Sunday, July 28, 2013

Pickled Sausages (and Other Things that Make you Throw up in your Mouth a Little)

To say it was an enormous culture shock when I moved to Florida is an understatement. Things are really different down here from how they were in Chicagoland. Different isn't necessarily bad, but in this case . . . well, in this case, I'm convinced the only reason people stay in Florida is for the weather. And maybe the beach. They sure don't stay for the education or healthcare. They don't stay because of the way people drive down here, and I'm pretty sure they don't stay for the interesting things you find in stores down here either.

I've written about the awesome gems I've discovered while shopping in Florida HERE. In fact, reading that post makes me want to go back to Old Time Pottery because you just can't beat the kind of awesomeness you find there. I've got a few more fun prizes for you today. These are some things I've never seen in Chicago. Ever. Yet, they're abundant in Florida.

Big John's Pickled Sausages. The bigger, better pickled sausage. Better than what? And it never needs refrigeration. What could be better than artificially colored, pickled casings stuffed with mechanically separated chicken and pork hearts. Mmmmm! You get a whole 4 pounds in this jar. It's party sized! I do like the little mascot there, however. He looks like a very red Twinkie the Kid.

I don't really know what collard greens are. I'm quite certain I never saw them on a shelf at Jewel or Dominick's. It looks suspiciously like the stuff I trimmed with my weed whacker this morning though.

I don't even want to know! Okay, maybe I sort of want to know. You know, like a bad accident you can't look away from. You really don't want to see anything awful, yet you can't turn away. 

There are entire aisles devoted to grits down here like we have oatmeal up north. I tried grits once. That was all I needed. One time. All I know is that whenever I hear the word "grits", I think of My Cousin Vinny. "Are we to believe that boiling water soaks into a grit faster in your kitchen than any place on the face of the earth? Perhaps the laws of physics cease to exist on your stove. Were these magic grits? Did you guy them from the same guy who sold Jack his beanstalk beans?" 

Austin looked over my shoulder as I uploaded this picture and asked, "What is that?" 
I answered, "I have no idea what a chitterling is." 
"Look it up, Mom."
So I did. I wish I hadn't. Now I understand why the package says 'triple cleaned'. I guess you can never wash out a pig's intestines too well before frying them up and eating them. Excuse me while I vomit.

They actually call pop 'soda' down here. It's on signs and everything. It makes me cringe.

It's a giant can of boiled peanuts. Peanuts. That are. Boiled. They have the texture of wet chalk and they taste like . . . Let me put it this way - the day I tried my first boiled peanut was coincidentally the same day I tried my last boiled peanut.

Does this really need words? Oh wait, yes it does! I'm totally buying some before my next colonoscopy!

It's a unicorn corkscrew! Perfect for the 10-year-old girl in your life who likes to drink wine!

I love Target, but I'm mad at them for selling these tea cozies. Little old grandmas everywhere are going to have to come up with a new idea for Christmas presents now!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What She Left Us

Stephanie Elliot was the first person ever to ask me for my autograph. (Do you still have it, Steph?) I'll never forget that. At that same lunch date, she also contemplated stealing the pepper mill. Ha! Kidding! Just kidding. Stephanie would never do that. But we sure did have fun. We always have fun when we get together! Stephanie has a gigantic heart and a great sense of humor. It's a good combination.

Here we are at Italian Village with Michelle Brownlow and Mimi Avery. There may have been drinking and laughing going on.

 There may have been some checking out guys going on too.

At BlogHer in 2009. She's an awesome nap buddy!

But, did you know that Stephanie is also a terrific writer? I knew she was a good writer, but I didn't realize how good until I read What She Left Us. Her story drew me in and I couldn't put the book down until I'd finished it. You go along reading, skipping back and forth between the two girls' stories, thinking you know what's going on, but then - TWIST - you're surprised by the turn the story takes. It's AWESOME!

Synopsis for WHAT SHE LEFT US: Jenna and Courtney are dealing with the unexpected death of their mother in different ways. Jenna broke off her engagement to the man she thought she'd love forever, while Courtney headed back to college to take charge of a dorm-floor full of college students as a resident assistant. Six months later, Jenna is fueled by panic over the news that the sisters may have the same disease that caused their mother's death and she makes an irrational decision - she packs it up and heads to college to be with Courtney. The timing couldn't be worse for Courtney, who's discovering love for the first time with Mitch, a sexy guitar player who may just be off limits. Emotionally unstable, Jenna wonders if she made the worst mistake of her life by breaking off her engagement with Darren, and when he shows up to make amends, she can't help but second-guess her decision. But then there's Clay, the compassionate bartender at Klippy's who seems to understand everything Jenna's going through. And those hazel eyes just seem to see right through to Jenna's soul… As the girls maneuver through their unpredictable futures, trying to manage their new health risks as well as tumultuous love lives, Courtney finds a disturbing photograph that indicates there may be more to their family than she ever imagined. This stunning revelation could shatter the sisters to the very core, making them question everything they thought they knew about their family, their faith, their past and, most of all, each other.

WHAT SHE LEFT US is available on Kindle. Don't have a Kindle? No problem, just download the free Kindle app on your smartphone, iPad, tablet, etc., and voila, you're good to go! 

Leave me a comment here to be entered in a drawing for a FREE copy of What She Left Us for Kindle! I'll choose a random winner on Wednesday, July 31st. Good luck!


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Problem with Healthcare in America

So here's my dilemma - 

I have had Cigna insurance for my kids through my job. I can't afford it any longer, so I applied for insurance through the state. They qualified for Medicaid. Great! I cancelled the Cigna, but the change won't take effect until Sept. 1st. No big deal. 

Last week, when all this stuff went down with Austin and Savannah, I tried making an appointment with their primary care physician assigned to them with Cigna since that doctor is at least a little familiar with my kids. However, because they now have Medicaid, that doctor refused to see them. I argued that they still had Cigna until September, but no dice. They flat-our refused. No problem.

I called the PCP assigned to them through Medicaid. They refused to see Austin and Savannah because they're a pediatrician's office and Austin and Savannah are too old at 17 and 18. When I explained everything going on and told them I was desperate to get follow-up care for my kids right now, they still refused. In fact, last week when I told her about the positive HIV test and how I was certain it was incorrect, she had the same condescending, judgmental, and condemning attitude. "Why does he donate blood regularly?" I heard once more. It makes me want to take the negative test, march over to the office and thrust it in her face while shouting, "See this?! I was right and you suck!"

Anyway, the receptionist at the pediatrician's office assigned by Medicaid recommended I call Medicaid and get a different provider assigned to Austin and Savannah. Fine. No problem. I called Medicaid. After about 20 minutes on the phone with them, I was given another number to call. After speaking to someone else and explaining the whole problem yet again, I was told, "Austin and Savannah were already assigned a doctor. The name and number is on their cards."

"I know! But that doctor won't see them! He's a pediatrician and says my kids are too old. Can they get a different doctor? An internal medicine doctor in the area, please?"

After several more minutes of trying to get her to understand the situation, she finally says, "Well, I show that you still have Cigna. I can't switch doctors until the Cigna is gone."

"I did cancel the Cigna, but those changes won't take place until September first. What do I do in the meantime? No one will see my kids. My daughter is having health issues and my son just got out of the hospital and needs follow up in a week, not two months!"

"I don't know, but I can't do anything until the Cigna is gone."

Today, their primary care doc with Cigna called to schedule an appointment for Austin since they'd received copies of his records from the hospital.

"Oh, so you'll see him now? You wouldn't see my kids last week because of the insurance issues. After she took a minute to look at his file, she said, "Oh you're right. We can't see him. He has Medicaid now."

"So he has to go without any follow-up care because you guys refuse to see him even though he still has Cigna and even though YOU called ME to schedule an appointment?"

"That's correct. I'm sorry."

"Gee thanks! Thanks for NOTHING! That's for nothing, everyone!" Healthcare isn't about the patient's health. It's all about insurance and who will pay for what. Period. As far as I can tell, no one takes into account the patient's needs at all. I admit that I was spoiled with the most amazing doctors who went above and beyond back in Chicagoland, but here? It has been my experience that no one gives a crap about anyone.

Now I need to find a place to take Austin for a follow-up appointment and whole new set of HIV testing so I can take those negative results back to the hospital where I will lie on the floor kicking and screaming until they agreed to amend his medical record. (Anyone who has seen this video of me, knows I have no problem lying on the floor while kicking and screaming in public.) I wonder if I can also get them to go back through records and see who was given negative HIV results during the same time frame because most likely, that person is positive and doesn't know it, thanks to the hospital's screw up.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Our Nightmare

Savannah was still having pain around her middle, in addition to the new worrying symptoms of numbness in her hand and foot, dizziness, and blurred vision. I tried to make an appointment with her doctor, but because of stupid insurance issues that would take an entire blog post to explain, I couldn't do that. So, I brought her back to the ER for the third time on Wednesday. While I was there with her, Austin texted me from the hospital where he was still a patient.

"I'm dying."

"Dying how? Pain? Nausea? Just feeling bad?"

"No, really dying."

"You're not dying, Cameron." (Ferris Bueller reference that was supposed to make him laugh)

"Yesterday, maybe an hour before you got here, a doctor came in and said there was more testing to be done, but the initial results were that I was HIV positive. I just kept crying. That is why my eyes were red. I'm dying, Mom."

My heart stopped for a minute and a wave of nausea flooded me. I felt like all the air had been knocked out of my lungs; like someone had just punched me in the gut.

"WHAT?!!!!!!!!!!! Are you kidding me?"  It's a joke, right? He has to be kidding.


"Why didn't you tell me yesterday?" Ohmygosh, the doctor told him while he was all alone! And I haven't been there all day! My poor Austin!

"Because the two main things that cause it are sexual contact and sharing needles. I didn't want you to assume anything. I've never done any of that."

"Then it isn't possible. The test is wrong, Austin. You don't have HIV and it was really wrong of him to say something like that before the test was complete. What exactly did he say? What kind of @$$%&(# tells a kid something like that while he's all alone?"

"He said, 'So we got the initial results back from your blood test and they're positive. They aren't final though so there will be another test. Any questions for me? No? Okay.'"

"You donate blood, Austin. They screen for this. You've never been notified of any problems. You have no risk factors. You don't have HIV. False positives are common. That's why they HAVE to do a follow-up test if there's ever a positive."

"But I'm sweating a ton and I looked it up and night sweats are a symptom of HIV."

"So is menopause, cancer, fever, infection, sleeping on a hot, plastic hospital bed with compression things wrapped around your legs, and a whole host of other things.

"Then I have cancer."

"You've been tested for everything, Austin. Cancer doesn't develop overnight."

"It might even develop faster than overnight in my body. Maybe my body is a cancer magnet."

"Stop it!"

"I'm a cancer hotspot."

"Stop it! You don't have HIV or cancer."

"Because it's clearly developed into AIDS already."

"Stop it!"

"Even the AIDS infected cells have cancer which in turn produced cancerous AIDS cells which kept multiplying to make an AIDS/cancer hybrid. Which, despite the name, is actually beneficial to nail and hair growth."

"Well, it's a good thing your sense of humor is back."

On Thursday, the doctor saw Austin before I got to the hospital once again and Austin asked him, "Do you know the results of that test?"

"No, it takes a while. Just call my office after you're discharged," he said nonchalantly, brushing him off.

When Austin told me how he responded to him for a second time, my head exploded. I raced to the hospital and marched straight into the patient advocate's office. I explained how the doctor dropped this bomb on my son and how I was positive the results were inaccurate and how I felt he should have waited until the test was complete to say anything. She said pretty words. "I understand why you're frustrated. I'll have the nursing manager talk to you."

I told the nursing manager how the doctor dropped this bomb on my son and how I was positive the results were inaccurate and how I felt he should have waited until the test was complete to say anything. She said pretty words. "I understand why you're upset, blah blah blah. Some doctors need better bedside manners."

Instead of talking to the doctor, she sent a counselor to Austin's room who left him with information about HIV and AIDS and where to turn for help. When I explained to her that he had ZERO risk factors and it had to be a false positive, she gave me a pitying look. Oh look at this mom who is in total denial.

"He's a good kid! He's never done anything that could possibly get him infected. He even donates blood regularly!"

"Why does he donate regularly?" she asked accusingly.

Ohmygosh, she did NOT just say that! She thinks he donates to get checked! Listen lady, some people donate because it's a good thing to do! Some people are raised to know the importance of donating their used items, their time, talents, and yes, even their blood to others who can benefit from it.

Here's the thing though. Everyone I talked to had the same attitude. You get diagnosed with cancer and everyone is sympathetic. No one can imagine a more horrible fate. But you get diagnosed with HIV and immediately you're looked down upon. You're that kind of person. There is no sympathy; just judgement and condemnation. It's horrible and I don't wish it upon anyone.

I camped out in Austin's hospital room today, determined to finally get a chance to speak with this doctor. Although I'd been by the hospital every single day, I had to go back and forth between Austin and my other kids so I'd missed him every day. When he walked in, I said, "Oh so you're Dr. Korman! That was really crappy how you dropped that bombshell on my son when he was all alone. Do you have kids? No? Well, that was really not cool! And why would you tell him he's positive before the testing was even done?"

He didn't have much to say.

"What test did you run?"

"Uhhh, we checked for (much stammering) antibodies."

"So you just did the one test? Have you done a western blot yet?"

"Yes, they were both positive."

My stomach lurched. If that's true, then ohmygosh! Oh my gosh. Oh God.

"I want to see those results," I demanded. There is no way it's positive. No way!

The doctor disappeared and came back a few minutes later.

"Oh um, I guess we didn't do both tests. We're waiting for the confirmatory test."

"You're doing a western blot?"

"No, we don't do that anymore. That's outdated. We're doing an RNA test."

"And how long will that take?" I demanded.

"I don't know."

"You don't know? Ballpark. 3 days? 3 weeks? 3 months? How long?"

"Hopefully soon. We don't do it here. It's sent somewhere else. Jacksonville, I think. You can call the hospital when he's discharged. You could ask for medical records. But they probably won't give you the information. I guess you could follow up with your doctor and have him call the hospital and try to get it."

"Are you kidding me?!" I resisted the urge to slap him. (Although in retrospect, I kinda wish I had. It would have been worth any trouble I received from it.)

Eventually, he gave me his card and said I could call his office to get the results. Then he examined Austin and discharged him.

Before we left, he came back to the room and handed me a paper. "I have the results. The RNA test is negative. I'm not sure what this means."

Sheesh! Even I know what it means! He doesn't have HIV! How do you not know this??? Are you really a doctor? I called my friend who works at another hospital and deals with this stuff. She said the doctor was wrong; western blots are still used to confirm positive tests. She also said that the initial test was indeed a false positive and he definitely does NOT have HIV. The RNA test is a very specific one.

Austin lived through this nightmare for four days. Although I think I had him convinced that there was no way he could possibly have HIV, it was still hanging over his head. He got depressed. He said he'd kill himself if he had HIV. And it all could have been avoided if this doctor had kept his stupid mouth shut until the confirmation test came back negative. Or if the doctors had listened when Austin answered their questions, stating he had no risk factors at all.

And, before anyone asks, Savannah's still not feeling well and we still don't have a diagnosis although the hospital told her she tested positive for methamphetamines because, once again, they didn't listen when we listed off the OTC medications she was taking. The same reason why Austin's arm puffed out in hive-like bumps from his IV because they didn't listen when he told them his IV hurt and didn't feel right when medication went in. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Watch out for Falling Dogs

Today, four days after Austin got sick, we finally got an answer as to why he got sick. 

In the ER, they asked if Austin was taking any medication. We said, "No." After they diagnosed him with pancreatitis and told us he'd have to be transferred to another hospital and admitted, I knew it would be at least a couple hours before he was actually moved so I ran home to grab some clothes for Austin. While I was gathering his things, I noticed a prescription bottle on his desk and I remembered that Austin actually had been taking some medication. I threw the bottle in my bag and headed back to the hospital. When I got there, I mentioned to the nurse that I'd forgotten that Austin had been taking medication. She told me to tell them at the new hospital since Austin was being transferred.

The paramedic who transferred Austin asked if he took medication. I said he did and showed him the bottle. He made a note of it.

Once we arrived at the new hospital, I told 2 different doctors who saw him in the ER about the meds, just in case the medicine had anything to do with the pancreatitis. I also told a woman who said she was with the pharmacy there. She took the bottle and wrote down the information.

Upon arrival in his room, we told the nurse and also told the regular doctor who saw us that Austin had been taking Monodox for a couple months.

Austin has seen 4 different GI doctors this week. None of them have asked if he has been taking any medication. They all asked him some different questions though. In fact, they all asked the same questions every single day. A couple days ago, one of the doctors asked me these same questions.

"Hi, I'm Dr. So&So. I have some personal questions to ask you. Now, I'm not pointing fingers, but you need to answer honestly. Does he smoke?"

"Nope, never."

"Does he binge drink?"

"Binge drink? He doesn't drink at all."

"Does he do drugs?"


He asked those questions in an accusing voice. It made me want to say, "Oh yeah, he smokes a pack a day and drinks a case a day and I'm the one who's been buying it for him since he was 8 years old." I didn't think this stuffy doctor would catch the sarcasm however.

"Has he had any blunt trauma to his abdomen?"

"Austin? No. Now, if you were talking about my middle son, I'd say that there's a pretty good chance he suffered some abdominal trauma, but not Austin."

"Anything at all? Has he fallen? Has he walked into something? Has a dog fallen on him?"

I choked back a laugh at his final question. Where on earth did he come up with that one? I pictured dogs falling from the sky. Maybe that's where they got 'raining cats and dogs'. I resisted the urge to say, "No, but once he was hit by a falling cat."

"This is serious. I need to know if he's been hit in the abdomen."

"Sorry," I put on a serious face. "No, he hasn't been hit by anything. Not even a dog." Heh heh heh. So much for the serious face.

And then he was gone. A few quick questions. Cut me off when I tried to ask questions. Poof. Gone.

Austin was tested for drugs, triglyceride levels, autoimmune diseases, HIV (even though we told them he donates blood every couple months and does not have HIV), and other assorted weird diseases, when all they had to do was ask one pretty simple, basic question - are you taking any medication? Or, maybe they could've taken a few minutes to actually talk to us. Or maybe they could've discussed things with the regular doctor who did ask that question. Or maybe they could've taken the time to actually look at Austin's chart. Just sayin'.

Today, a GI doctor asked Austin if he was taking any medication. Austin told him, "Yes, Monodox." 

The doctor instantly exclaimed, "That's why! It's from the medication!" 

The good news is that we know now, thankfully. If they hadn't finally asked about the medication, he could have gone home, started taking it again, and wound up right back in the ER again. It's an easy fix to simply stop taking the meds and that's a great thing! Also, he turned the corner today. He's still very sore and still running a fever, but the pain has started to lesson a bit and he's been able to keep clear liquids down. His oxygen levels are going back up too so it seems like his lung is getting better.

But, because this is my family we're talking about, every time something good happens, something bad has to come balance it out. Savannah, who'd been feeling a little better the past few days, has gotten worse again. She's in a ton of pain and now has numbness in her right hand and foot. Guess who's going back to the doctor tomorrow.

Monday, July 15, 2013

I Should get Frequent Flyer Miles at the ER

Friday night, my kids and I were playing Monopoly. Austin was being his usual goofy self to the point that the rest of us were ready to kick him out of the game because he kept goofing around and if there’s one rule about Monopoly in my house, it’s that you take it seriously! Austin had Boardwalk and Park Place, so I figured it was only a matter of time until he wiped us all out. Suddenly, Austin sat back and his whole demeanor changed. Gone was the joking goofball. He abruptly said, “Can I get out of the game? I don’t feel well. I’m going to bed.”

What? You don’t leave Monopoly when you own Boardwalk and Park Place! You NEVER leave the game when you own Boardwalk and Park Place! Everyone knows this! Clearly, he felt awful. He walked upstairs and the rest of us continued playing. A few minutes later, Clay ran downstairs and implored, “Austin needs you. He’s in the bathroom.”

I ran upstairs and found a pale, clammy Austin lying on the floor, curled in a fetal position, and shaking. He had his arms wrapped around his tummy, his face contorted with pain. He said he had horrible abdominal pain and felt like throwing up. I sat on the floor with him, waiting for the pain to pass, but it didn't. Instead, he started throwing up and he continued to vomit every half hour from 11:00pm until about 9:00am. I thought about taking him to the ER, but I’d recently been there twice with Savannah and I didn't want to be ‘that mom who freaks out and brings her kids here for no good reason’. Besides, I really thought he just had some sort of intestinal virus or food poisoning and there wouldn’t be much to do except to let it run its course.

He lay in bed, sleeping on and off most of Saturday. I checked on him now and then and every time I did, he was curled in a ball, whimpering about the pain. The Advil I was giving him was not cutting it. Finally I said, “Let’s go. I think we’d better take you the ER. You’re still in so much pain. I wonder if you could have appendicitis or something.”

We headed to the children’s hospital where I’d taken my younger kids before. It’s 20 miles away, but I liked the hospital so that’s where we went. It didn’t occur to me that my baby is no longer a baby, but a 6’2”, 18-year-old.

We walked through the metal detectors at the front door and I told the security guard, “Don’t worry. I only have my gun with me, no dangerous tampons.” He had no idea what I was talking about so he just looked at me like I was a freak and did an extra-thorough inspection of my purse.

We checked in and the triage nurse raised an eyebrow. “You still come to the children’s hospital?”

“Oh yeah, I guess he isn’t a child anymore, huh? Sorry. I don’t really know where to go. I’m kinda new to the area.”

“There’s a regular hospital right across the street,” she informed me.

“Oh, okay. We can go there,” I said, getting ready to leave.

“No no, we can see him here,” she insisted.

We took a seat in the waiting room and looked around. Austin was the only patient there who shaves. We were called back to a room filled with Hello Kitty and Toy Story stickers. Austin’s legs hung over the edge of the bed by a foot. "Do you feel like Buddy the Elf?" I wondered.

A nurse came in and asked, “On a scale of 1-10, what’s your pain?”

Austin answered that it was an 8.

“You look like an 8,” she said, taking in his pained expression.

After she left, Austin turned to me, “I think she’s hitting on me.”


“She told me I look like an 8,” he explained, a glimmer of Austin goofiness in his eye.

Later when the nurse was sticking him for the fourth time to start an IV and draw blood(apparently it’s hard to find veins in a person who’s dehydrated) she was chatting and asked, “How old are you?”

Austin answered, “Eighteen.”

“That’s my favorite age!” she smiled. She went on to talk about her son who is also 18.

When she left, Austin looked at me. “That’s my favorite age,” he gushed.  “I’m tellin’ ya . . .” ( of course the nurse wasn’t hitting on him and of course Austin knew this. He was being his usual goofy self despite all the pain and that made me feel a little better.)

The doctor examined him, and before he left, said, “Let me just make sure this pain isn’t from a hernia. He checked Austin for a hernia and walked out. When he left, I leaned over to Austin and teased, “I don’t think it was the nurse who was hitting on you. Wink wink.”

The doctor seemed to think there was a good chance Austin had appendicitis so he sent him for an ultrasound. When the ultrasound technician started, Austin asked, “Will I get to see the baby?”  She didn’t seem to think that was funny. Sheesh, tough crowd at the hospital.

The ultrasound didn’t confirm appendicitis, however it showed fluid around his appendix . A second doctor came in and said, “The only reason we’re not wheeling you into the operating room right now is because you’re indicating the pain is across your abdomen and not just on the right side. We are going to send you for a CT scan to check out your appendix.”

While we were waiting, Austin noticed the badge stuck to my shirt which read ED for emergency department. “Your name is Ed?” he asked. Or do you have erectile dysfunction? It’s okay if you have it, but I probably wouldn’t advertise it on a nametag.” Yep, that’s my Austin.

A couple hours after Austin had the CT, the doctor finally came back in and said, “Well, I know why you’re in so much pain. You have pancreatitis. It’s a very painful condition. Usually this just affects people who have gallstones or who have been heavy drinkers for many, many years. You’re really young to have this. We need to admit you to the hospital to monitor you, give you pain relief and IV fluids because the treatment for this is to reduce the inflammation by giving your pancreas a rest which means nothing at all by mouth for a few days. No food, no drinks. However, since you’re technically an adult, we can’t admit you here. We have to transfer you to the hospital across the street.”

While we waited for the ambulance, they gave Austin a shot of morphine for his pain. When I take pain meds, I get instantly dizzy, nauseated, and tired. Austin, however, became instantly chatty.

“What animal does that look like in that picture? I think it’s an oryx. You know what an oryx is? It’s spelled with a ‘Y’. I remember seeing them at the zoo. I think it was Brookfield Zoo. What kind of drug is morphine? I remember learning about drugs like this in health. I think it’s the same kind of drug as codeine and hydrocodone and heroine. What are those containers for needles on the wall called? What do you think that blue thing is for? How many milliliters are there to an ounce? How much is left in my IV? Do you think it’s about 12 water bottles?  How many kilograms are in a pound? When they weighed me, I tried to figure it out. I think I weigh exactly 160 pounds. Why do they trust people alone in these rooms? They could steal the blankets. Did you notice that all 3 of my nurses’ names start with ‘A’? What’s the difference between local and general anesthesia? You don’t need general anesthesia for brain surgery. I’ve done some virtual brain surgeries online for fun. I feel like Madeleine. Do you think I’ll get a dollhouse if I have my appendix out? My IV is beeping. Ask for Nurse Joy. That’s not my nurse’s name. She’s from Pokemon.”

Finally he fell asleep. The ambulance came and took us to the other hospital. I was so tired I couldn't even tell you what the paramedics looked like. (I know!) They didn’t have a room for him so we sat in the ER for several hours. We listened to a senile woman who kept watching some TV preacher really loudly. We listened to a man with gunshot wounds from 3 years ago who just had to go to the ER because he’s experienced some numbness for 3 years, but he didn’t want to be checked out or admitted or anything. I guess he was there for the food.

Eventually, 14 hours after we first went to the ER, he was moved into a room. On the bright side, it’s a nice room with only one bed, it’s quiet up here, and his nurses have been really nice.

They’re still trying to determine the cause of the pancreatitis so they can treat it while also trying to take care of the pancreatitis itself. He’s been running a fever and is still in significant pain, and it breaks my heart seeing him feeling so miserable. I also hate running back and forth and wish I could magically be with Austin and my other kids at the same time.

Wrapping up:
1. Don’t worry about feeling like a loser for taking your kid to the ER when there ends up being nothing really wrong. If you think something may be wrong, take them. Trust your instincts.
2. Thank you to everyone who has offered up prayers, well wishes, and help. We really appreciate it!
3. For those of you who asked, you can send cards to Austin at:
Austin Meehan
1583 E. Silver Star Rd. #315
Ocoee, FL 34761

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Handy Manny's Got Nothing on Me

A few days ago, my washing machine stopped working correctly. It was still washing the clothes, but when the cycle stopped, the clothes were sopping, dripping wet. At first I tried wringing them out and throwing them in the dryer, knowing it would probably take 14 cycles to fully dry them. But the way they were clunking around in there worried me that I was going to end up breaking the dryer by putting too much weight in it.

For a mom who does 7 people's laundry daily, I knew I couldn't go too long without getting it fixed. Unfortunately, I didn't have the money to get it fixed. Soooo, I wrote down the model and serial numbers, and the error codes my washer was displaying, and I called Whirlpool. After being on hold for 20 minutes, the customer service rep informed me that the codes indicated a problem with the drainage system. 

"Just take off the panel and clean out the filter. Sometimes a sock or coins or stuff gets stuff inside there."

"Oh cool! Okay, I can do that! I think. Thanks!"

"No problem. If it doesn't work and you're still getting an error code, just call us back."

"Great, I'll call back soon," I said realistically because really, I've never fixed anything in my life (unless you count duct-taping my car together as fixing something.)

I walked into my laundry room all set to fix my machine. The Bob the Builder theme song ran through my head. Bob the Builder, can we fix it? Bob the Builder, yes, we can! I can do this! How hard can it be? Take off the panel and clean the filter. I looked at my washer. Panel? What panel? There's a panel? How the crap am I supposed to take off a panel when I don't even know where the panel is? Could I say the word 'panel' any more? I posted this picture on Facebook with the caption:


This picture garnered the following advice:

Hint: If you DO venture into DIY territory, be prepared to label all screws as you remove them so you know where they go. Print the schematic diagram from the owner's manual - it will help. Sincerely, someone who is so not mechanically inclined but managed to repair a dryer anyway

Good advice. I, however, didn't follow it. I don't need to label anything. How hard could it be to put it back together once you get it apart, right? (Remember this so you can make fun of me later.)


After this picture, I got the following advice:

Unclamp the black hose.
Take out the screws and remove the metal panel.
There will be a lot of goo when you find the drain pump.
It is disgusting in there. You will gag. And vomit. And possibly faint.

Gag and vomit? Oh man, I so did NOT sign up for this! I unclamped the black hose. A few drips of water came out. It smelled like evil. Now what? That was pretty pointless. Next, I went about the business of removing the metal panel.


This was the advice I received at this point.

A wrench
A ratchet
A socket wrench
A 1/4 inch nut driver
Make sure you don't electrocute yourself
WD 40
A 5/16 socket. Do you have a socket set? (Let me look through my tools. You know, all 4 screw drivers. Um nope, no socket set.)
4/16, 5/16, you know, whatever it takes
4/16? LOL!
I said 1/4 inch!
I have some in my truck, but I'm 1600 miles away. (um thanks?)
What you need is a shirtless hot guy with a tool belt. (YES!)
But what you really end up getting is a nerdy guy from Ace.  (Heck, I'll take a guy with plumber's butt if he'll fix this for me!)

I went to Ace and stared at the tools for a while. I picked up a little wrench thingy and found a guy to ask, "Do you think this will work to remove these weird looking screw things from the back of my washing machine so I can take it all apart and then call Whirlpool when I break it even more?"

He raised his eyebrow at me, shook his head a little, then took the little wrench thingy from me. "Uh no. What you need is this 1/4 inch nut driver."

"Hee hee hee, it's seriously called a nut driver?"

Blank stare. "Will there be anything else, ma'am?"

"No thanks. I'm good. Thanks." I walked away muttering to myself, "And don't call me ma'am!"


This time the comments from the peanut gallery were:

Careful, too many guy tools and you might start scratching places and belching in public.

(I can't even get the stupid thing out of the package!)
For the record, I would have paid a decent amount of money to see you unscrew that with lip gloss.
Man up Dawn, get some scissors and get those nuts off! (Hee hee hee)
(Oh wait. I don't need to remove the packaging. I can just sorta bend it back out of the way.)


The comments continued.

Let's get going and fix it right. Twist and turn, make it tight.

See that white plastic clip next to your hand? The four of them need to come off too.
Do you wear your new clothes with the tag still on them too? (If my clothes had child-proof tags, I would.)


This is the advice I got:

Is there a drain in the front of the washer?
Yes, that's the drain pump. 
(I don't think my arms are long enough. And did I mention I have DIRT in my HAIR?)
Don't mess with the drain pump.
Just take the drain hose from the washer to the wall drain and go spray your garden hose through it, watch all the nasty stuff come out. (Um, I'm going to call that one 'Plan B'.)
Good luck. I'll check back later to see what time the Whirlpool man got there. And for God's sake, wash your hair first...maybe he is hot. (Ha, ha, you're hilarious. Of course, if I really have to call him, I'm totally washing the dirt out of my hair!)
If this works, you should write an eBook on it! I just spent $160 that this single mom did NOT have for the same thing. The repair guy was downstairs for 10 minutes. I asked him to stay down there awhile and check his Facebook or something so I felt like I got my money worth. (I feel your pain!)
On my Duet there is a panel below the door that removes with 3 screws. Then unscrew the big plastic white piece under the center of the door. (That would make sense to have easy access on the front, but mine has to be a little more complicated because, well, because it's mine.)

I obviously couldn't get to the filter from the back of the washer. Unhooking the hose - useless. Taking off the back panel - pointless. I tried to figure out how to open up the front. Thanks to some helpful videos, I learned that you first have to remove the top of the washer. Of course. After removing the top, I noticed that I might have accidentally, sort of bent some semi-important looking metal thingys. Oops. I'll deal with them later.

The video told me to remove the control panel on the front and set it up on top of the unit. No problem. Wait, what are these? You have GOT to be kidding me? More screws?! Oh and different kinds now. This is a conspiracy to make people buy more tools! I searched through my tool box once more. 4 screwdrivers, a nut driver hee hee, a shoe, duct tape, and a butter knife. The butter knife will have to do.

I got those 2 screws out, then I removed the rest of the nut things and stood back to admire my manly handiwork. Oh crap, I'm  never going to get this thing back together, am I? What the heck was I thinking?! I can't fix stuff! Oh crap!

Okay, worry about putting it back together later, Dawn. First, see if you can fix it. Hmmmm, when I unscrew that white cap, water is going to rush out and I can't slide anything underneath it to catch the water. I have to find something to lift up the machine. I looked around the garage for something that might work and found a long piece of wood. It had been a slat on the boys' bunkbeds until the boys turned their beds into trampolines. Then they turned the wood into a light saber until I took it away and threw it in the garage.

"Hey Jackson, do we have a saw? Can you cut this into a couple pieces so I can stack it up under the washing machine?"

"Sure!" Jackson and his friend Perry ran over to Perry's house and started sawing the wood. Until Perry's dad came out.

"What are you boys doing?"

"Well, you see, my washing machine isn't working so I'm trying to fix it, but I need something to prop it up. They're cutting some pieces of wood for me to stick under the washer."

Aaaaand, because he's a guy and this is what guys do, he got out his chainsaw. 

Back at home with my washer propped up, I was able to slide something underneath it to catch the water. Yes, it's a heart-shaped cake pan. I asked Jackson to get me a container and this is what he came up with. I can just hear my mom yelling at my dad for doing something like this. "That's my good cake pan! I make FOOD in it! Don't use that! Use something from the garage to catch the water!" At this point however, I really didn't care what I used.

This is what the filter looked like:

It's not supposed to look like that.

I clearly SUCK at checking pockets. There were 5 coins, a barrett, several seashells, a mangled nail file, and the worst things - 2 pads from the inside of a tweens bikini top or bra. Plus all the assorted gunk and hair and sand and nastiness that exists in washing machine filters.

I had to have Austin put this spring thingy around the rubber seal thingy because I wasn't strong enough and I was getting very frustrated and using colorful vocabulary.

I somehow managed to put the whole thing back together again and only have one screw left over. 
Oops. It was probably supposed to go somewhere, but I was pretty sure it wasn't that important. I stuffed it into my pocket and pretended like I hadn't seen it.

All right. It's the moment of truth. I started up the washer and held my breath. Instantly, water POURED out of the machine, drenching my floor and dozens of towels. I quickly unplugged it. If it had been a lighter appliance like oh, say a toaster, it would've gone sailing into the street. But since it weighs more than I do, I just sat down in defeat. I couldn't give up though. I had fixed the drainage problem, I was sure of it. Maybe I just didn't screw that filter back on tightly enough.

I took the whole stupid thing apart again. Unscrew the top, slide it off, remove the control panel, take the spring thingy off the seal, remove the front panel, unplug it, shove the blocks underneath, sop up the water, tighten the filter thing as hard as I can. Plug the front panel in, screw it back into place, get Austin to put the spring thing on again, screw on the control panel, slide the top into place, screw it all together, plug it back in, shove a bunch of towels underneath, and press start.

It worked! It worked! It worked! No water on the floor! It seems to be draining! I don't have any left over screws this time! It actually worked! Maybe I can now wash the dozens of smelly towels I used to sop up all the water today.

I have dirt in my hair, I broke a nail, the skin is peeling off my thumb, I'm sweaty, I somehow managed to get grease on my face, and I think I still have a quarter down my pants, but my machine works! And it only cost me $5 to fix! I know I should feel a sense of accomplishment, but all I really feel is an overwhelming need to take a very long shower! Right after I finish my beer.

I would still buy a case of beer, bake brownies, provide homecooked dinners, babysitting services, a decorated cake, you name it to anyone who will fix anything that breaks in the future because I really, truly hate 'boy work'!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Poisonous Spiders! Run for Your Lives!

I'm one of those people who has a deep-seated fear of all things creepy crawly. I know I'm a million times bigger than the bugs are (except in the case of Palmetto bugs which are slightly bigger than I am.) I know most of them are harmless. I know these things on an intellectual level. However, all things intellectual fly out the window (no pun intended) in the presence of flying, creeping, crawling bugs. I'm convinced my response is not a conscious decision, but more an involuntary reaction thanks to the copious amounts of adrenaline that course through my body upon seeing a creature with more than 4 legs. I know I don't purposely choose to scream like a little girl, duck & cover, while running around in circles like a dog frantic to find a good pee spot. So when my kids yell at me to "calm down", their directions are completely wasted. There is no calming down. There is only the primordial instinct to save myself from the beasts.

Want a picture of how I deal with bugs? You can read HERE about the batmoth. And HERE about batmoth's revenge. Or you can read HERE about the cockroach that nearly ate off my face. Or even HERE about the time I almost caused a 5 car pile-up. Or HERE about my shower freak-out.

Okay, now that you're familiar with my M.O., I'm sure you'll understand what happened when Austin told me there were Black Widow spiders on my lanai.

"Hey Mom, there's a spider out here. I'm pretty sure it's a Black Widow."

"I doubt it's a Black Widow. Don't those things live in the Amazon with the death spiders from Arachnophobia?" I said. I didn't entirely believe my statement, but I thought I might be able to keep the spiders from being Black Widows through sheer will and positive thinking.

"Come look," Austin suggested.

"Sure, I'll come look. Once you kill it and lock in a jar, and you bring me its death certificate first."

"It's dead. Well, mostly dead. It's almost dead."

I walked to the lanai door and cautiously peered around the corner. There sat Austin with a bottle of bug spray in his hand. He was repeatedly dousing a spider with the liquid, but I could tell from the door that the spider was still moving. I crept a little closer to take a look. 

"It's not a Black Widow," I said assuredly. "It doesn't have that red shape on it."

"It's on the underside, not its back," Austin countered. "Look." He sprayed it again and it flipped over. I couldn't quite see from my vantage point 8 feet away, so I moved in another foot. I didn't want to get any closer because I was positive, if I did, the spider would leap from the wall and land on my face and I would die right then and there, not from a bite, but from the absolute horror of having a spider! on! my! face!

I zoomed in with my camera and snapped a quick picture before backing away again. I looked at the photo. Holy cow, he's right! It is a Black Widow! Now I'm going to die! We're all going to die! The whole town is going to die! I'm pretty sure these thoughts were contained to my head, but there's a slight chance I screamed them aloud while flapping my arms up and down.

"It IS a Black Widow! They're poisonous! And disgusting! They EAT their mates! EAT. THEM.

"Do we have any more bug spray, Mom?"

"No, that's it!" I squeaked, my voice rising. "Are you out of it?! You can't be out of it! It's not dead yet! I can see it twitching!"

"Should I use bleach? I could spray it with bleach cleaner," Austin offered.

"Yes, sure bleach! Use lots of bleach!"

Austin sprayed the spider and a couple egg sacs with bleach-infused toilet cleaner. At this point, I retreated to the relative safety of my house. Of course, after seeing the creatures on my lanai, I was convinced they'd infiltrated my living space and couldn't shake the feeling that I had spiders crawling all over me. I sat, randomly slapping at my arms and legs just in case.

At some point, Austin came in and informed me that he and Clay had found another Black Widow and some more egg sacs. "The bleach isn't working that well. Can I use hairspray and a lighter to make a blowtorch?"

Now, a rational parent would put a stop to this and tell her kids, in no uncertain terms, that flaming death is not an appropriate way to deal with spiders. However, I think we've already established that I am not, in fact, rational. I discouraged Austin from making a flame thrower, but did tell him he could light the things on fire. Meanwhile, I dug through my desk until I found my realtor's card because clearly, my only choice at this point was to move.

"The hairspray isn't igniting, Mom. Maybe I should use some rum," Austin suggested.

"Rum?! Over my dead body!" Why is the rum gone? in Jack Sparrow's voice ran through my head.

Sooo, the spiders and egg sacs were hit with bug spray, bleach, hair spray, fire, and my son's size 13 shoes. I'm still not convinced they're dead. And I'm positive they have more friends out there. I just know it. Anyone feel like moving to Orlando? I know of a house for sale. With only a slight poisonous spider infestation.

How True Love Happens

Sometimes you meet someone and right off the bat, you "click". You never struggle to find the words to say; conversing comes easily. That person possesses an intellect and a wit that complements your own. They know when you're joking and they laugh at your humor; they "get" you. They're quick and can laugh at both themselves and at you without any hurt feelings. 

You fantasize about taking them to meet Mom and Dad (or in my case, my kids) Wow, that's a scary thought! You imagine meeting them in person (if you've met online). You dream about a possible future. Sometimes, one email is all it takes to know, to just know. 

Today, I received such an email. I'm pretty sure it's true love. It may even make me reconsider my stance on never, ever sharing a bathroom with a man ever again. 

Hello there,my name is Peter Edward,how are you,I'm so happy to found you on here,it's a great feeling and a desire to meet you on here please try to notify me when you will be free to talk to me. I know it maybe a disturbance from me by interacting you on here, but i am sicking for your kindness and devotion of building true friendship that can end not just a year but forever.Please, i will drop immediate apology if my attention of friendship interest will hurt our moral ethnic,please let me know but if my friendship request will be granted by you.i promise you that i will handle it with care till the days of our life.I will stop from here,till i hear from you.have a warm day! 

Yes, I can envision our future together. It's a match made in heaven! I will immediately accept his friend request so we can begin our journey of romantic bliss.

Monday, July 1, 2013

I am the Queen of Procrastination

I woke up this morning, after being basically lazy all weekend, prepared to work on my book. My goal was to write 4000 words today. A lofty goal to be sure, but I knew I could do it. I'd taken a break from writing for a few days, so I knew I'd be able reread everything I'd already written with fresh eyes and I was certain a new stream of inspiration would follow. That was the plan.

I woke up at 8:00, however I couldn't manage to pull myself from my bed until almost 9:00. What kind of person just lies there doing nothing for nearly an hour? Well, I suppose I wasn't doing nothing exactly. I mean, I did play a few rounds of Scramble with Friends and Words with Friends. That probably improved my vocabulary which is quite valuable for a writer. Yes, yes that's it! Time well spent.

After dragging my lazy butt out of bed, I weighed myself. Then I weighed myself again. Then a third time just to make sure I wasn't actually 20 pounds less than the first two readings. That's never happened, mind you, but you never know.

I made a cup of Splenda and milk with  little coffee flavor and alternately sipped my drink and watched Brooklyn's amazing card trick. Repeatedly. It goes like this: You choose a card from a deck. You put it back in the deck. Brooklyn lies the cards down one by one and when you see yours, you put your hand on top of it. Then Brooklyn tells you to close your eyes while she takes a second card and rubs it on top of your hand that is placed on the card. After a minute, she tells you to look at your card and see if it has changed. Of course it hasn't. But after she tears up at her failed trick for the third time, you start to lie and gush, "Oh my gosh, my card changed! Wow! How did you do that?" Yeah, I'm that kind of mom.

Eventually, I moved off the couch, planning on going for a walk, but remembering my evil scale, decided to step up my workout efforts instead. An hour and a half of kickboxing should do the trick. Don't laugh! At the time, I thought an hour and a half was perfectly reasonable! About 20 minutes into the workout tape, I collapsed to the floor in a puddle of sweat, gasping like a fish out of water. I cursed myself. Why the crap do I come up with these ideas? After my heart rate slowed to less than 250 beats per minute, I forced myself to get up and continue the torture. "I hate you, Billy Blanks" became my mantra. I managed an hour of spastic, half-hearted kicks and punches that would garner much hilarious laughter if anyone actually saw me.

I took an extra long shower, because hey, I'd already wasted half the day, might as well shave every last inch, shampoo, condition, exfoliate, moisturize, pumice . . . 

Okay, time to write. Right after I make a couple phone calls to my mortgage company and my employer about changing insurance plans. Download 80,000 forms to print, realize I'm out of printer ink, send Austin to the store to buy more, take a moment to appreciate having teens who can drive.

While I wait for Austin to return with the ink, I'll start writing. Right after I check Facebook. Why are there so many ads for dating sites? I will never ever use an online dating site again. Oooo, there we go! An ad for pizza! And a Blackhawks beer stein. That's more like it. Oh wait, and an ad for dental implants. And one for endometriosis treatments. Well, at least the Twinkie ads are gone.

Okay enough Facebook! I must write! Now where's that document? Oh wait, I should probably check my email first. How'd it get to be 3:00?! No wonder my stomach is growling. I guess I should probably eat. I'll be healthy. Half a turkey sandwich and an orange. Yes, I'm the workout, healthy eating queen

Okay, back to writing. I just need a little something sweet . . . a bag of peanut M&Ms should do the trick. What? I worked out and had an orange! I practically HAVE to eat the M&Ms to balance out all the healthiness!

Austin came back with the ink so I printed out the forms and started filling them out. This is going to take forever. But I can justify not writing when I'm filling out paperwork. This is necessary. Feeling better already!

Dinner. I should probably make dinner. Eh, my kids have probably been snacking all day. They don't really need dinner, do they? Okay, write. Write, write, write. I must write. But first, I need to strip my bed and wash my sheets. When I'm rich and famous, I'll have someone wash my bedding everyday because there's not much that I love more than the smell of fresh clean sheets when I sleep.

Okay, I still have a couple hours before my brain turns to mush. I can still write a couple thousand words. It's crunch time! Go! I wonder what I'd look like with red lipstick? I don't think I've ever actually worn the red stuff I bought last winter. I must try it now! And if I'm going to put on lipstick, I might as well slather on a bunch of eye makeup too. You can't wear just lipstick without eye makeup. Hmmm, maybe I should curl my hair too. You know, to complete the look. Not too bad. I think I should take a picture to prove that I don't always have my hair in a ponytail with sweat dripping down my face that hasn't seen any makeup for days because I'm too lazy to bother with it if I'm not leaving the house.

Eh, it's 11:00 now and if I've learned anything about myself, it's that anything I write late at night gets deleted the next day when I read it with a clear head. (After I cringe and make comments to myself like, "What the crap were you thinking, Dawn? That's not even English! This is on the level with E. L. James, for crying out loud!")

Yep, that about sums up my day. On the list for tomorrow - write! AKA: complain that I'm too sore to get out of bed, paint my nails, check out Facebook for obscene amounts of time, pay bills, clean the bathrooms, play Words with Friends, bake some cookies, eat some cookies, and watch a movie or two.

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