Saturday, 1 December 2018

Me vs The Creeping Inevitability of Elves PART 2: The Elfening

On November 30th, something very strange happened.

I got a text from my neighbour letting me know that a present had been delivered to her doorstep, addressed to my kids. 

Weird. We don't get door delivery, as we live in a rural area that Purolator denies exists. 

Then I got this picture:



My immediate thought was that my neighbour had "found" this package on her doorstep, and had gotten the kids a gift. They're great neighbours, and crafty, so this added up. I guessed it was probably an elf. 

This wasn't even a baseless assumption. Last year my daughter would go to their house before school and see their elf Armie move around the house, and she would beg for one. She was so desperate for her own elf, she wrote a letter to Santa asking him to send and elf to her house. It  included guilt-inducing lines like "Please don't be scared of my family".  How do you deal with that as a parent?

You find an elf. Except I live in a small town with limited shopping options, and I was already a couple of weeks into December at the time, so an official elf wasn't an option. Long story short, we got a stuffed reindeer named Hickory Von Fluffenstein instead (read the whole saga here). Crisis averted.


My neighbour knew all of this, and so I assumed she had gotten us an elf and had it delivered to us, C/O of her kids and their elf.  We picked up the package and the kids unwrapped the mysterious gift. It was an elf. 

I texted her back and said something along the lines of "Thank you for the elf. I guess we're part of the parents who have to remember the stupid elf each night club now :)". She responded with "It was an elf?". I  played along with what I assumed was fake denial on her part, but she continued to sound baffled, swearing that it wasn't her.

At this point the wisps of confusion began to settle in. I truly thought it was her, because honestly I couldn't imagine who else it would be, but she swore up and down it wasn't her.

This led me to extrapolate a couple of things:

1. Someone out there knows my kids wanted an elf but didn't have one. This doesn't narrow it down much as I'd previously posted about it.

2. Someone took the crazy initiative to go out and purchase an elf for my kids.

3. This mysterious stranger then made sure to deliver this elf anonymously to my neighbours, meaning they had to know them as well. Again, it's a small town so this is by no means impossible, it's just very dedicated to the process.

4. My neighbour's elf Armie is named on this package as well, meaning that someone has gone to extreme lengths to learn the name of my neighbour's elf to maintain the illusion, OR...

5. My neighbour's statements of innocence are less than accurate, and when put in these terms, that seems the most likely situation. That said, she is pretty strong in her denial, so it gives me pause. 

Whatever the case, we now have an elf. 
His name is Christopher Cookie. 


And whether the mysterious benefactor was my neighbour, or someone else who's Christmas game is very strong: Thank you, your gift has gone above and beyond. 

My kids are ecstatic and fully invested in the magic.  And despite being tied to this creepy little creature for the next 24 days, I'm deeply entertained by how this story has evolved over a year, and culminated in a mystery elf of unknown origins. The whole thing has thoroughly exceeded my expectations.

Well played mystery Santa, well played. 

Monday, 12 November 2018

Me vs The Piano Recital

I used to play piano, and my mother and I never agreed on how my end-of-the-year recital went. 
Here is that story.

I was young, ten maybe? I can't remember...time is hard. I do know that at some point in my early life, I took one single year of piano lessons. No more, no less. To be fair, my sister managed exactly one single lesson, before throwing the mother of all fits and getting out of my parent's "you must commit to a year of whatever activity you chose to do" rule, so I get some moral high ground for making it as long as I did. She did something similar for skating lessons, again skirting the rule that I was consistently held to.  My little sister could basically get away with murder. #oldersiblingproblems

But I digress.

Like most kids who have never played the piano a day in their lives, I began with the musical equivalent of a See Jane Run book, playing hits like Twinkle Twinkle and Row Row Row the Boat. Classics. I wasn't even bad at it,  which I believe was at least in part due to my freakishly long fingers, which give me just over an octave span. My grandmother was elated that I'd taken up piano, as she was a very accomplished pianist, and my mother had evidently failed by not taking up that mantle. Maybe I would be a prodigy.

Unfortunately for all involved, prodigies usually need some music reading skills and basic coordination, which was never something I was at all well equipped to deal with. I could, however, memorize things very well for short durations of time (a skill which would come in very handy in university testing scenarios). This meant that once I had painstakingly written out all the notes on the page and practiced ad nauseum so my left and right hands could function independently of each other, I could play it pretty well.

This ability gave my teacher the completely misguided impression that I was good at playing piano. I was not. I was good at memorizing a song for a period of time. He, however, failed to pick up on this and subsequently increased the difficulty level of my music selections rapidly. I went from learning to play basic scales, to playing Part of Your World from the Little Mermaid, and Everything I Do by Bryan Adams for the final recital. 

And I could play them. In very specific, low stress circumstances. A piano recital is not low stress. It is the antithesis of that. 

My mother's recollection of the recital was that I went on stage and did a surprisingly good job of playing what would be considered difficult pieces of music for a beginner. I contend that she was wearing rose coloured glasses: parent edition. She does admit that at one point in the mermaid piece, I got stuck in something of a loop, and may have played the chorus a couple of times before finding my way to the finish line. But she claims that at no time did it sound like a gathering of elephants simultaneously dying from a respiratory infection. 

I disagree.

My recollection of events is a bit darker, and the glasses less rosy. I clearly remember starting off well, and being like "yeah, this might be ok", at which point in my hubris, the wheels fell right the hell off.  The mermaid piece was, to be fair, recognizable, and I do remember something about a loop. I think I panicked and just replayed the only part I remembered over and over again until I felt that the piece had gone on long enough to resemble something close to the actual song in length, if not in actual musicality. Final chord, end. 
If only I could have just read the music, I could have saved it, but I couldn't, so I had only my terror-stricken memory of what it should sound like to rely on. 
It's possible I just screamed LOOK AT THIS STUFF, ISN'T IT NEAT at the top of my lungs  a couple of times and then tried to melt into the floor. It's all a bit fuzzy. 

But then came Bryan Fucking Adams. I hate him. 

Everything was fine, until it wasn't. Where is Greensleeves when you need it!!??? I don't really remember much about what, specifically, went wrong, just that it all went catastrophically wrong very quickly. This was a complicated piece of music I should never have tried to play under pressure, and I have no idea what kind of stroke my teacher had that caused him to make this critical error in judgement. 

All I remember is banging on the piano hoping to find at least a couple of notes in common with the actual sheet music. I had no idea where I was, I didn't flip a single page of music, and if the song was recognizable for what it was, I would be shocked. I just. hit. keys. 
For, like, three whole minutes. 
After that I pretty much just ran from the stage and burst into tears. I never went back. 

Everything I Do, I Do It For You was a terrible song, created by a terrible man, for a terrible movie, about some guy who (probably) did terrible stuff with a bow and arrow. To this day I can't listen to this song without flashbacks to the recital. 

But now I'm a rational adult, who is very bored during recovery from surgery, and I've had an out of tune piano gathering dust in my basement for two years for literally no reason, as no one in our family plays piano. I've decided to try again. 

And so in honour of this newfound motivation to not suck at something, my  husband bought me a piano book. It's basically perfect.  It insults your general lack of musical skill while trying to teach you how to be less awful at it. It even comes with drink recipes for when you're absolutely ready to rage quit and watch the world burn!

























Surprising no one more than myself, I am not even completely terrible (which you should in no way interpret to mean I am any good, I'm just less bad than I'd assumed I'd be after 25+ years). I can play a scale like a boss, I can still memorize a page of music in a surprisingly short period of time, and I know what a time signature is, which helps a lot. 

Unfortunately, my overall music reading skills have not improved despite years of disuse, and I am painfully slow at working through a piece. My hands can't multitask, and I still have to write out most notes so I can play something besides a halting death march. 

The book accurately describes me a mentally underachieving pianist, and I haven't even reached the chapter on accidentals yet. I'm convinced that musicians who use them are complete sadists. Reading music is hard enough as it is without having to mentally transpose every G into a G# for an entire piece (...and that is not a hashtag, you insufferable teenagers).  

Overall, this should be an interesting experiment in teaching an old dog new tricks, but this time I'm skipping the damn recital!

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Me vs A Recovery-Based Existential Crisis

Being stuck at home following surgery has led to a routine I've termed Netflix and Nap: a deeply depressing combination of sleeping through the first half of the day followed by drowning my boredom in mediocre television until I am required to put on pants to go into the world to pick kids up after school.

This *sounds* nice in theory. And for about 4-5 days it is. For the remainder of the time, it's tedious. It is also necessary given the severity of my surgery (see here if you want to know more), so I am doing my best to deal with it.

Having a pretty limited range of activities means that you have a considerable amount of down time to accomplish basically nothing, which can be excruciatingly dull. Once you've cycled through the immediately interesting movies and tv shows, read as much of that long forgotten book as you can stomach, and napped a lot, the boredom sets in. Like I said, about 5 days.

This monotony leads to apathy, which leads to the discovery of a few key things:
  •   You discover you have a surprising amount of guilt at not being able to contribute to normal life 
  •   You have a lot of time to watch the first episodes of a number of tv shows that should never have been produced, and that you would otherwise never have bothered with
  •   You develop a couch based, movie-producer-level of judgement about how movies are framed, edited, and scripted, and you frequently find yourself yelling at the tv when continuity between shots is bad
  •   A very cutting lack of purpose emerges, which is super depressing if you think about it too much, which you do
  •   Too much down time leads to fantasizing about being a superhero and/or movie star
  •   Weight gain due to excessive snacking while binge watching tv sneaks up on you
  •   Attempting to count showering as your daily exercise is an imperfect solution to the aforementioned weight gain
Most of these are tolerable new afflictions, however the lack of purpose has hit me pretty hard. When all you have is time to contemplate, you tend to over-contemplate quite a lot. In my case, this has led to a directionlessness I'm finding a bit concerning. If I'm honest with myself, my list of goals is pathetically short, and I don't really have a solid set of hobbies to fall back on.


I feel a bit like I'm having an existential crisis that I need to resolve. I need to find something just for me that resonates with who I was and who I want to be. Whatever the hell that is (I'm fully open to suggestions....I'm worse at this than you can imagine).  I should be jumping into action, goal setting, breaking down barriers, and fearlessly pursuing my dreams. But first I need to move the cats, and frankly they're really comfy and would rather I didn't get up.

Maybe tomorrow?

Friday, 26 October 2018

Me vs A Vagina Monologue

Hello and welcome to my Vagina Monologue. 

I've had problems with my reproductive organs for a long time. They did successfully produced two kids (however did a rather poor job of delivering them), so they've done some good work, but for the past few years, they've been a bit of a nightmare.

Now you may ask why I've decided to talk about my bits in detail. It's an odd topic, and yes, people will likely get a more intimate view of my world than they had anticipated, but that's life. I really believe that we don't talk enough about our vaginas et al. Since I began having issues about 5 years ago, I've bluntly spoken about the topic to a number of women, and what I found was that I was by no means the only one having problems, I was just the only one loud enough to bring it up in an otherwise normal conversation. This should surprise no one.

If you were having sinus problems, you'd go see a doctor, tell them in detail what was going on, and then they'd have a peek up your nose and let you know what was going on. Why should vaginal problems be any more difficult to address?  Why should I feel nervous talking to my doctor about vag pain or misbehaving periods? It's a doctor...they've probably seen a few vaginas in their time!

But I do feel uncomfortable. Or more accurately, I did.  The last time I went to see him I jokingly said that one day I'd go to him about a non-vag related issue and it would blow his mind. He laughed. Awkwardly.

I began having problems with my lady bits, just after my youngest stopped breastfeeding. Symptoms ranged from never ending periods, monthly yeast infections that would make bread jealous, and pain. After seeing my regular doctor, and then a few specialists, I was told it was not cancer. At the time, I hadn't been aware that was even something I needed to be worrying about, but now of course, I was exclusively worrying about that.

Eventually, I was diagnosed with Lichen Sclerosis, a degenerative condition that makes vaginas unhappy. Because I'm me, I renamed my condition Werewolf Vagina, as it accurately described the situation.  Lichen made me think of Lycan, which is a Greek derivative for werewolf, so the whole thing practically wrote itself. Also, shitty things are much more fun when they have a cool name. It didn't help that the symptoms were surprisingly cyclical, so full moon jokes just made sense.

Despite treatment, nothing really changed, so I was off to another set of specialists. After more tests, some truly horrific biopsies, and keeping a va-journal of symptoms, the new gynecologist told me that I didn't have a vaginal werewolf after all (good news!). She felt that I was, perhaps, just imagining the pain was there, when really it wasn't (stupid news!). 

The conversation following that brilliant revelation went somewhat like this...

Me:     So, um, is the word you're dancing around "psychosomatic"? You think that these symptoms      are all in my head?

Doc:    No. Well, yes.  It's like when someone loses an arm, but they forget it's gone and still feel it from time to time. You had pain, but now you don't, but you think you do.

Me:    So, you're saying I have a phantom vagina. Perfect. And while we're on the subject of my imagined vaginal concerns, this doesn't explain why I have a period all the time. Pain aside, I don't feel like that is something I can conceptualize in or out of existence.

Doc:    Well, you're getting older. When women get old their cycles can become erratic. Bye now.

Me    *Table flip*

Fast forward a few years.

The pain had settled itself down to a tolerable roar for reasons I can't possibly begin to guess at (mental fortitude?), but I had now taken to calling my period Shark Week, although I feel like I could have more accurately referred to it as Shark Fortnight, as it was never less than 2 weeks. It felt like I was basically bleeding constantly without the sweet release of death. It made no sense. No doctor could figure out why, and most eventually shrugged like this was a situation I would just have to learn to tolerate.

At a loss, I began carefully googling possible reasons for this insane situation.... but I am not supposed to do this. Ever. (see here for further explanation as to why)
This was, unsurprisingly, a mistake, as I now obviously had uterine cancer.

Photo by Lubo Minar on Unsplash

Back to the doctor. Because at this point, why not. Let's make it weird for him. 

Me:    So, shark week is ridiculous and goes on for weeks at a time. This doesn't seem normal. It also sounds like one of the main symptoms of uterine cancer.

Doc:    That's unlikely.

Me:    Yes, I realize that. But you've given me no other explanation for why this is happening, nor any way to fix it. Can we maybe just, I don't know, check?

Doc:    You're too young for that type of cancer.

Me:    *eye twitch* So I'm old enough for shark week to be erratic, but not old enough for it to be due to cancer. Ok. So are there any other symptoms I should be watching out for in the future just to calm my overactive imagination? You know, just in case cancer doesn't take my age into account???

Doc:    No. Erratic bleeding is basically the main symptom.

Me:    Ok, so just to summarize, I have the one symptom indicating uterine cancer, but it's not cancer because cancer is a bit of an ageist?  Can we maybe talk about a hysterectomy? I'm basically done with this whole thing, and whatever the cause, this is not a great day to day situation.

Doc:    *laughs*  (<--- You know, because this is a reasonable doctor response, and my endless bleeding and desire to have that come to an end is some funny ass shit!)

Me:    I want another doctor.

After another few months of waiting, I saw another gynecologist. But unlike all the others, this guy didn't laugh at me. He took my concerns seriously, and agreed that just living with this wasn't a reasonable solution.  When I cautiously approached the possibility of hysterectomy, he agreed that given the situation, and the limited options available (of which I'd tried most), this was a reasonable option. In 5 years, this was the first doctor that didn't make me feel like I was just complaining a lot.

I signed the paperwork that day.

I'm now 5 weeks post-op, and it's amazing. I haven't gone this long without a shark week in almost 5 years. The journey has been a long one, and it's been amazing how many women I've talked to who have had similar experiences. I realize that the nuclear option I opted for isn't for everyone, but I also feel that in some cases, it is absolutely the right choice, and no woman should be laughed at for asking about it.

Despite this, I try to look at the bright side of this, um, adventure. Without it, I wouldn't have come up with such an amazing vernacular for periods and all things vagina related.  I also feel like I now have a few less organs that can get cancer, so that's nice. But I think my favourite part of this experience is the deep irony of the hysterectomy itself. Since both my kids were born via c-section, the only thing I've actually given birth to via the natural pathway is my uterus!





Wednesday, 26 September 2018