You Are So Right, Carole King

I feel the earth move under my feet…

I thought I had too much caffeine.

I thought I was going to faint.

I thought the elevators were all running at the same time.  My office backs an elevator shaft and sometimes I hear them go up and down.

Turns out…it was an earthquake.

The world is coming to an end.  Look at the proof:

A few weeks ago, there was hail on Long Island.  Today an earthquake rocked the East Coast.  And next Saturday, a totally phony, talentless  hack is getting her own show on the Food Network.

It’s the end of the world, people.  Prepare yourselves.

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And…Breathe

It took me five days to put the previous post together.  I wrote, erased, wrote, deleted, decided not to post then finally said f*ck it all and hit the Publish button.  It’s my blog, after all, and I have to tell my story, good and bad.   And I knew I once I posted I would get a phone call from Dr. S.

Maybe he reads my blog.  Or maybe it’s Wednesday and he said he’d let me know before Friday.

Well.  I’m not going to die.  I’m sure some of you may be upset at the thought of me living another day, but this little cervical problem I’m having is not going to be my demise.  He’s just going to freeze a few spots inside, punch them out and hopefully with regular checkups we’ll catch anything else that pops up.  Easy-peasy.

The butterflies are out of my chest and I can breathe again.

No GNUS…is Good GNUS…

Last week, I received some good news and some bad news.  And this week, I got good news and bad news.

Which do you want to hear first?

Okay, the good news.  My acupuncturist, Dr. Wang (hee hee) called me, right in the middle of a migraine.  I’m convinced that he not only has mystical Eastern powers of the Chi but he’s also psychic.  He left a message on my cell ask how I was (how did he know?) and for me to call him back.  When I got in touch with him, he told me I was in a new cycle of insurance and he could treat me.  Make an appointment, he said.

I saw him this Wednesday.  Not a moment too soon..there was rain in the forecast for this week.

While he was looking under my tongue and in my eyes, he explained that he called my insurance again that day and they changed the policy- I know have unlimited acupuncture treatment!  Good news!   I can see him once a week and keep these damned migraines at bay.  And since I haven’t been to his office in a long while, he added extra needles- in that little space right in front of my ear.  Ew.

Now  I’ll (hopefully) be migraine free for the fall, when they hit hardest.  This summer hasn’t been too kind, either, with all the freakish storms (can you say HAIL?) we’ve had.  This is good news.

So, for the bad news.

Remember that UTI I had at the beginning of my mini vacation at the beach house?  I had gone to the gynecologist to get tested and get some antibiotics.  I didn’t realize that I hadn’t had a checkup in three years- I usually try to schedule a lady checkup and a mammogram in April, using my birthday as a reminder.  Time got away from me…been kind of busy in the last three years…

I did the whole gyno routine- PAP, breast exam, pelvic exam- while talking to the doctor about vacations and marriage.  I walked away from there confident I was in good health.  I felt good, my periods were normal and except for a few bouts of EXTREME PMS (should be a new reality show) I didn’t think about the exam for a few weeks.

Until I got a call from Dr. S. personally.

Seems my PAP came back with abnormalities.   Seems I have to go for a colopscopy.  Seems there are things that shouldn’t be where they are.

This is bad news.

He wanted me to come in the following week for the follow-up tests.  When he asks me if I have any questions, I go completely blank and mute.  When I finally get my heart out of my throat, I tell him no, and make an appointment.

I call MR right away and we furiously start Googling abnormal PAP tests.  Probably not a good idea.  Seems these things can pop out in times of stress.  It’s been three VERY stressful years since my last test.  The more reading I do, the more convinced I become that I’ve got something to worry about.  Was three years too long for them to catch anything?   This past week, I’ve been even more stressed.  And depressed.  I didn’t tell anyone for a week, then finally opened up to one of  my CAFM teammates, the one who calls me “mom” .  Since her mom is a billion miles away in South America she’s confided in me about all sorts of personal stuff, and I do the same with her because she’s not only smart, she’s compassionate.  She eased my mind temporarily about the whole situation and I was able to sleep that night.

Then I had my appointment.

The nurse explained the procedure, assuring me the test was updated and minimally invasive.   She asked me some routine questions, gave me a gown to put on and left me to change.

And wait.  And think.  And stew.

Dr. S. came in and again asked if I had any questions (I didn’t.  I had the internets at my fingertips).  He scooted me to the end of the table and told me to put my blue feet in the stirrups (my toenails are metallic blue…) .  I’ll spare you the details of the actual exam because 1) my dad reads this blog faithfully and 2) my kids hate all things genitalia.   So, while he was poking around, he had a lively conversation with the nurse about iPods, iPads and vacations.  I tried to follow the conversation, but I was  a little preoccupied.  He got my attention when he said he found something at 3 o’clock and 7 o’clock.

Whoa.  My vagina tells time?

He scraped and prodded and poked and gave the nurse the samples in clockwise order.  When they were packed up and ready to go, he sat me up and tried to explain the concept of the clock-face…blah, blah, blah.  I cut him off, asking him what he found.  He must have seen the sheer terror on my face because he patted me on the knee and said that we’ll know by Friday, and don’t worry, I don’t have Cancer.

Um, could I get a guarantee on that?  Please?

Just saying the C-word out loud caused me to burst into tears.  Thankfully, the Doctor and nurse had made a hasty exit.  I needed to dry my tears and get the hell out of here.  I met MR in the waiting room and couldn’t speak until we got out of the building.

Promising words.  He gave me promising words.  Then why do I feel like there are butterflies fluttering in my chest?  Why am I hiding in my house, too scared to go out, too scared to talk to anyone, to scared to bring to life the fears I have?  I was a recluse the whole weekend, not going out unless MR went with me, cleaning and scrubbing and putting together all the niggling mindless little craft projects I’ve been meaning to get to. Jumping from one project (sewing) to another (cleaning and rearranging Z-girl’s room) and hiding from the world, just needing to sleep, but not being able to with all those thoughts zooming around my head..  Knowing what agoraphobia feels like, because going to work on Monday was extremely hard.  Actually stepping out of the house took all my resolve.

I’m better today.  Talking with a friend actually helped (duh!) and I didn’t sound like a blithering crybaby when I did.  I went through three file cabinets of work going back to 2003 and I threw that shit out with gusto.  I cleaned my desk and organized a few shelves and felt that if God does decide to take me, no one at work will say “what the f*ck was she keeping this crap for?”

I jest, of course.  Kind of.

I’ll try to be strong until I get the phone call giving me my results.  And I’ll try to be strong after I hear the options on how to deal with those results.  And I’ll try to be strong if I need to deal with those options because I can’t suffer another lost weekend.  My family will never forgive me if I leave them my home office to clean out.

Send a little good karma my way, please?  Pray to your gods- I’m praying to mine.

And ten points to whomever can tell me where the title of this post comes from.

Cross your fingers…

Happy Borned Day, Kansas!

On August 8th, 1990, I went into labor with my second child.  I swore this kid was going to be a boy- I carried totally different than with Beena and I didn’t have the same pregnancy symptoms I had the first time around (morning sickness, spitting, heartburn).

I had a new obstetrician who didn’t like to cut (Yay! No episiotomies!) and the birthing center in the hospital was brand new.   Everything about this pregnancy was different and the delivery looked to be different as well.

We got to the hospital and got about as comfortable as one could get in hard labor, and it wasn’t long until the contractions were coming fast and fierce.  The nice thing about the new birthing center was that I didn’t have to leave the labor room to go into the delivery room- the bed converted into the delivery table.  The bad thing was the nurses had no experience converting the bed into the delivery table.  Supports were pushed into the wrong holes and railings were falling on the floor.  At one point during an especially hard contraction, one of the nurses handed me a side rail and asked me to hold it for a minute.

Are you kidding me?

Of course, my ex-asshole was little help.  I think he held a few parts too until they figured out how to work the bed.  If I wasn’t already wracked with pain, I would have taken the instructions myself and figured it out for them.  I’m good with instructions.

Out of all three of my labors, this one hurt the most.  Like I mentioned, my obstetrician didn’t believe in cutting so he was constantly stretching, stretching, stretching until the baby’s head crowned.  I kept from strangling him because I was mesmerized by his beautiful blue eyes.  I’d heard a lot of his patients fell in love with him during labor because of his eyes…

The first struggle of many between this child and this mommy occurred at this point.  Despite the constant stretching, baby didn’t want to come out no matter how hard I pushed.  After fifteen minutes of constant pushing, I was just about at exhaustion level and ready to give up.  The delivery nurse looked at me (she had nice eyes too) and said if I could give her one more push, it would all be over.  I gritted my teeth and went for it at the same time she threw herself across my stomach and helped with the last push.

My baby girl was born.While they were cleaning her up, I heard one of the nurses say “Oh, my God.”  It was one of the more terrifying moments of my life, hearing those words.  My heart stopped until I heard her ask what today’s date was.  Then she started to laugh.

Robyn Nicole was 8 pounds, 8 ounces, born on 8/8.  The doctor asked them to weigh her three times to be sure.  While we were marveling at the coincidence, the ex chimed in that it was our anniversary as well.

He asked me out at at party on August 8th, ten years prior.  I had forgotten that.

So Kansas, you’re 21 today and as part of your birthday present, I’m changing your blog name.  You’re no longer blowing in the wind so “Kansas” doesn’t work.  I am dubbing you “Cheesestick”.  Crunchy on the outside but  gooey and soft and delicious on the inside.  Plus, everytime I read your blog, I think “Holy Cheesestick!” and laugh.

Laughing is something that I’ve always done with you.  I love your sense of humor.  Even though you get aggravated (work) and annoyed about a lot of things (customers), you always manage to convey it with humor.  Some of the times I’ve laughed the hardest were with you.  We find the same things hilarious.  Some of the funniest lines to ever come outt of your mouth are still repeated in the family today.  “Do puppies have pockets?” and “Boop-wiggedy-wiggedy” crack us up every time.
You always marched to your own drummer.  No, you probably don’t have a drummer- you probably have a big brass band in your head telling you what direction to take you in.  You never followed your big sister around- most of the time you were the leader and she followed, probably to see where you were going to go next.  It was always YOUR way of doing things,  and as much as I admire that trait, it lead to some exasperating times.Like the time we took you to Disney World and you went on all the rides with your hands over your eyes, crying.

Like the time we drove to Hilton Head and you realized that you left your luggage home.  Thankfully we were only on the Belt Parkway.

Like the time you begged us to let you climb the rock wall at a fair only to get halfway up and cry because you were scared to go up and scared to go down.

You are the most like me.  People say we resemble each other the most and I’m flattered because you’re so beautiful.  I see other things of me in you besides my eyes.  Some good things, some bad things and some things that just causes us to bang our heads against our respective walls.

But…I love how you’re a romantic.  You want the happy ending (you wouldn’t get so upset with the stupidity in the world if you didn’t) and you love the cute and cuddly.  Stuffed animals, Wade figures and rubber duckies are all your friends as well as Harry Potter and Angry Birds.   Yet you can manage a restaurant by yourself and pull straight A’ s in school.  You’re  a softy, but really, really smart.

You’ve given me some of the proudest moments in my life, like when you were awarded that bond at your 8th grade graduation for donating your hair to Locks for Love (you’re a  trendsetter…now all the kids do it).  Seeing you dance on pointe for the first time in dance class.  When your picture appeared in the paper for the Battle of the Bands.  And when you walked across the stage at High School graduation and received your awards.  I know you’ll do well and go far in life because you’re that smart.  Figure out what you want to do and go for it!

Happy 21st birthday, Cheesestick!  You know I love you…I wouldn’t spend five hours making cupcakes for just anybody!

Extreme Couponing. This Means War.

I’ve been hinting around this blog lately that I’ve been couponing.  My friends and family have been giving me their extra Sunday coupons and I have to say I AM OBSESSED WITH THIS SPORT.

Yes, couponing as sport.  It could happen.  It gets mighty tense in the store aisles when there aren’t any bargains left on the shelves or when the people behind you in line start sighing loudly because your damn coupon just won’t scan.  It’s competitive- just how early does one have to get up to make sure the item she wants is still there and not sold out?  It’s physical- my coupon binder weighs a TON and my hands are cramped from cutting all those coupons out.  And it’s mental- it’s all about the hunt to get the cheapest price.  I would love to see a show pitting coupon champs against each other trying to save the most money.  Throw these Mormon mommies in a store with their coupons and watch the blood run and the hair-pulling begin!

I haven’t become as bad as some of the people featured on the show “Extreme Couponing”.  I don’t have hundreds of boxes of cereal stockpiled (I have nine…) and I never buy anything that I wouldn’t use.  Seems a lot of people are doing just that- buying craploads of one item and reselling them on eBay or at flea markets.  Although tempting, I refrain.  If my family doesn’t use it, or I can’t donate it, I won’t buy it.   There’s no sense having 300 cans of cat food if you don’t have a cat.  Just saying.

Couponing isn’t just about clipping the coupons and using them before they expire.  Oh no.  Any extreme couponer will tell you how to maximize the value of the coupon so you receive the lowest price on brand name items.  Now I’m finding that I can get brand names cheaper than the store brands.  It’s all about the preparation.

First, find a website that matches up the weekly store circular ads to the coupons you’ve clipped.  My favorites (and I may regret telling some of you this) are The Krazy Coupon Lady and For the Mommas.  The brains behind these websites do all the work for you- they list the weekly store deals and let you know if there are any coupon match-ups, either from the Sunday paper or the internet.

On a side note, I had no idea the internet had so many coupon sources.  Even Target has it’s own coupon source, which is great because you can use Target coupons in conjunction with manufacturer’s coupons.  Suh-weet!

I’m fine with all the coupon prep.  I use a spreadsheet to list all the items in the various stores I’m interested in and the coupons I have (or need to print).  I usually shop at Walgreen’s, CVS, Target, Stop N Shop, Pathmark and King Kullen.  Rite Aid is too confusing (sorry Mia!) with all their UP! Rewards and the videos you need to watch before you can print out their deals.  I stay away from Walmart, too, mainly because I don’t like the clientele at my local store (there’s a REASON why there’s a website called People of Walmart) and their prices fluctuate too much across the country so what some people are getting a deal on in Utah or California, I can’t find the same price in New York.

Besides, Walgreen’s, CVS and Target all pay you to buy their items.  Why wouldn’t I want to shop there?  Extra Bucks, Register Rewards, Gift Cards- when I see these noted in the circulars it’s like I died and went to coupon heaven.

I’m usually ready to go to the stores on Wednesday, by the time my prep work is done.  Not only am I armed with my coupons, the circular and my store cards, I also have a detailed battle plan.  In order to maximize the savings, you can’t just buy everything in one big transaction.  It has to be carefully choreographed into smaller transactions so you can receive cash back (Extra Bucks, Register Rewards, etc) on the first items to pay for the next items in your transaction.  There is a time restraint in CVS- you can’t use the Extra Bucks for 24 hours (I think) but in Walgreen’s, you can use them immediately.  Last night Beena and I had a total of four transactions, using Register Rewards from the first sales to pay for the subsequent sales.

Whew.  It’s exhausting.  And this is where my stupid comes in…

I get extremely nervous the minute I step up to the register.  I don’t know, I feel like I’m doing something illegal, getting away with something.  I end up babbling to the clerk incoherently with the word “coupon” scattered here and there.  The last few times I’ve gone I managed to overlook a few crucial coupons because I put them down in the cart and forgot about them or some of the coupons didn’t scan causing me to break out in a sweat and start looking shifty and suspicious (in my mind, I’m sure).  Instead of asking for the manager, I defer to the mighty wisdom of the register and slink away.  All the organization going into the preparation is derailed by my chickenshit attitude and lack of organization in the store.

For example, these were the things I wanted at Walgreen’s, and this is how it went last night:

  • Kellogg’s cereal- buy 4/$10, get $5.00 Register Rewards (RR).  Use manufacturer’s coupon $1.00 off 3. Final price $1.00 each.
  • Coffee Mate was $1.50 each.  Use internet coupon for $0.55 each and $1.00/2 Walgreen’s coupon.  Final price $0.45 each.
  • Crayola Washable Markers- $2.00 each, get $2.00 RR.  This makes this item free!
  • U by Kotex pads and tampons- buy 2/$7.  Use (2) $1.00 off coupons and 2/$2.00 off Walgreen’s coupon.  Final price $1.50 each for 18 pack.
  • Crest Mouthwash- buy at $3.99, receive $1.00 RR.  Use $2.00 manufacturer coupon.  Final price $0.99.
  • Scope Mouthwash and Crest Toothpaste- buy 2/$6, receive $3.00 RR.  Use (2) $1.00 manufacturer coupons.  Final price $0.50 each.
  • Wisps- $1.99.  Use $0.50 manufacturer coupon.  Final price $1.49.
  • Goody Hair Clips- $2.00 each, get $2.00 RR.  Free!

Battle plan:

  • Purchase cereal, hair clips, markers, mouthwash and toothpaste first to get all the Register Rewards.
  • Next, purchase pads and tampons, coffee mate and wisps, use RR from previous transaction and pay practically nothing.
  • Beena purchases markers, hair clips, mouthwash and toothpaste for next trip to Walgreen’s.
  • Total for the night should be $45.98 (not including tax) minus $10.60 in coupons, which equals $35.38.   Take away the RR (not including the ones Beena accumulated) – $13.00- and my final outlay should have been $22.38, with $7.00 RR to use the next time.

The best laid battle plans often get blown up and shot down.

Actually, it wasn’t that bad.  I was totally frazzled at this point because we walked around looking for the Goody Hair Clips (they never got them in) and tried to figure out if the cereal were the right ones on sale.  Why don’t the stores mark things better?   I was trying to sort everything out on-line, when I ran into Mia and we started talking about how I broke her child (long story).  I was also letting the people behind me go first (in order not to piss them off) while corralling all the coupons together.  I cut Mia off probably in mid-sentence because it was our turn and all my coupons were scattered all over the place (sorry Mia 😦  ) and I grabbed the wrong set of markers and Beena started yelling at me and I started sweating and babbling to the clerk.  Needless to say I forgot to use the CoffeeMate coupons I printed and the Scope Mouthwash coupons wouldn’t take, even though the item and the coupon matched.

I need to get more organized in the store.  I’ve already decided to leave my pocketbook home and just take my wallet.  My binder comes with me no matter what, so I’m thinking I need to attach some clear pockets to the outside of the binder to stash the coupons in after I’ve selected the item in the store.  Maybe a few of them to represent the different transactions…

Maybe I’m sounding like a raving lunatic right now.

Lunatic, yes, but… I don’t have to buy mouthwash for a year.  The females in the household could probably go through menopause and not have to worry about running out of  feminine products.  (Dad, the Playtex sample that came to your house was NOT a sports bra…they were tampons.  Playtex makes those, too.  Thanks for letting us use your address.)  Toothpaste is stacking up like cord wood ready for a long winter and our family will not stink for quite a while thanks to all the deodorant we now have.

It’s crazy, yes, but totally worth it.  As I horde accumulate items, I don’t purchase them again until we’re down to two or three left.  I don’t even clip the coupons- I leave them for John’s family (we exchange).  Even the trips to the stores get cheaper and cheaper as I buy less and less and use more and more of the cash they’re giving back.  I envision next year just buying essentials- meat, produce, but not milk because I buy that on sale too and freeze it.

My grocery/personal care bill next year should be miniscule.  But only if I go into battle wearing full armor and an attitude.

And follow the battle plan.