» Archive for the 'Generic Stupidity' Category

Smells vs. scents vs. odors

Thursday, August 26th, 2010 by kara

Scent is a very important sensation.  It jolts our memory, evokes emotions and stimulates our appetite, as well as warning us away from situations that may be hazardous to us, like 0bviously spoiled food, house fires, and skunks.

I enjoy experiencing many different scents: Other peoples’ colognes, freshly-washed laundry hanging on a clothesline or drying in a dryer, baking bread or toasting toast, and even scents that some people may not appreciate as much, like autumn’s first pungent whiff of skunk, combined with the sharp, sweet scent of wind-fallen apples in an orchard. Am I the only one who smells these similarities, or are there really scent elements shared by skunk, bologna and coffee? The Pumpkin says I’m losing my mind whenever I say that skunk has a ‘clean’ smell, and that it reminds me a little bit of bologna.

Of course, I may be a little warped, because bat guano (to me) smells a little bit like someone drank too much cofffee-flavored tequila and sicked it back up. Ack. Moving right along to more pleasant scents…

I also enjoy the smell of gasoline and mothballs, although not together.  (Yeah, I know, ‘How do you get your nose between their tiny little legs?’ Har dee har.) And although I like the SCENT of coffee brewing, I don’t really care much for the taste. Odd, no?

Here’s a nice one, and kind of a puzzling scent: I was on my way home from work a couple nights ago, and for once it was cool enough for me to roll down the windows in my car instead of trying to turn it into a mobile mini-fridge. Since that was our first rain-free day in quite a while, many people were mowing their lawns. Grass was universally tall, so the mowers were working hard and getting hot, and lots of people were making that oddly-appetizing scent of cut-grass-baked-on-the-hot-mower-deck.

Again, is it just me, or does anyone else find that scent really appealing, similar to toasting marshmallows and baking bread? When you’re cutting grass that’s so long the job almost becomes haying instead of mowing, the cuttings build up quickly under the hot mower deck, and the resulting scent is so much more appealing than just ‘freshly-cut lawn.’ I’d love to find out what it is about ordinary lawn that smells so darned edible when it gets sautéed by yard equipment.

One scent I truly miss ever since moving away from the Great Lakes shoreline is the smell of lake water. Nothing else has those same cool, clean-in-a-fishy-way notes like wind coming off the Big Lakes. I also miss the smell of sun-warmed cedar swamps, and the unique smell of sun-warmed skin after being on a boat all day. Olefactorily speaking, I miss Michigan, I guess.

So very proud of Emily and Corey

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 by kara

Friday will be an amazing day for two people I love dearly.  My niece, Emily, and my nephew, Corey, are graduating from Marine boot camp on Parris Island that day, and I’m so proud of them!

I can’t imagine anything more difficult than making it through Marine boot camp.  It’s a psychological and physical trial that lasts three months, and is designed to tear a person down and then rebuild them into the Marine machine, capable of amazing endurance and resourcefulness.  The feeling of exhilaration after achieving such an important goal must be intoxicating for them.

Emily and Corey have proved that they got ‘the stuff’ to excel, and I’m so happy for them.  Kind of jealous, too–after learning that they could get through boot camp in one piece, what CAN’T they do now?  I hope that they’re riding that wave of pride and joy in their accomplishment, and that they carry that can-do, will-do attitude through into all aspects of their lives.  Success isn’t just one destination, it’s a journey, and this is the beginning of a long and successful journey for Em and Corey.  Congratulations, you guys!

Writing to feel good, feeling good to write?

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010 by kara

I’d like to be able to write stories that entertain people, that take them away from their own world and into another place that allows them to relax and feed their souls with situations and feelings that are new to them.

Isn’t it the best feeling to have a great book in your hands, one that catches your attention and grasps it like a toddler with a melting ice cream cone? You can’t stop reading because the story is just that good, but you dread reaching the end of the book, because…well…then there won’t be any more wonderful story left, and then what will you DO?

I feel this way about stories written by Diana Gabaldon, Patricia Cornwell, Kathy Reichs, Jefferson Bass, Nelson DeMille, Lee Childs, Jim Butcher and several other writers. I love getting hold of a new book by one of my favorite authors, and getting lost in the storyline. I’d like to be able to provide that kind of escape, that level of entertainment, for people with my fiction writing.

But in order to do that, I would have to actually finish one of the many stories I’ve begun writing.

Yes, yes, this is all related to my OCD and procrastination problem. I hate doing something if it’s less than perfect, and if I can’t make it perfect, I shouldn’t start it at all…and I have to do laundry right now, and very likely there’s something that needs cleaning, and I can’t sit down and start writing a story if there’s housework to be done.

And there, in one paragraph, is the summation of my 30 years of fiction writing.

I’ve been told I have a lot of potential. I squander it all, I’m an equal-opportunity-squanderer. But I really would love to write and be paid for it.

The ironic bit is that I feel better when I’m writing something, even if it’s just a meaningless little scribble like my blog–but in order to even scribble, I have to be in a relatively good frame of mind. (Can we call typing in a word processing program ‘scribbling’? Or does one need actual pen + paper to scribble?)

I’ve been hoping that writing on a regular basis, ANY kind of writing, would jump-start my prolific fiction writing career. Eh. Pretty much every single action word in that last sentence is just bunk. But I’ll at least keep boring YOU, Gentle Reader, with this ‘scribbling.’

Still not over it

Sunday, August 15th, 2010 by kara

I’m a slob.  Happily, I live in t-shirts (the bigger, the better to cover my muffin-top) and shorts during the summer, blue jeans in the winter.

So when I took a dozen t-shirts and one cotton button-down shirt out of my wardrobe last week, perfectly good, colourful shirts, you know there had to be a darned good reason.

Their commonality?  They all had “Jewelry Television” embroidered across the left breast.

Jewelry Television is the reason my Wonderful Pumpkin and I had sold our beautiful little house in Saline, MI and moved here to Knoxville, TN in 2007.  Seemed like a great, family-run company which cared about their employees, and Rick hooked up with a fabulous group of co-workers who meshed amazingly well, and had a blast while working very hard together.  Rick bought a bunch of t-shirts in every conceivable colour, with “Jewelry Television” embroidered on them, because employees couldn’t wear any shirts with other logos on them.  We’re talking purple and orange, and tie-dyed t-shirts, even rainbow tie dye!  He bought me a few, too.  🙂

Everything was going well until JTV laid my Pumpkin off in January 2009.  No pay for the three weeks of vacation he’d been promised when he got hired in, no severance agreement giving him some time to look for another job, no health insurance for even a little while afterward, just ‘boom’ and out the door.

I am a proud, judgmental woman with very definitive ideas about how the world should work.  I don’t like to make a fuss about anything in particular, but I will if my hand is forced.  Rick and I mourned the loss of his job, and we picked up the pieces and moved on.

And some while afterward, I realized that I didn’t want Rick to wear the JTV t-shirts anymore.  I didn’t want him to have that company’s name on his body because I had too much pride for and/or in him, so I asked him to stop wearing them.  Instead, I put them in my closet–it didn’t matter to me. After all, they’re perfectly good shirts, and it’s just a logo, doesn’t mean I endorse JTV by wearing it.  Lots of people even wear Detroit Lions jerseys without expecting them to win.

Or, at least, I thought it didn’t matter to me.

After all, I wasn’t wearing them anywhere of any consequence.  Until I started my new job.  We wear business casual during the week, and on casual Fridays we can wear jeans and t-shirts.  :::swoon:::

Without thinking, I put on my favorite jeans and a colourful, tie-dyed JTV t-shirt and went to work.  And one of my co-workers said “Oh, did you used to work at JTV?”

Grrrr.  I had to explain that no, I hadn’t worked for them, but my husband had, and they’d laid him off and left us high and dry for nine months.

The depth of my anger was surprising.  It wasn’t quite as bad as when we first lived through the layoff, but there was still a lot of animosity in me.  And then I shook it off and went on with my day.

Until I wore another JTV shirt to work, and had to explain to someone else how I had come to be wearing it.  And I was just as annoyed at the retelling of the story that day as well.

So I came home and pulled all the JTV shirts out of my closet.  I won’t wear them in public again, so that I can avoid this resentment.  I’ll still wear them to bed, and for working around the house (maybe).

But it’s plain to me and to anyone who asks me about it, that I’m still not over it.

Lists for remembering

Saturday, August 14th, 2010 by kara

This is probably a symptom of my OCD, but I’ve been motivated lately to create a list all of the addresses and telephone numbers at which I’ve resided throughout my life.  When I was applying to my present employer, I had to list my addresses for the past five years, and it was a little difficult for me to fill in some of those blanks.  Of course, there WERE four different addresses for me to write down, but it was disturbing not to be able to recall the ZIP code for our home in Highland Township, and I couldn’t quite remember of which big airliner the Saline house number reminded me.

Same thing with my working resumé: It’s morphed, through the years, into an abbreviated and truncated list of jobs I’ve held during the past 10 years. It’s by no means comprehensive, and sometimes I feel like I should go back and include every single job I’ve ever worked at, if only for laughs–and of course so that I don’t forget them. God forbid I should forget one of my jobs. God forbid I should forget ANYTHING AT ALL.

Thus I decided it was vital for me to create a list of all my previous addresses, so that if I ever forgot where I had lived, I could look it up.

Why this is important, I can’t really verbalize, but collecting data has always been comforting to me. Plus making a list to be archived against forgetfulness is proactive, so even if I do have the beginnings of Alzheimer’s I’ll have a head start on my personal encyclopedia.

That’s a little morbid, isn’t it?

For the first 22 years of my life, I stayed in one spot, at my family’s ancestral home.  I got married and moved in with my first wonderful husband to a little, rented kit-chalet near Harbor Springs, filing my first change of address form at the United States Postal Service.  And then things got crazy, address-wise.

Wonderful Hubby #1 was killed in a car accident just seven months after we married.  I was pretty much in shock for the next few years, and my address records reflect that. Like a forlorn gypsy, I moved from the chalet back to my mother’s house, and then into my friends’ house in Traverse City, then into my own apartment in Traverse City.

From there, I moved down to St. Clair to live with my sister, who was beginning her own household relocation and reorganization, and we moved once again, together. Eventually I moved in with The Wonderful Pumpkin and we stayed in that apartment for a little while.

No household moves at all for my first 22 years, then six moves within three years. I got good at moving, knew what to pack and what to leave out, when to file the change of address, and how to re-file just to make sure nothing got overlooked.

Part of me thinks it’s not necessary to have a list of all one’s previous places of residence, but the OCD side wants to know exactly what the house numbers and street names were, what the home telephone number was. The OCD Kara has moved from saving actual physical mementos to use as hints for reminiscing, to saving data for the same purpose.

When I think of the address in Highland Township, I think of the ferns that we transplanted from the wilderness that was our backyard, to the shady side of the garage.  When I think of our address in Saline, I recall how satisfying it was to paint the bedrooms in the vibrant colours Rick and I picked out, and how surprisingly cozy our home became.

Remembering the address in Oak Ridge reminds me of how optimistic I was to relocate to Tennessee with my Pumpkin, our first really big move together.  And it reminds me, too, of our low-class neighbors in that apartment complex and how we called the fire department one night, to have them put out a fire started in the mulch at the base of one of the support pillars by a discarded, smoldering cigarette butt.  The apartment building was made of cement block, but I had no interest in watching the fire consume the support pillar and destroy the overhang next to our kitchen window.

And now our address in Knoxville. This house represents what is probably the most-difficult period in Rick’s and my life together, dealing with the loneliness from missing family and friends, to coping with the fear and privation of losing our income when Rick was laid off from Jewelry Television.

Of course, we also have wonderful memories of fostering rescue dogs, gaining two more members of our family, and the family and friends we’ve had as guests here.  I guess it’s harder to encapsulate a particular memory or emotion for an address while one is still AT that address. It’s best described as a ‘work in progress’.

There are still some holes in my address list. I’ll have to go back through my files and see if I can’t find the house number of the chalet on Pleasantview Road in Harbor Springs, and some other tidbits but it’s comforting to know that I’ve started it, just in case I lose my mind tomorrow.

A remarkable man leaves a tremendous hole in our hearts

Saturday, July 10th, 2010 by kara

It’s been a terribly sad week for us. Rick’s wonderful grandfather was diagnosed with a critical injury to his aorta, and due to problems with his kidneys and other vascular problems which he’d been dealing with for ten years, surgery to repair the transection, or tear, was impossible.

This horrible news left his family members anguished and stricken. Grandpa Plagens was a remarkably strong, brave, funny, caring, steady man who made everyone feel loved and appreciated. I hadn’t had my own grandfather since my mother’s father died while I was in my teens, but I was so fortunate to have him as my grandfather-in-law.

I wish I’d known him better, but like many of his generation, Grandpa didn’t put himself in the spotlight. A World War II veteran, he was the proprietor of Plagens Market in Wayne for about forever. He and Grandma were married for 67 years, and I can attest to the fact that they raised a wonderful family, of which I am proud to be a part.

I know that he liked to grill and watch or listen to the Tigers when they played. He liked to work in his yard and watch the wild birds that came to feast at their many feeders.  He liked dogs and loved his family, and was a generous man who did the right thing. I wouldn’t know where to start in listing all the kind things he’s done for Rick and I and others. I wish I’d known him better…

We did have an opportunity to run home last weekend to see Grandpa and tell him we love him. It wasn’t enough and I regret not having visited sooner. I was hoping (unrealistically, I know) that time would stand still while we were away, and that Grandpa would always just ‘be there.’

Grandpa left this plane of existence early Thursday morning, leaving a tremendous hole in the hearts of his family. He was a remarkable man who will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him.

Texting works fine for its intended purpose

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010 by kara

Over the weekend my husband and I had to go home to Michigan and see his wonderful grandfather, who’s critically ill. It was a sad, strained, hastily-arranged trip, and as a result I found it necessary to communicate with several different people simultaneously.

Texting filled that bill to a ‘t’. It allowed me to update multiple people on our current location, via  short messages, all at the same time.

The most important part of that last sentence is “short messages.” I still don’t care for texting, and now I really know why. We all know brevity is not a defining characteristic for me, and that, combined with using a teeny little phone keypad to ‘type’, is what turns me off to texting. And SMS, or ‘short message service’ is exactly what texting was intended for, not the long-winded attempts at communication that I like to disgorge.

Express myself in 160 characters or less? Child, if I could do that, I’d have solved most of my life-long problems by now.

The Pumpkin keeps telling me that the tiny little flip phones we’re currently using are spectacularly unsuited for useful text communications. He says I would enjoy texting and web surfing tremendously on an iPhone or droid, but I think even typing on an iPad would be frustrating for me.

So I’ll admit that texting suited our needs this weekend, but I still don’t like it. I guess I’ll have to try it on an iPhone in January (when the iPhone comes to the Verizon network) and see if I like it better there.

What a small, odd world this is

Thursday, May 13th, 2010 by kara

I got a haircut Monday, and it’s very short, even by my standards.  So when I was getting dressed for work, I decided to dig out some of the cool earrings I’ve collected over the years, and indulge in pretty danglies which could be shown off by my military-style hair cut.

I wear a nostril screw in the sidewall of my right nostril; my left ear is pierced four times in the lobe and partially up the rim, and my right ear is pierced once. My OCD demands that all the jewelry I wear in these holes in my head match, so if I deviate from white metal earrings, I must change my nostril screw as well. I confess, I’m lazy, and tend to wear the same set of earrings and leave the nostril screw in indefinitely. So even though I have many different and beautiful earrings, I tend to settle on one set and take them out at night and put them back in in the morning.

Yeah, it’s lame that this is less effort and therefore desirable to me. I get it.

Anyway, digging through my jewelry chest yesterday I found some of the beautiful earrings I’d collected made by designer Laurel Burch. Since I’m lazy and have been on a white metal kick since about 2001, I hadn’t worn them for quite a while, but I still love them dearly. Since they’re 14-karat electroplated, I had to change my nose stud to the gold one, and dig out the little gold hoops for the top holes in my left ear. Quite the change from the everyday little silver balls, eh?

Later in the afternoon, a lady comes through my cashier’s lane at Target and recognizes my earrings.

“Are those Laurel Burch earrings?” She was pleased to have recognized them, and I was pleased to have made this unlikely connection with a total stranger. I said yes, and how I loved all her designs, and was wearing them to ‘celebrate’ my fresh haircut.

She said that she was a friend of Laurel Burch’s and had visited her at her home in Novato, California, just a few months before she died. She mentioned what an amazing person Ms. Burch was, as well as being a prolific and eloquent artist.

I was struck, first by the unlikely connection of a stranger recognizing the design of one of my favorite artists, and then by the news that the artist had died.

I hadn’t followed Laurel Burch very closely, but I did really enjoy her whimsy and love of colour at the time when I was still buying jewelry. Since I’ve not been shopping for art or jewelry in a great while, I hadn’t thought about it or her for a long time.

It was such a bittersweet moment, to establish a connection with a complete stranger who appreciates the same precious thing that you do, and then to learn that the creator of that precious thing has died. Turns out that Laurel Burch died back in 2007. Although I never knew her, I’m just mourning her passing today.

Faint at heart?

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010 by kara

I’ve always been a fainter, but only realized that just recently. ‘Fainting’ kind of has a wussy ring to it, an unsavory ‘bodice-tied-too-tightly’ whiff that just doesn’t go with my own carefully cultivated self-image.

Just in case you’re curious, my own self-image has notes of Kate Jackson, Chuck Norris, Dixie Carter and Margaret Thatcher, all very self-sufficient, sensible, dependable people. Oh, and Buttercup of The Power Puff Girls. Probably more than a little bit of her. So tight bodices and fainting doesn’t really go along with that composite image.

But if you’re gonna faint, you’re gonna faint, and only through lots of training and self-discipline can you avert that–IF you can avert it. Fainting, or syncope, or a vasovagal episode, is an involuntary bodily reaction most-commonly caused by a drop in blood pressure and heart rate, and the resulting drop in blood flow to the brain. You get pale, you get weak, and everything fades out for a little while. People can experience syncope that’s triggered by extreme emotional distress, or from an injury or blood loss, from dehydration, from an abrupt change in posture (like standing up too quickly), and it often needs no further examination, unless it’s caused by one of several medical conditions requiring treatment.

If you faint and you’re out for a long time, like days, that’s called a coma and that DOES require further medical treatment. That’s my helpful PSA for today: “If you’re unconscious for more than a few minutes, seek medical help right away.”

There are methods by which you can practise keeping your blood pressure and your heart rate jacked up in order to avoid vasovagal syncope events, but I’ve never been prepared enough to put any of these methods into use in my moments of need. “But wait–” you ask, stunned, “How often does one lose consciousness in order to pre-plan ahead for moments of need?”

The other day I was thinking about how many times I’ve passed out, and was shocked and dismayed to tally them all up. To be fair, I’ve had some pretty good reasons to faint. Well, SOME of them are good reasons, anyway. But now that I’ve written them down, it’s kind of alarming how many times I’ve lost consciousness. And they go back pretty far into my childhood.

My very first ‘eyeballs-to-heaven’ moment was when I hit my head on a cupboard door. I might have been five or six years old (I think). The cupboards in my mother’s kitchen went right to the ceiling, and for us younger (shorter) kids, it was difficult to reach anything above the first shelf without some assistance.

We were TOLD to use a stepstool. Very often we didn’t waste time getting the stepstool from across the 15-foot-wide kitchen, we just boosted ourselves up onto the counter top so we could kneel or stand to reach what we were after. Little trout-mouthed heathens, we were.

Come to find out, our parents had a valid reason for forbidding us to jump up on the counters. They didn’t want us to fall or hit our heads when we were jumping up, just like I did.

I remember it distinctly: I was after the ice cream bowls. My Uncle Wally was visiting, and we were having ice cream. I was wearing footie pajamas, which made the jumping-on-the-counter move somewhat hazardous in a full-standing position, because the plastic foots were terribly slippery on the glossy countertop (white with a gold foil accent) so I was being pretty careful, even though I was excited about the ice cream.

I placed my palms flat on the counter top and jumped to get my knees up there, too–but THUNK–I got stopped in mid-boost and gravity pulled me back to the floor.


The cupboard door above me had swung halfway open, and I had launched myself full-force into the bottom of it, whacking my skull right along my middle hair part. Not good, and not conducive to ice-cream-happiness, either.

I got thoroughly scolded for hurting myself (actually, I was probably scolded for disobeying Mom and Dad’s rule, but since I was still pretty buzzy from the head impact, I didn’t mind too much) and was set on Uncle Wally’s lap in the living room while Mom & Dad examined the cupboard door for damage (I’m joking). Sat there for a bit, watching the colours get brighter and darker for a few minutes.

Do you remember the trick that we used to play on each other in grade school, the one in which you’d simulate ‘cracking an egg’ on someone’s head and running your fingers across their hair to make it seem as though egg white was dripping down their head? That’s what it felt like when my scalp finally started bleeding from the laceration, about five minutes after I’d bashed it on the cupboard door.

At that point I didn’t know it was blood running over my hair, but I didn’t think Uncle Wally KNEW the ‘cracking an egg’ trick, and it certainly felt odd–and then suddenly I was flying through the air, but that was just Uncle Wally grabbing me under the arms and rushing toward the bathroom…and I don’t remember anything after that.

I must have been about 10 or 11 years old when I got my ears pierced, and I fainted then, too. I was very excited about getting my ears pierced like the big girls! The very nice woman who pierced them did it with a gun at Swan’s Jewelers in Rogers City, and she was very careful about marking my lobes so that my earrings would be even, although my ears certainly aren’t. She did the first piercing and even though it didn’t hurt at all, I went out like a cheap light bulb in the rain. Woke up laying on my back, looking up and arguing that I MUST have my other ear pierced because I’d be lopsided otherwise. I promised that I wouldn’t pass out with the second ear lobe, and I didn’t.

Another location in which I lost consciousness was St. Ignatius Catholic Church, on the morning of my graduating class’ commencement mass (go, RCHS Class of ’86!). It was a beautiful June morning, sunny and bright, and the church was warm. We were all very excited about commencement that evening and let’s just say that I had been paying more attention to celebrating that weekend than I had to sleeping or eating. At one point we were kneeling and the next I was out in the side parking lot between the school and the church. Thank goodness I’d keeled over while I was as close to the ground as possible.

The next time I lost consciousness was during a pre-surgery blood draw. I think I was 20 or 21, and the lab tech drawing my blood was a cutie named Tim. We were chatting and laughing and he was setting up all the tubes and vials necessary for the tests. I think at that point Tim’s impression of me was still favorable.

Then he began to draw blood, and I noted how dark and rich-looking the blood coming from my vein was. I had enough time to tell Tim that I felt odd, and I woke up laying on the floor with someone’s fingers laced behind my head, and several people peering down at me.

Tim said mournfully “That was my last clean lab coat for this week, and it’s only Tuesday.” Right then I knew he would never ask me out. So from that point on, I made certain to alert all phlebotomists of this little quirk of mine, whether or not they were potential dating material.

The weirdest aspect of my vasovagal syncope is that it’s only my OWN blood that makes me go all vasovagal and stuff. YOU can be pumping blood from an arterial laceration, and I’ll just run and get the materials for a pressure bandage and dial 911 if I can do it while keeping my phone clean, but if I am wounded, I must NOT look or you’ll be talking to yourself for a few seconds.

This occasion during which I lost consciousness was from a slip-and-fall resulting in a blow to the head, so it really doesn’t count as a plain old faint, but I’ll include it anyway because I’m tiresome like that. In 1998 we had just gotten our lab-mix Belle, and since she was an eight-week-old puppy we were in the process of house training her.

I’d just woken up and put on some driving moccasins to take her out to potty in the yard, and slipped on the deck outside. It felt like what happened every time Lucy snatched the ball away right when Charlie Brown tried to kick it–my feet went out from under me and I landed flat on my back, hitting the back of my head on the top step. (Rick says he wishes he could have seen it. Har har.)

I was out for exactly 15 minutes that time–it was 0832 hrs when I walked out the door, and it was 0847 hrs when I stumbled back in. Scared the daylights out of poor little Belly, too. The next-door-neighbor girl who was walking to the school bus, saw me laying on the front steps, but she didn’t stop because she thought I was taking a nap. Outside. On the sidewalk. At the beginning of March. With a screaming puppy in my senseless arms. IN MICHIGAN. *sigh*

At the house in Highland, I also passed out in the bathroom early one morning for some unknown reason. Maybe I really did just wake up too early to function, as I jokingly explained the incident away. I dropped like a BIG sack of potatoes and landed on my face. I had some of those really fancy eyeglass frames at that time, the ones that look more like jewelry than glasses frames, and bent those up pretty good during this incident.

By the way, that’s how you know someone really did pass out–they land on their face. If you just wipe out, or if you’re pretending to faint, you try NOT to land on your face or head.

Alarmingly enough, my wonderful hubby slept through the incredible din that I made when I fell, similar to someone dropping 180-pounds-worth of dead weight TEN FEET AWAY from the bed, but then again, he also sleeps through a ringing telephone. He’s a very sound sleeper.

I fainted once at our house in Saline, too. A week before November, we were getting out of bed and doing the morning routine. I was letting Belle and Kacey out to potty, and poor blind little Kacey looked like she was headed off the deep end of the steps, so I reached out to guide her back to the middle of the steps so she wouldn’t fall.

Clad in my standard PJs of t-shirt and panties, holding the storm door open with my right hand, I was bending over guiding Kacey with my left when a gust of wind caught the storm door like a sail on a sailboat. Unlike a sailboat, I didn’t glide gracefully. Off balance, I flew like a flying squirrel out the door and bounced down the cement stairs on my hands, knees, and stomach. Ice, cement and small rocks can do an enormous amount of damage to bare hands, knees and shins.

Rick was in the bathroom at that point, and since he was awake he heard me call out and came to my rescue. He said “It wasn’t a scream, it was more like a Tarzan yell, so I came running out to see what happened, and I find Kara laying on her belly on the patio.”

Crap. Crap, crap, crap, crappity CRAP that hurt. Rick helped me back inside and I lay down in the big fluffy recliner chair, panting and making some guttural noise that I didn’t know I could make until that moment. I told him I didn’t feel right and he told me to just stay there while he brought unguent and bandages. While he was rummaging in the bathroom, I passed out in the recliner. Vasovagal episode number umpty-umpth, in full recline. At least I couldn’t fall again.

Then that summer I tried to donate blood. I say “tried” because I don’t think I had a successful donation in any of three attempts. The first time I tried to donate, I was in a hurry to get out of the house before a showing (we were trying to sell the house, so I’d spent about an hour and a half rushing around cleaning like a maniac), then I threw the two dogs in the car and poured myself a travel mug full of orange juice and grabbed a slice of banana bread. I choked down my breakfast in the car on the way to the Red Cross office. Then, when I got there, the woman who was getting me set up couldn’t catch my vein in my left arm, not even after three tries.

She fetched another lady, who got it in my right arm in one, and I proceeded to squeeze real hard on the towel in my fist, and filled up that bag in 18 minutes. I guess it’s supposed to take much longer. Anyway, I started to feel odd again, and found out the good people at the Red Cross use paper toweling soaked in ice water to revive fainters. They were very concerned, even after I explained that I’d disregarded every single suggestion for a successful donation and that I wasn’t surprised at all that I’d gone to another dimension. Full bag of blood that they couldn’t use due to my case of the vapors.

A month to the day later, I tried it again. I ate breakfast AND lunch, stayed calm, and…it happened again. By now I’m disappointed with myself, and the ladies at the Red Cross are VERY concerned. “I don’t understand what’s going on, I donated blood while I was in high school and I didn’t pass out then, not even when I was grossed out by the feeling of the hot blood going through the tubing taped to my arm! I don’t know what the problem is!” I vented my frustration at one of the kind volunteers.

“Maybe you’re just feeling a lot of pressure right now,” she answered me soothingly. Then she made a note on my chart to put cotton between the tube and my arm during future donation attempts. “Don’t be too hard on yourself–lots of people don’t even make it through our door.”

So I tried again, one month later. I didn’t squeeze the towel too fast or too hard, I ate well, got enough sleep the night before, played happy, soothing music on the way there…and felt odd AGAIN. Woke again to the brightloudness and lots of ladies draping wet and freezing paper towels over my wrists, forehead and neck. Shoot.

Had a paper bag to breathe in this time, too. Started taking yoga breaths to calm down, and one of the ladies who had a blood pressure cuff on me said “What are you DOING? Just take deep breaths, slowly.” I said “That’s what I’m doing–it’s a yoga technique for relaxation.”

She replied “Well, it’s making your blood pressure and heart rate drop significantly. So DON’T DO THAT.”

The nice people at the Red Cross asked me not to try to donate blood again. Ever. I was sad. But I felt bad, too, at how worried they all were when I’d do my fainting goat impression, so I said “okay” and slunk back home.

There have been more incidents, maybe even a few which I don’t recall (and some of those most certainly for foolish reasons). There have been reasonable spells and not-quite-s0-reasonable spells, and after tallying up the ones I can recall, I’m afraid that I’m not the hardass I made myself out to be. I’m not even as cute as a fainting goat, just a delicate flower of womanhood, like Judy Tenuta, and don’t you be mean to me or I’ll pass out and you’ll be in trouble because you didn’t catch me before I split my lip open on the table.

Looking ‘helpful’

Friday, March 26th, 2010 by kara

So a couple days ago I was in Big Lots, just kind of toodling through the store, finding lots more stuff than what I actually came in for (stick to your list, Kara!). I was wearing one of Rick’s Volunteer orange polo shirts, the one with the name of the home health care company he works for stitched on the upper left breast, and faded jeans, and sneakers.

And then a gentleman asked me where the pump sprayers would be displayed. I said I didn’t know, because I DON’T WORK HERE. Nothing on me said “this woman will know the answers to your questions, and if not, she has the authority to find out.” He mumbled something about how it looked like I was putting stuff on the shelves (yeah, my PURSE sitting in my shopping cart really contributed to that image).

In the past when Cocker Companions Rescue has been out and about as an official group, and we all had our “Cocker Companions Rescue Volunteer” name badges on, I’ve been mistook for an official of whichever store we were at: AgriFeed or Mast General Store, or any other establishment I’ve worn the name badge into. Doesn’t seem to matter that the name badge doesn’t say “AgriFeed” or “Mast General Store”, and people don’t seem to pay attention to that anyway. While appearing in CCR capacity, I’ve just given up trying to explain that I’m not a store employee, and try to point the customer in the correct direction anyway. In AgriFeed, I’m getting pretty good at it because I’ve spent a lot of time there.

But in Big Lots, I wasn’t wearing a name tag of any kind and Big Lots doesn’t seem to have a particular uniform that I’d inadvertently matched, as some other stores do. For example, if you’re just meandering into Target, you do not want to be wearing a red shirt and khakis. In Best Buy, don’t wear your royal blue polo shirt if you don’t wish to be pressed into service, and you get the idea from there.

But at Big Lots, I wasn’t stocking shelves or running a register, had no name tag of any sort…so what would make people think I worked there?  Maybe it’s behavioral. When I came in to the store, I stopped to look at some sweatshirts piled in a cart at the front of the store, and instead of rooting about through them like a pig through oak leaves in search of truffles, I neatly folded the shirts I had looked at. I have no idea if that’s what the gentleman wanting the pump sprayers had cued in on, and by that time I had been in the store for about 15 or 20 minutes when he approached me so I’m not sure that’s what he saw me doing, but I’m grasping at straws.

In Kroger a couple weeks ago, I was again lacking any sort of name badge or ID associating me with the store in an official capacity, when a lady approached me in the dairy department. She asked me why there were no ham steaks, only packages of cubed pieces of country ham on the display. I had to tell her I didn’t know, earning a filthy look in return, and then I pointed out an actual employee stocking eggs on the other side of the aisle. “Maybe he could tell you, ma’am.”

How often does this happen to you, Gentle Reader? With me, this is a pretty regular occurrence, sometimes as often as every week-and-a-half or so. I can’t imagine that I just look helpful and approachable enough that I draw people in need.

Eh. Then again, I definitely draw DOGS in need to me, so maybe that strange magnetism draws people as well.

The strangeness at Big Lots didn’t end there, either. While waiting in line at the register, I was minding my own business and texting my niece, Bethany. I don’t text very well. Typing with my thumbs is time-consuming and therefore annoying. I can hit 80 wpm + on a standard sized keyboard. So why would I want to piddle around making typos with my freaking arthritic thumbs on a cellphone keypad? I recognize that it’s a common and handy method of communication for the younger set however, so I will use it when appropriate. But keep in mind it is a sloooooow process for me, and I have to concentrate.

The line was moving very slowly at the register, so when a lady in back of me asked me to keep her place while she checked the price of something in one of the nearby aisles, I agreed. I didn’t really do anything, just kept texting and waiting for the line to advance. I finished and sent the text, which should give you an idea of the length of the delay in the line.

The lady returned to her cart, disappointed that the item was no longer on sale, and somehow this started a conversation. She leaned over to peer at the upper left breast of my polo shirt and said “Oh, you work in healthcare? What do you think about the healthcare bill?”

If she knew me, she wouldn’t have opened that can of worms. She would have looked into my black heart and realized that there’s NOTHING ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH THAT I WANTED TO DISCUSS LESS THAN THE HEALTHCARE BILL. And then she would have run off, screaming in fear.

I murmured that it was out of my hands and that I had no opinion, hoping to end this gambit where it stood. But no, she wanted to share her views. She commented that the bill would make insurance too expensive for everyone and that it would bring about the financial ruin of the country. I commented that the trillions of dollars worth of debt from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan probably wouldn’t contribute to the financial ruin of the country, and decisively turned away from her to end the conversation.

WHY do people do that? I am not an approachable person!  Or at least, I don’t want to be approachable. I want to appear as a confident, unremarkable person, to whom you’d apologise if you ran over their foot with your grocery cart, but otherwise ignore.

I guess until I find my ideal job working by myself from home or from a desert island somewhere, I’ll continue to be helpful and polite in the meantime.