Welcome to the Thunderdome

At work I have a bully, a nemesis, a jerk… And honestly, I’m not really sure how this came to be. A few years ago when we first met, he seemed normal. We even had a few pleasant conversations in passing.

Then one day, everything changed.

It was around the time that everyone stopped calling and started texting. Someone decided to have an entire conversation with me via rapid-fire text. This guy resided just over the cubicle wall from me, so he heard every “ding” before I could silence it.

He reported me to my boss for the noise. At the time I just figured he didn’t like noise. Soon after that first incident, he reported me again when I forgot to silence the critical stop on my computer. I was learning to write code, so my critical stop beep was going off a lot. It took me, my boss, and my manager quite a while to pinpoint the source of his discontent since the critical stop beeps were so quiet.

Because of this malcontent, I’ve had the ringer on my phone on silent for almost 10 years now. Yes, seriously. I forget to enable the ringer when I’m not at work. This, of course, makes my life a little more peaceful, but it also causes me to miss a lot of calls/texts when I’m not wearing my Apple watch.

For a long time I thought I was in the clear since I hadn’t been a “noisy neighbor.” Then my manager told me that a co-worker had noticed that when I had suffered a terrible cold, every time I blew my nose, this guy would loudly “hock a loogie” into his trash can. Whenever I cleared my throat, he would clear his throat louder. He’d started mocking my bodily functions back at me. This was ridiculous and absurd, but above all that, it was bullying.

I thought about it. I talked to my friends about it. I posted about it on Facebook. A few people asked if perhaps he was autistic. (He’s not, BTW. He’s just an asshole who likes to pick on people.) I moved offices to be farther away from him. This didn’t stop him. I got a lot of awful advice from people who just wanted to start trouble, but the best advice I got was to confront him. Fight passive aggressive with straight up in-yo-face aggressive.

I swore to myself that I’d give him one more time and if it happened again, I’d say something to him directly. After all, if I didn’t stand up for myself, who would? If I kept allowing his bad behavior to continue, it was partially my fault.

Sure enough, it happened again. I’ve had an ear infection for a while now because my Eustachian tube doesn’t drain properly and it causes sinus pressure, so I blew my nose. I didn’t think it was too loud, it was just what needed to happen at the time.
Like clockwork, the loudest, most disgusting loogie was coughed up by this jerk. It was deliberate and disgusting. I sat for a minute and almost just shrugged it off. Then something inside me said, “NOPE… NOT TODAY. YOU WALK OVER THERE AND YOU TAKE CARE OF YOUR BUSINESS MISSY!”

So I did. And just to let you know, I’m not a fan of confrontation. I did, however, relish this revenge fantasy for a few months before seeing it come anywhere close to fruition, which alone is satisfaction enough.

Me: “Do you bully other people in the office or is it just me?”
Him: (grumbled) “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Me: “Because every time I sneeze, every time I clear my throat, cough, blow my nose, I hear you over here.”

At that point he looks directly down as if he thinks not having me in his sight-lines will make me disappear… like when you’re late to class and refuse to make eye-contact with the teacher. Surprise. I’m still there.

Me: (I almost walk away, then I stop) “You know… others see it too.”
Him: “Okay”

Just as I pass out of his sight, I find myself in the cube of another co-worker that he’s been mean to. I didn’t realize he was right next door, hearing this whole thing transpire. He was doing the most awesome silent cheering thing I’ve ever seen.

As I walked away, I called the guy a dick under my breath.
It literally could not be contained behind my teeth. The word forced its way out before I could stop it.
I left this part out when I told my manager about the whole incident. My co-worker didn’t. My manager just came to pat me on the back.

Sometimes it’s like that.

I’m liking this new “Take Charge” Me with no filter.
(Okay, we may have to tweak the filter part just a tiny bit…


The Mom Gene

In the past two weeks, I’ve found that it’s possible I don’t lack the “Mom gene” after all. I’ve been accused of this before, perhaps a few times. I’m not sure exactly how I reacted, but on the inside it stung a little.

I think when you’re a woman, being accused of not possessing the Mom gene is akin to being told that you’re mean, rude, masculine, rough around the edges, the type of person who kills houseplants and shouldn’t be trusted with puppies. Well, they’re correct about the houseplants. (Jury’s still out on that cactus I’m attempting to grow, but pretty much all other plants come to my house to die. Let’s be honest.) Dogs, on the other hand, I excel at.

It’s also like hearing, “You just LOVE to be the CENTER of ATTENTION!” It takes you by surprise, (unless of course it’s true), and you start to question yourself. I remember being told that by bitter, jealous, resentful people. (At the time, I didn’t realize they were bitter, jealous and resentful, but now I do.) When I really thought about it, I looked around and saw that I wasn’t doing a single thing to get any attention at all. I was evidently just one of those people who people just liked paying attention to. I also learned pretty quickly that the attention is equal parts positive and negative depending on where it comes from.

I’ll tell you the truth. I did theater from an early age, but it was because I could sing, not because I wanted the attention. I just wanted an outlet for my talent. The same thing for when I perform with various musical projects. For a few years in fact, I took a combination of two different stage fright medications just to be able to look like I wasn’t scared to death onstage. Some people hide behind instruments. Some behind costumes or hair. As a lead singer, you’re exposed out there. It’s a tad intimidating.

But getting back to my point… I’ve been blessed to have these two fantastic new teenagers in my life. Although it was a little sooner than we’d planned, now I’m excited to make all new plans. I’m excited to clean out my spare room. I’m excited to buy new furniture. I even have emergency pizza rolls in my freezer.

Side Note: My mom never kept pizza rolls around because there were only a few things she felt confident in reheating for my friends and I. Pizza rolls never came across her radar. I actually forgot about them this weekend or I would have cooked them already… and the emergency chocolate chip cookies as well.

Not that pizza rolls define motherhood excellence, but television sure made it appear so. And you know, just like the internet, everything you see on TV is true, right?

I’m enjoying learning what they like to do, what they like to eat, what they like in general. And I feel a genuine responsibility to fill in the gaps where they’ve been lacking. They need dental and doctor visits scheduled, clothing, shoes, real bra sizing done by a professional (no guess work), home cooked meals, skincare, stability… There are so many things that need to be done. I feel like I’m playing catch-up, but it’s only 2-weeks in. I know it’s only the beginning and that there will be time. I’m just an overachiever.

Which is perhaps why some of my friends say I lacked the Mom gene.

Eat thy words friends. Eat thy words. 😉

Yesterday we took them to see a Beagle Wedding. Yes, I typed that correctly. Two dogs got married… of the Beagle persuasion. It was adorable! And I’m not sure they’d smiled so big the entire weekend. Okay, there were multiple times, but they definitely share my love of dogs. Ronnie bought us all tee-shirts a while ago that say “Can I Pet Your Dog?” They wore theirs, but I wasn’t sure mine still fit. Gimme a few months and I’ll post a pic of all 3 of us in them.

The Happy Pup-le

It’s Been

As you’ve probably guessed by now, so much has been going on that I’ve split this saga up into three parts.

First, I’ll tell you about the “miracle medical procedure” that I was told would prevent Dad from having any more subdural hematomas. Sound too good to be true? It is. I was approached by a Neurologist the day Dad was to be discharged from the hospital about this “genius plan.”

You know how when you first meet someone and they just seem shady? This doctor had all the swagger of a used car salesman. As he described the procedure, which would be to block the arteries that control blood flow to the outer lining of the brain with foreign objects, I just felt like he was attempting to sell me a lemon. I asked him what the side effects were. He said “Stroke.” Dad has gone through 2 complete subdural hematoma surgeries and recoveries without suffering a stroke. There’s no way in hell I’m about to risk that now. He also mentioned blocking the arteries with packing material and springs. No thank you Sir. I’ll keep my Dad. Go peddle your lemon of a surgery elsewhere!.

As if everything that’s been going on weren’t enough, my boyfriend also received an early stage Cancer diagnosis and full emergency custody of his kids. One occurred before Dad’s latest incident, one after. I love the kids, but the Southern Belle in me is constantly in “must entertain” mode. I need to be like my Alexa reminders and tell myself to “REMINDER: You need to simmer down. This is your family and they love you as you are. You don’t need to entertain them all the time.” In fact, I’m starting to feel like they’re just as exhausted as I am. I think we may be resting a lot more in the near future.

Actual Alexa morning routine reminders so that I’m not late for work. She’s quite a nag.

Every night, without fail, right around 9pm or so (depending on if I play HQ), I pass out from exhaustion fully clothed and sometimes still wearing my shoes. This has been going on for the better part of a month now. I shudder to think about how much I have been neglecting my skin. My dog is also very confused.

My parents are doing much better. Mom has been enjoying her new back brace and when I went to see Dad, he was walking down the hallway at rehab with a physical therapist, just prattling on and on and on about his old cars. I followed for a minute or two just to listen. The pure joy in his voice was fantastic.

Every time anything happens to Dad, he has me run his “errands.” Last time he had me purchase him a new TV and get it set up for him. This time I had to do a little more research. His car club friend “Crazy Larry” ordered some parts for his 1931 Chevrolet Independence. Evidently, even though Larry ordered a handful of parts, they were all incorrect, so Dad asked me to find him a brake drum. Because I know how to “use the internet” he thinks I can find anything, which isn’t altogether false.

Our next task is to mail back the incorrect parts because Mom doesn’t want to deal with “Crazy Larry.” She says he’s “Woman Crazy.” 🤦🏼‍♀️

Desperately Seeking Thursday

To catch you up once again, my indestructible father had surgery to remove a second subdural hematoma on Memorial Day. This time things seemed to go much better. He was speaking clearly and had quite an appetite… so much in fact that he attempted to order 2 entrees from the hospital menu at once. He ordered so much food for himself that he made himself sick the first full day he was in the ICU after his surgery. He was then moved to a room for a few days and then to rehab. Things went exponentially faster this time than the last. Or perhaps that’s just my overall perception of it.

Mom decided that this time around she was going to do something about her back, so I spent more hours between shuffling her to doctors appointments, picking up a new brace, picking up prescriptions, visiting Dad, and getting everyone the things they need than I did at work. I’d like to say that it was like a mini-vacation, but it wasn’t.

In the course of my running all over creation, I misplaced the pack of vitamins that I take on Thursdays. I have this genius little vitamin dispenser that has little color-coded boxes for each day of the week. Sometimes it’s the only way I’d ever remember to take any sort of medication or supplement.

I spent forever looking for Thursday. I looked everywhere. And then I just gave up and ordered another dispenser. The day after it arrived, I FOUND THURSDAY! Doesn’t it always happen that way?

Dad is in rehab now at Hillcrest again. He’s disappointed because they have a different cook and there are collards almost every day on the menu. I brought him Cheez-Its last night and thought I might lose a finger. He had a private room for about a week, but they just assigned him a roommate. As it turns out, he’s a fireman Dad used to work with, so they were already familiar. Dad still has me bring him 2 new outfits even when he has 2 clean outfits hanging in the closet already. He also has me bring him home to shower because at the rehab, people are assigned to watch you shower to make sure you don’t fall. He doesn’t like that at all.

Which reminds me, I need to speak to someone about his progress and when they think he’ll be ready to come home. He talks to Mom every day on the phone. It’s the cutest thing. They’ve been married for almost 70 years, which is unfathomable by today’s standards, but they’re still just as sweet.

Never Say Never

It’s been said that you’re never given more than you can handle.
It’s also been said that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

I think there’s some truth to be found in both statements. The one that has always been a recurring theme in my life, however has been “When it rains, it pours.” And I don’t mean the clever Morton Salt slogan. It’s truly pouring over here.

Around the middle of May, ironically right after I posted about Dad’s battle with last year’s subdural hematoma, he began to show signs of unsteadiness on his feet. Since Dad isn’t a man who sits still for long, he kept doing all the things he normally does. But with this new unsteadiness, falling became a regular occurrence.

On May 18th, the day of my Bee Ball performance, Mom called and told me he’d fallen while doing yard work and was bleeding. I told her I’d be there as soon as I could. Dad had fallen and hit his head on the brick walkway while trying to use the weed eater. I immediately took him to the Urgent Care where they stitched up his head and sent him to the hospital for a CT scan. Since I hadn’t eaten and needed to get ready for the show, my friend Joel sat with Dad until they took him back. Then my boyfriend Ronnie arrived to relieve Joel until they admitted Dad to the hospital. This time Dad had another hematoma on the complete opposite side of his head.

He stayed in the hospital for a few days, then they sent him home. They told me they hoped the blood would simply “re-absorb back into the brain.” I’m not a doctor, but I knew as soon as I heard it, the chances of that were slim.

Much to my surprise, Dad took it easy the few days he was home. He hung out with Mom and puttered around the house. They watched a TON of Netflix and Amazon Prime. On Friday he asked me to pick up a bucket of the $5 fried chicken special from Harris Teeter, so Ronnie obliged and I met him at Dad’s. When I got there, Dad had cooked 3 different canned vegetables to accompany the chicken. As he attempted to serve the yams, we noticed that the hand holding the pan would dip. He seemed to have no knowledge of it until I had to stop him after a waterfall of yam juice ended up on the floor.

The next day was our anniversary, so Ronnie and I went out for a fancy dinner. That night at 4:30am, Mom called to ask us to pick Dad up off the floor. He had fallen while trying to use the bathroom. She called again at 9:30am for the same thing when he had attempted to cook breakfast. After we had stabilized him and fed him the toast he’d cooked, I gathered my wits about me and dialed 911. Ronnie had gone to get us breakfast, but I just couldn’t wait until something happened again. I got Dad an outfit out of his room and began to get him dressed. Luckily Ronnie is very strong and was able to get him the rest of the way dressed before all the chaos ensued.

The next hour was a flurry of paramedics, firemen, half-eaten breakfast, last-night’s makeup and text messages. Well-meaning friends all asked if there was anything they could do. I knew deep down what was about to happen and I was preparing myself mentally for the avalanche that was to follow.

I’ve got this…

My Father, My Hero

I can’t believe it’s been since January that I last posted. My apologies. When I began this endeavor, my plan was to write a little something every day. As it turns out, I don’t feel like I have a whole lot to contribute that’s worth reading every day. This of course, may only be in my own head, but regardless, I’ll attempt to get better at staying on task.

When I last wrote, my band had just performed at The Great Cover Up, now we’re gearing up to play the annual charity event for The Beehive Collective called the Bee Ball. We’ve all been busy with all sorts of things, so it’s been difficult to find time to rehearse.

Back in November, I got a frantic call at work from my Mom. “Your Dad’s in the Emergency Room. Come as soon as you can.” My parents make a point not to call me at work, so just the phone call itself is cause for worry. And I probably would have worried a whole lot more if Mom had actually called from a number I recognized. Although I’m pleased that she’s committed my number to memory, it took her 3 tries before I’d answer since I get so many calls from telemarketers and internet business listing services.

That morning began just like any other day. It was election day. Dad usually drives, so after breakfast Mom asked him if they were going to go vote. He had spilled his juice at breakfast. He’s usually quiet, so Mom didn’t notice anything unusual, but when he attempted to answer her question, all he could get out was “I can’t.”

Minutes later, he went to the bathroom and couldn’t zip up his pants. He’d lost function in his right hand. As soon as mom noticed this, she ushered him into his car and drove him to his doctor. Upon arrival, as soon as she could get out the words of what was happening, a flurry of medical staff surrounded Dad and gave him a stoke check. Minutes later he was taken to the emergency room.

There was a large amount of blood on his brain in a concentrated area. By the time I arrived he had been given a clotting agent and was starting to be able to form more complete sentences. I sat with him, waiting to speak to the doctor. I asked him if there was anything he’d like me to do for him since he usually takes care of everything. He told me he needed a new TV. The man was on a mission. Even lying on a gurney, hardly able to form words. He was still on a mission.

The large, heavy TV he’d purchased from Costco had malfunctioned and he’d been advised to bring it back to the store. Instead of asking for help, he wasted no time. He picked it up and dropped it on his foot, which now had a bruise the size of a grapefruit on top of it. He’d managed to get it back to the store and receive his refund, but he hadn’t selected a new TV to replace it.

He handed me a receipt. The TV was almost $2,000.oo. I found him a comparable one for significantly less on sale and had two of my tall, strong guy friends help me pick it up, deliver it, and set it up so that Dad wouldn’t have to lift a finger once he returned home.

The next few days were the toughest. Dad had the operation to remove the blood & reduce the pressure on his brain. He slept a lot. He wasn’t very responsive. When he spoke, it was gibberish. I was worried. I was afraid he wouldn’t be the same Dad.

When a bed freed up, they moved him to a room. I had been coming to see him every day. I’d brought snacks because he wasn’t eating in the ICU, but he never touched them. Now that he was in a real hospital room, I brought him a barbecue sandwich. When I asked him if he wanted it, he said no. When I asked again a few minutes later, he grabbed it in his giant mitts and ate half with reckless abandon. This became a pattern. The first time I asked him anything, he would say no, even if he meant yes. I’d always have to ask a second time. I brought him a ham biscuit the next morning and my friend Chris brought him chocolate ice cream the day after. That day they told me he would be moved to rehab the very next day.

It was Monday and a holiday. Mom’s back was bothering her, so she spent the day bed-ridden. I made sure Dad had everything he needed and that his transition was a smooth one. When I got there a friend of his from church was already there looking for him. I spoke to the nurse and handed him a printed calendar with the daily menu on it. He was almost too engrossed to say goodbye.

He was in rehab for 2 weeks. They’d put him in a double room and for the first week, he had the whole space to himself. I think he was getting used to the hotel atmosphere and going to the cafeteria for meals. But as soon as he got a roommate, he wanted to go home! He would ask that I come sign him out so that he could go home and take showers because if he showered there, the nurses would watch him. It was cold in the common areas, so he would put on his cap (his head was shaved from the surgery) and cardigan and go sit on the sofa until he fell asleep because he said his roommate was too stinky and loud. As soon as he told me that, I knew he was gonna be just fine.

I brought Dad home on November 27, 2018. He started driving a few weeks later. I put a device in the diagnostics port of his vehicle so that I can track him as a safety measure. It’s now May and from the reports I get I see that my parents go to Costco at least twice a week. They go to Aldi, Harris Teeter, Carlie C’s, Village Deli, Panera, and church regularly. Dad speeds sometimes and sometimes takes corners a little harshly, but overall I’m impressed with how well he’s doing. He’s also a little baffled when I just “show up” at places where he is… even though I’ve only done it twice. I just tell him I have ESP.

Such Garbage

Last week at this time I was doing everything in my power to prepare and not be nervous for my performance at “The Great Cover Up.” I watched YouTube videos of live performances, looked at photos of the lead singer, rolled on therapy balls to get the kinks out of my back and tried to do everything possible to not forget a single detail.

We covered the band Garbage, who are a pivotal fixture from my adolescence. As the final step, I had my hair professionally dyed an almost-too-bright shade of red. Sometimes a musician is known more as a caricature of themselves than their actual selves. As luck would have it, Shirley Manson is most often remembered for her red hair and mod style, so the extreme worked. I also wore an A-line dress with a built-in cape. I wasn’t fond of the color, but with the harsh stage lighting and satiny fabric, it worked perfectly.

In Cori’s hair chair

Backstage was like the “Island of Misfit Toys.” Instruments in and out of their cases stacked like dominoes and local musicians I’d never seen…people rustling about, muscling for a tiny space to be until their time onstage drew near. I staked my claim on the Green Room sofa, headphones in, trying to listen to the 20 minute set at least once. My attempts were all but futile. Friends who had never been were flummoxed by the long line and unwillingness of the venue to let them in even after it had reached full capacity. They’d been warned prior to coming, but I still felt responsible for getting them in the door to see us.

Since my hair color was a very noticeable shade of red and I was running around in my boyfriend’s tee shirt, glittery fishnets, spanky pants and combat boots, I hung out backstage, anxiously awaiting the time to kick all the boys out of the Green Room and put on my dress (It wrinkled if you looked at it hard, so I’d steamed it 3 times before covering it and taking it to the venue. I wasn’t about to drive or sit around in it).

There were so many people. And they would cycle in and out in waves. A sax player warmed up and prepared his instrument right next to me while I sat there in my solitude. A hairdresser fluffed a bad mullet wig. Guys quickly grabbed PBRs from the mini fridge and disappeared just as quickly. The waters disappeared by the fifth band, but the PBRs kept getting replenished as quickly as they left. A girl sat on the corner table, plucking the strings of her guitar almost silently. 3 of us were attached by headphones to our phones. It was crunch time. It was as if we were all cramming for a final exam in the library.

The first band was early-era Genesis. Although I didn’t know a single song, I appreciated the theatrical elements. The musicians were older and nicer than some of the younger more self-centered ones. It seemed like they were just a group of old friends who enjoyed playing music by bands they idolized. When I really think about it, that’s probably what my current band is as well. It’s nice to have such a talented group of friends to jam with. I’m lucky.

Every so often someone would look at the lineup on the door and ask me which act I was in. The lineup was simply the time slot and the contact person’s name for each act. No one discussed which band they would be performing. The other performers were kept just as much in the dark as the attendees. I just kept telling everyone we were fourth.

And the time could not have passed slower.

Before I knew it, I had a set of two assistants wrangling me into my dress, fluffing my hair, giving me all sorts of positivity and pep talks… if only it was like this on the daily. Heather and Cori had run backstage between bands just to put me at ease. Both Heather and Jennifer stood in front of me (at different times), took my hands and just said “Wow.” When I accidentally spilled water on my breast, both Heather and Cori rubbed it until the stain disappeared. I honestly don’t know what I would do without such an amazing inner circle.

It seems as if I waited an eternity to step onstage, but as soon as I did it was as if my entire body went into autopilot. It was as if muscle memory and my brain said, “Relax. We got this.”

I remember only a few things about that 20 minutes. A few small mistakes (which I continually punish myself for because I’m a perfectionist) although it’s likely that no one noticed but me. I saw Erika, Bryan and Jennifer, which made me smile so big I broke character a few times. There were people I’d never seen before dancing and singing back at me. In the front row there was a girl I recognized from a very long time ago. She had pink hair and was singing all the songs back at me, even the ones we didn’t think many people would recognize. I also remember smiling at my bandmates because I couldn’t help but smile.

I think it’s the duty of every musician to reach at least one person in their audience through the power of their performance. If I can do that, I consider my efforts a success. Things like that you see through the blur.