Staring Down the Barrel of a (Hot Glue) Gun

Sometimes your mind can be so open that your brain falls out.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Oh Yeah...Her.

Remember Heathen, of the "I have other commitments, you know!!" fame? The "I'll have the last of the money to you by Friday?" persuasion?

Anyone here surprised to find out that check didn't show up by Friday? Or Saturday or Sunday, for that matter? Yeah, me either.

So that following Monday - actually the day before my surgery - Husband and I drove to her place of employment to ask for payment in full. She is a bank teller, which translates into a nice, public forum. I have to admit, I was incredibly worked up and nervous - I hate anything that comes close to confrontations - but I would be damned if I was gonna get stiffed for this gig.

Unfortunately, she was not at her window. I asked a nice woman at the loans desk - most definitely someone with seniority over you-know-who - where she might be, and she guessed she was probably at lunch. Was there any way she could help me? Thank you, but this was a personal issue. She offered to call down to the lunch room, and you could just tell she was dying of curiosity. Husband and I sat ourselves down in lobby chairs near her desk. You could just tell we were eavesdropping on her conversation.

"Hi, is Heathen down there? Thanks. (pause) Hi, Heathen, this is so and so. Listen, there's someone by the name of [me] here to see you. She says its personal."

Extremely long pause. How I would've loved to have seen her face.

"Ok, I'll let her know. (click) She says she'll call you later."

So, with knowing grins, we thanked the woman who had broken out in a rash restraining herself and headed for the door. Any call that night? Oh, hell no. Any contact at all? Oh hell no.

But, the following Saturday, an envelope did appear in our box. Lo! A check from Heathen in the amount of....$50?!? (groan.) Well, I guess its better than nothing. Nor am I gonna let her slide on the rest of it. Will be firing off another email after I wrap this up wanting to know when I should be expecting the rest of the payment in full. Think I won't show up an you office now, biatch?

Boo ya!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Oh, And...

There's nothing like having - after a four-day stint in the hospital - a slightly (and understandably) needy toddler who's energy level is at 11, whilst yours is at, say 2 or 3, to make you feel like a really shitty, neglectful parent.


I'm guessing that a big part of my struggles with having my family here (aside from them being insane,) was my expectations of how things would go post surgery.

For starters, I'd spoken to a man who had had this particular surgery done several years back a week or so before my procedure. He had nothing but good things to say about the procedure and how quickly the healing process went for him personally. I tried to take this information, knead it into my darkest fears about writhing pain and agony, and create sort of a middle ground as to what to expect.

This worked somewhat, but I think became muddled as I swung between, "Well, shit, I feel really good, all things considered," and then almost blacking out when I bent over to give Mags a plate of scrambled eggs one morning. Kind of a mixed message that crops up at least a dozen times a day. It makes me frustrated when I do feel bad, like I shouldn't be getting so tired or lightheaded or [example] a mere 6 days after surgery. So there's some struggle.

And I guess I also expected my help to be more...helpy. Thinking on it now, my expectation for coming home involved lots of "Here, no, let me get that for you," or being left alone to rest in quiet while Mags was whisked off somewhere else, or, honestly, having someone curl up with me and stroke me gently while I laid in bed. In short, being waited on hand and foot. It was brain surgery, after all.

Didn't really happen. Tonight is the first time in three days since being home that I've had any time alone. Husband? He's been grinding himself into a heap every day trying to ride herd on the inlaws, juggle the toddler, and make sure I get my basic needs met. Snuggling? Between me sleeping propped up on pillows every night and Husband barely able to stay conscious, not really happening. In fact, its been incredibly frustrating to lie that clost to my Hunny Bunny and not really get to touch him.

Le sigh.

More guilt; are my expectations really that skewed? Wait, I thought people were encouraging me to let others help me more? Was I being unrealistic? Did I overshoot? Or did I get a bit shortchanged?

In light of how much more help I needed than originally anticipated, we called in the troops: Husband's mom, Grammy Pammy. My family leaves tomorrow, and she arrives on Wednesday. And at oh-dark-thirty Thursday night, Zombiegrrl arrives do to her part as well. Husband and I both have faith in these two women to be able to be helpful without babysitting (me, anyhow. Mags? Babysit awaaaay!!) They can also comfortably entertain themselves, and are comfortable getting around out here. I expect this next week will go smoother.

At least I sure hope so. Fingers crossed.

Grain-Fed Midwesterners Are Good Eating

So instead of just burying their bodies, we're gonna slice off some steak-y bits first and then dispose of the remains.

Now, before I begin my diatribe, let me first acknowledge my family for all they have done in the past 9 days. They dropped all plans they had and offered to come out post-surgery when they heard the news. They paid for airfare and hotel for three (my mom, her husband, and my grandmother,) as well as rented a car. They have paid for numerous meals, and have picked up groceries as well. During my hospital stay, they took care of Mags so that Husband could concentrate on me and not have to dash about to take care of said daughter. If asked to specifically do something, an errand or such, they would do it. In short, they have done nothing but try to be helpful when I really needed it.

I truly, truly appreciate all that they have done. There is no way we would have made it through the past week without them. None. I 've gone out of my way to express my sincerest appreciation to all parties involved more than once this week. And I have consciously tried to remind myself at times that doing things differently than one is used to doing does not mean the other person is doing them wrong.

But I still return to the words of Vim: "Jesus fuck!"

Words cannot describe my eagerness to drop them off at the airport tomorrow. Truly. For all the ways in which they were helpful, they were equally as much work. At least to someone who is recovering from surgery. Blah Blah, herding cats, blah blah. But in this case, autistic cats.

My Grandmother: I love this woman dearly. She is no frills, salt of the earth, has a great no-nonsense personality, but at the same time, at 33 years old I can still put my head in her lap and have her stroke my hair while I cry. She (and my grandfather, passed) were responsible for a huge portion of my upbringing, filling in huge gaps when my mother had to work. It was important to her to come out and help because she would have worried too much at home. She loves me fiercely, and makes sure I know it. I love her just as much.


Grandma is in her mid 80's. Like many others, she's had a hip replaced, so getting around is a struggle. She also needs to nap a lot. And, for some reason unknown to me, she left both of her hearing aides at home.

I love her dearly. But not so helpy post-surgery.

My mother: We still struggle to maintain some sort of good relationship. Before she came out, we even had a heart to heart conversation about ways in which we struggle with each other. Talked about feelings, even. A true milestone. I do love her, and I know she loves me, although it may be in a less than traditional way. And because things have been extremely rocky between us in the past, I know that Mom was extra careful to try and not step on any toes while she was here.


This translated roughly into Not. Making. Any. Decisions. Or. Taking. Initiative. While. Here. Ever. Past supper time? Oh, would you like me to start dinner? What kind of restaurant would you like to eat at? Oh, I don't know; honey where would you like to eat? I'm gonna go upstairs and rest for a bit. Umm, yeah, see, Mom, could you watch Mags downstairs so I can rest?

That sort of thing.

The Husband: Rodney is a good man with a heart of gold. He dotes on my mother, spoils her to no end (which she is more than overdo for,) and in general just makes her happy. He is terrified of flying, yet allowed himself to be doped up to come all the way to Cali via airplane. He was an uncomplaining chauffer for the entire visit.


Husband and I truly believe that he is undiagnosed autistic or something along those lines. There are times when it seems like the man can barely function. He only has about 3 topics he can talk about, one of which is his obsession with all things aviation related. This is what he talks to me about. Endlessly. He seems to believe I have my ear to the pulse of the industry, and asks me questions about why airlines do this, or that, or why aiports do this or that, or why the TSA does this or that.

He also is incapapble of making decisions, and it would be probably more correct to say he flat out needs to be told what to do. While my mom requires prompting, Rodney requires, well... a leash. If he is not gven an explicit set of instructions (which he will question you at least 3 times about before accepting,) he kind of falls apart.

Luckily, he likes to read. A lot.

I've struggled with and lost to the feeling that I had to entertain them (to a certain degree) while they've been here. And I feel real guilty admitting any of this. Unappreciative, too. But I've gotten reality checks from a few folks (most of whom I don't have sex with on a regular basis,) and the concensus seems to be that, yes, my family is bat-shit nuts.

I do also realize that at some point in the future, Mags will be rolling her eyes and instant-telepathy-messaging her friends and ranting about how her family is driving her crazy with all their "20th century notions" about how things should be done.

I'll start making my tin-foil hat right now.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Good Times! (The Hospital)

Hooray, I'm back home again! Now where to start?

Do I start with the small holes on the side of my head from where my head was held on the table in a clamp?

How about the misery I went through when coming out of anesthesia?

Maybe the ironic fact that after a month of diarrhea, I find myself on stool softners?

The harpist? Should I talk about the harpist?

Ooooh, no, I've got it -- the temporary diabetes insepidus that I got, giving me my new super power of being able to pee almost a liter of fluid every 30 moinutes -- on the nose!

I dunno. I've been trying to sit down for days to catch the 'highlights' of my adventure in Hospitaland, and am still uncertain as to how to capture all of it -- that is, without droning on and on about mundane details.

For days I've been thinking to myself "Ooh, I've got to remember this or that for the blog,' but between having no computer in the hospital, trying to herd my family, AND trying to negotiate life on about 15% of my regular energy output (not to mention come incredible headaches,) one can see how much progress I've made. Somewhere around here, I've got the second-by-second playback started, but even *I* was getting tired of excessive details after a while. I'll try to be informative without narcolepsy-inducing.

Lesse, Monday was all pre-op stuff. I was, not suprisingly, a nervous wreck. By the end of the day I had come completely unraveled, and was weeping all over Husband who spent the whole day with me a the hospital lining things up.

The only thing that got me into the hospital and onto the gurney for surgery was, oddly enough, Sudoku puzzles. I figured out on Monday that these weird little logic puzzles were exactly what I needed in the way of distraction. If I focused on them with every fiber in my being, I would (probably) not run screaming from the hospital. I never let them out of my grasp. If a nurse was asking me questions, I would answer her while my eyes scanned colums of numbers. They took pity on me and even put the IV in my left hand so that I could work on the puzzles up until the last possible moment (bless them.) Eventually they medically sedated me, and I was off to la-la land.

Coming out of anesthesia was one of the most miserable experiences I have ever had -- and keep in mind I've been hit by a car and had natural childbirth. My entire body shook with tremors for what felt like hours while I fought back tsunamis of nausea. My arm would burn with pain every time they put something in my IV. I couldn't open my eyes, and nurses kept leaning over me, bellowing at me to state my name, date, address, who stole the presidential election, and other useless information.

I'd had a second mystery IV in my ankle, which was removed shortly after surgery. A thick wad of cotton batting was taped to my face under my nose to soak up the rivulets of blood, and it felt like a pillow - possibly king sized? - was jammed in my sinuses. My abdomen hurt where they took a graft. Life sucked. It was hard to get excited about having the surgery behind me when all I wanted to do was be put out of my misery.

Husband was at my bedside the moment he was able, eyes all full of love and concern. I think I may have grunted at him wetly in return. He told me that the estimated surgery time of 2, 2.5 hours had run over into 3.5 hours, and the recovery time had gone from 2.5 to 3.5 hours. Turns out once on the table, things did not go as planned. The one bone plate they had to drill through was much thicker than anticipated, and some roadwork equipment from Caltrain had to be called in to break through. Then that tumor - you remember the villain of this tale - ended up being fairly grown into the gland itself, and not the clean delineation as the MRI had suggested. Much detail work ensued, as well as lots of extra bleeding.

A posh dinner of chicken broth perked me up, and I spent my first night in sort of a low-grade ICU for head surgery patients. I can't say I really slept at all that night, what with the oxygen mask blowing arctic air into my face, being unable to recline, the nurses waking you up every 2 hours to take your temperature, or your blood, or to pee like a racehorse every 30 minutes, or the need to consume as much cold water as I could to slake my raging thirst, or to hear the weeping, cries of pain, or retching from the other patients. That, and the sensation of having to blow your nose 24 hours a day (which, duh, is a big no-no, as is sneezing, using a straw, and exerting effort while pooping, kid you not,) I did not sleep at all. Basically gave up trying.

Wednesday was weird, in that, well, I felt fine. No pain meds needed. Perky, even. Got moved to a private room. I watched lots of bad cable. Caught up on my low stores of Chevy Chase movies. Went through several new shifts of nurses. Had about a gallon of blood drawn. Learned the art of eating and drinking with Groucho Marx bandage/disguise strapped to face. Also had to learn how to eat, drink, cough and talk with all of my sinuses basically under heavy vapor lock (I had no idea how hard it was to use your throat without using your sinuses. Really. Try it.) Was visited by Whizz on her flashy wheels. Ate lots and lots and lots of soft foods. Peed some more. Husband visited again during the day, and my family came by that evening. Started to have a headache.

Slept in two-hour blocks through the night until my surgeon visited me the next morning. He checked the blood flow from my nose - now more of a soothing backyard-pond-kind of trickle, as opposed to the earlier Niagra Falls installment - and was shocked to see the aforementioned pillows in my nose (queen sized, in the end.) Within an hour and a half (mere moments in hospital time,) a nurse was there with her tweezers to pull out the packing.

Now, I know I'm getting long-winded here, and I'm about to go off on a bit of an aside, but too bad. Hospital packing is basically a sterile shoelace jammed into [cavity] to absorb whatever fluid is present. In theory, its coiled into place, so it fills whatever size/shape space you have, and then when you pull it out, it unravels, so that the widest diameter coming out through the hole is supposed to only be that of the shoelace. Unless, say, that packing has been left in, absorbed too much blood (which I have since learned has the setting strength of concrete,) and turns into a boulder.

Childbirth is a painful process, do not get me wrong. That whole cheerio/bowling ball analogy. But at least the cheerio is designed to stretch, albeit painfully. Your nose? Not so much. I literally almost blacked out from pain, which I have never done before. My nurse had a great bedside manner, considering I tried to claw her face off. She fanned me with a package of sterile gauze while I laid there like a bloody Scarlett O'Hara. It took half an hour before I even let her touch me again. The other nostril went as expected, which is to say, still wildly unpleasant (I will never store my shoelaces in my nose. Ever.) I made the nurse call Husband and tell him to cancel all visits planned for the day, including his. The doctor came by later to check me out, and said it looked like I could probably go home sometime on Friday, as there was *still* more bleeding than they liked to see.

Did I mentioned the peeing had calmed down to normal by now? Ok, just checking.

I had a screaming, tunnel-vision kind of headache that came and went for the rest of the day. In fact, it kept me up most of the night. The nurses plied me with Vicodin, the strongest thing they had as I had had my IV yanked out the day previous (evil things, hate them.) Vicodin only succeeded in making me nauseated on top of the migraine, so I stopped that. I managed to fall asleep with the aide of an ice pack.

Friday was a lot more of the same. Headache, kill me, headache. Luckily it faded by noon, and it was agreed that I could go home. In fact, they'd take care of my paperwork right away! 6 hours later I went home.

Ironically, it was on Friday that I found out that I would have to start hormone therapy, which the surgeon had hoped to avoid. He'd had to take more of the pituitary gland off with the tumor than he'd originally hoped, which meant many of my hormone levels were off (Hot flashes now? Big fun. Crying at a Velveeta commercial? You betcha.) Turns out one of them was cortisol, the one that I'd prior had too much of because of the tumor. Now those levels had tanked, which may or may not be a temporary condition this soon after surgery. Until we know for sure though, let's get started on some pills, shall we?

For the record, it wasn't all dismembered limbs and pools of blood in the hallways while I was there. My private room had a killer view. It never dawned on me that people might send me flowers, and lo! I ended up with two gorgeous bouquets during my stay! (Sparrow et al have very good taste.) I didn't have a problem with a single nurse while I was there. All very friendly and helpful to the weak and flailing mom in the bed. If we felt up to it, we were encouraged to shuffle around to get some exercise, and even being on the third floor like I was, there was an open air garden/patio to hang out in/eat lunch in. Oh yeah, and the harpists. Stanford has a 'Guest Services' department, to help the patient have the most comfortable stay possible. And one of the things they offer are basically travveling musicians; harpists and guitarists. If you give them a call, when someone is avaiable, they will come and sit outside your hospita room and play traditioanl/classical pieces for 15-20 minutes. Slightly cheesy, but incredibly soothing and appreciated. Hell, even the food was pretty darn tasty (well, to someone who has lost the ability to smell, anyhow.)

As a whole, after I got over the wanting to die part, it was a positive experience. The tumor is out, and was confirmed to be benign. While taking a little longer than expected, recovery is going well. Hell, I even lost 7 pounds of water weight in 4 days due to that whole temporary diabetes thing! (almost an entire gallon.)

My experience since being at home has been fairly interesting as well (to me, anyhow,) but I really do need to head to bed. Need to be back at the hospital by 8am for more blood tests and to meet with my doc for a debriefing, blah. blah. Hope that got everyone up to date, at least somewhat. Thanks again with your patience through all of this, and all of your emails and cards and calls and such. Truly, it means the world.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Offspring Story of the Day

Mags is sitting on her bed with her Phisher Price medical bag. Carefully she pulls the toy syringe out. She cleans her bare leg with an imaginary alcohol wipe, and pinches a a handful of flesh with her free hand. She places the syringe against the pinched area, and very slowly and deliberately she presses the plunger.

Looking up she sees Husband in her doorway.

"See Daddy? I gave myself my medecine!!" beams a proud Mags.

Offspring Story of the Day

Mags playing with glass toy at daycare. It falls and breaks.

Mags: Awww crap.
Phrankie: (horrified) No, no, Mags, we don't use that word here, honey.
Mags: (pausing) Awww shit.
Phrankie: (eyes bugging out, trying to keep poker face) Oh no, Mags, we don't say that one either!
Mags: (wracking her brain) Oh... darn?
Phrankie: Yes! Yes! We can use that one!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Leaving Soon

I leave in about 30 minutes for Standford and impending surgery. Just wanted to send a somewhat impersonal but truly sincere thanks to everyone for their calls and well wishes and emails. I know several of you are due *multiple* responses, and I'm hoping that you'll hang with me just a few more days until we get past this milestone.

Mmmm, Mags just woke up, my family just walked in, and I really need to dash. Here's looking forward to a three day vacation in scenic Palo Alto! (I'm really trying here...)

Friday, June 15, 2007

In Good (and Steady) Hands

I found this article about the surgeon who's gonna be knocking around inside my head next Tueasday. Sounds like he's no slouch.

Still kinda freaked out, though.

Offspring Story of the Day

Husband: Say, "I am not your trained monkey!"
Mags: "I am not your trained monkey!"

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

School's Out For the Summer

Heh, bet you have that song stuck in your head now, don't you?

So, Monday was my last day of class for the quarter. I managed to get one class actually finished, and my other teacher offered me the option of finishing the rest of my work by the next quarter so that I could get full credit, which needless to say I jumped on. I don't really enjoy playing the tumor card, but I did do the best I could this quarter and if it helps me, then by golly I'm gonna slap it down on the table.

The last few weeks were very strange. People were racing around trying to get stuff all finished for finals, and to a certain degree, I could relax. I knew that I was going to get an extension, so the pressure was off. It was also odd listening to people talking about what classes they were gonna be in next quarter and who was teaching what and 'Hey, you should really take this class with me,' when that didn't apply to me. In a way it was a bit sad, because for what feels like the first time since starting at school, I felt like I'd actually made friends who weren't teachers. It woulda been cool to take so and so's class with this person or that person. Instead, I almost get the feeling of watching my friends drive off in a car to do something cool while I'm left behind.

And once finals were done, I felt a bit adrift. I felt this way when I took 9 months off last year too. School is such a huge part of my life in that its always there. Even if I don't have class every day, there's always homework, or research, or something I should be doing. Its always occupying part of my brain. Its almost unsettling to have it be gone.

Having said that, ask me how adrift I feel in a week. :)

And unlike my 9 month hiatus, I hope to actually use the time wisely. Oh sure, checking out for 9 months was glorious. Fabulous. Stupendous, even. But I'd gone into it planning on making some serious life changes, and wouldn't you know it, within a month of going back to school, I'd basically picked up all of my old habits: over-committing myself, not taking good care of myself, prioritizing school above my family, to name a few. I'm hoping that, given this second chance, I will actually be able to start re-prioritzing my life, making myself and my family more important. I hope to get on a realistic exercise routine, that I could still do once I go back to school. I hope to have a better grasp of how much I can actually accomplish in any given time, and to know when to say no or walk away from things when it is just not going to happen. Fingers crossed.

And I do have every intention of returning to school -- although there is going to be a change when I go back. Currently I am enrolled in a Bachelor program for Fashion Design. Taking this costuming class this past quater really reminded that that was my first and true love, and that there really is not a lot of overlap once you get past some of the technical sewing-type classes between fashion and costumes. So I started looking around at local schools that offer a Bachelor's in Costuming. I've found one that sounds quite promising, and for a hefty sum les than the private school I'm at now. Unfortunately, its doubtful that most of my private units would transfer to this particular public institution.

So, I've decided to just get an AA at the current school, which I can then transfer anywhere with little to no hassle, become a transfer student, and start to really focus on that which is important to me: costumes. It appears that I only have 6 more classes to take at current place, so, maybe 9 more months and then I'm done? Well, with that milestone anyhow. Gee, I never thought I was going to be one of those professional students.....

Ta-daa! See? Its working! I'm already making smart choices! It'll make me happier! It'll save us money! Whoo hoo! :)

T Minus 6 and Counting

We're under the one week mark for surgery now. This time next Tuesday (the 19th,) I should be under the knife.

In the past several days, I must admit I've been getting more and more freaked out. In fact, I've been trying to not think about it. Of course, now is the time everyone is asking me when the surgery is and how am I doing, which causes my stomach to clench up and my gaze to drop away. I awkwardly stutter through some explanation of '[worries], but it'll be fine' and try to change the subject. Its strange; the attention whore and the hate-having-a-fuss-made-over-me inner self in me are really struggling for dominance right now. Isn't there some sort of middle ground here? Can't we all just get along?

I did have some reassuring news last night. Until then, my imagination was having to fill in a lot of blanks based soley (sp?) on what the doctors have told me, which is 2-3 days in the hospital, 2 weeks of feeling pretty miserable, and 2 months until a full recovery. The movie my brain cued up involved me lying in misery, my hand raising weakly to pet Mags' worried face in the hospital, then being ensconced in my darkened bedroom, moaning softly to myself while I lay there in agony upon a mound of pillows, my family quietly stirring miso soup downstairs while clutching rosaries, their eyes to the heavens. Ok, the part about the rosaries was thrown in for effect, but the rest was basically true.

Anyhow, last night Husband and I met with someone who'd actually had this exact procedure performed a few years ago, and he gave us his version of what happened. It was much less intimidating than what my overripe imagination had produced. Hell, to hear him tell it, this procedure is nothing more than overgrown outpatient surgery. According to him (and I've no reason to think he'd lie,) the procedure only takes 2-4 hours, and you're awake within 45 minutes after that. Most of the time you just sit around in your hospital bed being a bit...bored. And by the time they release you, you're already feeling like you wanna go out and do stuff. Like, the movies, or dinner. Obviously, this is great news! It makes me feel much better, although I will of course still worry and my heart rate will still be quite high in the prep room, I'm sure. And my brain is still only willing to relax somewhat on the worst case scenario now, but only as far as somewhere between the two.

This encouraging news is making me feel a bit guilty about having people fly all the way to Cali to be helpful; I mean, I'm really hoping there are no complications that require me to actually need nursing, but it kinda feels like people might be wasting their time. Guess I'll just have to suck it up and learn to accept people's love and concern without there necessarily being a good reason, huh? Either that, or seriously turn into an AK-tresss very quickly. Now where did I put that turban again?

So, there you have it. Still surgery, still surgery on my head (gulp.) Still normal cause for some anxiety. Still gonna milk it a little bit after its over (ahem,) still gonna accept help from friends.

And for the record, it is technically not brain surgery, as the pituitary gland is not in the brain. While it adds fabulous dramatic flair, and its close enough to my grey matter for me to consider it brain surgery (avove the waist? Brain surgery!), I will set the record straight once and for all. Because obviously much sleep was being lost over it.

Lessons Learned

Man, I wish I could chalk this whole entry up as "Damn, I dealt with this horrible person and isn't she a looney," and point my finger and laugh and feel superior. Truth is, I made several key mistakes that are becoming more and more obvious to me as I'm typing out this story, and as dumb as they're making me feel, I'm trying to own them whilst pointing and sneering at this particular individual. Not perfect, but I'm working on it.

Let the finger wagging and self-flagelation begin (cue trumpets.)


2 and a half months ago, I did a little side work for a friend of mine, who was making belly dancing costumes for her troupe. Prior to this arrangement, she'd sent out an email to her troupe offering my services to do the same at a slightly reduced hourly rate. I got one response:


She seemed nice enough at first, if a bit clueless in that early 20's kind of way. Really didn't know what she wanted, other than a vague sort of idea, and needed to be guided along on her outfit, which I was happy to do. I think in many ways she assumed I had a direct line to her dance leader and was getting my info that way. Whatever.

This job ended up being a hassle kind of from start to finish. She worked odd hours, so arranging meetings or fittings were kind of tricky. We didn't have a lot of them, and yet she managed to completely miss one. I gave her an hour estimate for the job before we started, which ended up being crazy low, but it was the number she latched onto for the rest of the project, which became a stressful benchmark I struggled against for the rest of the project. When the hours really started to rack up, I stopped and didn't go any further without explaining to Heathen where I was at and how much longer I thought it would take and getting her approval.

I felt horribly guilty at times. My god. Was I just a ridiculously slow sewer? Was I a terrible person because I'd given such a low initial estimate? I mean, I felt like I had to be for some of the feedback I was getting from Heathen. Surely I must be a Bad Person. Even after running my hours on this project against the numbers L was coming up with on several of her outfits - she who does this for a living and has dozens of these outfits to her credit- and coming in under those numbers, I still started to slowly shave hours off Heather's tab. Conflict? Dodge! Avoid! Hide!

It was at this time L gave me more of an insider scoop on Heathen. She herself did not perform with her, but she was good friends with the woman who was her instructor and she didn't really have anything very nice to say. In fact, flaky, troublesome, and irritating were the main crayons used to color in this particular character. I tried to keep this in mind as I finished the project.

When the hours really started to add up, I made sure I got at least verbal approval before I went any further, and made sure Heathen got an updated estimate. And, because I was still feeling guilty, I agreed to split up the payment into two installments to make it easier for her, as the initial estimate had been so low.

The costume got done the day before it was needed. Heathen was very happy to hear it, but she just was not going to have time to swing by and get it as she needed to go straight from work to rehearsals; could I pretty please drive to San Mateo and drop it off at her work? I blinked a few times on my end of the phone, figured I could justify it by taking Mags to the park a block from her office, mentally tacked $20 onto her total bill, and agreed.

Two, maybe even three weeks didn't seem like a terrible concession to make for the second half of the payment. In fact, it did wonders for asuaging my guilt about the final cost. And after two weeks, I politely emailed Heathen as a reminder. I even included my address in case she just wanted to mail me the check. The email I got back? Well, turns out she wasn't gonna be able to pay me as she suddenly had a ticket to pay for. Would I mind terribly waitig three more weeks? Oh, and would I also mind altering something on her belt? And would that cost anything?

Ummm, what? Actually, yes, I do mind. Bummer that you got a ticket, but why do I get to be the one who gets bumped? But I tried to be big about it. Things happen, and it wasn't as if I was having to eat ramen in the meantime. Fine. Grudgingly I agreed to bump the date even futher and move the hook and eye on her belt.

When the new date started to roll around I emailed her again, and got no response. So I emailed her again, to which I got a glib 'Oh, I thought I emailed you!' response. In her defense, she did call once and spoke to Husband when I was unavailable. He and I did drop the ball on calling her back, which I appologized to her in an email for a day or so later and tried to hook up with her again. More crickets. With surgery looming, now I'm getting really antsy.

Long story short, I emailed her one more time basically saying bring me a check today (now 6 weeks after she received her costume, and 4 weeks after our agreed pay date) or I'll come pick it up from you at work. Husband had edited all my emotional sludge out of it, so it was fairly short, crisp and professional. Today I got a snippy email reply from her:

Maybe you don't remember but i did call u at least a week ago and i didn't
appreciate u e mailing me back. You could have called me, and i dont understand
why you mentioned that your husband should have called me. I apologize for
not paying u in a timely manner, but i have other obligations. I should be able
to pay u the full amount by friday. There is nothing u can do except take me to
court, but i assure u it wont get that far.

Honestly, my first response was feeling defensive. Oh my god, I was back to being a Bad Person because I'd fucked up that phone call and dared to respond via email. I am such a --- wait a second. At least I did respond, I owned that we screwed up the phone call, what business is it of hers that I had a migraine and my Husband offered to return a call, and that's not the point anyhow. The point is she still hasn't paid. Nor is it my concern that she has other obligations. *I* am an obligation of hers, and *I* need to keep not getting bumped!

Frankly, I am tired, stressed, migraine-y, and trying to accomplish an unrealistic amount of stuff prior to my surgery. So, I am - possibly quite foolishly - giving her until Friday to get that check to me . You know, the one she could have mailed weeks ago when she said she had the money, or any time since then? The one for some reason she feels she needs to personally deliver or something? Why am I having to deal with this?

Oh, right. Largely in part because I let it get to this point. Le sigh.

Now, for those lessons I learned:

* Never EVER work with Heathen again. Not that I think she'll ever come near me with a 10 foot pole ever again, but ...
* Pad the fuck out of time estimates. Shoot for the moon, baby. I'll probably still go over anyhow.
* Put everything in writing. Everything. This one is particularly embarrassing for me, as in hind sight it is so train-headlight-coming-down-the-tracks-gonna-squash-you glaringly obvious.
* No special favors. Only shooting yourself in the foot if you do. You put in the hours, you should get paid for them. You're in this to make money, not friends. And frankly, you're setting yourself up to get taken advantage of.
* Be firm; stand up for yourself. Ties in with No Special Favors. Even at the ripe old age of (cough, mumble) I still desperately worry what people think of me, and want everyone to like me. This turns into putting other people's needs in front of my own, and getting walked all over sometimes. Suicide if you're trying to run a business/make money. Oh, and did I mention I hate confrontations? Or is that redundant?
* Use the phone. Ties in with Hates Confrontations. Maybe more of this could have been avoided had I used the phone instead of email. I do have a bit of a phone phobia, though. Something I'm trying to work on, although what that's turning into is writing less emails with the intent of making more phone calls, except not doing that part and just looking like I'm not responding to people at all (but that's for a different blog entry....)

So there you have it, this week's As The Costume Turns. Fingers crossed that I actually get my check this week, and that I don't make these mistaeks again in the future.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Goddamn, I have the most blistering headache again and can barely think. Which is an extra pisser, because I actually have the time and the motivation to blog today. Those last two entries? You know, the bland and blase descriptions of my fabulous works? Those drained me nearly to the point of unconsciousness.

What to do? Boring blogs? Or better late than never?

Pirates Need Big Doors

I also just finished the leather tricorn hat I was making for class. It turned out really well. Sure, if I did it again, there are one or two things I'd do better, but o the whole, a very fun, doable project.

This thing is huge, though. I will occasionally wear it around the house or when I had it at school, and I am constantly catching a corner on the doorframe, or the elevator, or the wall. Not very graceful to be walking along, minding your own, and suddenly have your head yanked askew by one's chapeau. Similarly, its a good thing I'm so tall, otherwise I'd probably decapitate someone else with it!

Mags loves it, of course. But apparently I'm not allowed to wear it until I put a 'skeleton' on it. Then it will be finished. That's my little pirate princess. :)

Cool! (Err... Now What Do I Do With It?)

This was the wig I made for my Costume Specialties Class this quarter. This ties in with all the opera illustrations I did; specifically, this is the wig the Queen of the Night would wear. It was a bitch to make, but also fun. Note to self, sweeping wig hair up is maybe not the best first wig project to attempt...

I got 100 points for it. :)

Friday, June 08, 2007


So, Mags did something yesterday that really kind of startled me. Had to share.

Now, like all parents, I think that my child is wonderful, fabulous, the smartest child in the world, destined to be [fill in the blank], etcetera, etcetera. (What many non-parents don't realize is that before you leave the hospital with the kid you have to sign a contract agreeing to doing this. Part of the job description and all that. Very hush hush.)

Anyhow, we were driving home from daycare, and I was listening to my new secret shame, The Black Eyed Peas. Now, there are good songs on this album and some bad songs on this album. Truly, the "Love Hump" song, as parodied in "Blades of Glory"? Completely ridiculous (but I'll leave the music review for another time.) I was surfing through the disk, and Mags chirped up, "I wanna listen to that song, Mama!" So sure, fine, I stop and played a random track. It starts out very mellow with an acoustic guitar, and I realize this is one of the songs on the album with a guest performer. This time it was Jack Johnson.

Mags listened to the for about 20 seconds and then she informs me, "This isn't the Curious George song, Mama." This may not seem like a startling revelation to you - one would be hard pressed to confuse rap music along the lines of "I'ma get, get, get, get, you drunk, get you love drunk off my hump, my hump, my hump, my hump, my hump, my hump, my hump, my hump, my hump, my lovely little lumps (Check it out, uhh)" with music from a kid's movie - until you remember that Jack Johnson did the entire soundtrack for Curious George. Mags figured out that it was the same musician after listening to all of 20 seconds of the opening guitar chords!

Parental contract aside, I'm pretty damned impressed. Obviously Mags has been fed the soundtrack at daycare, which is fine with me. But I know adults who can't place music like that. It makes me wonder if she may have picked up her Aunt K*m's musical talents. From what I hear, she's always had a natural talent for music; being able to play a handful of different instruments, play songs after she's heard them once, that sort of thing. Or maybe this is just a one-off fluke.

But it was still pretty cool. Maybe time to expose Mags to some structured music classes or somesuch?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Things I Have Learned While on Sandostatin:

1) The 'cool' factor of track marks really goes down when they are on your saddlebags.

2) My career as a heroin addict is never going to go anywhere.

3) Colon cancer will not be an issue for me as long as I keep taking this medication.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Disembodied Head

I went to the thrift store yesterday. I came home with about $150 worth of stuff, which at a thrift store equals a LOT OF STUFF. There were books for Mags, some summer toddler dresses (my kid? Shorts and tshirts? Oh my no. In the words of, err, someone famous: "Give me dresses or give me death,") ranch shorts and pants for Husband, maternity stuff for The Mothership and a handful of onesies for her unborn Sweet Potato, some books for my grandmother back in Wisconsin, some stuff for Mags to grow into, towels for the ranch -- oh, and one pair of shorts for me.

Yeah, shopping for me has become even more of a nightmare than just being tall. The weight thing? Currently, its a losing battle. My weight just keeps on creeping up. But I can tell you that I've never been so horrifed, repulsed or disgusted with my body in my entire life. A year ago February, after much kicking and screaming, I had gotten my post-pregancy body down to a size 10. Now, I wear an 18. An EIGHTEEN.

Yesterday, even Husband, who is ever 150% supportive (and can say something because he's carrying a few extra pounds himself) admitted that, yeah, I do actually look pregnant. I didn't get mad; how could I? Most of my extra weight *is* smack in front of me. I got asked again just the other day when I was due. I couldn't really get mad then, either. I think I look knocked up as well.

I try to remind myself that for nearly 6 months, I had fairly debilitating migraines almost daily. Then wracking fatigue. So, no, I did not get any real exercise during this time. Plus, I sit a lot at school. And the tumor diagnosis and accompanying hormone fucked-upedness? Not helping my metabolism.

But I'm still filled with shame. I feel like I've somehow really let myself go and I have no one or anything else I can really blame it on. It kills me. Admittedly, in the past month, there has been some serious comfort eating. Too much stress, too many unknowns, barely sleeping. I needed to feel better in some way. And after eating healthy for so long and having it not really make a difference, its hard not to justify "Hell, why not? Doesn't seem to be making a difference anyhow!"

These days, I really do not look at myself in mirrors. I occasionally look at my face, but just barely. Really, to me, my body doesn't exist from the neck down. This little game works pretty well for me -- until I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Them my stomach knots up, I get a sweaty flash of embarrassment, and I avert my eyes as quickly as I can.

I didn't even try on the shorts at the thrift store yesterday; the changing room has a mirror. I was willing to chance the $4 that they fit rather than actually face myself in there. And most clothes, XL or whatever size, are still proportioned for someone shorter than me. So the shirts all peel up over my bloated tummy, which hangs over the waistband of all the pants/shorts/skirts I try. Really, I have two pair of elastic waistband pants I wear nonstop, because they're the only things that really work right now. In fact, all of my clothes are big, baggy and shapeless. Hell, I wear my polar fleece sweater all the time even though its June because it hides my body so well.

I accidentally stumbled across Torrid at the mall the other day. If you are unfamiliar, its basically a trendy store for,well, fat teenagers/hipsters. I picked up a few things -- at the very least I got some incredibly fun underwear that no longer cuts of the circulation to my legs. I call them my "Funderpants". I got a halter top that is cute, but I have nothing that matches for the bottoms, so it doens't really get worn, and I picked up a pair of shorts, but the injections have made me bloaty on top of being fat, so those already basially don't fit. I guess I could go back, but its so depressing.

I've also been trying for months to be accepting of my body, I had a baby so I come by it honestly, blah, Husband still likes to paw me, blah. And it is just not working. I want to run out and jon a gym now that I feel somewhat better, but I've got less than two weeks left. Then, I've got a feeling the following two months aren't going to be any more active; in fact, guaranteed much less so. That means that this is only going to get worse before it gets better. Dear god.

I know enough about myself to know that a huge part of my issues stem from the fact that I want to be found attractive, and not just by Husband. I really enjoy occasionally having some guy walk by and check me out; I cannot tell a lie. I like being hit on my open-minded folks, even if I can't do anything about it; I cannot tell a lie. And the idea of going to BM this summer- where svelte, mostly naked hot folks walk around all the time, while looking like I do - has made me reconsider actually going. I cannot tell a lie. To be completely ignored, to be completely invisible to 30,000 people is not something I'm sure I'm going to be able to handle. Shallow? Vain? Insecure? Yes, yes, and let me see.... yes. But truthful.

The clock tells me I need to get dressed and pick up my daughter from day care. Elastic waistband pants? Check. Fleece Sweater? Already wearing it. Anything underneath it? Nope, 'cause it sure as hell is not coming off.
Ack. I look like a stereotypical fat person from Wisconsin. You know, the kind I always looked down on. Kill me.

Saturday Night is All Right For ROCKIN'!

Recognize this band? Me either. But I saw them in concert last Saturday night and they fucking ROCKED!

That's right, Husband took me on a date. Two moths ago I was instructed to block off June 2nd for a date night, which I immediately did. And for two months, Husband kept his mouth shut about what we were going to be doing. Yep, a mystery date, no less. While few and far between, Husband does very well with the surprise dates. I once got all the way into an auditorium before I knew who we were going to see play (Yes,) and there was the time he not only took me to see Cirque, but managed to literally get the best seats in the house/the owners seats. Yah. That did not suck.

Now, I hadn't recently heard of any big shows I especially wanted to see, but unless it's for the Sippycups or some other toddler-related musical extravaganza, I will be the first to admit I am mostly completely out of the loop. So, I figured it was something similar to what we'd done in the past. I know Cirque has a new show coming out -- maybe that was it? Great! Was there some other last-minute concert hitting the bay area that I'd not heard about? Cool! Really, just the act of getting a sitter and staying up late to do some grown-up activity was exciting enough. Hell, a lazer show at the planet-arium would've gotten Husband laid (but don't tell him that.)

Saturday night rolled around, and into the car we hopped. I missed my nap, so I fell asleep just as we were hopping on the San Mateo Bridge. This pretty much threw me; what the hell was there to do in the East Bay? Oh well, I'll think about it when I wake up. And off to la-la land I went. I woke up in completely unfamiliar territory, and it took me several minutes to get my bearings. Lots of hills. Eucalyptus trees. WTF? And then I saw the concrete pillars rising into the sky: The Greek Theater. Cool, we're in Berkeley! Concert it is! Whee!

I had to look at the pavement as we went into the grounds for fear of seeing something that would give away the big secret. I was whisked to my incredibly hard concrete slab pretty much as close to the center line as you could get, and for an hour I alternatetly tried to not look at anything for fear of finding out my own secret, and furtitively trying to see if I could figure it out. The stage was completely nondescript with no band images, and even the sound/light control area we were sitting behind had no markings indicating who we were seeing. Great! I mean, dammit! Arg! Wait, did someone just mention The Flaming Lips? Is that who we're seeing?

Wait, what did you say, Husband? You've actually never heard the music from this band? This was on someone else's recommendation? Wait, we're both kind of on a mystery date? How simultaneously cool and scary! What if they suck? Did we just waste an evening of babysitting?!? Momentary panic!!

But no! I refused to let this unknown quantity ruin my evening! I was out on a date! With my husband! And after a $7 Dixie cup of red-flavored-chill-the-fuck-out, I was relaxed and ready. Bring it on.

The opening band? Well, I kinda though t they sucked. Lots of unintelligible (and badly sung) female vocals, and lots of feedback-ish guitars. Eww. Apparently they were called MumbleMumble and they were from Mumble in England. All chick band. All appearing to be about 17 years old. Many jokes were made about missng curfew. Husband liked some of their songs. I began to wonder which one of us hand been drinking. I occasionally wished the group of 40-something frat boys boozing it up next to me would continue talking about their experience running with the bulls in Spain instead.

Eventually night fell and the main act took the stage. Whoo hoo! Hooray! Much clapping and cheering from the sold out crowd! And yet, I still did not know who the fuck they were. There was a whole passel of musicians. 8? 9? Possibly even 10? And what the fuck instrument is that? A hurdy gurdy? Oh look, some french horns! An accordian! Of course! How very Canadian! (my one clue.)

But damn they rocked. They were a crazy tight band who's members would switch between 2-3 instruments each. And yes, there was plenty of guitars and bass and drums on top of all the other instruments (did I mention the pipe organ?) that drove the music on. And it all worked. It was really incredible. And I am hard pressed to rememebr a show where the musicians were more into it. They were clibing on the scaffolding, throwing instruments in the air (not so much for the organ,) pacing all over the stage -- you know how some bands are better either in the studio or on the stage? This was a stage band. In every sense.

After about two songs I finally had to ask Husband who in the hell we were listening to. While I love a good suprise, getting to the end of the show and still being in the dark was a bit much.

Any guesses? Anyone? Bueller?

Turns out we were seeing the Canadian wonder-band Arcade Fire. Very indie rock, very VERY good. I might even go so far as to say 'amazing' in a Cartman-esque voice. Considering I did not know a single song, I had a blast. I think Husband did too, and not just 'cause his chances for getting some increased as the evening progressed. They were just, well, they just put on such a great show!

Sadly, the night had to come to an end. We hiked for about 2 miles uphill to get back to our car, where we sat in the parking lot for at least 30 minutes waiting for that particular snarl to clear up. We got home latelatelate (sorry babysitter!) and immediately passed out. And of course Mags was up at 730 the next morning demanding our attention, so not so much in the sleep department for Memom and Pepop. But it was worth it. Time to start doing that more often.

Yet another reason to move to Canada, Husband. ;)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

So Much to Say

But have yo even noticed that when you get backlogged on updates, you find you have less to say about them? And being creative and witty? Right out the window, I'm afraid.

But, for those actually interested in an update, I'll do my best:

Medication - My injecto-drugs showed up the morning we were leaving to go to the ranch for Memorial Day weekend. I took them for the first time that evening (thursday,) and 2x a day as prescribed after that.

I was miserable.

After the shot, I'd have to lie down for at least 45 minutes until the nausea passed. Diarhhea? Check. Headaches? Ayup. Dry heaves? Sometimes. Woozy? And then some. Bloaty and gassy? Look out. Low grade nausea all day? How lucky for me. Sulfur burps? Sign me up. By Monday, I was crying with frustration. The shots were a non-issue as many had told me and I suspected would happen, but it was harder and harder to give them to myself for the growing dread that would surface every time I sat down with my syringe. Really, I have no idea how people deal with morning sickness or chemo treatments. After a week of this, I was a wreck.

Luckily there was an email waiting from my doc when we got home. He asked how it was going, and boy, did I tell him. I even asked him about the possibility of moving the surgery date up. He suggested splitting the injections up into 3x a day and smaller quantities to see how that worked, and if it still completely sucked, then to just stop taking it. Thankfully, it seems to have done the trick. The nausea is all but gone, and everything else has mostly gone too. Much more doable these days. The next two weeks should be no problem (knock, knock.)

Nice knowing I'm in no danger of colon cancer while on these meds, too.

School - Only one week left.


Actually, I'm gonna have to come back to this -- sorry!