On January 9, the day before my birthday, which is January 10, I started gearing up for the thing that happens on Facebook when the site notifies your friends it's your birthday and maybe a third of them come out to say hello. January 9 was my friend Toni's birthday, my high school tennis team doubles partner who I hadn't seen since 1982, and whose Facebook page I hadn't visited for like a year. But I knew she'd been in treatment for cancer, so if it's possible to visit someone's Facebook page gingerly, that's what I did. I tiptoed over having no idea what I was about to see.
The top posts on her wall were all, "Happy birthday! Hope it's a great day!" but that wasn't reassuring at all so I scrolled down a little farther and the posts said, "We miss you so much," and you can see where this is going. I scrolled back to September and saw a post from her daughter that said, "School started. Yay." In July there were posts by people obviously dealing with fresh grief, in June I saw announcements for a memorial service, and then in May there was Toni sitting in a chair with an oxygen tube in her nostrils and a dog on her lap.
Those "Have a great day!" posts on the top of her page made me feel kind of stupid on behalf of the people who left them, because I do that all the time, say happy birthday to someone on Facebook without knowing whether they're alive or dead. I had another friend die last year and I watched his Facebook page turn into kind of a nice place where people unloaded funny photos and told him how they felt about him, even though he'd never write back. The other friend of mine who died wasn't on Facebook, so he's having a sort of old-fashioned death with just a tombstone and me bothering his sister to find out what happened.
Anyway, the next day, when I started getting a few Happy Birthdays on my own Facebook page, I started responding to each and every one of them, and do you know why? To prove I wasn't dead. It was my conscious and maybe somewhat urgent intention to show everyone on Facebook that I was still alive. I kept my responses short, just little things like, "Hi!" and "Thanks!" though if someone wrote something a little longer or more personal I'd respond in a longer and more personal fashion. Unsurprisingly, I ended up having a really nice time on Facebook chatting with people I hadn't spoken to in years, and I plan to continue doing it every year because I want you to know that the year I don't respond to your happy birthday greetings, that's how you'll know I'm dead. (Or that my account was hacked.) I know there are online death services that will -- I'm not sure what they do, actually, e-mail everyone in your contacts list when you die? But I'm too cheap and too busy at the moment, so Facebook will have to do.
March was an exciting month. For starters, Peewee almost died.
It started with Peewee barfing four times in a row one morning, and having this weird little palsy to his head. I started Googling things like "dog+barf+palsy" which led to "dog+symptoms+poison" which led to me freaking out and calling the vet. But an hour later he seemed to have shaken off whatever it was. I cancelled the vet and we decided to keep an eye on him. You know, they rally sometimes, these little beasts.
So we did keep an eye on him and what we saw was that over the course of the next couple of days he started eating less and less. He was still drinking water but his stomach looked swollen, and by last Thursday morning he'd become super lethargic and I knew I had to take him in.
A couple of hours later the vet called and said that they'd done a few tests and that Peewee had an enlarged heart and fluid in his abdomen and his liver and kidneys weren't doing so hot and they were going to do a few more tests. An hour later the vet called and said that he didn't want to alarm me but Peewee's heart rate had leaped up to something like 330 bpm -- a heart rate, he said, that was "not consistent with life" -- and could we please come get him and take him over to the emergency vet, where they had a doctor on staff who had the skills to deal with a crisis like this.
Because I guess there's no such thing as a pet ambulance, Jack and I hopped into his truck and hauled ass to the vet's office, where Jack picked up the Wee and carried him out to his truck while I received a bag full of Peewee's fluids and test results and then cried in the front seat while we drove three blocks to the 24-hour emergency vet's office.
We sat in the waiting room for what felt like forever, drinking little cups of water and not talking, but it was strangely comforting to watch SpongeBob's butt cheeks catch on fire on the TV mounted over the front desk. (When I tried to describe the episode later to Jackson he shook his head and said, "Mom, think about it. Butt cheeks can't catch on fire under water.") After a while a vet tech came out and told us Peewee's heart rate was down to 120. Jack went to get Jackson from school, I cried some more, the vet techs shaved some fun new patterns in Peewee's fur, the doctor gave him a sonogram. We hugged him and then we went home. They kept him overnight so they could take his blood pressure every hour, charge us lots and lots of money*, and save his chunky little life.
*I was fine with the money part because after what we went through with Katie we made sure Peewee had pet health insurance.
When we picked him up the next day the vet was all, "His heart is weak and that's the way it's going to be from now on, so no salt, no walks, no excitement," and I was all, "Yeah, well, it's not like he was on the agility circuit anyway." He was tired and moving pretty slow that first day back home but now it's Monday and he's back to barking at the mail and begging for car rides and jalapeno cheese puffs and he seems pretty much fine with this new regime of us hiding his pills in a hot dog twice a day. I'm a tear-stained wretch, but he's fine.
Having been through similar health scares with human beings, I can tell you that being in that space where you don't know if someone you love is going to live or die is pretty much the most stressful thing that's ever happened to me, and now it's happened to me twice and I'm done, please. No more of this, Universe, thank you.
In other news, I got nominated for an inaugural Iris Award, which was quite a thrill. It's a parent-blogging award, and since I'm down to posting once a month about almost anything except my kid, I don't imagine I have much of a chance of winning. But I'm honored to be in such good company.
And now I'm going to go drink a gallon of vodka and pass out do another round of meditation and watch the Gravity DVD I got from the library. Please hug your dogs, cats, iguanas, and guinea pigs a little extra just for me. Thank you. That actually helps.
UPDATE!Comments are closed and JanetS won the book! Well done being the second commenter, Janet, and having random.org choose your number. Thanks for all the tales of sales gone wrong, people. My stomach churns for all of you.Several days a week we carpool to Jackson's school with another family, and this morning one of the girls we drive with gave me the two boxes of Girl Scout cookies I'd ordered from her last month. I don't even eat cookies but I bought a box of Tagalongs and a box of Thin Mints because I remember how hard it was to sell cookies when I was a kid and I wanted to help her out.
Well! We were driving along and I was all, "How many boxes of cookies did you sell?" and do you know what she said to me? "Almost 300." I almost drove off the road. The thought of so many cookie sales is like science fiction to me. The only way that I, as an adult, could hit the same benchmark would be to make 10 people buy 30 boxes of cookies each, all of which I'd then offer to pay for myself, and then I'd have to go lie down in a dark room with a cold compress on my head. 300 boxes. Jesus.
After expressing my amazement and hearty congratulations, she said, "My goal is to sell 500," and I fainted dead away. When I came to I asked her to guess how many boxes of cookies I sold when I was a Girl Scout. Go on, guess. Actually, don't, because I told her the wrong number. I told her nine boxes, but I mixed up the fact that I was actually nine years old that year. I really sold only three. Three. However, nine still got a big reaction.
"What?!" she and her sister said in unison. Clearly they had never beheld a creature so incapable of selling the easiest thing to sell in the history of everything.
I explained that when I was a Scout I was so shy that to knock on strangers' doors to sell cookies was certainly the most cruel task ever devised to make a little girl earn a badge. My father was a salesman -- he was the type, as they used say, who could sell snow to Eskimos -- but I didn't get that gene. I wanted nothing to do with grownups or their money, especially ones I didn't know. AND that was also the 70s for you, my mother just sent me out into the street to sell cookies, there was none of this "I'll go with you and wait on the sidewalk so you don't get abducted" business, or "let's set up a table outside of the grocery store with two of your friends and we'll just sit back and let the cookies sell themselves." No, I just wandered off into the neighborhood with a clipboard and a sad wish to get back to the couch before I Dream of Jeannie started.
I guess there were badges that rewarded the introverts, too -- I seem to remember getting one for "sewing" a vinyl "cushion" filled with yesterday's newspaper, and one for learning CPR WHICH REMINDS ME, I got certified for CPR on Wednesday, unwillingly. It was required by my workplace, but as someone who works at a place where a lot of old people hang out I have to concede that it feels kind of great to be up on the latest heart-starting technologies. This is one of the videos they showed us, it's got a reassuringly angry Ken Jeong in it:
I want to note that when the girls rush in to save the guy they don't even check to see if he has a pulse before the one starts banging on his chest. You only do the heart compression thing if the person has no pulse. And you don't have to breathe into the person's mouth anymore! Studies found that compressing the chest was more than enough to fill and expel the oxygen from people's lungs and keep their brain oxygenated until their heart picked up again, and that stopping to clear the airway and pinch the nose and share in a stranger's blood- and saliva-borne diseases was an almost total waste of time. So get that pulseless person down on the floor and pump away! Whee!
We also saw some really gross pictures of burns, and one of a person who had a ring ripped off his finger by some machinery. Glaaaah.
Before I entirely lose track of what I meant to talk about, I want to tell you that I have a paperback copy of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking to give away. All you need to do is leave a comment and I'll use random.org to pick a person to send it to. In your comment I need you to share with us the best, worst, or most interesting thing you've ever tried to sell.
ALMOST LASTLY, I have two more drawings to show you.
This was for a request for "a big, dumb (black, rottweilerish) dog that is scared of palm trees." My inspiration came from two places. One is the bike path near the beach in Santa Barbara that is lined with palm trees, and the other was this dog that I saw on dogshaming.com. I'm not sure what the story is here: was she so scared of trees that she broke one? Did one fall over and scare her and now she's afraid that palm trees are trying to kill her? Yes. All of that.
This next drawing was for the person who runs dandelionbaby.com, she asked for a drawing of something from her website, or else just anything I felt like. Since I'm still bravely facing my fear of drawing people, I was happy to try drawing this happy pair:
Can you see that? It's a woman and a baby and they both have expressions of genuine happiness on their faces. I decided to try and capture that.
I didn't succeed, so I made the baby into a bug. ARTISTIC LICENSE.
Last thing, I promise, I did a post over at the Popcorn Whisperer where I invent Salted Caramel Popcorn and explain how to make it and it's MAGNIFICENT. It is truly a revelation. Go over there and make some, then come back and leave a comment so you can possibly win a book, or just come back and read the other comments, I don't care, I'm not going to make you do anything. We all have free will. That's the crazy part of all this.
My birthday is later this week and I'm having fun imaging that I am still just half-way through my life, that I have a whole other 49 years of mature adulthood in which I do not have to waste time waiting to grow boobs, get a driver's license, or learn to drink without getting a hangover, but am a ready-to-go human being and can do mostly whatever the hell I want. Not included on my mental vision board is the assumption that the years 50-100 may include at least one life-threatening illness, correctable by surgery, during which my heart may be stopped -- which happened to my mother-in-law on the day before Christmas, ho ho ho. Though surviving a one-stop heart or cancer-related dip in the post-menopausal years has happened to so many people I know that I've almost come to expect it as a rite of passage. Program your iPod, pack your bag, and don't forget to ask for a vitamin C drip.
Of course, anything can happen, and it frequently does. Like on the day after Christmas, when I was driving home from work on the 101 and all of a sudden it's BANG! SMASH! and I am spinning sideways toward the guard rail. My only question, as I was trundling toward the shoulder of the road, was what to do with my steering wheel, since unexpected forces were clearly in charge of my car now. So I just let go and watched the wheel spin around, and then I got the mildest whiplash ever when my car hit the rail. I'm not sure when my glasses flew off, but I couldn't find them for the life of me, even with a borrowed highway patrol officer's flashlight. I stopped looking under the passenger side front seat when he said, You know, those airbags sometimes go off by themselves after an accident. So, with nothing to do but wait for a tow truck, I squinted at my phone and mashed apps until I found one that would take a photo:
It doesn't look too bad there, but the car was undriveable and had to be towed. The most fun thing about all of this is the fact that five cars were involved and it wasn't immediately clear who was at fault. I finally got the accident report this morning (12 days later), and called the responsible party's insurance company so we can get this resolved, but I have a sad suspicion that the cost of repairing my car will amount to more than the car is worth, and they'll declare it totaled. :-(
On the upside, I've been borrowing a friend's Volkswagen with heated front seats and I can yell, "Toast your buns!" at Jackson as we drive to school in the morning.
And thus ends three weeks of winter vacation, Jesus Christ. I love my man, I love my child, I love my dog, but three weeks of togetherness meant I didn't get a thing done, writing- or drawing-wise, and you know what? That's okay. We baked cookies, we drank wine, we played Gin Rummy, we lost entire days to Netflix.
Draw every day, intuitively and without agenda
Write every day, even if it's just 15 minutes, to keep the neural helipad open and clear for the Muse to touch down
Yoga every day, even if it's just 15 minutes, or you will become dry and crisp and withered as the husk of Indian corn nailed to your mother's front door, which nobody ever rescued until Spring because we all went into the house through the garage
Never, ever beat myself up if 1, 2, or 3 doesn't happen every day