The Last Thing

Looking for a new job is stressful. It’s even more stressful when you are currently unemployed in a foreign country and only have a limited amount of savings to keep you afloat. Let’s not even discuss the chaos of unpacking and trying to organize a lifetime of items in a new space that is over twice the size of any place you’ve ever lived. My skin has broken out. I don’t sleep hardly at all. Or I sleep for 12, 13, 14 plus hours and can barely function. I’ve scratched holes in my scalp without even realizing it. My stomach can decide on a whim to not like whatever I’ve eaten and gurgle in turmoil. But, it will even out. Things will fall into place in their own time. Everyone says so. But, they are saying it to someone with anxiety and probably a little OCD if the truth were to be told so, I scratch and run to the bathroom and try and take Zzzquil or set alarms for early in the morning to force exhaustion the next day. And I job search online. I fill out web questionnaires that take an hour and supposedly rate my ethics and math skills. I cross my fingers and hope that I’m not too over qualified or too under qualifed.

I found a list of jobs I wouldn’t hate and are within walking distance of my house which really are my only criteria. Some of them needed to have forms printed, filled out in blue ink and scanned back in. No problem. I have a printer. Sadly in the 2 months in transit the brand new black ink cartridge decided to go kaput which with my sweet cheap printer means that it won’t print or do anything. While frustrating, I’m not really surprised. I’m lucky that the store that happens to carry ink on base is right across the street so, I just walked over. I contemplated getting the 4 pack that included the 3 color cartridges as well but, as mentioned before, I have a cash flow problem, so $12 and one black ink cartridge later I was home. By now it was dinner time so I called it good for the day.

After a great night of falling asleep at 4am and waking at 6, 7:30 and finally the last time at 9:30am I just gave up and got up. I made coffee. I checked my email. I skipped breakfast because my stomach felt angry. Like it might or might not be filled with napalm. After a few good deep sips of glorious caffeinated beverage, I decided to install my ink. Since my stellar printer LOVES to struggle with printing when a new cartridge gets swapped in. So, 2 hours later of cleaning the printer heads and check and re checking the vertical and horizontal alignment it was in the last step of cleaning the printer heads one last time when and error message popped up and let me know that all three of the motherfucking color cartridges are empty. So fuck it. It was past lunch time and since I hadn’t eaten in the morning I was hungry. But as I warmed up my left over risotto my stomach gurgled and twisted and sent me running to the bathroom before the 2 minutes on the microwave could even run out.

So I ate my risotto at barely above room temperature while staring at our new very disorganized entertainment cabinet with all of our DVDs stacked up next to it and cords hanging out the front doors. Rather than angrily walking in the hot windy  drizzling day to the store for more ink, I set to the task of organizing the entertainment stand. I cleared everything out. reworked wire locations. Organized the DVDs that we still have cases for. Organized and neat, stacked and sorted. It helped relieve some of the irritation of the ink being lame. I sat down to re-set up my Echo so I could be super lazy and ask Alexa for the weather especially now during typhoon season. It’s tricky setting up a device for a foreign location where you now live but, you’re address is has a technically US zip code. Some googling, and trial and error I got Alexa connected to the new WiFi and answering “What is the weather?” and telling me the weather close enough to where we actually are and not Norfolk or a random US west coast city.

Pleased with myself, I plopped down on my couch to start the job search back up with a plan to hit up the library later in the day to print out all the necessary forms and make copious copies of them. As I picked up my laptop, I heard a pop and felt my glasses shift… So weird. As I reached up to take my glasses off to look at them, they wobbled strangely and bloop, the lens plopped out into my lap. My black frames miraculously just cracked in half at the side. Not even at the bend or hinge, just a random ass spot popped.  Granted I think I paid a whopping $15 for the frames so they weren’t exactly top of the line but, dang. I just got them maybe 5 months ago. Obviously you really do get what you pay for.

It was one more thing today, just one more thing and it was the last one. The last damn thing. So, now I’m just sitting on the couch eating cheese mindlessly watching whatever happens to be on. I’ll just try again tomorrow but, today? Today is obviously done.

Kamakura Field Trip

During our first full week in Japan, the Sailor and I were required to attend area training. Basically, the first 2 days were basics on the base and the amenities here. The 3rd day was history and culture of Japan. Day 4 was field trip day. This was a day where our we got to take buses around Yokosuka to get to one of the 3 train stations within walking distance. Upon our arrival at the train station, we had to then buy a ticket, get on the correct train and get off at the correct station for our final destination. All this was done under the watchful eyes of 4 or 5 guides that joined us from class. They’d give us a quick walk to possible lunch spots then turn us loose for a couple hours to wander. After lunch we had the choice to join for a guided tour of a shrine. Once those tours were over, we were cut loose to find our own way back to the base. No worries though, we all had little cards that said, “I’m lost! Please help me find my way back to Naval Base Yokosuka. Thank you,” in Japanese. Kyle assured me that the trains were easy to navigate from what he remembered when he was in Japan back in the early 2000’s.

So on that third day, we diligently boarded 3 busses and headed out to Blue street in Yokosuka with a quick “tour” of the area directly around the base ending at the Yokosuka train station. Kyle opted to get us refillable transportation cards. We plan to use the trains as often as possible to go out and about and the transportation cards are universal for almost any form of getting around Japan; trains, buses, even some taxis.

Riding the train in the midmorning on a Wednesday was easy. No real crowds, plenty of seats and it was quiet. We were going to Kamakura which is only about a 20 minute train ride from Yokosuka. I read my book mostly when there wasn’t anything interesting to see.

When we arrived in Kamakura our leads walked us to Komachi Dori, a street filled with with small shops selling everything; clothes, chopsticks, coin purses and candies. There were little walk up food vendors selling street food that you could sit on a bench and eat as well as small sit down restaurants. Kyle and I decided to venture on our own to figure out what to eat. We walked the length of the street and back… twice and couldn’t figure out what we wanted to try. I finally pulled the trigger and suggested we just get steamed buns. Kyle shrugged. He struggles with weird foods so he wasn’t making the choice. So, I bravely approached the young man at the walk up counter and asked if he spoke any English. He smiled and said very little. I asked “What meat is in this?” as I pointed to the bun. With his relief clear that he understood me, he said, “Pork!” So I ordered 2 and Kyle forked over the Yen. We sat quietly on little stools next o the counter to try out what hopefully was actually Pork buns. Kyle called them mystery rolls. They were warm, chewy and delicious. Mystery or not, I enjoyed mine and I didn’t die (assuming there wasn’t any squid or shrimp mixed in) so win win.

 

We spent a a bit more wandering up and down Komachi Dori. I got brave and stopped in a little cafe called Hachi to get a vanilla latte and a “Cheese in the Baum” pastry that turned out to be a light cheese cake pastry with a thick cake like crust. Was not disappointed. I even was able to pick out the right amount of Yen to pay myself. GO ME! By this time is was about time to meet back up with our group to go on the guided tour so, we headed back.

We had a large group, 100 people give or take. Not everyone opted for the tour. We were broken up into 4 groups with each group getting a local volunteer guide to walk us to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu.

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is Kamakura’s most important shrine. It’s reached by a long wide walkway on Dankazura Street lined with hundreds of lanterns (electric) and cherry trees from the waterfront down the center of the main street. The walk begins with a red tori (gate) flanked by 2 guardian shishi (lion dogs).

This is not the actual entrance to the shrine but rather the beginning of the approach. At the end of the walk, you approach a main intersection for the heart of the city as well as the San no torii that is the third torii and main entrance to the shrine. It is at this torii that you are expected to stop briefly and bow to show respect and acknowledge you are entering a scared place.

Upon entering you will see an arched stone bridge, called Taikobashi. This literally means “Drum Bridge” and spans a channel that connects two ponds. The main shrine  can be seen straight ahead on the hillside.

Before you reach the main shrine structure you first see Maiden Hall. This is the location of ceremonies and commemorative dances in April as well as various musicians during the summer festivals. I could go into detail about how the ceremonies and dance in April are commemorating the mistress of an important warrior and her being forced to preform for the warriors brother who happened to be the first Shogun of Kamakura… I think I was the only one really intrigued by this part of the tour but, if you’re intrigued google Dancing Maiden Shizuka and read all about the Lower Worship Hall known as Maiden Hall and how it came to be.

Just beyond the Maiden Hall perched up on the hillside is the main hall of the shrine, Hongu.

Before climbing the stairs to ender the Main Hall you first approach the Chozuya. The red structure is where worshippers wash their hands and rinse their mouths to purify themselves before approaching the main shrine.  The basin is carved out of a huge rock from the Bizen region of western Japan and was presented by the wife of Tokugawa Hidetada, the 2nd Tokugawa shogun, in the 17th century, after she saw a dream telling her to do so. It is one of the few officially designated cultural treasures that the public are allowed to touch.

There is a specific order and way of performing this cleansing ritual. First you pick up a ladle with your right hand and scoop water to pour over your left hand washing it. Then transfer the ladle l to the clean hand and do the same for your right. Transfer the ladle back to your right hand and scoop water with it and pour it into your left hand making sure to leave most of the water int he ladle. Take a mouth full of water from your left hand and swish it around. Cover your mouth with your left hand and spit the water our beside the basin (not into it!). Finally tip the ladle forward and let the water wash down one the handle and your hand to cleanse it finally retiring it to the basin where it was resting.

When you approach the deity in the main hall you should gently toss your monetary offering gently into the front trough (if you have one).  Bow twice respectfully then clap your hands at chest level. At this time you can pray or silently show your respect. When finished with your hands still at chest level, bow once more.  We didn’t take pictures at this main hall other than from the outside.

To the left of this hall is the Treasure Hall. For 2 Yen each you can walk though the hall to view various priceless sacred treasures, portable shrines and military equipment. Even the walk into the hall is beautiful; intricate carvings and lacquered designs.

Once out of the Treasure hall of the Main Hall, to the left is the Maruyama Inari Shrine. This shrine is dedicated to the god of business prosperity.

After our visit to the Maruyama Inari Shrine, we wandered a bit along the path which led us to this little bridge over one of the 2 ponds. This little guy didn’t seem to be afraid of us. Then some kids came along and as usual kids ruin everything. (JK don’t lose you’re minds, I like some kids)

On our walk we came to a gold and black lacquered structure. Shirahata Jinja is the guardian shrine of the Genji clan. Apparently, shrines by this name can be found all over Japan.

This one took me a little searching to figure out it’s significance. Apparently this spot was well known for its weeping willow trees. An old poem tells of the young leaves of the willow, which used to announce the coming of spring.

There are two ponds on the property. In the Genji Pond the lotus flowers are white, in honor of the Genji. The lotus in the Heike Pond on the left are red, the color of the Heike-the Taira clan. The Genji Pond has three islands which represent prosperity, while the Heike Pond has four islands, which represent death and destruction. At the time I didn’t know any of this at the time. I had to do a little digging into the significance. All I knew at the time was that they were beautiful full of large koi and carp that for 200 yen you could get a little bag of pellets to feed them. Apparently the turtles that share the pond with the fish know this as well and came right up to the rock shore happily to smile and pose for photos. And if you actually buy the pellets, the pigeons will also have no problem approaching you when they spot that little white bag… or landing on your shoulder…. or head… all at once.

After a day of walking in the heat and drizzle we found our way back to the train station, caught the correct train back AND got off at the correct station. We were even smart enough to get back to the base from the station.

 

Special thanks to Kyle for being the official photographer. I didn’t have any pockets to keep my phone handy walking around in the rain. Besides, we all know he’s the professional cellphone photographer.

 

Tipsy on a Tuesday Afternoon

When the Sailor sent me an email from Puerto Rico where he was for over 2 months for relief work after hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria saying, “WE GOT ORDERS TO JAPAN,” I was ecstatic. WE were ecstatic. What an adventure! A tropical island, completely different culture with a long complex and interesting history and we would be right on Tokyo Bay. We both immediately talked about climbing Mount Fuji, seeing the historic cities with their shrines and temples and listing all the surround countries that suddenly became long weekend trips. We were like little kids talking about summer camp. But no one really warns you about the process of moving over seas and what it entails so let me enlighten you. IT FUCKING SUCKS!

It sucks if you don’t have a perfect health history (check) and if you have pets that you can’t (or in my case re-home – check) and I can not even imagine it with children. It gets infinitely more frustrating and draining with each seemingly mundane aspect of your life. You think you have an idea of packers coming into your house and wrapping up all your stuff and taking it away… for 2+ months and living out of duffle bags. Eating on paper plates and plastic flatware with dollar store pots and pans in an empty house. Going to work and coming home to an air mattress and 2 lawn chairs. Then it happens and you realize, “Ummmm, this feels shitty,” because suddenly your home is empty and doesn’t really feel like home.

You think you understand that you’ll have so many days to relax, travel and visit your family and friends before boarding a very long flight but, suddenly 30 days of leave to do all that blows by and your standing at an airport waving goodbye. Funny, though no one ever really talks about flights getting delayed or canceled and having t frantically call your ride back at 3am to come lug you, your 4 giant duffle bags and 2 yowling scared shitless cats BACK to your family’s house again. Yeah, that happens. More frequently than I was aware. Then 24 hours later you do the same choked tearful goodbyes to the same family.

Then suddenly you’re watching a stranger wheel your two pets away to be loaded into the belly of a plane where they will be for the next 12+ hours and you cry some more because, they don’t friggen know. You know they don’t know and there isn’t anyway to tell an animal, “It’s fine. You’ll be fine. It will be over in no time.” You can barely explain that to a small child. You just see their sad little furry faces wide-eyed from the back of their cage looking at you like, “So this is how it ends” and your heart breaks because you haven’t slept in almost 36 hours because your original flight yesterday was delayed for 24 hours and you’re stressed and nervous. And the little girl whose dog is riding on the same cart with your cats is crying saying, “It’s ok boy. You’ll be OK. I love you. I’ll be waiting for you Japan.” And it’s just too much so, you cry too. Yeah, that was me.

No one warns you that as soon as you get here, all you’re going to do is run all over the damn base; apply for housing, immediately choose from a list of houses sight unseen or immediately know you want to live off base, then you’re on your own, 72 hours to report your pets entry onto base because they are under temporary quarantine, schedule a quarantine appointment to have the 12 hour quarantine lifted, get a Japanese phone, get a mail box, go to a week long area briefing, make an appointment to have your household goods delivered, make an appointment for a pre-move in inspection of your new home… It’s constant. It’s unrelenting. And you walk everywhere because you don’t have a car and it’s hotter than than Hades and more humid than his balls. Even if you did have a car, you couldn’t drive it because they drive on the left side of the road here (or if your egocentric, the “wrong side”) and all the traffic signs are in Japanese.

So you get your house. For us, since it was our first time in Japan and our first time living abroad, we chose base housing. Well, Kyle chose our house. Without me. I was salty for about 30 seconds. Then I didn’t give a shit because I just didn’t want to have to live in the Navy Lodge (aka Hotel on base) for months. When he went to the housing office early one morning to see what he had to do to request housing, they directed him to a house brief. After they told him he had to choose base housing or off base housing. Off base housing had another briefing. If he chose base housing then they had a list of base homes available right now for him to choose from. If he didn’t choose right then, the next guy from the briefing in rank got a choice and when he brought me back with him the list would be shorter. The next guy in line that the Sailor just happened to out rank smiled. He knew what he was choosing if the Sailor passed to come ask me. So he chose and a high-rise called Satsuki Heights became our new home for 3 years. Sight. Un. Seen.

Then you have a choice, pay to continue to stay in the hotel until your household goods are delivered, pay to rent furniture and shit to live in your new place until your stuff is delivered or move into an empty home and rough it on the floor until your shit arrives. One guess what we chose.

So you’ve made it this far. All your appointments are made, and you’ve begun attending the week long area briefing classes that basically spends the first 3 days telling you about the base, and reminding you that you’re living on a military installation so, ya know, don’t do stupid shit like talk about ships and what they are doing  and when. Oh and don’t get in fights at the bars or drive at all if you’ve had even one drink because the Japanese blood alcohol limit is .03% which is the rough equivalent of smelling a decent beer. During this time, they give you a sweet photocopy booklet to study for a written driving exam. Yes. It’s a booklet with all the new laws of how to drive on the left side of the road and what all the traffic signs mean. The translation is a little sketchy so the descriptions are… well, I was really glad for the pictures that accompanied the descriptions. On your final day of briefing you take the written exam if you want to get your SOFA license. BTW, SOFA is just a fancy acronym for status of forces agreement. Basically it’s just a host country (in our case Japan) agreeing that us foreigner living here for military purposes can get a quick license if we already have a US license, pass a set of simple tests proving we can handle the subtle differences (among maaaaany other things). There are 50 questions on the written and you need an 80% to pass. Here at Yokosuka they gave an incentive to really study. If you got 100% you get first choice of schedule availability for the driving exam. The Sailor assured me that he’d get a 100%. Needless to say, I was one of 6 that got 100% and he didn’t. HA! I haven’t taken the driving exam yet. I’m sure that will be complete fuckery. I’ll let you know how it goes.

If you’ve made it thus far without losing your shit, bravo. Sadly, thats about to change. Because now comes the delivery of your household goods. The Japanese movers are polite, nice, patient and effective as fuck. No matter how awesome they are thought, they can’t fix what the US packers and movers drop kicked across the country and on to a container ship. Some of your shit will get broken. If you’re lucky it will be a cheap clothes drying rack or small bowl that had seen better days anyway. If you’re unlucky your grandfather clock will be jacked up bad enough you don’t know how to fix it and the corner of your flat screen 3D TV will be broken off among other things. Yeah, it will make you mad. You will silently rage and if you’re like me you’ll shut down and take a nap on the couch surrounded by chaos. Then when the movers are done and you look around at all your stuff and wonder how in the hell you fit this much crap into a one bedroom apartment back home, you’ll crack open a delicious Coca Cola, chug a few swallows then tip in a shot or two of Sailor Jerry straight into the can and sit down to spew your woes of the last several weeks out online.

And that’s how I ended up tipsy on a Tuesday afternoon.

And That Brings Us to Today

It’s been a hot second since I’ve posted a new little ditty on here. Lets catch you up to speed on where we are at.

My domain expired. I had a friend helping me with the set up of this pointless endeavor and he had a new adorable wee bebe so we both spaced and some other person, for some god unknown reason, snatched it up and posted it for sale for $1500. I tracked down the new owner and contacted them via email explaining what the site previously was and how it came to expire. I heard nothing back from them. I’m not rich so I threw a tantrum and considered all my options for renaming this bitch. When I finally decided on a replacement, I went to buy the new domain but, bitterly I decided to see what the current asking price was for my old site. Miraculously it was back down to $14.99. Blessed be! I’d like to think my email to the owner had something to do with it. Most likely he realized that I wasn’t Neil Offerman (LOVE LOVE LOVE if only I was so lucky to be a fraction of the awesomeness of that genius of a man) promoting his book Paddle Your Own Canoe but, some whack-a-do that likes to overshare about her stupidity and cancer treatments. So I bought it back. Then tried to restore my old posts to find that I couldn’t but, I had some back ups that I was able to copy and paste into new posts (No, the “My First Brazilian Wax” post is still lost; sorry folks). So here we are.

The Sailor returned from Deployment. He was unscathed and sassy as ever. He even made it home for Christmas 2016 by the hair on his chiny chin chin.

I’m officially cancer free. Put that in your pipe and smoke it Satan.

Once I was declared cancer free I searched for a typical 9-5 job again. I was unsuccessful. Thanks Hampton Roads area. So I took a job with Starbucks to at least not have to work strictly evenings as a waitress.bartender. Not so surprisingly, I love the dang job. I goof off all day with people half my age and drink all the lattes I can handle on my breaks. Though, I’m not kidding about kids half my age. Just the other day I found a partner working at my store from another local store was BORN the fucking year I graduated high school. I literally could be his mom. And I died a little inside. I’m the oldest person at my store. I’ve even got 2 years on my boss. They call my grandma. I’m not even mad about it.

My hair is almost chin length. It grew back darker. Like a light brown. Wasn’t a fan. So I dyed it myself and turned it orange. My lovely friend and hair stylist fixed it and dyed it a pretty platinum blonde. I’m harkening my youth. It’s Christan’s color circa 1999. I’m a fan for now.

The Sailor got sent down to Texas for Hurricane Harvey Relief… Then the US Virgin Islands for Hurricane Irma… Then Puerto Rico for Hurricane Maria. He was gone for over 90 days. It was like a mini deployment. He missed our planned vacation (which is why we RARELY plan anything and just decide one day to hit the road and go on an adventure) and the laundry he returned with was some of the funkiest to date. I was not a fan of the entire situation but, I had basic amenities like clean water and power so I kept my bitching to myself and took my time off to drive up to visit family in Ohio for a week. It wasn’t Disney World like we had planned but, hey, whaddaya gon do right?

The Sailor got new orders. Konnichiwa bitches, we’re moving to Japan. June 2018 we’ll be packing the cats up and headed west. Way west. We had hoped to get back to the Pacific Northwest but, fuck it, the Navy overshot by several thousand miles. But, again, whaddaya gonna do, right? I’m looking forward to copious amounts of Sushi and Ramen going in my gob but dreading shipping the cats and driving on the other side of the road.

When The Sailor got his written new orders he was A.) In The Virgin Islands and B.) noticed my name was spelled wrong. I had 60 days to get my oversees pre-screening completed and I was on my own. Let me tell you, YOU NEED ALL 60 DAMN DAYS. I couldn’t get the Navy to fix the misspelling of my name in 60 days as hard as I tried. I finagled getting the screening done anyway. I did find out though that the Sailor had been TRYING to get it fixed since February of 2016 when he first noticed it. 4 months. It took 4 more months of me losing my shit in various Naval Offices and my husband faxing paper work that he had to sign from the ship off the shore of Puerto Rico and finally when he arrived back home and started to follow up at my constant badgering about it. Then they put me on medical hold be cause, cancer. Always fucking cancer. Apparently the Navy gets nervous sending people with the C word (even if previously with the big C) overseas. So they wouldn’t issues updated written orders until I was medically cleared. Which I got after my Oncologist jumped through a couple paperwork hoops for me and I followed up every other week. It was a whole thing that drove me to the brink of insanity. Had my blog been up and working at the time this paragraph would be several posts and the word fuck in all its forms would occur much more liberally.

We took an extra week off before our Ohio Christmas trip to hit up Disney World since we missed out planned fall trip. It was amazing. But crowded. And the lines were epic compared to when we go during off season times. And they don’t do military discounts from Mid-November to like Mid January so it was hella expensive. And I was actually really overwhelmed a lot of the time because of all the people. And when I finally had to pick a souvenir for myself I fucking wigged out and gave up and said, “I don’t need anything!” before storming out of the billionth place we walked through for the millionth time because I had a fucking panic attack in the over crowded, over stocked gift store. I cried. The Sailor took me to a Sunglass Hut that was on the way out and bought me a pair of fancy, polarized, folding Ray Bans before we left Disney Springs. As we walked out, he patted my arm and said, “Now you have your souvenir babe.” The Sailor likes to fix things for me, quietly and without much fanfare. He’s good like that.

Our friends got orders to Italy. I’m super jealous. Don’t get me wrong, Japan is going to be an awesome 3 year adventure but, FUCKING ITALY! Think of the wine and pasta those bitches are going to have at their fingertips.

I found out my cholesterol has doubled in the last year. I’m assuming it’s the spike in whole milk lattes that I’ve started to ingest multiple times a day at my job at the Bucks. I’ve started using Nonfat milk grudgingly. I tried Almond milk but, I just couldn’t. That stuff is gross yo.

The Sailor has developed a serious obsession with watches. Like really fancy expensive fucking watches. Meanwhile I bought a bodycon black mini skirt for $5 at Charlotte Russe for work and wondered if it would be cheaper to buy fabric and make one (it’s not). We can all tell who the truly frugal one is versus Champagne Dreams and Caviar Wishes.

The battery in the Prius finally died. 11 years old,  and it finally gave in. The replacement was like $300. It’s located in the back buried in a corner under the spare tire space. The Sailor got to wear a head lamp and sit in the squished hatchback in our dark parking garage to finagle the old one out and new one in. I just stood there and watched. Occasionally I handed him things so technically, I helped.

Tonight I made Tatertot Casserole for dinner. Because nothing says low cholesterol like ground beef sautéed in cream of celery then baked under a layer of tatertots and melted cheddar. Yolo bitchados.

And that pretty much brings you up to now give or take give or take a few barefoot-cat-puke episodes, a couple mini nervous break downs over minor occurrences and one major melt down when my Student Loans jacked back up to their pre-cancer-reduced monthly payment amounts. Fucking student loans. They ruin everything, am I right?

I Went Camping (Original Post 08/25/16)

Last week I spent a few hours here and there preparing. I got all the equipment out of storage. I checked everything was in working order. I planned meals and shopped for provisions. I organized and made lists and packed. I took 3 slow days off from work and prepared to spend them camping. 2 days and 2 nights in the rolling mountains of Shenandoah, solo. I wanted to spend some quiet time away from home surrounded by trees and scenic vistas. I wanted to lay in a hammock and read endlessly while listening to the wind in the leaves of the trees around me. I wanted to do it before my next surgery and before the threat of cold nights were peppered with the possibility of snow. Mostly, I wanted to go because it’s something the Sailor and I usually do together and I miss him. You see, he’s deployed right now for 7 long months. We have about 4.5 left to go. He’s somewhere over on the other side of the world camping out on a hot African beach or floating around in some foreign sea and I’m here in Virginia and it sucks. I thought maybe a little short foray into the mountains “like normal” might make it feel more “normal” even with him gone but, it didn’t. Making a fire at night didn’t hold the fun and excitement it should have because his pyro ass wasn’t the one making it. Sitting next to the orange glow didn’t warm my soul like it usually does because there wasn’t another chair next to me staring at it.  So I laid in my hammock read books warmed by the sun and rocked by the breeze. I knit and colored. At dark, I stared at the fire eating sandwiches. And when I laid down in my tent I looked up at the same stars that hopefull he got to look at 8 hours earlier and let myself be sad  knowing that missing his stupid face is OK. And driving 4 hours away to to escape all his things in the little apartment we share together to cope with it is ok too.

Now Eat Your Chemo Like a Good Cancer Patient (Original Post 05/20/16)

Yesterday I had one of many routine follow ups with my Oncologist. I will have these regular appointments for a while; at different intervals for years. Every one feels like I’m playing Russian Roulette. Will this be the time they tell me they need t run more tests? That my blood work shows markers that the cancer is still here or has come back? A sinking feeling always lurks deep in the pit of my stomach every time I sit in the exam room after the nurse leaves from taking my vitals while I wait for the Doctor to come see me. My last few follow ups had been uneventful but yesterday, was different.

My doctor came in and after the usual “How are you feeling?” and “Yes that ache/pain/weirdness is normal,” he began to discuss my tumor that was was evaluated after they took my jubblies off. It still had some live cancer cells; under 1cm but, still there. This meant that not only was my cancer of the aggressive nature but, that it was pretty resilient. The types and doses of chemo that they gave me should have killed the entire tumor based on its size. But it didn’t. Now I had the option to take chemo pills. Pills that are essentially chemo that I’d swallow. A chemical that I would ingest and that then would change its chemical make up to attack any (possibly) remaining cells floating around directly and stop them from growing as well as reducing their size. They would be a precaution. They haven’t found any cancer else where in my body but, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a rouge cell floating out there somewhere that was one of those damn resilient bitches that fended off the chemo secretly.

There was a catch though. Because of the amount of the still living cells found, I was in a grey area. Too small to be a definite yes but, enough that it made my doctor raise an eyebrow. Ultimately, it was my choice. As usual, I didn’t want to make a choice so, I asked my doc “What do you recommend?” and my lovely British Oncologist said, “I think we have one shot to cure this. You’re young. We can lower the percentage of a reoccurrence….”

So Xeloda pills it is. 2 pills, twice a day for 2 weeks on then one week off for 6 months. Six. Fucking. Months. With this precaution comes side effects. Lovely chemo side effects. Well, donkey balls on that. I was officially having a bad day while reading that list in the drug pamphlet. My lovely chemo nurse that I happened upon in the hall on my way out asked how I was. When I told her about the pills she reassured me that they list ALL possible side effects because they have to. Then she proceeded to go over what I could most likely expect; Possible dehydration (so drink a lot of water), maybe a loss of appetite, head aches, joint/muscle/body aches, dry skin, dry scaly hands and feet, red/painful/swollen/numb hands and feet, diarrhea or constipation, dizziness, tiredness, trouble sleeping, mouth and throat sores, upset stomach, stomach aches and possibly vomiting. The usual suspects with most chemo. All that sounds like a long list but, it eliminated quite a bit from the list on the pamphlet. Most importantly, she said I wouldn’t lose the short locks that I have lovingly grown back on my head (it’s very very unlikely because NOTHING is 100% in cancer med land). Bless her heart, she knows that barfing has been my biggest dread throughout all my treatment. So she offered to call me in a new prescription of a quick dissolve version of one of my previous anti-nausea meds. Just in case I was at work when a way of barftasticness swept over me, I could  pop one under my tongue and get the fastest relief.

I’m 24 hours into taking the little buggers and so far, I’ve been fine. A little bit of weirdness, not in my stomach and not quite nausea but… weirdness. At the moment, I’m chalking it up to being nervous about what’s to come. I mean, my joints already hurt like a motherfucker, to the point that if I sit for more than 5 minutes when I stand up and walk like a gimpy robot for a few minutes until the all joint juices get flowing again. How much worse could that get? Complete immobility? I’d welcome a little loss of appetite. I mean, all I do is want to stuff my face. Not having that constant urge to graze would be nice temporarily. My peripheral neuropathy just recently started to wear off so, if that returns, no biggie. Been there, done that. I’ve always had trouble sleeping and subsequently spent most of my waking hours battling tiredness. Check, check. So my biggest concerns lie with the gastrointestinal issues, shitty uncomfortable skin conditions and either shitting my pants or not being able to shit at all.

I was so close to being “done” with treatments. I got confirmation that I didn’t need radiation. SCORE! So all that I still had on my plate was my final surgery which my Plastic Surgeon assured me was way less invasive and painful than the first. Basically, I was getting ready to put this bullshit in my rearview and carry on smartly with life. Getting back to normal. Alas, I have 6 months more of bullshit in the form of oval white pills. Perhaps the coming months won’t bring pain and discomfort like I’m imagining. Here’s to hoping it’s just business as usual just with a new alarmed reminder on my phone every 12 hours reminding to eat my chemo like a good little cancer patient.

Today I Grated Cheese and Cut Off My Toenail (Original Post 04/13/16)

I always buy blocks of cheese and grate it to have fresh shredded cheese when I need it. It just seems to melt better and has a nicer texture. For the last almost 5 weeks I haven’t been able to do that. I just simply didn’t have the strength.

For the Sailor’s birthday, (2 weeks after my surgery) I wanted to make him his favorite homemade macaroni and cheese. I have a food processor with a grating blade that I pulled out to shred a block of cheese but, I couldn’t find one small integral piece. I searched every drawer, cupboard and shelf in the kitchen multiple times with no reward. At some point in the hubbub, the Sailor came in the kitchen to see what the racket was about only to find me crying at the counter staring at the block of cheese. He searched for the part as well promising to find it but, he didn’t have luck on his side either. So I sobbed and blubbered into his shoulder as he hugged me about how I couldn’t grate the fucking block of cheese because I didn’t have the arm strength yet. I couldn’t even make a simple dinner. I felt worthless in that moment. Always wanting to fix my problems, he grabbed the hand grater and offered to “be the muscle” and shred the cheese. The man who’s cooking repertoire consists literally only of a bowl of cereal, instant oatmeal packets and ramen in the as seen on TV microwave ramen cooker, offered to grate cheese for me on his birthday for his birthday dinner. I just had to tell him which side go the grater to use and how to hold the block of cheddar so that he didn’t grate his knuckles or fingers in the process.

I thought of that evening today as I stared at the block of Monterey Jack cheese that I wanted to put a portion of on my baked potato for dinner. I could hack away at it with a knife slicing off slices and cutting them into as small of pieces as I could. Or I could pull out the grater and shred it the way I really wanted so that it would melt nice and gooey and even. So out the grater came. I grated not just enough for my dinner but the rest of the block just because I could. A small victory in my recuperation.

I started off the week with 2 easy shifts at work. I was worried that my chest would start to ache or that I wouldn’t be strong enough to carry the thick heavy diner plates. Turns out, I was fine. Other than my feet hurting like a mofo, I was fine. So I picked up 3 more shifts to help me drudge myself a little out of the financial hole I have felt to perpetually be in and occupy my time while the Sailor is out at sea.

Today was my third of five shifts. My big toenails were sore. If you are not aware, my fantastic last chemo rounds turned parts of my large toe nails black and I have been just waiting for them to fall off. The one has slowly been lifting away over the weeks. It’s gross. I hate it, I hate them.

After dinner and a hot shower, I sat down to try and file them down as low as possible in the hopes that they wouldn’t continue to be irritated by being in actual socks and shoes for 6 hours at work. So I worked on the lesser of the 2 evil zombie toes trimming and filing until as much of the front lifted part was gone. Just a few millimeters really.

I set out to approach the next one to just make it match. It was gross, appearing to be attached only down near the cuticle. I can only image my scrunched, squinty, pinched looking facial expressions as i trimmed and filed and scrapped black old blood out from under the floating putrid nail. I couldn’t stop. This fucking nasty ass black nailed zombie toe had been irritating me and mocking me since December when it first showed signs of turning. Fuck this toe. I hacked and filed and scraped until I felt a ping of recognition of attachment on one side. I stared down at the lopsided nub that was once my toenail. The cuticle bed that the nail had previously been attached to but, for the last 3 to 4 months had just been floating above was soft and pink and a little wrinkly from the shower I had taken earlier. It reminded me of the infant rats we used to have to feed the python in my high school biology class. It felt almost good. The other side was still sore, but resembled a normal nail covered toe. This one looked broken, sad and a little weird but, it felt better.

I knew the last nub that was still hanging on would inevitably get caught on a blanket or sheet or my sweat pants so, I cleaned it one last time and slapped a bandaid on that bitch. I’m sitting here now wiggling that stupid rat baby toe while I smile because, it feels so much better now that I cut my toenail off. At this point, fuck wearing sandals this summer. I’m just happy my damn toe isn’t throbbing anymore.