Sunday, March 12, 2017

Life is short

I killed a lizard this week.  

Unlike my encounter with Mr. Centipede (from which I still have not recovered, thank you for asking) this killing was accidental, violent and senseless.  I have no memory of the killing itself… the victim, on the other hand,  is imprinted on my hippocampus. 

I have been adjusting to my lizard roommates since I moved in.  I still startle easily when they are unexpectedly at eye level when I close a door or open a curtain, but I have grown cautiously fond of them.  (Especially now that I realize that the thing scuttling across the wall through my peripheral vision could just as easily be a centipede hell bent on my destruction rather than a gentle ally who enjoys eating the bugs I am scared of.)

Early in the transitioning process, my dad suggested that I name them. He felt it would help me see them as my pets, since they weren’t going anywhere and (thanks to a contract that is surprisingly iron-clad for a mere 45 page document) neither am I. 

First up was Gus.  Gus was a pretty hefty thing for a gecko.  Where his other smaller comrades would slink at the edge of the shadows, testing the waters, respecting my dominance, Gus strutted across the walls as if he owned the place. He was an intimidating first lizard to encounter, but I made my peace with him and ultimately came to see him as a friend.  Unlike his smaller kinsmen, he wouldn't randomly burst into a sprint for no apparent reason.  He lived life at a slower pace and just seemed generally okay with whatever life threw at him.

I think I killed Gus.  

His John-Goodman-in-a-western-movie stroll was not readily apparent in his not alive state, but the body habitus certainly fit.  John Doe lizard was a chunk. 

Being pregnant has given me the worst superhero sense enhancement possible – I’m practically a Bassett hound. Unfortunately, since I’m not an adorable dog used in the olden days for hunting and tracking, it is not an especially useful superpower. My new ability allows me to detect smells that others can’t and then get nauseated from them, all while the normal mortals around me have yet to notice the hint of garlic (seriously, why is garlic EVERYWHERE lately) or fried fish (yeah, yeah it’s Hawaii, but there are so many other less disgusting food options without offensive smells).  So delightful. 

I mention this random tidbit about pregnancy because it is relevant to the storyline of Gus's demise.  Also, I live to educate.  There is your fun fact for the day.

On Thursday, I woke up and noticed while getting ready that my kitchen smelled rather... weird.  I began to hunt for the scent while mostly focusing on preparing breakfast.  The fruit basket on the counter looked intact.  There were some dishes on the counter, but none individually gave off the pugnacious scent.  My garbage disposal is temperamental and requires a little convincing when it isn’t used as often as it feels it deserves to be, however, despite refusing to turn on, it did not offer any further offenses. I take my garbage out nightly out of a “healthy” fear of roaches and the centipedes that hunt them. Nothing seemed to be giving off this intolerable scent.

Chalk it up to crazy pregnancy smell.  Must be a scent outside that was wafting in through my eternally open windows. 

I was convinced of this until trusty dog woke up.  For some reason trusty dog does not sleep past 6 on weekends and begins thrusting her wet nose into my face to demand playtime far too early for my comfort.  On weekdays, when I wake up just before 6, she looks at me like I’m crazy and lays in bed for just a few more minutes and then drags her exhausted little self out of bed and staggers down the stairs like an adorable 4-legged, bleary-eyed, fur-covered zombie.   Let’s just say it takes her awhile to become herself. 

On Thursday, however, by the time her feet hit the kitchen floor, her nose was glued to the edge of the counter.  She made four laps around the kitchen dragging her wet snout along the bottom of my pretty granite counter like I had rubbed it with her disgusting dog version of bacon.

Can dogs get sympathy pregnancy symptoms?  I have always operated under the assumption that they don’t.  Until the past couple of months, I honestly haven’t given it much thought. 

The most logical conclusion is that with the least assumptions.  Option 1: 2 assumptions: I am going crazy and smelling things that aren’t there due to pregnancy hormones AND so is trusty dog. Option 2: 1 assumption: The smell actually exists and we can both actually smell it.

Option 2 was the more disconcerting option because it meant that there was something in the kitchen exuding that smell.  Something that I had not been able to deduce in my cursory, half-asleep search. 

I subconsciously enacted my protocol for what to do when presented with disconcerting things… I convinced myself it wasn’t really a problem and distracted myself with unrelated matters. Trusty Dog needed her morning walk!  Boy… what a pretty morning!  Maybe it really does smell weird outside and there’s something wrong with the whole world!  Do the mountains always look that tall?!

The smell wasn’t as noticeable when I got home from work that afternoon.  I decided it was probably just time to do the dishes… plus I was out of tiny spoons and the big ones just deliver too much cereal in each bite. 

The previous night had been largely sleepless.  It started torrentially raining around midnight, which used to be a soothing sound.  It now triggers PTSD to learning that “centipedes come inside when it rains” and all I can hear is the millions of tiny feet marching to war… to me… to my certain annihilation.   It makes it hard to return to a restful sleep.

I crashed early, was busy Friday, which brings us to Saturday. 

My day of fun began with trusty dog vomiting onto my cream-colored shag carpet.  I actually saw it coming and was able to intercept the first stomach-full by getting her to vomit into her toy Frisbee.  Is this what it is to be a parent… feeling proud that I was able to catch a disgusting yellow liquid because it meant not having to spend my Saturday morning scrubbing bile out of a high pile rug?  (If only IKEA were on this island, I could have just sacrificed the rug!)  My internal parade was rained on rather quickly because, unfortunately, there was more than one stomach-full of and after heaving into a plastic toy, trusty dog got annoyed when I continued to hold that collection of stinking fluid directly under her face.  She began to panic and fought wildly to get away.  I set it down more carefully than if it were the holy grail and tried to coax her onto the wood floor that makes up approximately 97% of my home… literally everywhere besides this rug and bathroom mats.  She was immune to my coaxing… and my pulling… and my pushing.  I started to lift her and she splayed her legs in her best paperweight impression and it occurred to me that now the best case scenario is that she vomits onto me.  I conceded defeat and petted her ears as she hacked stomach full #2 onto my rug. 

Sorry if that was too much biological detail for any non-medical readers.  This post will get worse before it gets better.  – [IF YOU WOULD LIKE, YOU CAN SKIP AHEAD TO WHERE YOU SEE ALL CAPS AGAIN AND YOU’LL MISS THE WORST OF IT]

I donned my trusty pink dishwashing gloves that saw me through the disposal of the centipede and scrubbed the rug like an adult who lives on an isolated island and can’t afford any of the rugs that have to be shipped here… I’ll be replacing those gloves ASAP.

Undeterred by the morning’s events, trusty dog and I set off for the beach.  She needed a pick me up and it was a beautiful sunny morning.

She spent the entire ride making hysterical whining noises as though she thought we were never going to stop the car and she was never going to have fun again.  Finally we made it to the beach, parked the car and she leaped from her backseat prison directly into the middle of the street in one motion.  Luckily, it’s not super busy in Kailua on a Saturday morning.

Our time at the beach was mostly typical – she got extremely excited upon the moment her paw hit sand and sprinted as fast as she could in any direction (which, because she is on a leash, always ends up being in a circle).  The cycle is broken when she sees me (in the eye of her hurricane – holding on for dear life), remembers that she loves me and runs / leaps directly at me.  It’s terrifying for me, not because I think she intends to hurt me, but because, like Lennie Small in Of Mice and Men, she simply does not know her own strength and I’m likely to be a casualty.  I yell loudly in order to convey how displeased I am, and then she immediately cowers  because even when half-crazy she still wants to please.  Then everyone on the beach looks at me all judgmental for yelling at my poor dog who is clearly just excited and then they look lovingly back at Fido or Scruffy or Bandit who would never be subjected to such poor parenting practices. Why do they let people like her have dogs?!

After about five rounds of this madness, I'd received all the judgment I could take, so we retreated to my towel to sit pleasantly on the beach.  Cue hysterical whining noises like she is never going to have fun again...  Until I give up and decide we will try walking on the beach… except she begins to do her poop dance. 

She is weirdly picky.  Like even after she has picked the spot, it takes her another 3 minutes of positioning to determine the final positioning, angle and best view for herself.

Her poop dance was interrupted suddenly as pure liquid shot out.

Modern day dog owners are expected to remove all evidence that their dog has a colon from the landscape.  Bags are marketed and sold specifically for this purpose.  I play along because it is social convention, but can we all just agree it is disgusting to have to pick up your dog’s poop?  And is it really that terrible for the environment if I leave it behind?? Worse than wrapping it in a non-biodegradable plastic bag and shipping it off to a landfill?

Regardless, even I have my limits.  Pure liquid colon contents was beyond those limits. 

But I couldn’t just leave it there… cause the judgment!  So I dug a hole and scooped it in (using a bag as a glove… the dishwashing gloves were not subjected to this lowly state) and fled the scene of the crime, as quickly as I could convince her to go. 

Rapid escape was not the best plan… she had several more ‘episodes’ en route to the car. But the ride home was luckily without incident. 

I thought I had already met my quota of disgusting experiences and bodily functions for the day… and then I smelled my kitchen.  It could not be ignored while I distracted myself with more pleasant things.  The threat level was now at midnight. 

The smell, now significantly more powerful was easily localized to the cabinet above the produce basket.  In fact, it got noticeably worse when the cabinet was opened… Could a mouse have died on one of the shelves right beside my well organized and aesthetically displayed barware?!

Of course I needed a stepladder to complete a full visual search of the shelves because I am still the same height I reached in 7th grade and kitchen cabinets are designed for normally sized adults.  (I blame the coffee I started drinking wayyy too early – no regrets.)  All shelves were free of rodent remains, thankfully.   I was about to climb down when I happened to look at the cabinet door and there, at eye level, was Gus.

Well, he used to be Gus.  Now he was just a green fat-bodied lizard with a crushed skull that 20-30 small bugs crawled in and out of.  He also had no more eyes… the windows to his soul were wide open.  His scent made it clear that his soul had been gone for at least a couple days.  Whatever fluids were seeping from his decomposing body had adhered him to the door of the cabinet.  There he hung, head up, body dangling, fully intact from the neck down. 

Apparently he had happened to be crawling with his head right in the pinch point when I closed the door.  Apparently I closed it with enough force to crush his skull.  Apparently, his slow speed was not an evolutionary advantage. 

I’m a murderer. 

Overcome by emotion (and nausea) I nearly fell off the stepladder. 

Sound the cavalry and bring in the trusty pink gloves.  And bleach.  Lots of bleach. 

[ATTENTION WEAK-STOMACHED READERS, YOU MAY NOW TUNE BACK IN. Synopsis: sick dog and dead lizard located high up.]

It took several pep talks to convince myself to ascend the ladder – one of these included reminding myself that I have spent a much longer time with a much larger corpse and even ultimately “enjoyed” the experience (read: it did not kill me and I did ultimately learn things).  RIP Winston, you were a good cadaver. 

This was a triple grocery bag level of scent.  It also merited another immediate trip to the dumpster, but thankfully this time I had the foresight to remove the pink gloves (seriously those are getting thrown out now) and put on a normal pair of athletic shorts.   Once again me and 65 pounds of enthusiastic (although subdued slightly due to her dehydration and already eventful day) pit bull trekked to the dumpster. Maybe this will become a weekly adventure.  Thankfully the lizard funeral and processional occurred at a much less social time of day and I encountered no one along the way.

Much as I would have preferred to eat nothing ever again,  the tiny human who lives inside of me mandated that eating dinner was non-optional.  So I began to cook dinner and prepared the strongest drink I could drink… a non-alcoholic mimosa.  The bubbles did not have the calming effect that I was seeking. 

Instead, they felt almost celebratory.

 I lit a candle and decided that we were going to have a vigil in celebration of the life of Gus.  He may have been tiny and inconsequential, but he made my life slightly less unpleasant by consuming bugs that I might otherwise have encountered.

Life is short.  You never know when you are going to be happily crawling along only to have a cabinet door swing closed on you and crush your skull.  Take chances, live each day to the fullest.  I like to think he was near my barware on purpose and that just maybe he was trying to go out with a martini.  I like your style, Gus. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Here goes nothing

The day started like any other.

Actually, that’s not true, but it did start like the day immediately preceding it and the one before that and the one before that.  I slept later than I’d intended, wandered through my house - largely empty with the exception of dozens of strings of Christmas lights and a well-decorated bar.  Imagine Gatsby’s house, the morning after a party – except much smaller and less decadent…. And probably cleaner, because it wasn’t the morning after a party…  The party had been two weeks prior, but as all the furniture, decorations and other aspects of the house that had made it a home had been sold or packed for months, the lights and their gilded suggestion of festivity remained. 

As usual, the day started with coffee: fresh ground, French press. Despite the perfect roast, the coffee turned my stomach and it looked like another day where breakfast would wait an hour or two.  I sipped my coffee and turned my thoughts to the task at hand: transplanting piles from the floor to the suitcases that waited with their mouths open, ready to whisk everything away to new places.

The pattern continued that I was only able to work for a few hours before becoming overwhelmed by exhaustion.  I napped fitfully on the air mattress that had been my bed for too long.  Trusty sidekick was stuck at work and my car had already begun its journey around the world without me.  It was only me and trusty dog left trapped in the depressing remnants of our former life with no means of escape. 

My mind returned to the strange events of the day prior.  I had reported to base for a PHA.  For non-army, this is an acronym for a periodic health assessment.  It is an annual requirement that every soldier have this physical exam every year to ensure that no new health issues have arisen that could interfere with a deployment.  To demonstrate the scope of this encounter, I will use a comparison like those you might see in an SAT question.  Here goes:  PHA is to comprehensive physical exam as a personality quiz in  Cosmopolitan magazine is to a true psychological evaluation.

Regardless of its limitations, it is a requirement, and, more importantly, a requirement that gets you in trouble when ignored.  So, dutifully, I completed the online questionnaire about my current health (yeah I totally get 8 hours of sleep every night even during residency), mental health (no, despite my ongoing depression treatment/pending move around the world/ general stress and anxiety, I feel great and am a well-adjusted individual), health habits (I obviously also make time to exercise for an hour each day, shop at the farmers market for organic produce and cook healthy, colorful meals that meet all of my nutritional needs), hospitalizations (this one required no embellishments, luckily), family history (just the typical everyone had cancer/heart disease/diabetes what could I possibly have to worry about), etc. etc..  Then I showed up and answered all of the same questions in person.  This appointment is also an important time to ensure that all mandatory vaccinations, preventative visits (Eg. Annual dental visit, biannual dental cleaning, annual optometry exam),  and labs have been completed.  Surprisingly, I had taken care of all the things I needed to!  Rare, but it happens.  I was unjustifiably proud of myself (like the sensation of folding your laundry immediately after the dryer finishes instead of leaving the clothes to wrinkle for weeks in the basket as you just extract the pieces you need from it until it is time to wash it all again).  In fact the only “we need to discuss further” moment came from my ‘lady health’ section. 

I could digress into a feminist rant about how every one in the world should be comfortable discussing periods because it’s a biological phenomenon that about half the earth’s population gets to experience.  I won’t though.  You’re welcome, currently uncomfortable male readers.

So the concise version:  doctors like your most recent encounter with this phenomenon to be less than 4 weeks ago… because that’s normally how it works.  Mine was 6 weeks ago.  I was unconcerned because contrary to what text books say it is not always every 4 weeks like clock work and mine clearly has never read a textbook and has often ignored its deadline for months at a time.  So it goes. 

The confusing thing was that my deployment status was red.  I was undeployable… because, according to the computer, I was pregnant.  But… I wasn’t.  I had never been diagnosed with pregnancy, because I wasn’t pregnant – which is what it is supposed to take to change deployment status.  Try as she might, the NP entrusted with deciding whether I was adequately healthy to go into battle could not convince the computer that I was not pregnant. 

Normally a few weeks late wouldn’t bother me.  Actually, normally I wouldn’t even notice, but its like when the crazy schizophrenic on the street points at you and tells you that you’re going to die today… for the rest of the day you are going to experience a lot of near miss events.  Suddenly, I was concerned… could I be pregnant?

I have always mocked those early response tests commercials; there is usually a woman on the screen at work or doing something around the house and then the voice-over “I can’t concentrate – could I be pregnant?” which has always seemed like a huge leap to me.  I often cannot concentrate for reasons unrelated to pregnancy.  Just the other day I was at work imagining the brownies I was going to make when I got home and couldn’t concentrate.  Sometimes I see something shiny and I can’t concentrate.  Often people are talking about things I don’t care about and I can’t concentrate… In exactly zero of those situations, my next thought was “I must be pregnant!”. 

Anyways, it makes more sense if the thought is already planted in your mind.  So I suppose I will grant their premise, but argue that they should make it more clear that she was already at risk for pregnancy.  Otherwise we are giving the impression that women are just wandering the earth wondering each day if they could be pregnant and biding their time until they fulfill their biological urges. Trust me, most days we have more important things to think about. 

But there it was… I couldn’t concentrate… could I be prrrrregnant? (Roll the R.  – the sound I am going for can be demonstrated in the video found here at 0:16… but you should watch the whole video.

This was not according to plan.

I had dreamed of what it was going to be like when I got pregnant someday.  I would pee on a stick, I would be thrilled.  I would find a way to break the news to my equally thrilled husband.  I would leave it somewhere for him to find and be excited.  I would wake him up early on Christmas, or his birthday or father’s day to share with him this exciting gift of what our future was going to hold.  I would have it together, we would be ready to be the idyllic suburban family.

None of it went according to plan.

I could not leave the house to buy a pregnancy test (no car).  Ironically, I’d saved one from a previous need (until now, I never understood why they sold them in packs… I’ve already learned so much on this little journey) but it had been packed with everything else I owned and was in transit to my new life in Hawaii at the moment… not especially helpful. 

So, there I was - trapped in my largely empty house with the company of the bar that was still stocked from my going away party… My going away party that was two weeks ago where I’d celebrated with friends and had champagne.  Another strike against my plan of perfect motherhood.  The bar continued to mock me as I worked myself into an internal panic (one of my strengths, although certainly not a useful one) about how if I was a currently mother, then I had already failed.

Trusty sidekick was still at work.  It was his last work day before I moved halfway around the world, our second to last day of residing in the same zip code at any time in the foreseeable future.  His case went late, the call team was busy and could not relieve him. I begged him to play the she’s-moving-far-away-and-I’ll-never-see-her-again card. He is far less dramatic than me and was also unaware of the internal panic stemming from a computer glitch the day before.  He did not play this card.  For no logical reason, this made me extremely frustrated. 

It turns out, frustration and panic play well together.

Finally, I snapped.  (It was also after 7PM at this point and all I had eaten that day was coffee and an apple- the house was devoid of sustenance and I had no way to acquire it… in retrospect, it was obviously the setting for the perfect storm). 

I texted him something along the lines of “ [ lots of angry faces] I HATE your program. And your program director and co residents and everyone who is contributing to you being still at work.”  (Sorry, guys I don’t really hate you!)

“You did tell someone right?”  

“Like someone above you knows I’m moving away in less than 2 days and you aren’t spending time with me.” 

“Despite the fact that I’m stressed and overwhelmed and extremely sad and I need you to pick up a pregnancy test cause I’m late.”

“This is why medicine is the worst profession”.

I like to text rapid-fire rather than in one long monologue.  Rants are better piecewise.  I feel that it gives the recipient a small look at what it is like to be inside my head: thoughts pinging around faster than you can process, making small dinging sounds as each new idea arrives, often riddled with spelling errors and autocorrect mistakes that are ignored as I press on desperate to follow the train of thought to where it will crash before I lose it. 

He really is quite lucky to have me in his life.

While it was potentially memorable, it was certainly not the cute and exciting way to break the news that I had hoped for.  But as is often the case when I’m emotional and hungry, things get said, chips fall where they may and then I have to just go from there. 

My rant was ineffectual.  No one materialized at my side.  Per usual, the world did not bend itself to my will instantly.  So I waited for another few hours refusing to pee.  I needed to be ready.  I would ace that test when the time arrived. 

Finally, T.S. pulled in the driveway and it was time to leave for dinner.  I ran to the restroom so we could be out the door as quickly as possible.  It wasn’t until I finished urinating that I saw the error of my ways.  My bladder was empty when he handed me that annoyingly bright pink box, but gosh darn it I was going to try.

I peed on the stick (as much as I could muster), capped it and set it on the counter, set the timer and anticipated a negative result. I had worked myself into an unjustified panic. There was no way I was pregnant.  Really, I was only seeking peace of mind. Confirmation of what I already knew to be true. We were meeting friends for dinner and drinks and I knew I would feel better having a glass of wine when I wasn’t wondering if there wasn’t a second life depending on my choices. 

Less than 10 seconds in, I glanced at the test.  Two very distinct pink lines met my eyes. 

I reassured myself that it was not the final result until 3 minutes.  I still had two minutes and fifty seconds where anything could happen.

When my phone signaled 3 minutes had passed, it was the loudest sound I have ever heard.  Two very distinct pink lines.  Defiant. Determined. Sure.

“Well, F***.  We need to go, we are already late to dinner.”  I yelled to T.S..

 I’m sorry mom and dad.  I said the bad word.  The word I am not supposed to say.  My only excuse for my actions is that big life changes sometimes call for big swear words. 

Trusty sidekick looked at the test and back at me.  We got into his car to head downtown and he assured me – “we will try a different brand, we will do another test in the morning, there is no way.”  (It is probably worth pointing out at this point in the story that we are both highly educated individuals with science backgrounds, thorough understanding of how a simple pregnancy test works and an adequate understanding of how one becomes pregnant… we were just in shock.)

We decided to stop at the pharmacy on the way to dinner.  This time we got the Error-Proof-Test, no more First Response… after all, Error Proof said it right in the name… There would be no errors.  Obviously we had chosen wrong in the first place. The first response is not always the best response, that’s just common sense, right?!

We piled back into the car to head downtown and I selected Pandora Baby Lullabies station to set the appropriate mood.  T.S. was not as amused by my cleverness as I was myself. 

We met our lovely friends for a dinner of sushi burritos.  (The perfect meal if you are in the process of moving and have no access to food and haven’t eaten in an entire day, FYI).  My life monopolized the conversation, my pending move, my career choices, my future in the army, and the most recent potential plot twist.  I swear I don’t actively seek the center of attention, things just happen!  Overwhelmed, still unsure and finally fed, we decided to call it a night sans drinks.  We played some board games (practically parents already!) and headed home. 

I had been drinking excessively all night. Excessive amounts of water and lemonade to be clear.  I was going to be ready to repeat that test when I got home.  I was beyond ready… I nearly repeated the test in the car every time we hit a bump and had to literally run to the bathroom upon arrival.  After finally relieving myself and properly adorning my second stick of the night, I decided I didn’t want to wait three minutes.  I was tired and retreated to the air mattress.  Jesus, take the wheel.

Science will tell you that results of an experiment mean nothing unless they can be duplicated.  One positive result alone is just an anomaly but repeated identical results indicate a true positive.

It was trusty sidekick who got to read the results that indicated a true positive.  I was already in bed when he appeared in the doorway, backlit by the bathroom lights.  A phone chimed.  He beamed “We’re really pregnant!”  

“Great.  Glad you believe me now.”  Just so lucky to have me.

I did take all 4 tests (each came in a pack of 2) just to be sure.  It was 4 for 4. We’re sure now.

So after finally convincing ourselves of results that most people would believe initially, we could move on from acceptance to the next step in the process: becoming parental.

Clearly we had our work cut out for us. 

It has been quite the learning curve as I’ve begun researching car seats and play pens, bottles and bath tubs.  I had imagined that by the time this happened to me, I would have gleaned this knowledge over my many years via the school of life.   I never anticipated that I might become responsible for another human life before outgrowing my full days of Netflix stage.

I was the second child in my family, so at the very least, my parents have had a working knowledge of how to care for a baby my entire life.  I have never asked them if I came at the ideal time or if I was planned, but I have always gotten the impression that they knew what they were doing.  I was na├»ve enough to assume that they had reached parenting age and innately knew.   My mom and I joke about all the things that she has done that have managed to “disqualify her for the mother-of-the-year-award”: the time I fell while she was tying my shoes and I got two black eyes, the time I passed out trying to get to my parents bedroom while feverish and she was pleasantly surprised to find me lying on the floor, the time she prepared us a jug of refreshing Kool-aid with salt instead of sugar… but we can joke about these in good humor because all of the big things were done right.  I grew up in a happy and secure home, I always knew I was loved – even when I was in trouble. I never wondered if I was wanted and I was never given the impression that I was an inconvenience.  From a very young age my parents used logic to justify the choices they made in my life and if I did it without attitude, I could ask them to explain themselves. They taught me right from wrong, how to work hard and how to love. 

I think the simplest measure of knowing that my parents did a good job is how much I hate saying goodbye to them.  I hope that someday baby girl will want me in her life just as much, because I certainly love her. 

I hope she will be under the impression that I have it all figured out and that I’m not completely making it up as I go along.  I will fake it until I make it and someday when she is much much older and maybe she is having a baby of her own I will tell her how I was scared and panicked and had to take 4 different tests.  I may even tell her that I said the F word.  I will tell her that my life was full of stressors and that the timing seemed like it couldn’t have been worse… and then hopefully I will be able to say, but look how everything turned out…

I definitely have my work cut out for me.  I have big shoes to fill, and I haven’t the slightest idea about how to turn a tiny drooling human into someone who cares about others, knows right from wrong and ultimately, hopefully, makes a difference in the world.  It’s a scary big thing.  Maybe the biggest I’ll ever do.  I wasn’t planning her.  I didn’t expect her and don’t consider myself ready for her.... Nonetheless, here goes nothing.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Life in Paradise

I think that Australia is an excellent argument for creationism.  Set your religious beliefs aside for a minute and just appreciate the beautiful logic of Australia: all the scary things… they are trapped on an island.  Seriously, it seems like everything there can kill you. The pests of North America look cuddly in comparison. 

Unfortunately, now I live on an Island with my very own set of scary things.  Hawaii may be a paradise free of snakes, bears, or huge spiders, but it does have centipedes. 

I have heard these centipedes are aggressive – they even chase down their victims like tiny kamikazes.

I have heard that centipedes are super common here.

I have heard that their bites are horrifically painful and can be comparable to a gunshot wound with minimal effective treatment apart from warm compresses that slightly accelerate the breakdown of the venom. 

I have heard lots of scary things in my life and many of them have turned out to be urban legends.  I was more than happy to convince myself that centipedes fell under that banner.  Sure, they’re out there, they’re scary and mean but kind of like terrorists, the odds are slim that I would ever encounter one in person.

As usual, I was wrong. 

To be fair, I was wrong about the terrorists too, if you count the MS-13 or the Taliban, but that’s tangential to the story I’m trying to tell here.

Around 6:00 PM local time, I was sitting on the couch, watching Netflix and enjoying the last half of my dinner (a peanut butter sandwich, milk and a nectarine – because sometimes you just want to eat like a 4-year old) when I realized I could potentially be productive if I walked all the way upstairs to retrieve my laptop from its hiding place under my bed.

At 6:00 PM local time it is thankfully still light out.  Despite the torrential rains of the past 24 hours that triggered multiple flash flood warnings, the natural light in my house was still enough to see by.  I climbed the stairs, made the sharp right turn to the loft and happened to glance at the yoga mat next to the window.  The yoga mat has lived there since I moved in and has never really caught my eye previously; it is plain black rubber and despite its humble appearance, its purpose has been largely ‘decorative’ since I got pregnant. 

Because the centipede was also dark in color and sitting very still, I didn’t notice him until I almost stepped on him.

I panicked and ran away.  Luckily, his yoga practice had left him in a very zen state so he did not pursue me down the stairs. 

My plan of action was ill formed, but I knew that I needed shoes.  Not just shoes, boots.

For those of you that have not had the immense pleasure of wearing army boots, I’ll simulate the experience for you: put on the most rigid uncomfortable shoes you own – ideally with no gel cushioning in the sole.  If these shoes go only up to your ankle or below, you will need to find some way to compress the bottom part of your calf as tightly as possible with a lace-up rigid fabric – like the ankle braces worn for MMA practice.  Of course, you should be wearing wool socks underneath these shoes, and you will need to tuck your pants into the laced up compression devices.  For the full effect, the circumference of the pants should be 4-5x the circumference of your leg so that when you tuck it in the fabric bunches and leaves you with visible marks in your skin when you take it off.  Lastly, strap 7-10 pound ankle weights on top of the contraption you’ve created for yourself.  Clomp around for awhile and feel the burn.  Congratulations, you are now experiencing part of what it is like to be a soldier!   I will admit, putting on these boots is not my favorite thing to do in the morning, but what they lack in desirable weight, comfort, and breathability they more than make up for in durability.  After I put them on, my feet feel 100% protected.  I could step on a spider if I wanted to!

I took several deep breaths (read: I cried) as I laced up my boots and dialed my trusty sidekick who is now halfway around the world and can offer nothing beyond moral support.  “Together” we climbed the stairs and once again stared down the intruder. 

After half a second and two steps further, I decided that army boots were inadequate preparation.  They certainly increased protection to the foot, but they did not ensure that Mr. C could not escape. I needed more surface area. I explained this to Trusty Sidekick who suggested I wrap a T-shirt or fabric around my hand to use as an added smashing appendage.  … Yeah, risking more appendages seemed like a great idea.  T.S. could not see what I was dealing with and I was in no shape for face time.

I retreated to the basement, flinching and panicking every time my hair brushed my shoulder or face.  I prayed that Mr. C was not currently thrilled that I had fallen directly into his plan as he scuttled off to hide beneath my bed or between my sheets.  

From the random closet that holds everything that I cannot find a better location for, I selected a 4’x1’x1” shelf.   At some point earlier in its life it may have held things or served some boring purpose, but today it was destined for glory. 

Three flights of stairs, a pounding heart and a little more crying later, I was once again in a stare-down with Mr. C.  He had not moved.  I was thrilled to discover that I was the only one of us with a plan.  By this point, I was joined by trusty dog who had finally deciphered that I was bothered by something and because of her canine obligations as ‘man’s best friend’ she begrudgingly followed me up the stairs.  “Together” T.S., trusty dog and I approached Mr. C. I wielded my shelf in front of me, lest he get any wild ideas. 

I set the short edge of the shelf down about a foot away from Mr. C.  I would like to believe that I could have gotten closer, but its also entirely possible that my mind would have simply shut down in a self-protective attempt had I tried and I would have just died on the spot in a small burst of adrenaline and African fabric. Always better to err on the side of caution. 

 After that, I tipped the shelf, waited for the crash, and then, for good measure, jumped up and down on it for several minutes. 

When I convinced myself that he could not have survived the barrage of pregnant woman jumping up and down on top of a slab of wood on top of him (thankfully this baby weight is good for something)  I summoned the courage to look.

He lie there, 4 ½ inches of pure terror with far more legs than necessary.   He was partially crushed and surrounded by some shiny brown fluid. His legs and jaws still twitched.

Not on my watch.  I returned the shelf to its attack position and gave it several more jumps. It was then that the downside of a jumping attack immediately after eating dinner became evident but I did not have time to throw up – there were more far more pressing matters at hand.

After the second wave, all movement was gone. It was the moment in the horror movie when the hostages escape the cell the sociopath has been holding them in, they emerge into the sunlight to see police and family and the music swells and you know everything is going to be okay. They get wrapped in blankets and hug their dad or kiss their boyfriend and everyone lives happily ever after.

I planned to leave the shelf on top of him until I moved out of the house or it burned down.  

T.S. on the phone ruined my flawless plan as he began to Google.  Suddenly he was a fount of terrifying information – centipedes like to come inside when it rains, centipedes tend to follow cockroaches, centipedes may not be killed by stepping on them, the scent of a dead centipede may attract more centipedes, chickens eat centipedes.

Okay, that last one wasn’t terrifying, but I have new appreciation for the chickens that are everywhere here.  I suppose I should stop threatening the overzealous 3AM rooster with a conversion to carnivorism.

The idea that the scent of a dead centipede bringing its family members to a wake in my bedroom was more than I could handle: how was I supposed to know that Mr. C was part of the mob and his terrorist family would hunt me down?  I needed to move the body.

Moving the corpse to its final resting place would obviously require some further preparations. Army boots and shelves were tactical weapons that were no longer indicated.  At this point we needed clean-up and hazmat gear.  The best I had was rubber dishwashing gloves, a simple green spray bottle, broom, dust-pan and especially thick plastic bag. 

The corpse was retrieved from ground zero with the broom and dustpan, placed in the plastic bag (which was firmly knotted shut lest Mr. C entertain any resurrection fantasies).  The area was de-scented with simple green and then it was time for the processional to the dumpster.   

Trusty Sidekick had not yet been released from his obligation to listen to my panic, so he continued to share helpful facts such as “centipedes live under leaves and rocks and like dark, damp, places” which is not consoling when you live in a tropical rain forest and need to walk through the dark rainy night to the trash. 

Trusty Dog had come completely around from her original position of ambivalence to completely thrilled once she realized that the quest involved travel beyond the front door.  Obviously, I couldn’t risk leaving her behind with the family of Mr. C possibly bearing down on my homestead seeking retribution of the blood I had shed.

So off we went.

Typically I don’t see any of my neighbors very often.  It’s surprising for a condo community, but people just aren’t out and about that much. 

It figures that when I venture out wearing Africa pants tucked into army boots, an XXL Dos Equis muscle shirt, pink elbow length dishwashing gloves and holding a plastic bag at arms length like it contains a bomb while pinching a phone between my shoulder and face and trying to maintain control of 65 pounds of overly excited pit-bull, I happen to encounter the entire community.  Apparently I chose the trash-goin’ time.   Who knew I was missing out on such excitement and camaraderie? 

Trusty Sidekick continued to divulge methods to combat centipedes and Trusty Dog was not ready for adventure to be over so quickly, so off we went to the local hardware store (where I look out of place even when I’m dressed like a normal human being) to buy centipede poison.

We returned home and deployed the poison.  Trusty sidekick agreed to stop telling me scary things and now it is two hours later and I have yet to see another centipede.

Like the end of the horror movie, the only thing remaining to fix is my psyche.  And, like the end of most horror movies it is entirely possible that I just may never sleep again. 

Anyone interested in buying a house in Hawaii?  I’ll give you a good price.