climbing on the x files college au train (society6)

(via scullaaay)


This is a teaser. Consider yourself teased. 

Mouth wide open

Recovery from sinus surgery is pretty damn unpleasant.

I have to mouth breathe because there are splints and blue foam tampons in my nostrils.

I have to take tiny bites of food because my mouth is also my sole means of breathing. I can’t taste what I’m eating, though I can slightly tell the difference between sweet and salty. This is probably a good sign that it won’t take weeks or months for my sense of smell and taste to return.

The pain could be worse. I feel like my nose was rearranged, but it’s not an intolerable feeling. I’ve only taken 2 pain pills, but they made me too sleepy. This wouldn’t be a problem with almost any other surgery, but with sinus surgery, I fear sleep.

I sleep in roughly 30 minute intervals. I wake up when my lips and gums and tongue are completely parched and adhering to each other. I take a tiny sip of ice water and roll it around my mouth, and fall back asleep for another roughly 30 minutes. Repeat until my body allows me to stay awake.

Monday, the splints and packing will come out, though I’ve read that the unpacking can be quite unpleasant and possibly a bloody mess that will require immediate repacking. I might need to take a pain pill before the appointment.

I’ve sneezed 4 times today, I think because my nosebleed has mostly stopped and the tampons are drying out and tickling my nose. The quivering, uncertain moments just before the sneeze are terrifying. But I keep my mouth wide open during the sneezes, as I was instructed, and they don’t hurt. I laughed kind of hard last night and it was painful, so only mild humor from here on out.

My brother is waiting to see how my sinus surgery turns out before he looks into getting his own fixed. I told him to just try using a sinus rinse first, to see if it solves his problems. “The only thing I fear more than sinus surgery is a sinus rinse,” he said. Pfft. The rinses are the easy part! I’m going to avoid talking to him until I’m in a better frame of mind. I don’t yet know how much this is going to help me and my animal brain is still telling me that this was a huge mistake.

Sinus rinses will be part of my daily treatment for at least a year post surgery, and possibly forever. I don’t mind, though, if the surgery is effective. Sinus rinses helped me function the last couple months in a way that Mucinex D, ibuprofen, and Zyrtec couldn’t.

Tiny is stressed. I hope as I feel better, she relaxes a little. Her entire routine has been upended, and she’s pretty exhausted. I wish I could do more.

My nose looks ridiculous. It’s not at all my slender, defined nose. Someone swapped a wide, pugnacious nose onto my face, and I don’t remember consenting to that.

For now, I’m dreaming of a time when I can breathe out of my nose again, a life without daily sinus headaches and frequent migraines, and a nap with my mouth closed. I’m also wondering why anyone would subject themselves to this for purely cosmetic reasons.


I’m sick. I’ve been sick for months, and pretty steadily since the end of 2012. My sinuses are a mess and, well, here. Just look:


That is not normal.

I’ve spent months trying everything. Humidifiers, saline spray, nasal rinses, Flonase, Zyrtec, sometimes NyQuil to help me sleep, plus a constant diet of ibuprofen and Mucinex D. Nothing is helping. The sinus pressure builds and builds. I always have a headache, and those turn into migraines. I even took Topamax to stop the headaches, and that barely helped, plus the side effects were terrible. I was a different person on that dirty drug. It scared me.

To stop the chronic sinus infections and headaches, I need surgery to fix my deviated septum, plus some other stuff. I’m not getting a nose job, though I sort of wish a younger me and been insecure enough about my character actor nose to have one, the way my aunt and cousin were. Then I wouldn’t be dealing with any of this.


Tiny knows that I’m sick. She knows I get headaches, She knows that she has to be quiet some times, lest I get agitated or push on my sinuses in pain. She knows I’ve gone to the doctor a lot, and that I’m trying to get better. She knows that I’m unhappy.

She’s spent the last 5 months, basically, in the house with me, bearing this situation as much as I am. We’re both stir crazy from the weather and from me.

When I decided to have the surgery, I had to talk to her and explain, in a limited way, what that meant.

"Doctor go in your nose and fix it?" was how she summed up what I said.

"Yes. Now I have to talk to you about something else."


"You’ve been hitting Mommy sometimes when you’re upset."

"Sorry, Mommy."

"It’s okay, baby. But when I get home from the hospital, you can’t hit Mommy in the face."

"Alright," she said and hugged me. I hugged her, and then pulled her away and made her look me in the eyes.

"I’m serious, honey. If you hit Mommy’s nose, I could get very hurt and have to go to the hospital. Do you understand?"

She shook her head yes.

"Doctor go in nose, then you feel better?"

"Yes, honey. After the doctor fixes my nose I’ll feel better." 

I hope.


Today has been a bad day. I fell asleep last night with a severe headache. I woke up with one, too. All I can take is Tylenol, but if I take Tylenol I can’t take my migraine meds. So I usually don’t take Tylenol. It’s not going to stop a migraine, and it doesn’t seem to do anything to alleviate my pain. I miss ibuprofen. I could actually feel it kick in and soothe my aching eyes and teeth. My pain and facial pressure would slowly wash away to a dull ache. I even breathed better on it. I can’t take it for 2 weeks prior to surgery, and a miscommunication over this with my ENT has already led to my surgery being rescheduled.

Tiny is potty training. She went #2 on the big potty and she was so proud of herself that I was excited, too.

"Now you better, Mommy?" she asked me. "You feel better?"

"No, honey. But that doesn’t mean I’m not happy for you. Mommy still doesn’t feel well. Soon."


I hate this. It’s probably temporary, but I hate it. I can’t even get on the floor and play with my two year old because the sinus pressure overwhelms me. What a sweet kid. But then I worry that she’s too young to worry like this.


This will be my third surgery in just under 4 years. I am 33 years old. I dread going under because I can’t control anything.

I am coping with several different forms of stress, most of it major, though things could always be worse. I lucked out and landed my dream kid, but I won’t have any more children. This makes me sad, but also a little relieved. I am tired, often lonely, always aware of the ways I am failing.

But I have a shot at making this one thing better, at being the mom I used to be, at enjoying being in the moment with my sweet girl and not just counting minutes until my next dose of medication.

I want to say yes the next time she asks me that question. No. I want it to be so obvious to her that she doesn’t think to ask me at all.

Clairvoyance Test

When I was 22, and Josh and I were newly in love—though we obviously didn’t dare to say that yet, obviously—a very close friend of mine had a party. A psychic party. A numerology party, to be exact.

I was, of course, expected to attend. And even though I have several times experienced, um, unexplained phenomenon, I was loathe to pay a stranger to lie to me about my future in the name of teenage friendship. Yet, that is precisely what I was prepared to do. You see, I had already skipped her recent candle party.

The day of the psychic party, I was in a bit of a time crunch because I had to work in a couple hours. I’d run late on purpose, thinking that I could just sneak in, maybe they wouldn’t have time for me, and I could sneak out. Only, they hadn’t even started. There were several women there, but the only people I knew were my friend and her mom. Everyone was milling about, chatting quietly, eating snacks. I looked around for a barefoot woman wearing a gypsy skirt or something, but there was no one there who looked like that. I sat down and waited. I was going to have to do this stupid thing. And the psychic wasn’t even here yet.

Eventually, one of the guests, a small middle-aged woman with short hair and glasses, stood up and said she was ready to get started. Since it was her party, my friend went first. She asked me to sit in the room with her, so I listened while the psychic told her all sorts of positive things about her job and her fiance, and her future. She slipped in a few minor negative things, but mostly it was You have a bright future; here, wear these shades.

When she was done, her mom went in. My friend and I chatted in a nearby room. She asked me what I was going to ask the psychic. I told her I didn’t know. She told me I should ask the psychic if Josh was The One.

I don’t believe in The One, and I never have. Maybe that’s a byproduct of being a child of divorced parents, or maybe it’s just that I have some understanding of math. Regardless, I believe in The Many. I settled on asking the psychic about college and about whether Josh and I had a future together.

When it was my turn, the psychic lady called me into her makeshift office. She popped a cassette tape into a portable recorder, hit Record, and started taking notes. Then she said the day’s date and asked me to say my name and birthday. From there she figured out my number and rattled off some basic “facts” about people with that number. She barely looked at me.

"So, what do you want to know?" 

On the tape, you can hear how nervous I am. Maybe not nervous. I was uncomfortable, and sort of uninterested. This woman was a total stranger, and she wasn’t even looking at me. She was phoning it in.

I asked her some questions about my education and what career path I should take, and she fed me generic bullshit. I asked about my brother’s health and whether he’d fully recover from all of his injuries, and she was optimistic. I started to talk about my job situation, but she stopped me.

"Don’t you have a beau?"

"Oh, uh, I—"

"What’s his birthday?"

I told her and she gave me his number, one greater than mine.

"How are things with you two?"

"Oh, wonderful. He’s a great guy. He’s—"

"He’s not."

"I’m sorry?"

"Look, I normally don’t do this. And you seem sweet. But I have to warn you, honey." She took off her glasses, and looked right at me.


"He’s trash. He’s a trash baby. Do you know what I’m saying? A trash baby."

"Not really. You don’t know him."

"I don’t need to. I know what I see. This is what I do.” She leaned over the table and locked our gazes, without any malice in her eyes. “He is a trash baby. He will ruin your life. He will wear you down. He will use you up. He will lie, cheat, steal. Get away from this man as fast as you can. Understand? A trash baby.” She punctuated the air with her pen.

I nodded once, and stood up. Wasn’t this supposed to be a dumb little party? She hit Stop/Eject on the tape recorder and handed me the tape.

"That’ll be twenty-five dollars, honey."

I paid her and I left, half shell-shocked, half defiant.


I probably listened to that tape 3 or 4 times between 2003 and 2006 or so. By 2004, it was clear that the psychic wasn’t totally wrong. But she was wrong. Josh went to counseling, he sought help, he did everything I asked of him. Or so I thought anyway.

By the time we were married in 2007, we’d had 2 years of relative harmony. We’d battled adversity. We’d overcome things individually and together. I had serious reservations about the institution of marriage (still do), but I didn’t have doubts about marrying him.

By 2009, he didn’t seem quite right again, but things were nothing like how awful they got in 2004. Again, he sought help. He got diagnoses, and medications, and he’s been diligent about taking them ever since. He showed real, tangible improvement. He evened out and life was good for another 2+ years.

And then in 2011, the other shoe dropped. This time I was pregnant. People tried to explain away our clashes as me being hormonal and a typical experience for couples who are pregnant, but I knew better. I’d seen this all before, except this time I was scared. How would I be able to help him when my real job would be taking care of an actual child?

And I thought about that damn psychic. She wasn’t wrong.  It kills me that she wasn’t completely wrong.


Despite the fact that Josh got additional help for yet another diagnosis, 2013 was an awful year for so, so many reasons. And so I feel worn down. I feel used up. I feel lied to and used and manipulated. 

But all of that is just temporary. No matter what happens between Josh and me, I will get past these feelings. So, she was wrong.

At the very least, she was wrong about me.


To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf

My number

There’s this Facebook meme going around where women who choose to participate are assigned random (?) numbers by each other. Each woman then writes a list of facts about their pregnancies. They then share posts like this:

"I loved cheese with my pregnancies!"

"I had all my children naturally, and it was amazing. I’ll only have natural childbirths."

"I had PPD following my pregnancies."

"It was really hard to come up with 9 facts about my pregnancy!"

And so on.

I wonder how many “likes” I’d get if I posted comments about all my pregnancies and how they ended. I wonder how my friends who can’t get pregnant at all feel. It’s the holidays, which makes the infertility struggle so much fucking harder. Save your mommy bonding for the new year, jerks.


2 spoopy agents 

For Clank.

The Beast

In 1989, having already survived a quadruple bypass and surgery for colon cancer, my grandpa decided that he would buy a new truck. It couldn’t be just any truck. He would buy the one he wanted to drive during his retirement and he would not settle. 

Back in the day, Grandpa was a Dodge man, but he’d settled into Ford vans and trucks as he’d gotten older. The new truck needed to be powerful enough to tow the Mallard travel trailer he planned to buy. The new truck also needed to be red.

(Grandpa loved the color red, much to Grandma’s consternation. The ’70s must have injected more gender equality into household decisions because Grandpa flexed his decorating muscles. He outfitted the family room in heavy blood-red curtains and bought a red and black velour sofa for the living room. In every other way, the house was Grandma’s: dark cherry wood, creams and light blues. “And that damn red couch,” she’d say.)

There was a Ford dealership near Grandpa’s house, but they didn’t specialize in trucks. Things were different then. So, Grandpa had to go to a different dealership that felt very far away when I was 9. I remember the trip fondly though, because there was a monster truck parked out front. My brother was delighted and Grandpa was pleased. And even though I didn’t care about monster trucks, I loved when Grandpa was excited to show us something.

(Often, while working on cars or fixing something around the house, Grandpa would call my brother and me over to show us what he was doing. He never talked down to us and always explained things.

Once, when doing an evening oil change on my mom’s car, Grandpa called us out to watch and help him. My brother and I stood shoulder to shoulder in the cool air, watching and listening while he worked under a single-bulb portable light. My brother said, “Grandpa, this is a boy job. Why is she out here?” Grandpa told him, “A job is a job and it has to get done. And it’s even more important for her to know these things than it is for you.” Even at that young age, I knew what he meant.)

Sometime later, Grandpa came home with his new truck, a Ford F-350 quad cab. It was huge and had four wheels in the back instead of two. In addition to having it outfitted with a special in-bed trailer hitch and a folding bed cover, Grandpa had other customizations done as well: a second fuel tank, running boards along both sides, the interior was red velour, power windows on the front doors and power locks all around (both of which required custom work in 1989!), a CB radio, and a custom two-tone red and cream paint job. One of my aunts nicknamed the new truck The Beast.

Grandpa was feeling great and he was determined to travel with Grandma. I know they took some short trips, but he never got to take that one last major road trip he really wanted. The cancer returned, and this time it stayed, eventually finishing the job. The truck was basically still new.

For years, The Beast sat in Grandma’s driveway. My brother and I would occasionally wash and wax it by hand, a ludicrous job for even grown men. But we needed to restore The Beast to its proper glory, if only to see Grandma’s slight smile. (Plus, she gave us $50 each to do the job.)

Sometimes, Mom’s car would break down or need work and she’d end up driving the truck.

Once, before heading to school, I’d smoked a bowl of pot and left my pipe in the running board crevice. After I left, Mom drove The Beast to work that day for some reason. When I got home from school the truck was gone - along with my pipe. Panicked, my brother and I walked the route my mom drove to work to see if it had flown off the running board along the way. We found nothing. That evening, after my mom was home, I found a reason to go outside and check the truck. My pipe was still there, nestled and safe.

Another time, my mom was getting gas at a QuikTrip and a man offered her $10,000 cash for The Beast. She said no. She knew Grandma would never sell it. Even after the trailer was sold, Grandma would never entertain selling it.

So, mostly The Beast just sat. It made for an easy target when my high school friends started turning on me. Someone put shaving cream on the paint, permanently dulling and mottling the surface. Another person dumped sugar into one of the fuel tanks. And while the sugar did mess up that tank, they stupidly didn’t notice the other tank. For years, the sugar tank went unused, but stayed full of gasoline. One day, years later, Mom decided to use it. Other than the fuel gauge not working on that tank, it was fine. It still is.

I drove The Beast on I-270 only once, when I was preparing for my driver’s license exam. I think my mom was testing me: if I could handle that truck, I could handle anything. She was probably right. I was nervous, but more than a little impressed with how well I drove it. I also never, ever wanted to drive it again. I never did.

For awhile, my cousin had the truck. Little things started going wrong with it, and he jury-rigged problems instead of fixing them. A window had an issue so he opened the door up and strapped the window into a closed position. He ripped off the running boards, but not the brackets. the custom folding mirrors no longer folded because he welded them into place. (Because they could no longer move, cars and trucks often clipped those mirrors when the truck was parked. The mirror itself would break, but the frames never budged out of place. Once, on Kingshighway, a stretch Hummer limo hit one of the mirrors, which scraped along the length of the Hummer. The limo driver just kept going.) Things like that. And that’s the condition The Beast was in when Josh bought it for his masonry business.

We’ve had the truck since 2008. Josh did all but the major  work himself to save money, even though it cost him days and days of his life. We’ve had engine parts re-machined. Almost 2 years ago, we put in a new transmission - which just now has only 10,000 miles on it. (The original engine hasn’t even cracked 100,000 miles!) We’ve slowly lost everything from the radio to the front power windows, to the air conditioning. One of the back doors will no longer open, and one has been jury-rigged to open with a vice grip and good timing. We’ve gone through 13 tires and many hundreds of gallons of gas. Usually loaded with a steel toolbox, a sand box, gravel, bricks and scaffolding, The Beast averaged 7 miles per gallon. On the highway.

People marvel at this shitty truck. A few have even offered to buy it, but until Josh was done with masonry, he couldn’t let it go.

Today, finally, Josh took the truck to his dealership. The wholesalers will come get it and auction it off to whoever wants to take the transmission or part it out, or to some crazy bastard who falls in love with it. In my wildest dream we get a thousand dollars for it, though obviously there’s no amount that’ll ever be quite right. It has been a hell of a ride, one Grandpa certainly never imagined. But I hope it’s one he’d get a kick out of.

RIP The Beast. Long live The Beast.

Braised Brussels Sprouts in Mustard Sauce

(modified from the cookbook “Get Cooking”)

Makes 2-3 servings

1 lb Brussels sprouts
2 Tbsp olive oil
⅓ cup minced shallots
½ tsp salt
5 Tbsp water
¼ cup mustard (any kind you prefer)
2 Tbsp brown sugar
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Cut off and discard the base of the Brussels sprouts. Slice off a piece from one side, place the sprout cut side down, and cut into 4 or 5 slices. Repeat until all sprouts are sliced this way.

2. Place a large skillet over medium heat. After a minute, add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the shallots and sauté for 2 minutes. Stir in the Brussels sprouts and salt, pour in 3 tablespoons of water, and spread everything evenly across the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook undisturbed for 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, combine mustard, brown sugar, and remaining 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl, and stir until blended.

4. Once the Brussels sprouts have cooked for 5 minutes, pour in the mustard mixture, stirring to distribute it well. Turn the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook undisturbed for 3 minutes.

5. Stir again, and decide if you like the sprouts cooked to this degree or if you want to cook them more. You can leave the skillet over low heat for up to 5 minutes longer which will brown the Brussels sprouts and intensify their flavor.

6. Serve hot or warm, topped with a generous amount of black pepper.


- Use pure maple syrup instead of brown sugar

- Throw in up to ½ cup dried cranberries or golden raisins with the Brussels sprouts

- Sprinkle some chopped toasted hazelnuts, walnuts, or almonds over the finished dish.

- Scatter a handful of thinly sliced fresh spinach or arugula over the finished dish

- I didn’t have shallots on hand, so I used a half clove of garlic. Still delicious.

- Stab