressing was on the salad. "Italian," I said.  We did have some standby salad that didn't have dressing on it, so we offered that up as needed.  I certainly wasn't going to knock anyone for being a bit picky. Just because you are homeless doesn't mean you all of a sudden like Italian dressing.  One man approached the dessert tray and pointed at one of the biscotti. I think he said, "One of those" or "What are those?"

Paul said, "It's biscotti. I hear it goes great with coffee."

The man responded, "I know what biscotti is."  There was a tiny bit of indignation in his voice. No one was assuming that a homeless man wouldn't know what biscotti is, but I think he interpreted it that way. Hell, I only heard of it fairly recently myself so I don't think it's necessarily on the list of "things everyone knows."

Once everyone had been served, a shelter employee made a call for seconds.  Lots of people lined up and many of the same faces came through the line. Some who didn't want salad the first time through decided to give it a try on the second pass.

At exactly 12:30, the rolled shades came down and covered the serving windows.  Lunch was over.  Other volunteers came in to clean up the meal and we were free to go.  My daughter and I hopped into our car and headed to Chipotle for lunch. On the way there, she asked me how people become homeless.  I did my best to explain some of the complex socio-economic reasons why some people in our community don't have homes.  For some, it's a lost source of income that sends them into a tailspin. For others, it could be mental illness or medical issues or any number of factors. Homelessness may be short term for some (ideally) but others may be in dire straits for much longer.

I think she understood.  I didn't want to be transparent and say that I wanted her to appreciate what she had.  Our reason for volunteering, first and foremost, was that our church needed volunteers to help with the meal. However, there is also that little bit of "teach my kid gratitude" leaking into the situation. We are not wealthy people but as childhoods go, our kid is having a pretty darned good one if you ask me. She's got her own room and a closet full of clothes. She has a cell phone and various other electronics. She participates in a choir (which will cost us $2000 this year) and is about to start guitar lessons. I mean, she could have it a lot worse.  Next time she is inclined to complain that the wifi signal doesn't always reach her bedroom, maybe she'll think about the children who came through that line on Saturday. She is a good kid with a good heart but still, kids are kids and reminders certainly don't hurt.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Shingle Bells, Shingle Bells

Did I mention that I have shingles? So fun, right?  I woke up on Christmas morning with some sort of irritation on my back. It was on my left side, right about at the bra line. It hurt and itched, but not outrageously so. I had done a few work-outs the previous week and even managed to sweat, so I thought maybe one of my sports bras had pissed off the skin on my back or something.  I handed a tube of cortisone to my daughter and asked her to slather some on my back.  The next day, I had my husband do the same thing. "I guess I have a case of the creeping epizooties," I told him. When I was a kid, this was a term my stepdad used to describe any random or unexplained rash. I am not sure if it's a real thing or not. I'm assuming not. 

Now, I guess it didn't occur to either one of them to mention that my back had actually erupted in blisters. I mean, I couldn't really see it myself because, well, it's on my back and my head faces the other direction for the most part. I figured it out after some contortions in front of the bathroom mirror.  I suspected shingles immediately, but wasn't sure. My youngest sister had it a couple months and had a pretty bad case of it. My mother suffered a bout with shingles years ago and still has lots of scars from it, so I know it can be very serious. I felt terrible for asking my husband and daughter to touch my back. Obviously, I kept my cooties to myself once I started to suspect shingles.

On Friday, I had an appointment scheduled with my dermatologist, but the catch was that I was not scheduled to see the doctor himself. I was just there for bloodwork to make sure that a recent medication change was not, you know, killing me or anything. I asked the nurse if there was any chance the doctor might be available to take a quick peek. Once I mentioned the word "blisters," she went and found him. He took one look: "Yep, shingles." He prescribed me an anti-viral medication and told me to stay away from babies, pregnant ladies, and really old people.

I started the medication a few days ago and things seem to be getting better. My back itches but I know it could have been a lot worse.  I am relieved that my daughter was vaccinated for chicken pox and that my husband contracted chicken pox as a child. Otherwise, they would both be at risk for getting chicken pox.  My brother-in-law came down with chicken pox when my sister had shingles, and he ended up in the hospital. Chicken pox in adults is no joke.

So, shingles was a little Christmas gift to me. Fa-la-la-la-la!

In other news, we had a quiet little New Year's celebration. And by "celebration," I mean we went to bed at 11:30 with an unopened bottle of champagne still in the fridge. I think my kid stayed up past midnight, though. She stayed up late every night during winter break. The other day I asked her how late she'd stayed up the night before and she said, "It's probably better if you don't know, Mom." She's been spending a lot of time with her new keyboard. She taught herself to play the chorus from "Piano Man" just by hearing it on Glee (she's been watching all the old episodes on Netflix). Teachers keep telling me that she has a "good ear." I guess she must - I certainly wouldn't be able to play a tune just from hearing it on TV.

Our new dog is settling in well.  The holiday weekend was a good time to bring our new girl home since it gave her lots of extra time with her. We only had to crate her once over the weekend, just briefly, but it was long enough for us to learn that she, um, frickin' hates the crate.  So, that will be something to work on. She is also opposed to peeing outside but again, something to work on.

Happy New Year!