Monday, December 4, 2023

I've Got an Itchy Trigger Finger. No, Really!

When you're young, you hurt yourself when you do something like skateboard down a hill, or jump over a parking meter, or fall from a bunkbed. When you're my age, you hurt yourself doing things like walking to your car in a parking lot, looking over your shoulder when backing out, or apparently doing nothing more than writing a grocery list. 

That's what happened to me. I hurt my thumbs (yes, plural - thumbs.) I hurt both my thumbs from doing something as innocuous as writing. Or typing. Or crocheting. Or just because I'm 53 and body parts simply cease working when you get to this age. Who knows? But both my thumbs started hurting. Then they started popping every time I bent them. They would sort of click in and out of place. Crack crack crack crack. Then (this is my favorite part) they stuck in a bent position. I couldn't straighten them by myself. You remember when your parents told you not to make faces at your sister or your face might stick like that? Well, I'm here to tell you - do not make obscene hand gestures because your hands very well might stick like that!

A couple months passed until I couldn't handle the pain anymore so I made an appointment with an orthopedist who specializes in hands. After listening to me describe the problem and listening to looking at my thumbs, he told me, “You have trigger fingers.”

The image of Yosemite Sam sputtering, “I’ve got an itchy trigger finger, ya varmints” flashed through my head.

“That’s an actual thing?” I asked the doctor. “Because, I’ve gotta say, it sounds a little made up. Did you get your degree from Looney Toons University?”

The doctor gave me a blank stare. I’m not sure if he was insulted, or if he was just gauging my mental competency. Either way, he went on to explain the validity of his diagnosis.

“I can give you a shot in both hands that should help alleviate your symptoms. If it works, great! If it doesn’t work, I could give you one more shot. 

"What are the chances it'll work? I mean, hitchhiking is really hard right now. No one knows what I'm doing with my gnarled thumb." I held up my hand to demonstrate.

"There's no way to know if it'll work for you or not. If it still doesn’t work after two shots, you’ll need surgery to correct it. But don’t worry, it’s a simple surgery. We put a numbing agent in your hand." Then, taking my hand, he drew a line with his finger indicating where he’d make an incision. "It’s just a little snip snip and you’re all done."

“Snip snip, huh? Yeah, that’s what they told my ex-husband yet here I am with 6 kids.”

His jaw dropped a little.

“Just kidding. The whole 6 kids thing was on purpose."

blank stare

"I mean, it seemed like a good idea at the time,” I shrugged.

“Okaaay then. I’ll be back in a minute.” He left to either get the injections or to beg another doctor to take over so he didn’t have to deal with me anymore.

Apparently his colleagues beat him at Rock, Paper, Scissors because he was the one who returned with a couple syringes. Shots don't typically bother me, but holy crap they hurt! It felt like I was being injected with a mixture of hot sauce, lava, and evil! My thumbs blew up like Harry Potter's Aunt Marge. 

I'm happy to report that a couple weeks later, my thumbs were all good to go! Now I have no more pain, popping, or locking. Until I do something crazy like stir a pot of spaghetti and dislocate my wrist, that is.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Where Are They Now?

People often ask me what my kids are up to these days. I started this blog over 16 years ago. It's hard to believe so much time has passed because it feels like it was just yesterday. Folks always told me, "The days are long, but the years are short." Now I fully understand the meaning of that phrase. 

Here's a brief run-down on what the kids are up to these days.

Austin is married, has a daughter and a son, and is a pastry chef.

Savannah is married, has two girls and a step-son, and is a stay-at-home mom.

Jackson lives with his girlfriend and manages a smoke shop.

Lexington lives with her fiance and is the manager of a pizza place.

Clayton lives with his girlfriend and works at a steel mill.

Brooklyn is a senior in high school, attends college at the same time, and works part-time at Lexi's restaurant.

They all still live in Florida within an hour of me.

But better than that little summary are the interviews I had with the kids. Here they are weighing in on life's important questions. I hope it makes you laugh as much as it does me!

And let me know what questions you'd like them to answer next time. :)

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

My Weight-Loss Journey (Otherwise Entitled: How I Haven't Lost a Single Pound)

Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! I lay awake, berating myself for eating half a Pepperidge Farm coconut cake. You know, those frozen cakes that serve 8? I hadn't even taken the time to defrost it, and it's a good bet I would've eaten the entire partially-frozen cake in one sitting had my daughter not come home when she did. 

My stomach hurt, I felt like throwing up, and I had heartburn, but greater than all the physical discomfort was the crushing disappointment in myself. Yet despite the utter disgust with myself, there was a little part of my brain that was thinking, I can't wait until I get home from work tomorrow so I can eat the rest of it.

What the hell is wrong with you? the voice in my head spit out. Seriously! You ate so well all day and then completely blew it with half a cake! You've wasted your life being fat. Your whole life! Being fat has held you back from so many things. An extraordinary number of things! You won't date. You won't buy cute clothes. You won't let anyone take a full-length picture of you. You don't want to put on a bathing suit when you go to the beach. You won't do anything that'll draw attention to you. And what do you do about it? Nothing! You do nothing.

Every morning I awake with a clean slate, thinking, Today I will control myself. I'll make good decisions about food. All day. 

And every night I go to bed, a big fat failure.

Although I'll start the day with a healthy mindset: a scrambled egg with mushrooms and spinach for breakfast, some blueberries for a snack, a kale salad with rotisserie chicken, walnuts, feta, apples and balsamic vinaigrette, I'll end the day with 14 cookies, 4 slices of pizza, cheese and crackers, a bag of Hershey's kisses, half a bag of chips, and 2 stale donuts. Then I go to bed feeling sick. Sick to my stomach. Sick of my bingeing behavior. Sick of being fat. Sick of failing.

I get to a point where I try in earnest to get it together, to make healthy choices, to drop excess pounds. And it works. For a while. Maybe a day or two, maybe a week or two, or even a month or two. And then I revert to old habits in the snap of a finger. One doughnut, cookie, muffin, pastry, just one, flips a switch in my brain that starts a frenzy that ends all my hard work. I'm certain I'd be bulimic if didn't so completely detest vomiting.

I know, as people read this, I'll have well-meaning (and probably some self-serving) folks tell me about the program, plan, exercise, diet food, magical miracle whatever that changed their lives. I believe that __insert name of magical diet miracle__ worked for them and I'm truly happy for their success. I feel like pretty much any program can work for a person if they have the right mindset, and I believe that's the key - having the right mindset. I'm quite certain my mind is broken because how else do you explain how an otherwise intelligent person with a fair amount of common sense could spend FORTY years struggling with her weight? How? It's not that I don't know what to do. Eat less, move more. It's not rocket science. Yet, here I am, after literally 40 years of hating the way I look, still fat.

And now it's not just that I'm fat, or rather - obese (I love that word as much as I love the words applicable, moist, panties, and when people who don't know what literally means, use the word literallybut thanks to the magic of menopause, my health is being affected by my weight as well. I've always had excellent cholesterol and low blood pressure, but now those numbers are starting to creep up. And although I've been overweight, I could climb stairs, walk for miles, do whatever. But now I pull have to pull myself up a flight of stairs by the handrail, and when I get to the top, I look like Fred Sanford, grabbing my chest and announcing, "It's the BIG ONE!" My joints are so painful, I can't make it from the parking lot to my office without limping. I take Tylenol like Tic Tacs to deal with the pain. I have no cartilage behind my knee caps so it sounds like corn flakes being crushed under a rolling pin when I bend my knees, as the bones rub against each other. The number one way I could combat this never-ending pain? Lose weight. Simple.

I vacillate between two mindsets: Love yourself as you are, give yourself a break, stop stressing about food or the way you look.

And: What the hell is wrong with you? Show some damn control! If you don't like the way you look, it's real simple - change!

I've lost and gained the same 10 pounds a good 300 times in my life. I'm embarrassed to admit all the things I've tried and failed. But I know I can't be alone and there are others out that who can relate to the never-ending struggle. I've tried sound and sensible programs like Weight Watchers, walking, step aerobics, Omada. I've tried more alternative solutions like hypnosis, Healthy Wage, and Sensa. And I've tried the positively absurd like drinking lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup for every meal because Kelly Kapoor did that on The Office. Or this gem from The Devil Wears Prada - I'm on this new diet. Well, I don't eat anything and when I feel like I'm about to faint I eat a cube of cheese. I have literally (and I actually mean literally) tried those. 

And I've tried everything in between - Richard Simmons Deal a Meal, Tae bo, prescription medication that curbed my appetite but made me feel like I was having a heart attack, keto, otc meds, bee pollen, Thrive, cabbage soup, Slimfast, weight loss doctor, Healthy Wage, Biggest Loser contests at work, Atkins, vegan, stationary bike, low-fat, swimming, fiber pills, Jenny Craig, My Fitness Pal, Freedom Formula, Bikram yoga, Overeaters Anonymous, Zumba, Women's Workout World, to name a few.

And here I still am. Letting my weight hold me back from living, yet not altering my habits to affect change.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

The Taming of the Frizz

I have thick, coarse hair. I always have. When I was a kid, my mom kept my hair short. I looked like a boy - a boy in cute little smocked-top dresses. Maybe she really wanted a boy. I don't know. 

My mom would also have the hairdresser "thin" my hair by using thinning shears. The only thing that really accomplished was making my hair look even frizzier with all those shorter strands sticking out.

After amassing a portfolio of cringe-worthy pictures from youth, I decided to keep my girls' hair very long when they were little. I loved braiding it and trying out complicated updos on them. 

With age (read: copious amounts of gray hair) and decades of coloring, my hair has gotten even more unruly. Of course, living in Florida, where on any given day, the temperature is roughly the same as the surface of the sun with 100% humidity, doesn't help. 

I've pretty much given up on styling my hair. I don't have the time, patience, or the arm strength to blow it out. I occasionally, rarely, straighten it with a flat iron. It'll look cute until I walk outside, at which point I look like Monica in Barbados.

By the time I make my way through the parking lot from my car to my office, my hair has grown to Hagrid proportions.


By lunch, I'm Roseanne Roseannadanna.

And when I leave for the day, I look like Diana Ross circa 1975.

I have to drive home with my head hanging out the window because my car isn't big enough to contain my mane. It's a struggle.

Most days, I just embrace the frizz. I mean, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right? I put some sort of anti-frizz goop in my hair and throw it up in a clip. I could probably open a store called Frizzy Hair Solutions with all the defrizzing/smoothing/curl enhancing products I own. I don't know that it would actually provide "solutions" per say, but it would give customers plenty of products that promise to tame frizz. I've tried expensive salon products, and I've tried Suave products, and everything in between. I can say with confidence that it doesn't matter how much it costs, all products work the same. Or don't work the same. In my experience, no product completely tames the frizz (although I am partial to Suave's anti-frizz smoothing serum as it works pretty well and doesn't cost a ridiculous amount of money.)

So recently I went and got my hair all chopped off. I tend todo these spur-of-the-moment things  and then I cry and ask myself why I'm such an idiot. After a couple years of growing it out, I chop it off again. It's a never-ending cycle of stupidity.


BEFORE

                                                                            AFTER

It took a while, but I've gotten used to the new 'do, and I've gotta say, I really like it short. It only takes me a couple minutes to flat-iron it and that Suave anti-frizz stuff really does work now that I've gotten rid of all the dry, damaged ends.

Suave didn't pay me to write this. I think when I did do some writing for Suave years ago, I came to love their products (and more importantly, the price of their products) so I still use them.

Friday, October 27, 2023

The Great Chicken Wars (Part XIV)

I really never want to leave my office, but alas someone has to be there for The National Geographic special on hyenas eating wildebeest lunch duty, and I've been voluntold to do it. And every time I leave, I come back to a little surprise. Like this:

This cup is a replica of the ones Kelly gave everyone who came to her America's Got Talent party on The Office, so of course, it's awesome and hilarious that Phoebe gave it to me. But seriously, when did she take this picture of me? And what's with my hair? And why do I look like I have no teeth?? What face is that? Do I make this face all the time? Is this just my regular face? Seriously, why does it look like I'm missing my dentures???

And who could forget this gem? Again, this references Pam's (from The Office) speech upon winning a Dundie for the whitest sneakers. "I feel God in this Chili's tonight."


Then there was the time that I came back and saw this fun post-it note on my desk. It wasn't just the post-it though, oh no. Phoebe also changed my Pandora station to mariachi radio. Olé!



And then there was the llama piñata extravaganza.


After I covered her desk in llama piñata wrapping paper, she painstakingly cut out dozens of llama piñatas and taped them all over my desk. And Rachel's desk. Some of us took it better than others. I believe Rachel's comment was, "I just can't with you two."

"You TWO???" I asked, indignantly. "I had nothing to do with this!"

"How'd she get the wrapping paper, hmmm?"

"Oh. That. Well, um . . " I trailed off.


There was the time she filled Dan's office with balloons. He was less than amused, but honestly I have no sympathy for him on that count after he put the snake under Phoebe's desk.



And there was this picture that took me MONTHS to notice . . .

I suppose, if I'm totally honest, I may have done a couple things back to Phoebe . . .



This picture is another reference to The Office.


And there was the time I tried to get her to join a 12-step program for chicken addicts . . .


Sadly, the school-year is nearing the end and Phoebe is moving on to bigger and better things. I doubt the new SRO will share my sense of humor. I have a feeling school is going to be a lot less fun next year.

Saturday, May 20, 2023

The Great Chicken Wars (Part XIII)

 

After my coworkers did such a fabulous job on my birthday, I was determined to return the favor. Unfortunately, Rachel's birthday kind of came and went several months ago. She was only in the office in the morning so I made a coffee cake to celebrate it.

Phoebe and Dan both have summer birthdays when no one is in school so I decided to celebrate them now.

Phoebe did the best birthday theme from The Office for me, so I decided to do a Friends theme for her and Dan.

I was in charge of cups and ice.


We had a cup banner.

A cup chandelier.


And the thing that started it all - the cup.


And there was cubed ice, Italian ice, and dry ice - ooooo mystical!



Here we are in our cup party hats.


Phoebe is holding the chicken nuggets I made her for her birthday.


But of course, Phoebe being Phoebe, rearranged the cups while I was at lunch duty.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Language Lessons (Otherwise Entitled: What on Earth are These Teens Saying???)


I've worked in a middle school since 2011, and these kids have taught me as much as I've taught them over the years. They've taught me that when you have new shoes, you have to walk like a crippled penguin so the shoes don't get creases. They've shown me that flipping a water bottle, trying to get it land upright is a legitimate pastime. And every year they teach me So. Many. New. Words. I like to try them out with students to see how many eye rolls I can get. For example, last week a couple kids were complaining about the cafeteria food. 

"Are you kidding? You've got it good! You know what cafeteria was like when I went to school? There was no kitchen in the school! They didn't make food there. It was shipped in. We got a plastic-wrapped plastic container with some sort of cold food in it, and we got a foil-covered foil pack with some mystery hot food in it. It was about as good as you would think a mass-produced school lunch that was sitting there for an unspecified amount of time would be. You guys are lucky. These days school lunches be bussin."

The kids cracked up. I'm not sure if it was because I told them an old-timey story about the good ole days. Or if I used bussin incorrectly. Or if bussin is so last week and no one says that anymore. Or if (most likely) it's because I'm a giant dork.

I'll share my knowledge of teen slang here so you can try out these expressions yourself and gather some of your own eye rolls! You're welcome.

Bussin - really good. 

This is especially used when describing food. But not cafeteria food.


Spill the tea - what's the gossip? 

Last year I had a student who walked in my class and asked, "Do you want to know the tea, Ms. Damalas?"

I think I responded with something like, "Yeah, I like tea. I prefer coffee, but I drink tea sometimes."

That got me an eye roll, and an explanation. And a daily tea update of all the girl drama on campus.


Bet - okay. 

"Brooklyn, do you want to go to the store with me after school?"

"Bet."

"Huh?"

"Bet."

"So do you want to go??"


Slay - okay. See bet.


Real - I agree. 

"These 7th graders are insane this year."

"Real."


User Error - your fault, or that sucks. 

"I forgot to bring my umbrella to work, and I got drenched walking out to the parking lot."

"Sounds like user error, Mom."


The drip - a cool outfit. 

I overheard this from one student to another... "Watch the drip, bruh!" 

I looked up to see if there was anything dripping down. Our school is centered around an open courtyard and every time it rains (daily because it's Florida) there is plenty of dripping from the eves. Brooklyn had to explain this one to me. Drip is clothes, especially a cool outfit. Respect the drip, bruh.


Ice - jewelry. 

There are a few kids at my school who would rival Mr. T with their "ice."


Rizz - charisma. 

I was flipping through some old pictures recently and I pulled out one and told Brooklyn, "I remember this! Jackson was invited to this birthday party when he was in elementary school and he was the only boy invited among all these girls. I showed Brooklyn the photo.

"Jax had all the rizz!"

". . . "

"Rizz? Charisma?" Duh.

"Okay then."


Cap - fake

"I'm really going to miss school over the summer, "I said as sarcastically as possible.

"Cap."


No cap - For real/Are you serious?

When they announced who next year's drum majors would be and she heard her name, Brooklyn responded incredulously, "No cap??"


Off da perc - crazy, insane, bizarre.

There are a couple weeks left in the school year so these middle-schoolers are off da perk, bruh!


Touch grass - reality check. 

When one of the most annoying kids in school asks me, "Ms. Damalas, I'm your favorite student, aren't I?" I have to respond with, "LOL, you need to go outside and touch grass, child."


It's giving - like. 

Our upstairs neighbors are so loud it's giving clog-dancing water buffalo.


Era - phase

Brooklyn's going through her chocolate era. She feels the need to run to Walgreens for chocolate on a nightly basis. I'm going through my frizz-head era.


Sus - suspicious

When a kid who has bad grades says something like, "I have all As," I have to respond with, "That's sus" accompanied with a raised eyebrow.


Stan - crazy fan

My students think I'm such an awesome instructor, they stan me.


Simp - someone who does too much for someone they like.

"Why would you choose to hang with your girlfriend instead of us? You're such a simp!"

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

The Great Chicken Wars (Part XII)


Phoebe saw a rubber chicken video. The office was filled with chickens, snakes, bugs, chickens, string, chickens, teeth, balloons, and more chickens. That sums it up and brings us to today.


After I encountered my desk fully enshrined in a web of twine, I was determined to get revenge. I'd had the idea to cover Phoebe's desk in wrapping paper for her birthday. Unfortunately her birthday isn't until the summer. I didn't want to wait that long, so . . .


I wrapped over 100 items. I wrapped every single pencil. I wrapped the things in her desk. I wrapped her coffee maker. I wrapped EVERYTHING. It was totally worth coming into work an hour early!




I personally thought it was hilarious! It took her days to unwrap everything! She, on the other hand, vowed to kill me. LOL! She was less-than-thrilled with my beautiful, festive wrapping. Every time I heard her groan about having to unwrap "another damn thing," I snort-laughed. It was a great day!

Friday, May 5, 2023

The Great Chicken Wars (Part XI)


A couple months ago, I needed to go to a mental health training for school. It was held at my old school which was cool because I got to see some of my old coworkers. It was a 7-hour training so I was off campus all day.

I should've know it was a bad idea to be off campus for a whole day. I mean, Phoebe creates a ridiculous amount of vandalism when I step out of the office just to pee, but an entire day to mess with me?! That was the perfect opportunity for her to work her evil mischief! Yet, somehow it never crossed my mind that she'd defile my desk since she'd just pulled off the colossal confetti caper!

So it came as a huge surprise when I walked in the next day and saw this.



There's a spider web that only Aragog could've made spanning my entire desk and surrounding area. In order to get to my chair I had to contort myself over and under the strings like they were some sort of lasers. I felt like Steve Carell in Get Smart.


After playing limbo to get myself through the laser web, I moved some papers on my desk and saw this.


If you heard a ear-shattering scream some time toward the end of March, it was me.

Nestled in my giant web, I grabbed some paperwork, ready to do a little data entry. Except my mouse wouldn't work. I maneuvered it back and forth vigorously until I had carpal tunnel syndrome. Then I finally thought to turn it over.


A little later in the day, I noticed a fun new poster behind me. If you aren't familiar with The Office, this poster was featured in an episode. This cracked me up. It didn't make up for the extreme web of frustration, but it helped.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Middle Schoolers are JUST LIKE TODDLERS!

We had school-wide testing yesterday in my district. As a test administrator, it's my job to ensure test security while administering the assessment, and to babysit a bunch of 7th graders when they finish testing until the end of the testing block (which was after 2:00 yesterday.) The first part is a breeze - follow the directions, read the instructions verbatim, constantly monitor the class. The second part - oy vey! (I don't know why I'm suddenly typing in Yiddish. The students melted my brain yesterday.)

After testing was completed, all materials collected, and everything was over and done with, we still had 2 hours left in the testing block. Because other classes may have still been testing, it was important to keep my students quiet during this block. 

This is how that task went.

"Other classes may still be testing so you need to be quiet. You can go on your laptops and do missing work, but you may not get out of your seats or talk. I know it's boring. I get it. It's boring for me too, but until this testing block is over, we have to be considerate of others, and maintain a quiet environment."

But these guys are like toddlers who are incapable of being quiet for more than 5 minutes. Because these tweens are constantly bombarded by stimulation via phones and social media, they are incapable of just sitting still and being bored for any length of time.

A couple boys sitting on opposite sides of the classroom started shadow boxing. Because this is what middle schoolers do. It entails one student making weird boxing/karate/kung fu type moves while the other student ducks and bobs avoiding the "punches" the kid is "throwing" from across the room.

A minute later, a couple other students start playing chopsticks across the room. If my kids hadn't played this when they were younger, I probably would've thought the students were flashing gang symbols.

Another student starts ripping a gum wrapper into a million shreds.

And yet another kid takes the little Jibbetz (shoe charms) off his Crocs and starts spinning them around like tops on the surface of his desk. When he got bored with that, he started playing with the charms like they were dolls.

Another student drew all over his hands and arms, practicing the fine art of tattoo design.

A couple kids (again, sitting on opposite sides of the room) start playing rock, paper, scissors with each other. I told them they were doing it wrong and it was really rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock. They didn't get it. Apparently they don't watch Big Bang Theory.

A couple other kids continuously flipped their water bottles, trying to get them to land right-side-up until I confiscated them. That was met by choruses of, "What? What did I do? I didn't do anything. Why did you take our water bottles?"

"Because I'm mean."

As all these "activities" were going on, I continuously told kids, "Stop talking. Quiet down. Turn around. Stop talking. Shhhhh. Sit back down. Stop talking. Get off YouTube. Stop talking. Put your shoes on. No, you can't move your desks around. Stop talking.

And of course, in between all that fun, there was a constant stream of students asking to go to the bathroom, not because they had to pee, but because they were bored and wanted something to do.

When I got home from work, I was so exhausted, I pondered the wisdom of going to bed at 5:00.

I know I, for one, am looking forward to another testing day tomorrow.



Tuesday, May 2, 2023

The Great Chicken Wars (Part X)

 

If you're just joining us, here's a recap - Phoebe found a chicken video and, you know what? It's too much to recap. Just go back and read the older posts!

So in March when my birthday rolled around, I walked into the office to see this:





How awesome is all that? "It is your birthday." I laughed so hard upon seeing this spectacular The Office themed birthday extravaganza! How great are my coworkers?

But it didn't end there. When I came back from lunch duty, I found more delightful birthday goodness in the form of confetti. Alllll over my desk. How um, "festive."


A short while later, I discovered the confetti wasn't just ON my desk, but IN my desk. In every. single. drawer.


 
This happened in March. It's now May and I'm still finding errant pieces of confetti here and there.

But that's not all! Toward the end of the day, the deans and the police officer walked over to my desk with a cake while singing Happy Birthday. On the cake was written this message - "Find the Toenails!"


(Note the giant container of cheese balls in the background. I got those to randomly throw at Phoebe.) 


All in all - it was an AWESOME birthday!

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