Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Diagnosis Bronchitis: A Tale of Survival

It happens to me every year. My deep, chronic cough finally gets the best of me and turns into the real deal: bronchitis. I've had this charming condition since the fourth grade, when I caught my first bout of it from Kevin Scott during craft time. I thought his cough sounded cool, and sure enough, a day or two after we worked on hooking that yarn rug together, I had a nifty hack of my own. During moments of waking sanity this week, I have chronicled my harrowing journey as a lesson in survival.

Diagnosis Bronchitis, Day One: After waking up at 3 a.m. feeling like someone shot me in the chest with a cannonball and then coughing most of the night, I shuffle to the bathroom and somehow manage to get ready for church without falling asleep on top of my flat iron. We proceed to church where I down a fistful of cough drops and mints and employ deep meditative breathing to make every effort to stifle my hacking, only to have the poor woman sitting in front of me tell me she hoped my cold got better as we were leaving. So much for stifling. I am sure she was shocked to turn around and find that I was not, in fact, a 75 year-old chain smoker as my cough suggests.

Day Two: I spent the night having some serious psychedelic dreams due to my extra strength cough syrup, and awaken to find (very disappointingly) that I am still sick and my body has not managed to heal itself in its sleep, as I had hoped. I stagger to the couch and wrap myself in an old comforter like an emphysema burrito. Key accomplishments for today include successfully ordering lunch online, brushing my teeth at 4:30 p.m., and washing a piece of fruit, only to decide I was too tired to eat it and then replacing said fruit in favor of a Lucky Charms treat.

To my amazement, I was still alive by nightfall, so I curled up with my hot mug of TheraThisTastesSoBadItMustBeEffective to watch this week's Walking Dead. I am taking comfort in the fact that I can relate to the dead people walking, until my hubby points out that at least the zombies are not barking like seals and coughing up their lungs. I pour myself more cough syrup and head off to trip the light fantastic in dreamland.

Day Three: Upon waking, I am encouraged. Although I still feel like there is an anvil on my chest, I can now breathe through my nose, which is a major milestone in my recovery. It's amazing how your spirits soar when you no longer feel like a climber on Mount Everest who needs to return to base camp. I stagger back to my post, i.e. couch, and let the healing powers of Diet Coke wash over my battered soul. I decide against logging the approximately 37 Hall's cough drops I have already eaten today into My Fitness Pal. Haven't I suffered enough?

I have not walked the dog in three days and I begin to fear mutiny. Yesterday he seemed to sense my illness and was somewhat sympathetic; today there is an air of hostility about that little fur ball. He doesn't seem to be tossing his toys toward me in a playful manner but rather in a squeak-my-stuffed-rhino-toy-or-else behavior. I placate him with a chew toy and doze off on the couch. He hasn't mauled me in my sleep, so I take that as a good omen. Treasure your health, people.

Day Four: Wow. I woke up this morning after a full twelve-hour sleep and do not completely feel like death warmed over. Granted, I do not feel spectacularly alive, either, but I will take this as a step in the right direction. I even manage to make myself a healthy bowl of oatmeal for breakfast instead of the Toaster Scramble junk food I have been devouring during this episode of the plague.

Mid-morning arrives and I manage to take the dog for half a walk. Maybe that will stop the side-eye he has been throwing me for the last two days. Later, in an ambitious moment, I put in a P90X3 workout DVD and then promptly sit down and watch the people on the screen get to it. I have expended more than enough energy already today, plus I am sure that a ten minute coughing fit counts as cardio. Whew. Survival of the fittest can sure make a girl tired.

I am now dressed and fully in an upright position. I (for the most part) feel well enough that it's time to go out in search of food. And that means a trip to Walmart. The good news is that I will probably not be the only Walmart shopper with an infectious disease.

However, once I sit down on the couch, fatigue sets in and as I finish my fiftieth coughing jag of the day, I realize that Walmart can wait. I decide to forage for food in our increasingly empty kitchen instead, and settle on a slice of cold leftover pizza and some Baked Cheetohs. The path to wellness begins with good nutrition, after all. For scientific purposes, here is a chart of the healthy eats I have consumed over the last few days:

Sustenance is key during the black lung. Never underestimate the healing powers of Double Noodle soup, Chex Mix, and Little Debbie snack cakes. The fruit and rice cakes can wait until your health has been restored. Carb load like your life depends on it.

I make the executive decision to spend the rest of my afternoon getting the house in order. The first order of business is to clear the magazine rack. There are four fashion magazines that have piled up and will need to be read immediately, and I have also noticed an episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills collecting dust in the TiVo. It's my domestic duty as Susie Homemaker to keep it clean around here. Tomorrow, I will conquer Walmart. And after that, the world. Right after the cough syrup wears off and I can feel my feet again.

 It's been a food stamp week so far, my friends.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Go for the Gold

Sunday marks my very favorite part of the Winter Olympics: the closing ceremony. And it's not because of the majesty and splendor of the event; it's because the long, mundane thing will finally be over. While I appreciate that Judge Judy has been on hiatus during the Sochi telecasts (thank you, women's ski jumping), Days of Our Lives is being preempted today and thus, my Lean Cuisine dining experience tarnished.

Clint noticed earlier this week that there was a serious lack of evening programming. Our Tivo is empty and a handful of our favorite shows haven't been on for a few weeks, because we are supposed to be titillated by watching NBC's coverage of things like the team relay luge. Really? I have an acquaintance who said she has stayed away from Facebook during this year's games, for fear that someone will spoil the results before she has had a chance to watch. I secretly hope that, in a moment of weakness, she logs on and inadvertently finds out who won the couples ice dancing competition. Boom. Moment of suspense ruined. Because if you find ice dancing competitions suspenseful, you deserved to have your moment ruined.

Don't get me wrong, my love of all things patriotic makes me want to like the Olympics. Maybe it's because I'm from the South and all these winter sports seem strange to me. But the last time I found the Winter Olympics exciting was when Tonya Harding "allegedly" (puh-lease, Tonya, we all know you were in on it, you might as well take credit) had Nancy Kerrigan clubbed in the knee before the 1994 Figure Skating Championships and even then, that was pre-Olympics shenanigans. I love Apollo Ohno, but frankly, his most exciting performances were during his season of Dancing with the Stars. The man performed a hip hop routine blindfolded to "Bust a Move"--take that, Olympic speed skating. The winter games seem to lack the drama, that thrill of victory/agony of defeat suspense that makes it exciting to watch. Think: Kerri Strug sticking her vault landing despite her sprained ankle in the 1996 Olympics while her coach, Bela Karolyi, yells in his thick Romanian accent from the sidelines, "You can do it, Kerri!" Now that is pure gold.

You know a sports event is less than fascinating when the most engrossing topics of conversation are a) the shady accommodations at the Olympic Village, and b) dubious clothing choices of different teams at different stages of the event. By far the most interesting things to come out of Sochi this year were the tales from hotel rooms still under construction, without doorknobs, light bulbs, curtains, and in one case, without flooring. Arriving at your residence for the next three weeks to find that you can't drink the water and there are wild, stray dogs as your roommates is when the real games begin. Unlike all the Today Show coverage of ice hockey and Russian dancing, hotel hell is what I wanted to know about.

The second topic that captured attention in this absorbing event was apparel. First, we all had to discuss (once again this Olympics) how horrible team USA's choice of opening ceremonies outfits were. For some strange reason, Ralph Lauren designed our athletes some patriotic Cosby sweaters and sent them out into the world stage, looking like they were decked out for an Olympic tacky sweater competition--although, that would be a more interesting event than "skeleton," which turned out to be a Winter Olympic version of what we Americans know as the Slip and Slide. My friend Katie summed it up best when she said at least they were actually made in the USA this time, now they have to look good, too?

Beyond those go-for-the-gold cardigans, the Norwegian curling team brought some Olympic exhilaration of their own, in the form of their once-again outrageous pants. Yes, we are talking about a sports contest centuries of years old whose excitement is now found primarily in (spectacularly) tacky pants. I actually like curling, partly because of the gaudiness, and also because I enjoy anything that will get a man to pick up a broom and get to sweeping. Ladies, get yourselves on of those discs they chase down the ice, put it on your kitchen floor, and let the mister try his hand at cleaning, er, curling.

I have to wonder if the games might be more appealing to the masses if the events were a little more relatable. I mean, most Americans are competitive, but very few of us are athletic. Factor in the obscurity of some of the sports and the whole thing becomes less than must-see. What if, in the spirit of modern laziness, we added a few new events to capture public interest? It is the winter games, so maybe a professional snowball fight? Channeling the Russian atmosphere, perhaps a vodka drinking event? After everything we managed to scarf down during the snow storm in Charlotte last week, I also think a binge eating marathon would be appropriate (bonus round: have participants try to squeeze into a pair of Spanx for church the day after the competition. Cross-country skiing is a breeze compared to that level of exertion).

Regardless of whether you revel in the relay biathlon, are fascinated by figure skating, or find yourself half-interested in the ski half-pipe, the 2014 Winter Olympics are coming to a close. The Jamaican bobsled team managed to come in 29th out of 30 this year, so there's something to celebrate. That, and the fact that Wheel of Fortune will return to its regularly scheduled programming next week. So long, Sochi! Don't let the (broken) hotel room door hit you on the way out.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

How Do I Love Thee?

It's almost upon us. This week, VD strikes couples across the nation--Valentine's Day, that is. It's true that I love a holiday, although some memories of Valentine's past still linger and bring out the skeptic in me (long sleeve t-shirt for your Valentine, anyone? Yes, it happened to me). Flowers will die and chocolates will still be stuck to your thighs when spring finally springs up, so might I suggest some heartwarming prose for your beloved this year?

Remembering that my friend Ellen read "How Do I Love Thee?" at my wedding a dozen years ago, I thought I might take a trip down memory lane and rewrite my own version for this romantic occasion. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, you got nothing on me. Allow me to share my version which captures the domestic bliss of my relationship, and perhaps inspire you to write your own:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
Our couch can reach, when we run Netflix marathons and hide from sight.

I love thee when you let me rant and rave
except when you say, "don't be so dramatic"--that one's not my fave.

I love thee doing dishes and fixing things around the house.
I love thee squishing bugs for me, or ridding us of that mouse.

I love thee as stubbornly as you can surely be
I love thee for the patience you have, a requirement for living with me.

I love thee freely, as long as you concede that I'm always right.
I love thee purely, even though you hog the covers almost every night.

I love thee as deeply as the ever falling snow
I love thee like a gold digger who has found a man with lots of dough.

I love thee with the frenzy of a Neiman Marcus clearance sale
I love thee through the moments when you act like a typical clueless male.

I love thee with a passion typically reserved for fried foods
In my old yoga pants, and in dress-up clothes.

I love thee with a love that, unlike my keys, I will never lose,
Even when you snore or show up late. I love thee with the morning breath,
the messes made, the secrets kept. And if God chose,
I shall but love thee better after death--
just don't test me or it might be an untimely one.
So there you have it. Sweets for the sweet, and oh-so-practical poetic charm for my Valentine. I'm not one for mushy stuff, but you might as well embrace the sentiment and tell someone you love them, anyway you chose. And remember, that pain in the butt might just be the sweet sting of Cupid's arrow. Happy Valentine's Day!

Just kidding, darling!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Have Mercy

I love my church. And I should, because it took us years to finally find a church home after we moved to Charlotte. Clint and I spent many a Sunday going around town like a religious version of Goldilocks--Churchylocks if you will--saying this church is too big, this church is too small, this one is too far, this one is too casual. And then we finally found the one that was just right.

We typically leave discussing what a great sermon we heard, or what an awesome choir we have (and okay, on particularly hungry occasions, where we are headed for lunch). But this last Sunday...was something else. Never in my life have I seen people act the way the folks who sat around us were acting. I felt like I was on some bizarre episode of Church Bloopers and Congregational Jokes.

If you want to move about like you have ants in your pants, there is no doubt a worship service just for you--somewhere. I happen to know for a fact that there is a contemporary service back in the fellowship hall where you can mill around eating cookies and drinking coffee while jamming to a Christian rock band. Nowadays there are so many different types of church services for just about any personality; I am sure you can find one where you can do the electric slide to Amazing Grace while wearing a boa constrictor around your neck like a rosary if that's what you really want. And that is great. Different strokes for different folks. You just can't enjoy that type of atmosphere in our almost hundred year-old sanctuary during formal morning worship. I don't come to your casual service and slap the cookie out of your hand, do I?

Bear in mind as you read this that all these shenanigans were happening within a group of only about six people. And what a three-ring circus these half dozen people managed! The adage "judge not, lest ye be judged" has come into my mind right now, so I would also like to add that I would never tell anyone what to do or what not to do during their worship experience. However, just to get it off my chest, I would like to offer some simple suggestions for church behavior that I thought went without saying.

As soon as we were seated, I notice the woman in front of me is texting. Her hot pink phone perfectly matched to her hot pink dress, she is holding the phone up like a hymnal and just typing away. Seriously? You know that I am not exactly a techie or anything, but I wholeheartedly believe you can talk to God without the aid of an iPhone. Can't we all put our beloved mobile devices away for just a little while at church? Back in the 90s, we didn't bring our Gameboys or Walkmans in, so you can wait an hour to send that very important text (winky face).

The worship service begins, and now it's time to sing. So how about when we stand to sing a hymn, do not turn around and face the people sitting behind you, even if it is so that you can wave to someone you know up in the balcony. While I do have the voice of an opera soprano (ahem), this is a bit more of an audience than the average churchgoer is comfortable with entertaining. Further, don't continue standing in their faces and doing your little miniature wave for the next four stanzas. Face front--or as my friend Jen tells her boys during Mass, eyes on the prize!

Kids can get bored during the duration of the hour; it is understandable. However, to keep them entertained and well behaved, it might not be the best idea to pack your child 217 colored pencils in a large Ziploc freezer bag, and then allow the child to loudly paw through said bag all service long, like a dog digging up a bone. Also, maybe tell the kid to try not to be so conspicuous with the drawing. Because the little angel behind me was scribbling like someone having a psychotic break writing a ransom note.

Surely, in a world gone mad, elderly people in church are the voices of reason. The greatest generation knows how to conduct themselves and be reverent, yes? Sadly, not this Sunday. In the middle of the sermon, Grams behind me loudly unzips her purse and begins to clean it out. She finally pauses, and I breathe a sigh of relief thinking she is done sorting and organizing her rain bonnet, cough drops, and heart pills, when I realize she has now pulled out a tube of hand cream. Nana then proceeds to apply, rub, reapply, rub, rub, for what seemed like a purgatory eternity. On the upside, I am sure her hands now feel baby soft. And I am having chest pains.

If there is anyone out there who is unfamiliar, pretty much every Sunday morning service lasts for an hour. Always has, always will. You cannot speed worship at your own pace and beat the clock on this one. If you don't have the time, then don't come. But especially do not keep stepping out in the aisle in an attempt to persuade the rest of your family to join you in making for the exit. The little old man behind me tried to break for the door not one, not two, but four times. Take a load off, Pop Pop. You aren't going anywhere because Granny is still back there moisturizing and little Jimmy is finishing up the final color palette on that ransom note.

On our way to the car, Clint asks me if I noticed the gentlemen sitting beside him. Apparently, this fine fellow spent the bulk of the service rubbing his pants together, as if trying to create enough friction to start a campfire (I have heard people say they are "on fire" for the Lord, but this one leaves me baffled). Amazingly, with all of the other hubbub I was drowning in, I missed the Sir Pants On Fire. Believe me when I tell you that my mother could have stopped and/or killed all of those people with one patented Look. It worked to keep my brother and me in line all those years.

My biggest concern as we left was getting a good eye on these people to make sure I could recognize them and never sit near them ever, ever again. So if you see a group of parishioners with a hot pink cell phone, a bag of colored pencils, and a Costco value size tube of hand cream who look like they are getting ready to make an early exit, do yourself a favor and find another pew. And Lord: have mercy.