Thursday, May 30, 2013

Oh Yeahhhhh!

This is the shirt I wore today. Recognize this guy?

If you said the Kool-Aid Man, you are a winner! Of what? I don't know. Pick something. Did you know the Kool-Aid Man saved my life once? Okay, not really. He just saved Christmas. This t-shirt was $3.00 at Wal-Mart, by the way!

How, you ask? The year was 1996. I was a freshman in high school. For whatever reason, my AP English teacher assigned us a project to paint a pumpkin for Halloween.

**Quick interjection here: if you're wondering why my AP English class assignment in high school was to paint a pumpkin, don't blame me--I'm still scratching my head on that one myself. Clearly, they are testing the wrong things on STAAR.**

Back to pumpkin painting. I should probably tell you that I'm not the most artistically inclined person. Like, most people have a hard time deciphering my stick figures. So now, this pumpkin thing was not only a contest, but also a grade! I was screwed. Oh, and we were allowed to paint it however we wanted. No guidelines whatsoever. If this were an actual advanced assignment, I might be okay with this, but really? In 9th grade? I'm clearly not over this. And I should be, which I promise I will get to, but you know how I am in that I take the long way around.

I don't remember how I came up with my idea, but I do remember running through several ideas, such as Mr. Potato Head, because I thought it would be funny to turn one vegetable into another. Plus, I really wanted to stick Mr. Potato Head hands in my pumpkin. Don't judge me.

I don't know why or how I came up with my idea, but all of a sudden, it hit me: I should paint my pumpkin to look like the Kool-Aid Man. That way, I could still use the Mr. Potato Head hands, and (double bonus!) I could paint it whatever color I wanted. Mr. Kool Aid could be any flavor I chose.

I'm going to insert a sidebar here and tell you that at the same time as this artistic crisis, I was having another teenage crisis: lack of money. I didn't need it to gallavant around town; no, I had found the perfect Christmas present for my mom. She is an avid collector of bells, and I had found a perfect one to get her. It was a silver bell with a little red bow and "Merry Christmas 1996" engraved on it. I thought it was perfect, and I liked that it had the year, so I could remember that I had done this all by myself. By the time I had stacked all my gift cards and coupons, I still needed $20, and I really didn't want to ask my grandparents. However, with no job, the inability to pay bills with my looks, and time winding down, it was starting to look like more of a probability.

Back to our regularly scheduled program. So what color did I choose for the Kool-Aid Man? Neon green. Yes, the very neon green such as you see in the t-shirt pictured above. I decided I wanted to have lime Kool-Aid. So off I went. I made a spout out of white paper fashioned to look like an upside-down visor (and top of a jug), ice cubes out of styroforam, a handle made out of twisted newspaper that was also painted neon green, the Kool-Aid Man standard facial expression, and the best part: the accessories. The Kool-Aid Man had Mr. Potato Head hands and Converse All-Stars. Oh yeahhhhh!

Mr. Kool-Aid looked pretty awesome. I so wish I had a picture of it, because it truly was the pinnacle of my artistic career. Unfortunately, Blogger won't let me attempt a stick figure or freehand drawing of it either. Boo. For once, I fashioned something that didn't look like a pile of poo, and I did it all by myself! Huzzah!

Anyway, I was admiring my masterpiece the night before it was due, and I needed to move it out of the way and closer to the door so I could be ready to take it to school the next morning. I picked it up to move it, and it exploded. Pieces went up, seeds went down. I was in tears. Apparently, I had fashioned my pumpkin too early. It was in a process of ruination that culminated in the explosion the night before it was due. Now, I barely had 12 hours to complete it all over again (after doing that fabulous a job, you better believe I was NOT going to skimp on a redo). Oh, and I had another commitment that night that was required. I was a member of the drill team, and one of our big fundraisers was occurring at this very moment--so there was four of those approximate 12 hours gone. And I still had to sleep at some point. Luckily, a very kind neighbor secured another pumpkin for me, and I directed my mom and grandparents as we worked hard and fast to reproduce the Kool-Aid Man. It was approximate 11 pm, and I had to go to bed and pray to God that my pumpkin would be dry the next morning.

Except it wasn't. When my grandpa drove me to school at 7 am (drill team practice comes awfully early) the next morning, my pumpkin was...not...dry. Awesome, it was due second period, and it wasn't done. Now no one would see my masterpiece, and my grade would be blown. I would never be class valedictorian, and all because of a stupid pumpkin!

What I did not know at the time was that while I was not only sweating at drill team practice, but also over a pumpkin and English grade (because all good English grades go to he who has the best pumpkin), my grandpa was wiping the sweat off a certain pumpkin--with an oscillating fan. When I went to English that day, I hung my head as I told my teacher what had happened. She compassionately told me I had until the end of the period to come up with an alternate plan. Oh...crap. I sat nervously twitching and looking at the clock. At around 9:30 am (how is it that 17 years later I remember this so clearly?), the intercom came on in the room to announce that our class had a visitor. What the heck? When I looked out the plate glass window, I saw my grandpa. Whaaaaat?

The teacher answered the door and called my name. I went to the door, and there stood my grandpa. In his arms, he was cradling Kool-Aid Man #2. I had never been so happy to see my grandpa...or the Kool-Aid Man. I gave my grandpa a quick hug and kiss and snatched up Mr. Kool-Aid to proudly plunk down at the front of the display table with all the other pumpkins. To add a little puff to my ego, another student in the class pointed at my pumpkin and said, "Cool! It's the Kool-Aid Man!" God bless the 80's and those of us who were fortunate to grow up at a time when the Kool-Aid Man was the shiz.

And so it was. Remember that sidebar I interjected with earlier? The one about my monetary crisis? Scroll back up and re-read if you need to, because here's where that comes into play. When this contest/grade project came up, we were never told what the prizes were. Two days later, when I had English class again, I found out. Our teacher handed out the prize envelopes. She handed out third-prize first; then second. I had pretty much decided I was going to watch and try to be happy for whatever schmuck won, because remember that whole stick figure thing? Yeah. Well imagine my complete and utter surprise when my English teacher handed me the first-prize envelope. Wanna know what was in it? Hmmmm...I guess I'll tell you: it was $20. Exactly enough to buy the bell. I went home and ordered it that very day.

You might call it said, but that was truly one of the coolest stories of my life. I actually achieved something artistic that was recognizable, and I was able to completely pay for a Christmas gift for my mom. Plus, Kool-Aid (sugar-free for me) is tasty! If you ask me if I'm grateful for the Kool-Aid Man, let me give you a resounding "OH YEAHHHHHH!"

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Satan is a Jacktard...Who Wears Ugly Shoes

So yeah, you read that right...Satan is a jacktard, and yes, he does wear ugly shoes. So does Lady Gaga, but she can't be the devil because she totally paid for her dad's heart surgery. I feel quite certain the devil would not do that. On the flip side, I also heard that Shorty Long (or was it Denzel Washington?) says the devil wears a blue dress. Squirrel!

Anyway--where was I? Oh yes, Satan. Many of you know that in the last six months or so, I've resumed my spiritual walk. I'm totally not being a blowhard about it, but it's probably the thing I'm the proudest of in my life. And you know what? That's ok. There are so many other things I have to not be proud of that I think I can have this one. So neener.

In all seriousness, one thing I'm starting to see is that with revelation, your back is marked with a giant red "X". Maybe it's black. Who cares? The take-home point here is that you're marked. You are now a giant moving target...for Satan. Or Lady Gaga. I'm not sure.

Sorry. I'm being funny, and I think part of the reason is anxiety. Why? Because I'm talking about something that sparks fire and tempers everywhere: religion and spirituality. And also because some of the recent events that inspired me to write this blog have been unsettling. Such as? Did anyone hear about a certain car wreck that happened a couple of weeks ago? That happened just hours after a friend of mine prayed over me, just because he was moved to do so. Two days after that, a certain situation reemerged (I don't really care to go into the details). Things have happened in various places at various times over the past couple of weeks that have really made me stop and ask, "Am I worthy," "am I crazy" (relative and debatable), or "what's wrong with me" (don't answer that)--just to name a few. We all know I'm a present-day Stuart Smalley: "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me!!!" Besides, I can't get too mad about it, because it all makes a pretty great story and a current testament to how far I've come. I can't feel too shabby about that.

Right. Big Red "X". It seems like the stronger you start to become, the more things start to happen--good and bad. The tasks now left to you are a) know yourself well enough to know that a lot of those self-doubts are, in fact, false--or at the very least, planted by an outside stimulus in order to make you fall backward in your walk, and b) to know when that enemy wearing bad shoes is rearing his/her ugly head and doing the usual song-and-dance while they wear a bad costume.

Once you have that nailed down a little better, it's a little easier to overcome. Am I going to say you're totally golden? No, because I don't even know if that's true. I'm still working that out myself. But what I do know is that once you realize what's going on, you can shut it down a lot faster. Especially if that enemy is wearing ugly shoes. Because really--would you listen to someone who wears ugly shoes? I didn't think so.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Thing I'm Most Afraid of in the Whole World: the Fly Swatter

Yes, you read that right. "How," you ask, "can someone be deathly afraid of a 97-cent implement found at Wal-Mart (or your nearest dollar store)?" I will tell you: you've never seen it wielded in the hands of my mother. In fact, I'm not terribly sure why it isn't called "the kid-swatter." Hmm, maybe my mom did call it that. I'll have to ask her when I talk to her later. Or my therapist. I'll decide when I'm finished.

Did you know here in the South parents can MacGyver anything into an instrument of torture suitable for punishing? Some of my friends got belts, others got razor straps. Me? I got the flipping 97-cent plastic fly swatter. I think I should have at least had the option of picking my own tree branch out of yard. I'm no dummy--I would have totally gone for the tiny twig attached to the end of a leaf or something. Or maybe I would do what I did with my 9th grade bug collection, in which I fashioned one of the bugs out of a lint ball, legs off a dead bug I found under the porch, and a couple of my strands of hair as antennae for good measure. I could just attach string or part of a toothpick to the lint ball, and presto! Yeah, I've learned to MacGyver a few things myself over the years. Heh, heh, heh. By the way, I made an A on my bug collection.

But back to the fly swatter and why I'm so afraid of it. I'll admit, I was a little cheeky growing up, but I was only regurgitating what I learned from the adults, so you really have to blame them. I'm so glad my mom doesn't have the Internet and can't read this. Anyway, my mom  had a bit of a short fuse, and when I was really on fire, it didn't take too long for her to get from zero to pissed. And that is when I would see her round the corner into the kitchen, and I knew where she was headed. And I knew that was my cue to get the heck out of Dodge.

My mom may have had a short fuse, but she also had lightning-quick reflexes. I would do my best to dodge the obstacle course that was our living room, but my mom could be to the swatter rack and grabbing my ponytail before I knew it. Then, all hell would break loose.

You would think that an instrument that consists of a 4x4"plastic square attached to a wire or plastic handle wouldn't do much damage. Again, you haven't seen my mom wield one. Let me tell you about it. Those things can leave a red mark on the affected area. If wielded just right, your butt will be on fire for days. If the Armageddon ever occurs, my mom is totally in charge of hunting dinner. I'm pretty sure she could kill us a wild boar to make ham sandwiches or bacon, just with the simple flick of the wrist and the fly swatter.

Speaking of that, that's the biggest reason I'm afraid of the fly swatter. While my mom is quite handy with such a cheap instrument, she also has a look that goes with it. I kind of equate it to when a football player hurls a Hail Mary pass 90 yards down the field, or some Olympic runner jumps two miles worth of hurdles. Or me when I'm playing Mario Kart. I'm pretty sure my mom is a human dragon, because when she got the fly swatter, her nostrils would flare, and her face would scrunch up like she was about to breathe fire. And then I saw stars. Maybe she actually did breathe fire and I just didn't realize it because of the birdies circling my head. I feel like there had to be a RAWR somewhere in there, also, but I really don't know because I think I've repressed that memory. Hopefully, I didn't invite trouble, and now I'm going to dream about fly swatters all night. That would totally wreck my day tomorrow.

My mom became so good with the a fly swatter that, as I got older and became even more cheeky, all she had to do was back herself around the corner, and I ran because I knew what was coming. Sometimes, I think she pretended to go get the fly swatter just because she was bored and my reaction was amusing to her.

But there is an upside to all this: you have before you the fine, upstanding citizen I am today--as long as you consider people who have more than two-dozen speeding tickets upstanding, but that's another story for another time. One thing I am very grateful for is that they didn't have those tennis rackets that you use to shock the bug to death back then--because I'd really be screwed, and would probably have a waffle imprint-scar on my rear-end. All-in-all, I've recovered quite well. I'd better wrap this up, because I've got a therapy appointment in 45 minutes.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Stomach Virus by any Other Still a Stomach Virus

So...yeah, I'm not even going to try to say this title reflects anything that this isn't. It is exactly what you think it is. However, in true fashion with my life, I managed to find a way to have a humorous experience with something that...really isn't.

Let's start with a setting and some background information. I was in Europe. I was on a six-country tour for eleven days that started in London and ended in Barcelona. Beautiful, glorious, adventurous, fun. I had the time of my life in London--which, by the way, has to be one of the cleanest, friendliest, most easy to navigate cities on the planet--a most fun experience in Dublin, a surreal, glorious experience in Moffat, Scotland (my ancestral home), a magical experience in Paris...and then, tragedy struck.

I was sitting at an outside cafe in Paris (a bucket-list item, by the way), enjoying my beef carpaccio, when I noticed something wasn't quite right. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. My head didn't hurt, I didn't feel pukey (that's the name I use for nausea with my elementary kids--roll with it), but all was not right with the world. My blood sugar felt fine--my meter even confirmed that it was. Nothing was really hurting. But I did...not...feel...right.

Well, I figured it out. I figured it out from Paris to Champagne, from Champagne to Barcelona--and beyond. My decline became steady, as I noticed a brick in my stomach. Let me be the first to say to you that a brick in one's stomach--real or imagined--is not normal. This was not normal. I was around the Gare du Nord in Paris waiting for the train that would drop me off near the Champagne region of France, and I was hungry, but not hungry.

For those of you who don't know--a change in my hunger is the first sign that something is wrong. Ask my BFF of 25 years--she'll tell you. In fact, if you ask her, there are only three times when I'm in a really bad mood to the point that I should not be "messed with": when I haven't had enough sleep, when my blood sugar is low, and when I'm hungry. Otherwise, life is good.

Look at me, digressing as usual. Anyway, I had some time to kill before my train ride, so I was bound and determined to eat at one of the cafes around the train station. But nothing sounded good. I finally found an Italian cafe that sounded more okay than the others. By the way, if you've never been to Paris, I was astonished by the number of Italian cafes around the city. I might as well have been in Rome. I knew I wasn't when I saw that little tower thing, called "Eiffel" or something. Bleh. Anyway, I was going to eat that food come Hell or high water, so I forced myself to eat.

And then things went from worse. I still wasn't quite sure what was wrong, but I knew something was. I enjoyed my spaghetti bolognese--though I forced myself--and settled in for my train ride to Champagne. As the train ride went on, the brick in my stomach grew larger--and more rumbly...and louder. I'm sure by the time I arrived in Champagne, everyone knew I had a brick in my stomach. And that brick was trying to find its way out of an orifice--it did not care which one.

I was to stay in this cute little bed and breakfast in Champagne. When I arrived, I learned that the innkeeper's wife didn't speak a bit of English. Guess who doesn't speak a bit of French. After a few minutes of interpretive dance and pointing, we were able to get the room arrangements taken care of. Boy, was I glad, because by the time we were finally put into a room, the brick was SCREAMING to get out. My first friend in Champagne was the toilet. I felt like I was doing some weird French dance that my travel dictionary forgot to tell me about. It was like Soul Train--first one end, then the other. I hadn't even had anything to drink. I was in the motherland of champagne and wine, and my insides wanted out. I wanted out, but it wast happening without tears.

Here's the one "cool" thing about diabetes: you become really smart about how to travel. So I started a sheet of what meds I could take when. As a diabetic, I get prescriptions for anti-nausea meds in order to prevent a real emergency when I get nauseous or vomit. Those things can cause catastrophic effects in diabetes, and you do not want to be in a foreign country without those meds when that happens. I set alarms. I was pumped full of anti-nausea/anti-diarrheal meds and the best foreign 7-Up money could buy (which tastes god-awful in case you were curious). I got to check my blood sugar every 2 hours, and give insulin or drink more 7-Up accordingly. I would love to paint it more glamorously, but the truth is--it sucked.

Again, here I was in the motherland of one of my favorite interests and hobbies of all-time, and I could not stop praying to the porcelain god. By the time I left Champagne, I had nothing left to get rid of, but boy, was my body sure going to try. I guess I helped things out by drinking some of the most glorious hot chocolate ever made--au lait (with milk--hey I learned a word while I was there!), of course--by the innkeeper's wife.

Here's an easy math problem for you: Milk + brick-in-stomach=bad.

I finally got some respite on the way to Spain--mostly because I was on an overnight train ride, and I had medicine to help with that. I was starting to feel a little more hungry by this point, so I ordered some aceitunas (olives) on the train. They were the tastiest things (the only things) I had eaten in 24 hours. I would later find out what a dumb idea this was.

I managed to sleep all night on the train, many thanks to the medicines I had with me. While I believe in holistic and organic treatments when possible, I'm ever-so-thankful for Western medicine as well. And you better believe that, for all the interpretive dance I had to do to get these pills of wonder, I was sure going to use them.

Barcelona gave me that opportunity.

Let me say that a) the weather in Barcelona is fantastic, and b) the food is pretty good--on the first round, anyway.

I was at one of those little sidewalk cafes enjoying the sun, seventy-degree weather, and some Spanish delicacies, super-excited about exploring the city and completing another bucket list item later: eating paella in Spain.

It was all going fairly well, until at some random point, the brick decided to make a strong reappearance. I stopped and said, "We have to go…right now."

We all know I'm not a runner, but I fast-walked with style back to that hotel room. I would be damned if I was going to let my colon and esophagus sing in some public restroom where other people could be aware of what was going on.

Luckily, I made it back to the hotel in time to use the toilet and bidet to multitask. However, I ran into a small problem. This wouldn't affect most people, but as a diabetic, I had some catastrophic consequences to consider. When my body gets dehydrated by way of vomiting and diarrhea, I have to worry about it making poisons called ketones that can be incredibly difficult to control and can lead to hospitalization real fast. As someone who's experienced horrific medical care in America, I sure as crap didn't want to have to experience it internationally. In any case, I had forgotten to pack the strips you pee on to check for those poisons, so I had no way of knowing if I was even going there.

I drew out on a piece of paper what I was looking for for my traveling companion to take to the farmacia. Since I'm fairly fluent in Spanish, I drew out a pronunciation guide, complete with little emphasis marks so he would know what to ask for. I did give one warning: "if you say all this in a Texan accent, so help me God, when we get back to Texas, you'll wish you spoke Texan with a Spanish accent!"

Regardless, the good farmacéutico had no idea what ketone strips were, so I had to depend on smelling my own breath and hoping that I could discern between vomit and acetone (go look all that up). Either way, I was now on duty to check my blood sugar every two hours, drink horrible European 7-Up and shoot up insulin as needed.

This went on through several god-awful Spanish TV novelas, a version of Deal or No Deal that made me wish the virus would go ahead and take me, and "August Moon" with a Spanish voiceover. I now knew what Hell was. C. S. Lewis got it all wrong.

I managed to live through that night, which included an argument at 2 am that I should indeed take a shot of insulin when my blood sugar was 534, even though my site had been changed only three hours earlier (by the way, I won that battle as my site was kinked at a 90-degree angle). I also lived through the next day, which included the 22-hour plane ride from Hell, complete with the screaming baby the…entire…time. When, at the end of that twenty-two hours, I arrived at Chicago O'Hare, you better believe that I didn't only kiss the ground (literally), I mugged down on it (literally). By this point, if that virus didn't kill me, did it really matter?

After bringing my A-game in Europe, I brought it on home to the U. S. of A. for three solid days thereafter. At this point, I didn't care if I lived or died, as long as I could do it at home. God bless America.