Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy from the viewpoint of a mildly affected person

Well. I had a super awesome follow up to my homemade costume tribute planned, but it will have to wait as I've been without power for about 48 hours now. As you probably heard, here in the northeast were just battered by a crazy hurricane/tropical storm/superstorm a few nights ago. Here's how it went down for me:

8pm Sunday: Monday morning work cancelled, crack open the booze.

8:05pm Sunday-1am Monday: watch as much tv as possible to absorb maximum technology before imminent loss of power. Do not talk to husband in attempt to save conversation for when we have no other choice but to talk to each other.

Monday morning: satellite... out. Internet... out. Power is flickering intermittently. This is serious, people! 3G service is NOT GOOD! Must conserve horrible iPhone battery. Entertain child with.... books.

Monday 4:30pm: getting dark, storm is projected to hit within the next two hours or so. Winds are picking up, rain is coming down. Mr. F decides it's finally time to start hurricane preparations, heads out into the storm to gather firewood and cover up our deck furniture. I decide to start thinking about cooking dinner before the power goes out. Clearly we are the type of couple who always plans ahead for things.

Monday 5pm: finally get around to dinner. Power goes out, this time for good. Manually light the stove and try to take food out of fridge as quickly as possible to keep cold air in.

Monday 5:05pm: laugh at our prestorm preparation purchase of quail eggs. Buy, come on... Have you SEEN quail eggs? They're adorable!

Monday 5:07pm: manually light stove, fry up meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans. Fried meatloaf is awesome. Decide I will heat up my meatloaf in a frying pan from now on.

Monday 5:20pm: eating a romantic dinner by candlelight, Kid A is not amused by the darkness.

Monday 5:45pm: start to wash dishes. Wonder whether the power being out affects the hot water supply. Wash dishes in cold water, in the dark. Contemplate throwing out dishes.

Monday 6:15pm: starting to get darker, Mr. F gets some wood to start the fire. Kid A is terrified.

Monday 6:20pm: fire is started, Kid A thinks the house is burning down, keeps trying to blow out the fire.

Monday 6:25pm-8pm: try to keep Kid A busy, refresh horribly slow 3G Facebook. Starting to hear some bad news from the south. Wind is incredible.

Monday 8:20pm: Mr. F makes executive decision that we all need to sleep in the middle of the house on the first floor. Kid not cool with decision, but we stand our ground.

Monday 8:30pm: the moment I've been dreading. Phone battery is almost completely drained of battery life.

Monday 8:31pm: so bored. It has been forever since I looked at the Internet in any form. Starting to get restless.

Monday 8:35pm: look out window to enjoy the lovely firework show of transformers blowing out all over town.

Monday 8:45pm: turn my attention to our 75ft pine tree that's a hazard during any storm. Watch as it blows sideways with a gust if wind and bounce back up. Watch it blow sideways and bounce back up again.

Monday 8:50pm: receive text from neighbor letting us know their oak tree crashed on their other neighbor's car and house.

Monday 8:51pm: watch as another gust of wind blows our tree sideways again. While we're waiting for it to bounce back up, it topples over. It's completely black outside, so we don't know at first if it hit our neighbor's house. All we can see is the shadow of its giant roots that are now sticking up in the air.

Monday 8:55pm: a knock at the door. It's our neighbor telling us the tree fell on both their cars. How did he get onto our front steps so soon?? He was OUTSIDE when it happened!

Monday 9:00pm: shit just got real. I've burned all my fall scented candles and must resort to spring flower scents. Just doesn't feel right.

Monday 9:30pm: remember about the spelunking headlight my dad gave me the day before. Mr. F ain't down with it.

Monday 9:33pm: set up candles and a book on the floor all Neverending Story style. Can't see book. Try again with the spelunking headlight. Turn off spelunking headlight after Mr. F repeatedly voices his extreme annoyance.

Monday 9:45pm: can't take it anymore. This house smells like the middle of May, Mr. F's phone still has battery life left somehow and I can't make a peep since Kid's sleeping right next to us. Go to the garage to sit in car and charge cell phone. The garage door is getting slammed with wind and I can hear the rest of the trees on our property creak and threaten to give out. Yet I stay and bravely surf the Internet.

I took a light tone above, because if you've been following along, you'll know that I believe you have to just laugh sometimes, even when things get bad. If you're breathing, you're ok. You can laugh a little bit. There is way more productivity in keeping a positive attitude about things.

My beloved home state has a pretty dismal reputation in the eyes of the rest of the country. Everyone sees the bar fights on Jersey Shore, they see the wealthy slobs on Real Housewives of NJ. They call us "the armpit of America." I can speak for most NJ natives when I say: we love it. We love it because we know it's not the truth. And because we know that, it's kept our little secret. If the rest of the world had any idea what it was really like here, we'd be even more crowded than we already are.

What you won't see on any of the reality shows is my entire neighborhood out, chainsaws and tools ready, the morning after the storm, helping each other break out of the wreckage of trees that crushed our cars and houses. You won't see the memories of our childhoods that are now a twisted ball of metal at the bottom of the ocean. I predict that you WILL see resiliency, you'll see neighbors and communities banding together to clean it all up and get back to business. Especially at the shore. We'll rebuild, and soon enough, you'll be back to seeing bar fights and slobs all over TV again, as if it never happened.

Here's the tree that I mentioned above:

My neighbors' poor cars under the tree:

All of my awesome neighborhood cleaning up the crazy mess. It was really great:

Now, for the not so good. Up in northern NJ, yes, we saw some damage. But definitely nothing close to what happened to our southern counterparts. I have a lot of family and friends down the shore. Some of them evacuated, some did not and are currently trying to get out. A lot of my childhood was spent there, and now a lot of Kid's childhood is spent there. My parents have a summer house not far from the picture below. We don't know what happened to it yet, but we're hoping for the best. We've seen the pictures that keep getting increasingly worse and more heartbreaking, and from what I've heard from first hand accounts, things are not looking good down there at all. Houses, boats and debris have washed all over the place in some areas, and there are residents still there!

Here's Funtown Pier - based on the aerial shots that were on tv, this and the other amusement pier, Casino Pier, are both completely collapsed into the water. It's heartbreaking. 

This is where Mantoloking bridge used to be. It looks like the ocean and bay have met and formed a new inlet. Hopefully water will recede, but it doesn't look like it's going to any time soon. Even if it does, this is absolute devastation. Some of the houses in this picture do not belong where they are. They've been swept off their foundations and replaced by the storm surge. 

The damage is just unbelievable. Hard to look at. There's nothing to do but wait now. Wait for the water to recede so we can start to pick up the pieces and come back even better than before.We're down, but we're not out. Please consider doing whatever you can to help! My heart goes out to everyone who got hit in any way.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ode to the Homemade Halloween Costume: part one

If you know me, you know I have a thing for homemade, often obscure Halloween costumes. If you don't know me, today's your lucky day because you just learned a new thing. I rarely venture into a Halloween store. I prefer to scour the racks at goodwill stores looking for the perfect clothes and accessories and what I can't find, I make out of crap I find around my house. It's not just fun for me, it's in my blood.

This week's post is dedicated to my incredibly creative parents, who came up with awesome costumes for me and my brother year after year. And one day I hope Kid A can look back and love his costumes as much as I loved mine.

Two years old. I was Smurfette. We went to a parade where I did not win any prizes in the costume contest despite obviously being the cutest kid there and having the coolest freakin costume. This was the first of many disappointing costume contests for me.

Local peeps - who remembers the original mall floor??
 After Smurfette was the return of the bunny costume.

Next up was the Blue Fairy from Pinocchio. I know, right? Who would think of that? Check out my wings! According to legend, this costume was the result of a last minute all nighter, which just further confirmed for me, as I sat hunched over my sewing machine at 1:30 AM, that no matter what, you turn into your parents. It just happens.

The Blue Fairy, if you're not familiar

 The year I was in kindergarten marked a stretch of years that I started to pick my own costumes. You can tell by the many years in a row that I dressed up as this black cat. I clearly remember my mom being so disappointed when I told her I wanted to be a cat... AGAIN.

Can you remember what that gross fake blood tasted like? Remember holding your breath and squeezing your eyes shut while you got sprayed down with that weird fishy-smelling colored hairspray? Suffering through watching Linus making a fool of himself ONCE AGAIN waiting for that douchey Great Pumpkin so you could get to the real deal - the ghost pirates from Garfield Halloween? I can. That's Halloween to me. Blah blah candy, blah blah pumpkins. I could take or leave them. In second grade, I wanted to be a vampire, so that's what I got. My brother had the better costume this year by a landslide though.
This one goes to my brother as Roger Rabbit

Somehow after the cat costume run, my mom convinced me to let her take the reigns again. That's how I ended up as a Working Mother. Complete with baby in a sling and a pan full of bacon. (please don't make me explain. I hope you get it.) At the time, I haaaaaated this costume. The rest of the girls in my class were punk rockers or cheerleaders that year. Of course, now I can look back and recognize the genius here.
How many of you actually grew up to be a  princess?

In fourth grade, I was a gypsy. This was a cool costume, but I shamelessly copied my friend's costume that year so I can't really take any credit.
what you can't see: those little wrist cymbals

Fifth grade was a good one. I was a French girl. I loved this costume so much. I got to wear red lipstick and look pretty. Not exactly a punk rocker or cheerleader, but still. Red lipstick. Totally whorey. That's what Halloween is all about, amirite?
Ooh la la!

Sixth grade. My first school Halloween dance. I'm sure my 12 year old self was trying to scheme some way to get away with working fishnet stockings into my getup and being a slutty fill-in-the-blank, but instead I dressed up as a dead prom queen. Zero boys danced with me that night, but who cares because it was a cool costume.
...and when they got to the house, the back seat was EMPTY!

Ah. Seventh grade. One of the most painful of all the grades. Too cool to dress up, too young to let it go, still want free candy. You're never too old for free candy. My solution to that was this lame... pirate costume? I think? Not one of my best costume years. Or one of my best years on general.
not my best work

Eighth grade marked the year I was officially too cool for Halloween costumes. I do remember going out trick or treating, but I think I just dressed as a thug poser, AKA myself. Think Dangerous Minds. Brown lip liner, big hoop earrings, solid as a rock bangs. Cool costume, bro.

Stay tuned for part two, in which I make up for all those years of being too cool for Halloween!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Great American Hero

I love animals. Eh, not all animals. I can pretty confidently say that if I could ever get close enough to a deer I will punch it right in the face. But then, I'm also pretty sure I couldn't take a deer in a fight. I guess that's why people hunt deer with guns instead of chasing after them in the woods and wrestling them. Deer suck though. I don't even like venison but I will eat it any time it's offered to me just out of spite. And with every single chew, I think about all the beautiful flowers and plants that just never had a chance in my yard, and the fact that I can't let my poor child run around in the yard because the entire thing is a minefield of stupid deer turd piles. But pretty much all other animals are cool. I heard seals are dicks, but a seal has never been a dick to me personally, so I'm cool with seals.

Even if you're not an "animal person," I think one thing we can all agree on is that dead animals are sad, and that, generally speaking, we don't want to be responsible for the death of an animal. Except hunters, and even though I talked about hunters in every paragraph so far, this is not about hunters. I promise.

The other day, I was leaving Barnes and Noble after faithfully picking up my copy of Weird NJ (super fan! i have every issue!) when this woman started crossing the parking lot towards me, waving her arms and yelling, "Ma'am! ma'am!" I immediately tensed up, because:

1.For some reason my first thought was that she was going to try to sell me something, and I am so awkward and such a sucker that I already bought whatever it was in my mind before she even approached me.

2. I am not ma'am.

3. Why was she waving at me? She looked scared, and I didn't know if I felt like getting sucked into whatever crazy drama she had going on. I don't know CPR and I'm really no good in emergency situations. Why the hell did this lady pick me!?

By the time I made the decision to run in the opposite direction, she had already reached me, and she asked me for help. She was trying to back her SUV out of her parking spot, but there was a bird sitting by her car tire. I walked over to her car with her, and sure enough, there she was. A little tiny bird, squished up against the tire. I named her Marjorie. I still don't know why this chick picked me to save Marjorie, but what was I supposed to do? I didn't have a choice at that point. I went to my car to see if I could macguyver something into a bird saving device.

What I ended up with was the handle of a sand bucket. Whatever... YOU try making a bird saving device out of receipts, diapers and a pile of dirty gym socks! It was the best I could do.

So there I was, lying face down in the B&N parking lot in the middle of the day in my business casual attire, stretching my arm as far as I could so I could pole Marjorie with the end of the bucket handle. Bird diseases. I don't want one. At first Marj didn't move, which scared me. I figured she definitely had bird rabies and if I kept poking her she's come peck my eyes out. Then, all of a sudden, she chirped and hopped up and down, causing me and my new friend (I forget her name) to scream bloody murder and run all over the parking lot. That must have been quite a scene.

My poking made Marjorie hop towards the middle of the car, giving my new friend enough room to back out of the spot without flattening the little bird, and me enough time to get the hell out of there and eat a damn sandwich. I was so hungry! The lady took fooooreeeeeeveerrrrrr to back up, and when she did, there was cute little Marj!

tweet tweet! thanks for saving my life (maybe?)

Sadly, I didn't have all day to sit around in a parking lot and take care of a bird, so after all that I have no idea what became of little Marjorie. For all I know, the next person to pull into that parking spot could have made her into a bird pancake. But I did my good deed for the day, and when I got back to work, I got the first parking spot AND I found my missing favorite pen! THANKS MARJORIE! So the moral of the story is this: if you're having a crappy day, go outside and find an animal to rescue.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

My strange addiction?

Last week's post was about a serious, emotional, very real thing I'm dealing with right now. So where do you go from there? I don't think a fart story is an appropriate follow up to a post like that. It has taken me over a week to come up with a funny, entertaining follow up to that. Instead, this is what you get.

I'd like to talk about another serious, very real thing I'm dealing with. Addiction.

I'm not talking about drug addiction, or sex addiction, or even cigarettes, although I'm familiar with fighting that battle. I'm talking about drinks. Wait, no. That didn't come out right. I'm not an alcoholic. I'm talking about juice. No... not that. I'm not on steroids. I'm talking about soft drinks. Expensive designer soft drinks.

What? You think that's not a real problem? Ask my husband what he thinks about it. Have you ever been in a Whole Foods?

meat, anyone?
Let me start out by explaining that I am a marketer's dream. I once drove to the grocery store at 11:00 at night in a blizzard after seeing a commercial for Creme Savers Pudding. (It's just as gross as you think it is.) I don't even really like pudding, so I have no idea why I did it. I will buy something because it has a cool package. I will buy something because some celebrity is endorsing it.

I'm actually pretty cheap when it comes to most things. I don't really buy expensive clothes. I buy myself a new purse maybe once a year from the dollar store when my old one is falling apart enough that it starts to embarrass me. I think spending more than $30 on a pair of shoes is crazy.Why, then, do I see no problem with paying $5 for a bottle of plain, unsweetened iced tea? I don't have the answer.

A few months ago, I was checking out at the grocery store, when I noticed one of the drinks in my cart rang up as $11. ELEVEN AMERICAN DOLLARS! For juice. An outrage, right? Well, I had the cashier void it off right away, because what kind of idiot would pay $11 for a little bottle of juice?

I left the store, but it was still bugging me. Why was the juice $11? I pushed it out of my mind, but the next day, there it was again. What was in the juice that justified that price tag? Was it magic juice? Maybe there was gold in it. But I would never know, because $11 is just too much money to spend on a drink that doesn't have any booze in it. Isn't it?

Weeks passed, I moved on to other things, and the crazy juice eventually stopped haunting me. Until the next time I found myself standing in the grocery store staring at it. And this time? I caved. I bought $11 juice simply because the price tag was $11. No other reason. Maybe the shape bottle had a little bit to do with it  but it was mostly a nagging need to judge for myself if the juice was actually worth the price tag. But don't you feel like your drink tastes a little better when it comes out of a square bottle? No? Just me? Ok.

So there I was, sitting in my car with my magical beverage, deciding whether I should crack it open right away, or save it for a time that I could really sit and think about what I was drinking and calculate how much each sip cost. I couldn't wait anymore, so I opened it. I calculated the first sip at $0.87.

It was kinda disgusting. I should tell you now that it was white cashew vanilla cinnamon agave. Does that even sound appetizing to you? Also, wouldn't a logical person maybe figure that you could buy all these ingredients and somehow squeeze them into a juice for like 1/16 of the price? We're not talking about a logical person right now though.

ooooooh, it's local!
It was a weird experience. I still can't believe I bought the dumb juice. And now that I know it wasn't that great, I totally learned my lesson and will not allow myself to be tricked by crafty juices ever again. Especially not last week, when I was at the store and the apple carrot beet lemon ginger juice was sitting there all healthy and fresh, just begging me to take it home and drink it.

Okay fine. I paid $11 for juice not once, but TWICE in my life. And I think I might do it again! I might have a problem.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

So You Have a Molar Pregnancy...

It has been just about five weeks since my life got flipped, turned upside down. I wrote about what I went through and what I was feeling just days after my surgery, after being diagnosed with a molar pregnancy. But I didn't really go into much detail, because I didn't really have much detail to go into. Once I had some time to recover from the shock and the surgery, I finally let myself do a little research. I still don't really feel any better about what happened to me, but at least I know a little more about it (kind of.) Molar pregnancies are rare, and as such, there's not a whole lot of information out there. I haven't asked, but I've been wondering how many my doctor has actually treated before. Anyway, I'm writing this now in the event that someone else in my shoes is looking for some information, or some support. If you are that person, hi. I'm sorry you're going through this, and you're not alone. If you're someone who knows someone going through this, you are a nice person for wanting to help. Good job! If you're just checking up on me to see how I'm doing, thanks. You rule.

So, what is a molar pregnancy? or, What happened to you, Kate?
Well, I'm not a doctor, so this is not going to be a bunch of doctor-y garbage. I'm gonna lay it right out for you like they do in 6th grade sex ed. Or 4th grade, or whatever age they teach kids to have sex these days. You did not have a miscarriage, you will not have a baby, you do not have cancer. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, go directly to surgery.

Aside from nature's big "fuck you," a molar pregnancy is basically a misfire. Terrible luck of the draw. It's nothing you or your husband/partner/baby daddy did, it's nothing that's wrong with your genetic makeup. It just happens. I know, sucks, right? Every woman makes a dud egg once in a while. They can't all be awesome. In the unlucky event that your dud egg happens to get fertilized, you get a molar pregnancy. That means that at that magic moment when the egg and sperm meet, a baby does not happen. A "growth" happens. Sometimes a baby happens too, which is referred to as a "partial molar pregnancy," and that baby will have zero chance of survival. [Side note: if you're trying to think if the right thing to say to your grieving friend, please do not say "Well, there was never a baby anyway." or "Everything happens for a reason." Just trust me on this one.][Side-side note: if you have said this to me in any form, please do not feel bad about it. It's hard to know what to say in these situations. Shit, I don't even know what to say to myself sometimes.]

So now that you (kinda) know what a molar pregnancy is, I should mention that every single one of them is different. That and the fact that they're rare adds up to equal not a lot of protocol for treatment. It's not the kind of thing where your doctor can just give you medicine and cure you. It's a lot of waiting, a lot of uncertainly, and not a lot of answers. But, there are a few things that I would guess are common to every molar pregnancy, based on my experience.

You will be sad
Duh. But it needs to be said anyway. On top of coming to terms with this medical shitstorm, you are also dealing with a loss. Sure, as some may point out as I did above, maybe it wasn't a "real baby." But it was for you. You peed on a stick, you saw the line. You picked out paint colors in your mind and maybe some names. That was one of the worst things for me in the beginning. I felt so betrayed and violated by this stupid mole. Oh yeah, that's what it's called. A mole. That makes it somehow even more gross. 

You will be scared
Dr. Google is not your friend in this case. You'll read things in your quest for molar pregnancy knowledge that aren't very good. They start with a C and rhyme with "dancer." And if you haven't yet, you will now that I've mentioned it. It's ok, it's normal. Here, I'll even help you out. Let's get it out of the way:
There. Now that you read a little bit, you know that although the risk is there, it's rare. There's no point in worrying about something that hasn't happened and might not, right? Right? Right.

You will learn to be patient
Like I said, answers are slim here. You're not getting any straight answers any time soon. The deal with a molar pregnancy is that, even after you get the D&C surgery, your body will still have the pregnancy hormone - hCG - in it. Your goal is to get to zero (or under 3.) Sadly, it takes a while for that to happen. This is where the "everyone is different" comes in. I'm going to be blunt and honest about this one. Some people's go down fairly quickly, some people take a long time.Some people's hCG levels do not go down on their own, or go down and then start to go up again, and then another 'C' word comes in. Chemo. It doesn't mean you have cancer. It just means you have to take a drug with kind of a shitty track record to get the hCG out of your body.

You will get very familiar with needles
Unfortunately, very true and there's no getting around it. It's how they measure said hCG levels. Luckily for me, I have no problems with needles, but every week when I go for my blood draw (yep. every week) I think of the people going through this who do and my heart goes out to them. Lately I have come to appreciate the fine art of blood collection. There's one chick at my doctor's office who, when she draws blood, I swear I cannot even feel the needle going in or out. Or maybe my veins are just getting tougher at this point. Either way, you know you're in too deep when you're high-fiving the phlebotomist on a job well done. It's the little things...

Everyone you know will somehow be pregnant
Everyone. You get on an elevator, BAM! It's filled with pregnant women. Walk into the cafeteria at work? A bunch of pregnants. Log onto facebook? Your whole wall is filled with people announcing their pregnancies. Every day. Everywhere. All up in your face, creating life and shit, while you're standing there wondering what you could have possibly done to deserve this. Well stop feeling sorry for yourself, jerk! Your time will come. Sorry I called you a jerk.

You have to take things one day at a time
This could probably be a subheading under being patient. Anyway, as I mentioned, you have to go every week to get your blood tested to measure your hCG levels. My personal experience has been good so far. I don't know where I started, probably in the 20,000s somewhere, but by my first weekly blood draw I was at 222, then the next week at 56, and last week I was at 13. But (there's always a but) I know that could change so I'm not doing any victory laps just yet.

You will take a long time to heal
Weekly blood draws = weekly ripping the scab off your emotional scar. Oh, you spent all week in an ok mood, not really thinking about what you're dealing with? Guess what? It's Thursday! Time to visit the doctor once again and sit in the exam room getting blood drawn while you listen to other people's fetal monitors in the other rooms.

You will put your plans on hold
If you're like me, your molar pregnancy started out as a dream to add to your family. Not so fast, now you have to wait. I was first told I'd have to wait six months to try again. After doing the math and painfully coming to terms with that news, I was cruelly informed that I would have to wait a year. "Sorry. I must have misspoken." Thanks, doc. After reading on my own, I learned that it's a year from when your hCG hits zero. So I'm not even at that one year starting line yet. Awesome.

But wait! It's not all bad! (Okay, it's mostly bad) There are not many ups on this journey, a lot of downs, but here's one thing I do know...

You will be ok
You will, no matter what road you take to get there. So will I. This will be a memory one day. Hopefully one that you don't reflect on too often. In the meantime, there is actually some support out there. This site is a good resource, and it led me to a group on Facebook full of the most supportive women I have ever come across, all in different stages of this journey.