Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Father the Hero

Just by the tone in his voice, I knew something was wrong.  "Hey Tare," my dad called out.  "I think there's another baby mouse on the floor in here."

"Oh man," I replied, grabbing my crutches and slowly rising from the lovely couch bed my dear mother made for me.  "Is it dead?"

I turned towards the kitchen and saw my dad poised cautiously with one hand on the back door.  The mouse lay at least fifteen feet away and Dad was hissing at it softly in order to asses living status.  It was two inches long and weighed about an ounce.  Here's an approximate picture.

courtesy of

"It's alive," my dad declared.  "What do you think we should do?"

"You should pick it up and put it outside in the ground cover, I think."  Dad's hand was still on the door.  He looked ready to flee at any forward movement from the tiny mouse.

"Uh, hmmm," he said.  Then there was a long and very awkward pause.  We both stood there staring at the mouse.  

Finally I could take it no longer.  "Uh, do you want me to do it?"  I carefully maneuvered forward on my crutches to remind him of my invalid status.

He looked hugely relieved.  "Yeah!  Thanks, Tare."  He opened the door and hurried outside and far away from the dangerous rodent.  Somehow, and I can only assume it's because I am very brave and kind of saint-like, I managed to get the mouse outside, crutches and all.  My dad wouldn't even hold the door open for me.  He is truly a distinguished gentleman.

My dad is famous for his bravery and valor when it comes to all forms of wildlife.  Once a raccoon crawled into my bedroom window.  I woke up to the noise and screeched, causing it to flee out through the screen.  When I ran downstairs and tearfully woke my dad for help, he assured me that I was just dreaming.  Even the paw prints on the radiator didn't convince him.  I ended up sleeping in the basement for months.

Annie reminded me last night that when she was about nine, she caught a garter snake and carried it over to my dad, who was sitting on the patio reading.  He jumped up, ran inside the house, opened the window and yelled, "Annie!  Throw it far away from you and run away as fast as you can!"  Somehow, Annie managed to survive and the story was never featured on "When Animals Attack ."

The most famous story of my dad vs. the animal kingdom happened when I was eleven years old.  My family was up at my aunt's house in Wisconsin.  I was putting the vacuum away in the laundry room when I saw a gigantic snake slithering down the stairs.  It was thirty feet long and a boa constrictor.  Okay, not really, but it was huge, about six feet long and three or four inches wide.  I screamed like a kid in a horror movie and locked myself in the laundry room.  

My mom and dad came running in and saw the snake.  Somehow, Mom, who is part crocodile hunter, corralled the snake into an old freezer that was in the utility room.  My dad's plan was to turn on the freezer and kill it, but eventually they decided to put the freezer on a dolly and wheel it outside.  Once there, my mom opened the door.  The snake hissed, coiled and headed right back into the house.

What did our brave father do then?  He ran like the wind and locked himself inside the station wagon.  My sisters and I sat in the window, looking out and screaming.  Interestingly enough, the things we were yelling said a lot about our personalities.  Me:  "Kill it!  Get rid of it!"  Annie:  "Don't kill it!  Please don't kill it!"  Kerry:  "Can I see the blood?"  

Like any mother in nature, my mom's instincts were to protect her young.  Somehow my dad missed that course in parenting.  She picked up a handy sickle (like I said, my aunt really did live in the middle of the woods) and chopped the snake nearly in half.  Then she flung its corpse into the woods where it hung for three days as a warning to other snakes.  My mother doesn't mess around.

Somehow, Dad managed to get out of the station wagon.  I don't know how you regrow your man card after an infraction like that.  Actually, the baby mouse and I know that it still hasn't grown back.  My father, my hero. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Life in the Dog House

Please imagine that this is not a bagel in his mouth at all but rather a bar of soap.  I am sorry to say that my little Cooper is bad to the bone.

A few months ago, after figuring out that Cooper the Wonder Dummy is the one responsible for messing up my hip with his leash-walking antics, I found an obedience school that would come to my mom's house and train him.  We needed to home school because my dog gets completely nutsy in front of strangers, especially strangers with dogs.  He barks, shakes uncontrollably, drools, sniffs canine private parts to the point where it's embarrassing and occasionally makes an escape attempt or two.  Not pretty stuff.

The lady who trains him is a very nice woman.  She is also, um... crazy.  The first time she was here, she listened intently as I recounted Cooper's early childhood experiences.  When I told her I adopted him from the animal control shelter when he was six months old, she encouraged me to visit a pet psychic to find out what happened to him before we met.  I imagined walking Cooper into a room with gauzy fabric draped on the walls, sitting him in a chair and gazing into a crystal ball while someone recounted Cooper's puppy days and probably revealed that he hates it when I wear blue.  I smiled at the trainer and nodded and said, "Wow, that's something I never thought to do!  Good idea!"  

The trainer quickly determined that Coopie is a very fearful dog.  She advised us to hang a sign on the front door reading "DOG IN TRAINING."  We were to tell visitors to pick up dog treats from a tupperware container on the front porch and enter quietly with their arms up.  Then they should stand motionless while Cooper barked at them, after which they should throw treats in his direction.  After ten minutes or so, they could slowly move into the house.  Again, we smiled and nodded at this poor lady and I pictured how fast I would run if I saw those instructions on someone's front door.  Nobody wants to know Cujo waits right inside a house that they're visiting.  I myself would be terrified.

She gave us a lot of exercises to practice with Cooper, and after a couple of days it actually seemed to work.  When I called him, he'd come immediately.  Before, I could call him thirty times without him even acknowledging me.  He learned some new tricks and seemed less stressed out around strangers.  When the trainer showed up a few weeks ago with a gigantic stuffed dog, Cooper even refrained from making snide comments about how weird she was and never once laughed in her face as she attempted to make him believe the dog was real.  Progress, we experienced it.

Well, that ended quickly.  We had to bring Coopie to the vet last week and he freaked out and released his anal glands on the examining table.  Luckily, I was standing right next to him and managed to absorb most of the leakage.  Lucky lucky me.  He has stopped coming when he's called, he's been tossing baby mice around and he tries to escape the yard every chance he gets.  I swear I can hear him thinking "You're not the boss of me!" when I ask him to do something.  It's bad.

The good news is that he still looks great in a fascinator. 

So I am asking you, The Internet.  Any advice for whipping a dog into shape?  Preferably not involving actually physically whipping a dog into shape?  Should I just sigh and accept that I just have a nutball dog and love him for who he is, hip injuries be damned?  Is it wrong that the dog trainer's stuffed Rottweiler looked like a nice pet to me?  Or should I just accept that when you're this fashionable, obedience is a concern you don't need to worry about?

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Fridge, and Not the One Who Stole Walter Payton's Super Bowl TD

My parents recently bought a new refrigerator.  It's nice and fancy, with all the bells and whistles like an ice maker and all that jazz.  The problem is that it's considerably smaller than their last fridge.

"Well," my mom pointed out, looking me up and down.  "We thought it would just be me and your father at this point in our lives."

Ouucchhh.  That was cold.  Me, my sister and my shredded hip abductors take offense to that statement.

Anyway, every morning, my mom opens the fridge and immediately starts bitching and moaning about how crowded it is in there.

"When did you eat this chicken?"
"Two hours ago, Mom."
"So it's no good.  I'm going to toss it.  Why are you refrigerating turkey?  If you leave it outside it will turn into a nice bit of jerky in just a few days."

That may be an exaggeration, but you get the idea.

Last week, I hung up this memo, trying to maybe show her how ridiculous her refrigerator (or "frigerator" as we call it on the south side of Chicago) mania is and to gently motivate her to change.

A few days later, I happened to notice this little clip tucked behind my memo.

I took a closer look.

You win this round, Refrigerator Mary.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Where the Wild Things Are

Yesterday afternoon, right after my mom and I got back to her place following my "here you go, Taryn, heal yourself" procedure, my beloved mother noticed something strange on the floor in front of the coffee table.

"What's that?" she asked, as if I had a better view from my spot perched on the layers of blankets and pillows she had lovingly set out for me on the couch.  She bent down and realized that it was a baby mouse.

It was so ridiculously cute, and I'm not one for rodents.  I would have had a picture to share with you people, but my mom allowed no such thing.  Apparently she is embarrassed by the fact that she has mice.  I am not sure what she will think of me blabbing this to the world wide web, but she's gotten over worse, so I'm just going with it.  Anyway, it looked like a cartoon character.  I immediately named it Roxxxie with three x's for exxxtra sass, but after doing some googling and discovering mice have diseases, etc etc, we decided to let it go.

Exciting afternoon!  Things had just settled down and my dreams of raising mice were fading slowly.  Then I noticed that Cooper was in the living room, picking something up in his mouth and tossing it into the air gently.  He has been known to do this with cherries, but I knew this was no cherry.  We investigated and sure enough, Cooper was carefully soft-mouthing his new best friend, another baby mouse.  This one we named Fievel.

After we let the new mouse go, Cooper was on patrol for hours, just waiting for new buddies to come out of the wall.

 Incidentally, the night before, Cooper had gone into the bushes in front of the house and came out cradling a baby opossum.  We made him put that one back too.  After yesterday, Cooper will never be satisfied with stuffed animals again.  Oh, and the exterminator comes today so my fantasies of running a mouse circus are going to wither and die.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Blood Sausage

Quick note to let you guys know my PRP injection thingamajig went great this morning.  Things went off without a hitch.  I took a look at my blood in the syringe thing and it looked tough and ready for battle.  Take that, muscle tears!

Now comes a couple of weeks of taking it really easy until my next appointment in September.  I'm sore, just like you'd expect someone to be after being injected with a ten inch needle, but I'm very happy to have this part of this whole thing in the past.

Now let's all hold our breaths that this will work and my blood works its magic.  If it doesn't, I'm going to have to find Dr. House and I'm not too sure we'd get along.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Puppy Master

Our neighbors brought over their new puppy yesterday. I don't think anyone in the world could remain in a bad mood after seeing this face.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Let's Get Physical...Therapy, That Is

I have forgotten to mention that I have ten new friends.  We like to get together and work out, stretch and talk about our grandchildren.  We complain a lot about aches and pains and trade doctor referrals like Pokemon cards.  I'm talking about the ladies and gentlemen in my hip injury group at physical therapy.  I am the youngest "hip lady" by three or four decades, and I have learned an awful lot about Bingo, restaurants with early bird specials and how crappy the easy listening music from the 80s is for old people to listen to while they're working out.

"How do you kids listen to this stuff?"  Anne wrinkles her nose as the very hip and now sounds of Michael Bolton play at low volume in the background.  "Music these days is awful."

I really do like PT quite a bit.  Typically, I go in and do ten slow minutes on a stationary bike.  That's followed by twenty minutes of stretching and resistance exercises and then by some one-on-one time with my physical therapist, Joe.  This is typically how that goes:

"How are you doing today, Taryn?"
"I'm feeling okay, but that iliac crest thing is really hurting again."
"Hmmm.  Maybe if I hurt it worse, it will stimulate the muscle to fuse back to the bone.  Let me try poking at it with these metal tools. Then I'll attach electrodes to the muscle and give you shocks for fifteen minutes while you're covered with an ice blanket.  Sound good?"

I spend a good amount of time with my hip and butt pretty much exposed, which will be good if I ever want to get into the adult entertainment industry after all of this is over.  I have lost all shame.

The relationship between the patient and the physical therapist is an interesting one.  Things can get rather intimate, as seen in this picture I found on a US Government website for the public health.

If that purple-shirted guy goes any further up that thigh, this picture could be on a poster for "Gym Rats 4: Sweatier Than Ever."  And it looks like it would be a-okay with blue shirted guy if that went down.  I am not going to mention bulges in pants because my family reads this, but if you notice anything on your own, I can't stop you.

Anyway, it involves a lot of contact, rubbing, pain and tears as someone tries to bend your broken parts back into shape.  That's why it totally amazes me that many people at my PT place TALK ON THE PHONE as their physical therapist works them over.  I mean, seriously, if there's ever a time to call someone back, this would be that time.

See?  I've spent way too much time with octogenarians.  I'm complaining about the damn kids and their cell phones.  Next comes Bingo and 7:30 bedtime and admiring orthopedic shoes.  I can't wait!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Exciting Amazing News!

No, I am not mobile or anything major like that.  But today DOES mark my sixth day without Diet Coke!!  Yes, I once again kicked that silver-canned devil off my back.  As all DC addicts know, that stuff is harder to beat than heroin and there are no treatment centers for this kind of addiction on the beach in Malibu.

Note:  This is the 5000th time I've quit Diet Coke.  I am like the abused girlfriend that just keeps taking the violent horrible boyfriend back.  NOT THIS TIME THOUGH!  I am done.

I have been drinking water with lemons or limes and we also bought a SodaStream water fizzer upper.  It's pretty cool.  I'm going to do a whole post about it soon with pictures and stuff so please hold your horses.

This is Cooper after I tripped out on caffeine withdrawal and hit him with an ax handle.  Just kidding.  Please don't call PETA.

I have also been cooking a ton.  I really do have to start taking pictures of that.  Homemade salsa, granola, lasagna, Brazilian cheese bread... the list goes on and on.  My sainted mother carries everything over to the kitchen table and I chop stuff up and she carts it to the stove.  It's sad, but it works for us.  The Vatican is reserving a place for her right next to St. Peter's corpse in Rome.  I just hope it's not a time share.  But anyway, I'll write up some recipes and stuff soon.  I've been eating really healthy and feeling great.

Now I know you are all on the edge of your seats waiting for news about my hip.  Wait no longer.  I had an appointment with my hip surgeon, a man who looks very much like Uncle Joey Gladstone from "Full House."  I was just waiting for him to ask me if my hip was made of... wooooo-ooood or do a Bullwinkle impersonation or get stabbed by Alanis Morissette.  Bad news:  Hip is still really effed up.  Good news: Next week I am having a controversial and experimental procedure that may help, fingers crossed.  It's called Platelet Rich Plasma therapy and it is usually done on high level athletes like Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant and of course, me.  They're going to take out a bunch of my blood, separate the plasma and inject it into my muscle tears.  This is hopefully going to stimulate the muscle to grow back onto the bone.  Being a narcissist, I am mostly excited about my own blood having super healing powers.  Please keep your fingers crossed.

If that doesn't work, I'm going to have hip surgery to repair the tears.  This wouldn't be good because it's a difficult surgery both to perform and recover from, and because that muscle is used so much in walking and moving in general, it's hard to have a completely successful outcome.  Basically I'm cheering for my own blood to kick the crap out of this thing.  I should start eating steak and liver and spinach to psych it up for this fight.

And here's a little slice of how life goes living with my mother.  I say about six hundred things a day to try and get her all worked up.  She mostly ignores me, but every once in a while, something gets in her craw.  Last weekend I told her I wanted her to take me to see "The Smurfs."  She reacted very strongly, as this video which I illegally secretly taped will show.

By the way, she was right about Grandma Smurf.  I think Papa Smurf must have smurfed in her underoos as a child or something.  Sorry, people of Belgium, my mother is no fan of your little blue creatures.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Eggstremely Disappointing

I think I've already written about what a gigantic fan of "Harriet the Spy" I was when I was a kid, haven't I? Hold on, let me check.  No! And here I thought I had shared everything.

Well, I loved the book, which I bought at a garage sale from my next door neighbor Nancy.  I must have read it fifty times before I became a teenager.  It inspired my best friend Anne and I to start our own spy routes.  Let's just say that Harriet's life in New York climbing on roofs and going up dumbwaiters was a little bit more exciting than looking through windows in a sleepy Chicago bedroom community.  I did manage to hide a tape recorder under the couch and record my mom and dad filling out a police report after our house was burglarized, but even that didn't end up being too notebook-worthy.  Oh how I longed for absentee parents and a weird nanny!  Some kids have all the luck.

Anyway, Harriet always drank egg creams in the book.  Being a Catholic from Chicago, I had no idea what that meant.  In the days before Google, I imagined it was a liquefied Cadbury egg and could picture myself sitting at a soda counter with Harriet and sipping our favorite drink.  Following in Harriet's footsteps, I became a great fan on tomato sandwiches and I figured that egg creams would naturally follow one day, if I ever got a hold of one.

Well, today was that day.  I went to a deli for lunch and what was on the menu but chocolate egg creams.  I excitedly ordered one and (because I am my mother's daughter, alas) I told the lady at the counter all about my love of Harriet.  She nodded politely at the crazy woman on crutches and brought me one.

I hate to stomp on anyone's children's literature inspired dreams, but it was so so so so gross.  They made it from chocolate syrup, milk and ginger ale.  It tasted like something my sister used to whip up with bubble bath in the tub when we were toddlers.  Who would have thought Harriet would have such terrible taste in beverages??

I am sure Harriet grew up and became one of those weird adults who drink Bailey's or White Russians.  Ick.  I'll stick with Margaritas and Shirley Temples.  Sorry, Madame Spy.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Walking the Plank

My mom has become obsessed with the weirdo fad of planking.

This obsession appeared out of the blue one night.  I was looking at pictures on Facebook and said, "Aww, this is such a cute picture of Sarah."  My mom immediately asked, "Is she planking?"

I explained that I have seen no evidence that any of my friends are into planking.  The cool kids I know don't go out on Saturday afternoons and engage in mad planking hijinks. Planking is one of those weird things I'll never understand that seem to happen in far off places, like the crazy Russian teens who climb gigantic TV towers and do gymnastics on the top of them.  (Warning: that last link will make your toes curl and your stomach turn.)

Wikipedia, my good friend, says that planking is an activity consisting of lying face down in an unusual or incongruous location. The hands must touch the sides of the body and having a photograph of the participant taken and posted on the internet is an integral part of the game.

Two nights ago, my mom called me into her guest bedroom where she was changing my sheets.  "Look!  I'm planking!" she announced, extremely proud of herself.

Being the dream crusher that I am, I mentioned that the whole point of planking seems to be doing it in locations that are unexpected, like the Taj Mahal or the middle of a highway.  Planking on a bed kind of takes away from that element of surprise.  My mother was undeterred.  "I am geriatric planking."

Last night we lost power for forty minutes or so and when the lights came back on, my mom said, "Imagine what you would have done if the lights came on and I was planking on the coffee table."  

I'm starting to worry that she's going to go out and rob people in a flash mob next.