grumpy about death… again (not ready for orphanhood)

Last night I lay awake in one of my morbid moods. I watched Nick sleep peacefully and pondered at large, as I’m wont to do, about the inevitability of all of our demises. Will we live long? Will my children lose me or Anthony before they’re grown? What if, heaven forbid, I were to lose one of them? My thoughts ranged through disease, pestilence, war, famine, bus hits, freak accidents. Nick dreamed as I stroked the hairs on his temple, praying to anything listening that he and Jesse be allowed to live long, peaceful, happy lives.

Last month while I was in California, my mom and I spoke about some estate planning issues. Her ducks aren’t quite in a row.  Now that she’s in her 80’s, it’s probably time to arrange them properly. It felt wrong, somehow, to bring it up. My family has never been open about death, about how to help life go on smoothly here on earth after one of us is gone. But as the only lawyer in the family and a daughter among sons, it makes practical and emotional sense for me to guide Mom through this.

But I don’t want to help Mom plan ahead for her death. I pointed this out to her. I don’t want you to die. I’m counting on you sticking around for a long, long time to come. She held up her hands, fingers out in a counting or quieting gesture. “Ten years,” she promised me, in a matter-of-fact tone as she nodded knowingly.

Ten years. I only get to see her about once a year these days. She seems unwilling to travel since her stroke, so she hasn’t made it out here to Wisconsin in some years. For my part, it’s difficult to get out to California with the kids because of time commitments and the hassle of traveling so far. I could go alone, but Mom wants to see her grandkids. So does that mean I’ll only see her ten more times before she’s gone? My chest and stomach clench in pain when I try to wrap my head around that.

When my grandma died, Mom was of course broken-hearted. It was a different kind of sadness than when Dad died. With him, she waded through the bitter suffering of a lost mate, a companion who was present day after day like the rising sun. But with grandma, her loss was a quiet and soft thing, something deep and young. In the months after grandma’s death, Mom spoke to me almost in whispers about her grief. One day she murmured slowly, “Oh Carla, my mommy is gone. I’m an orphan now.” It felt like a little poem, an elegy.

I heard in her voice, even over the telephone, all the longing and desperate need of a child hunting for her lost mother. Mom was 70-something, and she still wanted and needed her mother on this earth as much my little Nick wants and needs me. I wish I had been with Mom in the body just then, so that I could have held her. We could have cried together; and though I’m her daughter, perhaps I could have stood in the shoes of her mother for a moment and filled her cup with the gifts that loving parents bequeath to us.

But I know a day will come when I’ll never be able to hold her again. And what then?

I’m not ready for orphanhood. I won’t be ready in ten years. I need to remind Mom next time I talk with her. Don’t leave me, Mom. I still need you. I’ll always need you.

Grumpy about iFart

Jesse had a tough morning at her new dentist yesterday. They did a full cleaning, took x-rays, painted sealants on her molars (don’t start in on me about toxicity and all that — rotten teeth are toxic too, and she was born with ’em, so we’re in a balancing act here), took out an ineffective space-maintaining appliance (hence new dentist) between some missing molars, and did a mold on her upper teeth (which took two tries, ugh) for  a new orthodontic contraption that will hypothetically work better.

Jesse handled it like a Marine — tough and pretty grim, but also polite and compliant. Afterwards, she was spent. I gave her my iPhone as I drove her to school. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw her staring blankly at the phone as she tapped away. A few seconds later, I started hearing her iFart remix.

In case you’re one of the rare people who don’t yet know what iFart is, I hope you can guess from the name. It’s a smartphone app. You hit a button, it plays a fart. Many fart options are available, and you can repeat and layer them on top of each other to create rich symphonic effects.

Jesse can knock out a dance mix on iFart like the best house DJ you’ve ever met. She lays down thumpers and high descants, embedding them in repeating rhythmic patterns that leave me bouncing my head against all sense. Fart noises shouldn’t make me want to dance. Yesterday Jesse was all business as she laid down her track post-dentist, her face set in a serious mask. You wouldn’t have known she was having fun. Except for the extensive fart noises.

iFart is, sadly, one of the most-favored apps on my iPhone. It says something so sad and juvenile about me, but iFart never lets me down. When we were in California last month, I sat down one day on the big sofa in my mom’s living room. To my left on a neighboring sofa was my brother Eric — a master scatologist, a keeper of the poop flame, never ashamed of his bowel functions. To my right on a neighboring barca-lounger was his wife Wendy, a mild-mannered and modest-souled woman who I imagine excuses herself from a room to go silent-fart in private. Poor Wendy. I wonder if she knew what she was marrying into, this family of free-farting animals passing for human beings.

I don’t know what came over me. I placed my iPhone next to my right hip on high volume and punched up The Wipe Out, a fart option that lasts exactly five seconds. It doesn’t sound like a lot on paper, but trust me: a five-second fart is unholy long.

The Wipe Out sang out.

I looked to my right and smiled. Sweet Wendy, who would never make fun of anyone or call someone out for something embarrassing, looked at me. 1.5 seconds into The Wipe Out, her face screwed up into a mix of horror and revulsion as she cried out in earnest from her barca-lounger, “Oh my God, Carla!”

I looked to my left and smiled. 3 seconds gone. By now Eric was also looking at me in total disgust. “Jeez Carla, what the hell is that??”

5 seconds gone. I started laughing and couldn’t stop. It took just a moment for them to figure out that it was the app and not me, but for that short moment they must have thought my pants were full of crap and I was the most revolting human being in the world.

It set me to wondering. Just how much does it take to fill Eric with a sense of scatological loathing? A lot, really. He’s my brother, after all.

But iFart did it, in just 5 seconds. That’s impressive.

grumpy about banking

I’m on hold with my bank right now. I’ll won’t tell you which bank, because someone might be trolling my blog to collect a bunch of personal data about me and do stuff to me and steal all my money. I’ll call it… The Bank. (I’m feeling inspired.)

Exactly every 30 seconds, a recording of a lady’s voice interrupts the muse-ACK to tell me this: “Thank you for holding. All of our specialists are busy assisting other customers. Please continue to hold and your call will be answered in the order in which it was received.” My phone tells me this call has lasted 39 minutes so far. I spent the first 10 speaking with a rep before he put me on hold, so I’ve now heard the lady speak her lines almost 60 times.

The tic in my right eye is going strong.

I called The Bank because I need a February statement for a savings account. I need it to give to The Other Bank, which we’re using to refinance our mortgage and fund some renovations. (Ssssshhh, don’t tell anyone, I don’t want to jinx the projects.) The Other Bank has our November, December, and January statements, so naturally it wants February as well now.

I do on-line statements whenever possible. I don’t see the point of getting paper statements that I throw directly into the trash. With something like a savings account, I don’t even really look at a statement ever. I use the on-line app for The Bank, and whenever I log in I see the summary page with my account balances. As long as the numbers look familiar, I’m good, right?

Right. But now we have to give The Other Bank a bunch of financial paper, so I’ve been visiting The Bank’s website to grab PDFs of my on-line statements for 3 accounts — one checking, two savings. It was all fine until I was told I needed to provide February statements. I shimmied on over to the on-line banking site, and I navigated my way to the on-line statement section, and then I selected one of the savings accounts, and I discovered that the most recent statement was from January. Hm.

It’s mid-March now. This wasn’t right. So I called The Bank. The friendly rep, I’ll call him Mr. Rep, told me that there was no February statement because this savings account had been switched over to quarterly statements.

“Why?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he answered. “Did you request it?”

“No. I don’t think so. Can I do that?”

“I don’t know.”

And so it went. we figured out that there’s no way for a customer to select quarterly statements via the on-line system. So someone in PNC, or a ghost in its machines, switched this particular savings account to quarterly statements. Mr. Rep switched it back to monthly statements, so now we’ll get a March statement in a couple weeks. But what about February? Mr. Rep thought PNC wouldn’t be able to generate a February statement.

I explained to Mr. Rep my problem. “Mr. Rep, The Other Bank needs paper from me for underwriting on our refi. So far The Other Bank seems to be, uh, RIGID about what they require. So if The Bank can’t generate a February statement, I’m going to have a problem because The Other Bank will think I’m withholding a statement for some reason. I think The Bank should be able to figure this out. You are, after all, The Bank.”

Mr. Rep agreed. He put me on hold and said he would be back. That was, oh… 46 minutes ago.

“Thank you for holding. All of our specialists are busy assisting other customers. Please continue to hold and your call will be answered in the order in which it was received.”

(30 seconds)

“Thank you for holding. All of our specialists are busy assisting other customers. Please continue to hold and your call will be answered in the order in which it was received.”

(30 seconds)

“Thank you for holding. All of our specialists are busy assisting other customers. Please continue to hold and your call will be answered in the order in which it was received.”

Grumpy about the neti pot 

I’m obsessed with my new neti pot, the most spectacular snot-sluicing ceramic container I’ve ever come across.

I’ve been really sick with a cold — the 87th cold in our household this winter — and I finally started feeling really guilty about using the Simply Saline nose hoses. I’ve been hosing like mad to try to get this illness cleared out without resort to medicine. With the Simply Saline devices, I generate so much garbage. I could be showering my sinuses instead with a re-usable thingy.

So I got right on Amazon and ordered me a neti pot made by the Himalayan Institute. With the word “Himalayan” in the company name, I knew I could trust the manufacturer. And, according to the product blurb, the neti pot “has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine to alleviate allergy and sinus problems.”

Thousands of years! Let’s hope that’s TEN thousand, because then this neti pot is Paleo-worthy, duuude, it’s evolutionary maaaan. I don’t know what “Ayurvedic” is but it sounds caveman when I say it, especially with all this phlegm in my throat.

I hosed my nose with the neti pot 3 times yesterday. It felt so goooood I just couldn’t stop. I let Anthony watch me do it once, as a sort of demo. He stared at me with concern as I started to pour. “Is that coming out of your other nose hole?”

Yeah, that’s right baby. It’s HOT, isn’t it? I bet Anthony wanted a piece of this action after he saw snotty water dripping out my nose into the sink.

But this morning I woke up feeling terrible for the 8th consecutive day and my eyes looked like vampire eyes. At Anthony’s urging, I went over to the clinic. Now I’m on antibiotics for a sinus infection and antibiotic drops for pinkeye.

In this age of careful, critical thinking on matters of medicine, climate, and all things science, we all know one truth: correlation constitutes causation. Call it the Three C’s of Post-Modern Pseudo-Scientific Thought. You’re probably already familiar with this  trending philosophy, also known as PMP-SciT (pronounced “pimps-it” by those in-the-know).

And also we all know, once you hit the Three C’s, the next truth is that SOMEONE IS TO BLAME, followed by the close corollary SOMEONE MUST PAY. These are fundamental to the philosophy of PMP-SciT.

What is, is. I used the neti pot for the first time yesterday. Today I have a sinus infection and pink eye. Naturally, I blame my all-natural neti pot. It’s true that my eyes were sort of gummy day before yesterday, and my nose was full of unholy clogs of snot day before yesterday (and the day before that and the day before that…), but I was not diagnosed with pinkeye and a sinus infection until today, the day after I used my new neti pot. So that settles it.

I will never use a neti pot again. I have done research since my adverse reaction to the neti pot. Now I know THE TRUTH. Neti pots cause eye infections and can kill you by delivering a lethal dose of a flesh-eating amoeba to your brain. My friend Larry posted up a photo of the amoeba for me:


My god.  It’s looking at me. It’s wearing Minion glasses. Are YOU feeling lucky, dear neti pot user?

I googled “dangers of neti pots” and found all sorts of scary stuff. Did you know that medical doctors — members of that blasted, lying profession that dares to tell us it’s safe to vaccinate our kids — seem to recommend reasonable use of the neti pot? WTF?? Why would we do anything they recommend??

I’m experiencing terrible, terrible cognitive dissonance. I used the neti pot to avoid modern medicine. The neti pot made me turn to modern medicine. The natural salt water may cause my brain to be eaten by amoebas. The antibiotics will eat everything in my intestines. Uuugh, uuugh, does not compute, does not compute.

I don’t know what I can do about it. Just tell me one thing. Where do I find the neti pot adverse outcome hotline and database? I need to file a report and make a claim. There’s got to be some money in this somewhere.

grumpy about my name’s hidden meaning

Why would I ever follow a link to one of those stupid quiz apps that floats across Facebook? What’s your true personality? (psycho) What percentage slob are you? (100%) What’s the perfect dog for you? (obviously not the one I have) How powerful is your purple Id? (kind of mauve) Can this app guess when you last pooped? (recently, but I won’t say more)

So why did I click the link to go see what my name’s hidden meaning is?

C – A – R – L – A. And here’s what I learned about me:


No. Say it ain’t so.

The description of my name’s hidden meaning goes on from the hyper thing thusly: “You never slow down, even when it’s killing you. You’re the type of person who can be a workaholic during the day… and still have the energy to party all night. Your energy is definitely a magnet for those around you. People are addicted to your vibe.”

Stop. All stop. First and most important, no one — NO ONE — is addicted to my vibe. I am not a magnet, unless it’s for food waste that weirdly removes itself from my kids’ faces and places itself on my clothing. Also I can’t party all night. I’m 48 years old and I have two young children. Jeez. I’d just like to sleep all night for once. That would feel like a party to me.

And anyway, don’t you think “hyper” is a gender-based insult? Do guys get called hyper? I don’t think so. Only women get called hyper. Also small dogs. Men get called “energetic” or some shit like that.

I know how to test this theory. Hold on a minute while I go open a new Safari window and use that stupid hidden name meaning app on my male counterpart. C – A – R – L. My grandpa, after whom I was named. Carla is just the female version of Carl, and vice versa, so the outcome should be the same right?

I’ll be right back.

Oh come ON. CARL the MAN is “usually the best at everything.” Carl “strive[s] for perfection” and is “confident, authoritative and aggressive.” He has the classic Type A personality.

Well hose me down with a stream of skunk piss. I’m just a hyper workaholic, killing myself and partying too much at night. If I were a MAN, I’d be the best at everything and confident AND authoritative AND aggressive.

Damn. Who writes those stupid quiz apps anyway? What a strange way to make a living.

Grumpy about the swim meet (we survived)

Sooo tired. Migraine imminent. Jesse whining incessantly about whatever comes to mind. It’s easy to KNOW that it’s because she’s emotionally spent, but it’s hard to DEAL with it. 

Because I wish she was proud of herself. She held her head up and looked confident, she showed up for her heats, and she fit right in. She was a little weird during the freestyle — I can’t even explain it, you would have had to see her — but she completed the event with a personal best. Her swimming has come so far. I wish she could enjoy what she’s accomplished. 

We’ll keep working on getting her to a better place in her head. I’m weary of her self-loathing. I loathe it. 

But aside from that, the long day turned out not that bad.  A very pulled-together mom (NOT ME, obviously) corralled other parents to bring stuff.

What you don’t see in this pic is the 4000 various brands of power and protein bars someone sent. There was plenty of food. 

The kids entertained themselves by doing sprints on the indoor track and throwing balls and playing with electronics. It was pretty relaxed. 

Nick and Anthony arrived in time to watch Jesse’s heats. Almost nothing could do a better job of putting a smile on a grumpy face than the sight of Nick cheering for his sister. He chanted “go Jesse! Go Jesse! Go Jesse!” while pumping his fist up and down like peeps used to do on freeways to ask semis to honk their horns. And, as Anthony points out, Nick chanted like this for Jesse in ten consecutive heats until she was actually swimming. (All little girls in swimcaps and goggles look the same from the bleachers.)

It was a shame Jesse was so unhappy at the end of it all, but I hope she’ll learn to feel better about this event by some time in… I don’t know, say her late 20’s? As I always say: that’s what therapy’s for. 

Grumpy at the swim meet (another hour gone and I’m still a moron)

Yes, it RHYMES. I have TIMES for that. 

I whined to the swim team coach about why Jesse was only in one heat. I determined that fact by poring carefully (no really, I did) through 12 pages that look like this:


Coach said gee let me see if I can get her in a breast stroke heat.

He came back a few minutes later. “She’s already in two heats.” He showed me the line item I missed.

So we only have to wait two more hours until Jesse swims, not three.  Excellent news. 

Now I’m bored AND embarrassed. I hate when I whine for no reason. 

Grumpy at the swim meet (30 minutes later)

Okay I’m adjusting my attitude here. I’m trying to get more up beat. But it ain’t easy. 

Everyone is swimming two events on this team except Jesse, who’s only doing the 50 freestyle. I asked why, because they promised me she’d be in at least two. The answer was inchoate. I think they think they’re doing her a favor because she’s shown some, uh, very anxious behaviors at prior meets. 

But nothing could be worse than sitting around on your ass all day, waiting and waiting. And waiting. Still waiting. To swim for 45 seconds, once. 

Jesse’s really struggling with this. Having a hard time staying calm.

Mm. On the up side, Jesse’s heat is scheduled for 1:45 so we won’t have to stick around until the end of the meet to leave. I hope her iPad battery holds on. 

I anticipate that at approximately 1:47, I’ll be standing poolside next to the starting block for Jesse’s lane. The scene is playing out in my mind already. She pulls herself out of the pool. As her arms heave her up, I reach over and jam her sneakers on before her feet even hit the deck. Then I inspire her to run by poking her cute little butt cheeks. We scream “FREEEEEDOOOOM” like Mel Gibson’s William Wallace while we run pell-mell straight to my car, which I’ve pre-packed with all our gear. We never look back as I screech out of the parking lot, leaving a cloud of road salt behind us. 

Grumpy at the swim meet

oh em gee. It’s the Sunday morning after Daylight Savings Time kicks in, and I have to bring Jesse to an all-day swim meet that starts at 8:00 am. That’s actually 7:00 am. Who does that? Who schedules something like this for 200 kids the day after DST? Some boob, that’s who, in my grumpy opinion. Plus I had to drive 30 minutes to get here and pack a bunch of food to get through the day, so I had to get up at 5:45 Real Time. 

This is our JCC team’s — and my — first all-day meet. I had no idea it was A Scene. People are arriving with pillows ansd sleeping bags, giant coolers and camper chairs. It’s a freakin’ tailgate party in the gym where we all have to hang out for the next 472 hours. 

Aargh. And look at the weird thing going on in the pool. 

It looks like a salmon migration, only it’s children, all putting their hearts into a good warm-up before it’s even 8:00 real time. 

Screw DST. I gotta go find some coffee.