Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Not In The Cards

Cardophobia~n. the absolute fear and dislike of greeting cards and/or the selection of these cards. adj~cardophobic: having cardophobia.

I am a cardophobe.

Welcome to my admission...My rant, if you will, about my feelings on the GREETING CARD.

I am blessed to have an amazing, loving, affectionate family. I also have thoughtful, caring friends. These people in my life have an amazing ability to present, on-time, even, the perfect greeting card for every.single.occasion.

These lovely folded notes of love and gratitude find their way into my home, my mailbox, my fireplace mantle, and are lined up almost on a weekly basis, depending on who's birthday it is, who in my family is being celebrated, who might be feeling under the weather, who had their haircut, who needed a "hug across the miles."

My mom and sister are the true culprits for my illness.

My amazing mother has ALWAYS been a card giver. She usually pre-plans her month and has a stack of cards on her shelf in the kitchen, all filled out, some in envelopes, already addressed and stamped, ready to go to the recipient. (Don't even get me started on her uncanny gift-wrapping ability, that just might send me to the e.r.)

Then there is my sister, who can find the MOST perfectly worded, humorous card, sometimes "just for fun," or because "she couldn't resist," and sends it days before the actual event. The pressure that I feel to live up to the card-giving-bar is sometimes insurmountable.

This pressure had led me to, at times, forgoing the card giving altogether. And that led to what my mother says, has ruined the card-buying/giving experience for her. Well, at least when she tries to buy cards for me.

I tried for years to find the perfect cards for my parents, grandparents, sister and friends. On Mother's Day, Father's Day, birthdays, anniversaries, you name it...

After years of buying cards that started...

"For my Mother, On her Birthday..."

"Today and every day..."


So not what I would really say, face to face, to tell the people that I love that...well...I love them! And I appreciate them!

But I would stand in front of the imposing card walls, going cross-eyed from reading hundreds of cards, getting lame from reaching up and bending down, getting more and more frustrated as I would finally find a decent card, but no envelope to fit. Or I realize I bought the same card the year before...Or my sister probably had...And inevitably I would have to pee, or worse, and I am left racing out of the store, irritated, sweating, and...cardless.

I'm not so mushy that I want to represent my feelings with gold, scrolled lettering with a picture of a stream in the forest at sunset...

But not so "insensitive" that I would select a card that tells someone else that THEY are the lucky ones for knowing me, or having me for a child/sister, or tell them that "although I WANTED to give them the perfect gift...blahblahblah...Here's your [bleeping] card..."



People buy these?

And yet, I have stood in mobs of people, on the Saturday before Mother or Father's Day, doing the dance of card selection, almost getting into rumbles with people who go for the same card that I want, watching some people pass through the crowd and reach over, and without even opening the thing, pluck their greeting from the millions of greetings and go on their merry way. You stand in the line of strangers, quietly reading, replacing, reading, replacing...some people sniffing with emotion, others chuckling, moving wordlessly, without direction from anyone, from section to section...feeling the pressure as the person beside you finds "the one," and proudly leaves the group of forlorn searchers...the card-dance

I mean, the whole industry is really quite a racket.

Now there are cards with music that plays when you open them.

I heard Willie Nelson.

I heard the Wiggles.

I heard bodily functions blurting upon opening some.

Some are mushy.

Some are religious.

Some are kind of funny.

None say "BUP" or "NANNY," but some say, "POPPA" or "GAGGA." If you don't call your grandmother one of these terms of endearment, you're SOL and have to settle for "Grandmother...You're The Best!" Or you have to re-design the front with a sharpie to ensure proper address...

And let's chat about the prices...

At 5 or 6 bucks a pop, If you are lucky enough to be surrounded by Mom's, Dad's and Grad's, you had better start an account to save for greeting cards alone!

This past Father's Day was one for the books...

My sister sent the.funniest.card. She sent it two weeks in advance. It would be impossible to match.

With this little gem, that had been proudly displayed for days before the actual holiday, in the back of my mind, I started on my quest for a card.

Now, anyone who knows me knows how much my dad means to me..to my whole family. I could go on and on about how much we love him. How much he does for us. Helps us. Brings happiness to us. How much we admire him...

He knows it, too.


Because I tell him so.

I tried to find a card in the grocery store.

No luck.

I knew I had to do it, and there was just one more option...


I hate to even say it out loud.

But I went in like I was going into battle.

I could feel the pressure mounting. I could hear the crowd humming like a swarm of bees around the corner..

There they were.

I promptly turned around and headed for the rest room.

Like a child forced to "pee before you go," I knew that without extra pressure, I may be able to quickly find the perfect card.

I was facing my phobia head-on.

The crowd had thinned a bit, and although the rows and rows and rows and rows were disheveled, with just a few stragglers, I felt my odds were decent...

"For My Father, With Love...Today and Always..."


"You'll Always Be My Hero..."

True, but played "Wind Beneath My Wings..."when I opened it.


"From Both of Us..."

Maybe...but that one was like, seven dollars! Plus, it had rainbows or something on it...

This was insane.

I thought about calling him and reading a few over the phone.

I finally found one, that was nice. It wasn't funny, like my sister's. It wasn't too mushy.

It had a picture of a fly-fisherman on it.


I was exhausted.

I am not out to destroy Hallmark.

I am not wishing to ruin the experience for all of you "perfect card finders."

I am simply stating my phobia.

I admire people that promptly pick and send the perfect messages.

It's not that I wouldn't spend ten dollars if I found, by chance, the perfect card.

But I have yet to find one.

What I will promise is that I will continue to tell people in my life how much I love them. How much I admire them, appreciate them. Wish them well on new jobs, wish them health. I will pick up the phone and congratulate new parents.

I am not banning the greeting card ritual, per say.

Just taking a break for a while.

Mom, Dad, Kate, Grammy and Chris~I love you. You really all are "The Wind Beneath My Wings."

My name is Kristen, and I am a cardophobe.

Thanks For Reading.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ladies: Check Your Girls

Two things:

1) This is not that funny. In fact, aside from a couple of slightly chucklish moments, this won't be the typical wacky story that you will usually find here. But I am writing it for a very, very important reason.

2) I am actually starting the story with the end of the story, so you know it has a relatively happy ending.

At around 11:30 a.m. this morning, the phone finally rang. The caller i.d. was the one I had been waiting for.

Franklin Memorial Hospital.

I had literally been sitting beside the phone since 6a.m.

This call was going to change my life. No matter what the person on the other end had to tell me.

"Your ultrasound and mammogram look normal." She said.

The feeling of relief was indescribable. I hadn't been able to breathe for the last 48 hours.

"THANK YOU!THANK YOU!THANK YOU!" I am pretty sure I was crying and laughing at the same time.

Shorty after the nurse from my doctor's office called to explain that I still needed to consult with her and decide what I wanted to do about this "normal cyst."

A normal cyst.

These are words I never really thought about. Words I never thought would make me so happy that I have the life that I get the privilege to live. Words that will allow me to sleep tonight. Words that reminded me that every single day is a gift.

Words that thousands of others were praying to hear.

And they didn't hear them.

They heard words like "abnormal."




It's all about early detection, folks.

On Monday night, I was doing a relatively random self breast exam.

I've always done them. Not exactly monthly, but every once in a while I do a quick check. I've never felt anything out of the ordinary until two days ago.

A lump.

I checked again.





I started shaking. I broke out into a cold sweat. I went into the bedroom and asked my husband to see if he could feel it.

His face said it all.

He could feel it, too.

"I'll call my doctor in the morning." I said as calmly as I could.

He finally fell asleep.

My mind drifted to the worst case scenario. Then to the lighter side of things and I started imagining that maybe my hair will grow in straight and blond and I could end up with nice, big, perky implants after all was said and done. (That was one of the funny moments, people...of course I wouldn't get big ones...)

I barely slept.

Tuesday morning I paced in front of the phone until I knew the doctor's office was open. I always hate to think I am the first caller lighting up the phones, but this time I could not have cared less. Someone needed to feel my boob. I was not taking no for an answer.

Thankfully, the fantastic staff a Pine Tree Women's Care in Farmington, made it possible for me to be seen that morning.

I jokingly told the receptionist that I was hopeful that the doctor would tell me that when "you lost your final marble it just landed in your ta-ta." I thought it was pretty clever in the face of sheer terror.

She laughed, too.

As I waited for my doc to come in, I started thinking of my prior visits:

A couple of strep throats.
A kidney stone.
Routine "lady" visits. (AKA: Paps).

Nothing compared to this.

She came in and got right to it.

I watched her face as she felt the prominent lump, too.

She checked both breasts. The other one was fine.

She left the room so I could dress, and I lost it.

I just sat there and cried.

When she came in, she cried a bit, too. She explained that I could have a mammogram and ultrasound as early as yesterday afternoon. Could I do it, schedule wise? Abso-f*&^ing-lutely.

Mom and Dad to the rescue again as Nick and Kiki were both home from school with crappy colds, it was lunchtime...My dad picked up the kids and my mom hurried so she could come with me.

Soon I was preparing for my first mammogram.

At age forty, I know they are necessary.

I was hoping to put it off as long as humanly possible.

I was shaking.


I am not going to mention any names, but the amazing person that was going to perform the mammogram is a person that I have known most of my life. She asked me if I minded if she did it? Or would I prefer someone else?

I told her without question I wanted it to be her. A friendly face and "chit-chat" was exactly what I needed to get through the procedure. If you are reading this, TCF~"Thank you from the bottom of my...ahem...heart."

Ladies, the mammogram is a piece of cake. Get it done. If you are of the age...and have not had one...GET ON IT.

On to the ultra-sound, where at this point, I was so emotionally exhausted I could hardly stand.

Again, a friendly face talked to me as she took pictures of this "lump."

"Has anyone ever told you have very dense breasts?"


"Why, yes. Yes, in fact..."


We looked together at the images, and although she couldn't say for sure, her tone indicated that she thought it looked like the "good" kind of lump.

I burned that image into my brain and googled all night.

I knew that I would have the answer. In my gut I felt that it would not be bad news. But there was that possibility.

I called my sister.

I told Julie.

My husband could barely speak.




Willing that phone to ring.

Whatever they say, I vowed to live the best I can.

Love my children. My husband. My family. My friends.

Be the best person I can.



Eat well.

Quit dieting so friggin much.

Live like there is no tomorrow.

Fix the goddammed swimming pool.


"Is this Kristen?"

"It is."

"Your mammogram and ultrasound are both normal."

And here I am.

The thing is, I found that lump during a self-breast exam.

I NEVER expected to feel anything.

But if it had been cancer, it would have been early enough to treat.

If it had been cancer, I would have fought with every fiber of my being.

I have been inspired by people who have survived. I will pray for those same people even harder today.


Check your girls. Do it tonight, this morning, whenever you get done reading this.

It's all about early detection.

Now I'm gonna have some CAKE!!

Thanks For Reading.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

chukar chukar chukar chukar....cooo coooo!

I mean, really.

The National Bird Of Pakistan strolling about the grounds of Crazy Road?

My ONEHUNDREDTEN pound dog vomiting all over my vehicle on the hottest day of the year?

My daughter belting out "Crocodile Rock" in the midst of the most hilarious case of hiccups I have ever heard?

My husband returning from a "quick run to the grocery store" with his "treasures?"

I just had to sit down and re-cap what was a classically crazy week.

I guess I'll quickly start off by mentioning my weekend last weekend, an annual girls trip to Ogunquit, Maine, where I realized that a huge part of my crazy life are the friends that I have. My friend Lisa, who, whenever we spend time together, makes me laugh until I literally cry...And Rick Dolliver...a dear friend from college who now owns the amazing restaurant "PRIME," who is a blatantly hilarious storyteller, and to this day makes me blush with some of his outlandish comments...(by the way, if you are ever in the Ogunquit area, PRIME has possibly the best food I have ever had, and great drinks). My friends share in my craziness, accept it, understand it, and even promote it. It was a fun filled, funny weekend, and so started the craziest week in a while...

Monday: After the local parade, I happily packed up the kids for a sunny afternoon at my parents. When my dad brought out Coronas, it was the perfect refreshing accent to a warm afternoon by the pool. When we finished our bottles, my Dad asked if we (my mom, grandmother((yes, my amazing grandmother drinks Coronas, too)) and I) wanted another...My mother said, regrettable, there were no more.

So I offered to, in great Jay, Maine style, make a "beer run." And without thinking, I threw a tank-top over my bathing suit, jumped in my truck, and headed down to "FOOD CITY." I hustled in my flip-flops to the beer section, picked up a case and stood in line with the other mid-day-tank-top-wearing-case-of-beer-buying folks from the tri-town area. I had to laugh...just because...

Tuesday: I was HHHHOOOTTT! Not that I mind. I love summer. Nick had a baseball game and after a crazy day of work, I was looking forward to watching him play. On my way back from work, I decided to stop and pick up Casey. He had been inside all day and figured he would love to go and socialize at the game. I grabbed his leash and he jumped into the back of the 4-Runner. I admit, I was in a bit of a hurry, and Casey has never like to ride. The road is pretty curvy, but a short trip to the school. We pulled into the parking lot, and I heard it...


For any of you who own dogs, there is really no questioning when they are going to...well...puke.

The heaving.

The gaggling.

The yacking.

And when your dog is as big as mine, it's.not.pretty.

Of course, when he was finished projectile vomiting all over, he was happy as a clam! Tail wagging, he jumped right out and was ready to party!

So now, in between trying to figure out how to partially clean this mess, and finding his leash, I realize that HE DID NOT HAVE HIS COLLAR!!

Now what?!?!

Now I had to finagle his leash around his neck, and force him to believe that he was really secure on the leash. He trotted toward the crowd as I helplessly tried to control him, leaving my yoooook-filled vehicle open in the hot sun.

Now I was sweating and stressed as I tried to get him back to the vehicle without a leash.

I explained to my parents that I had to back home to at least get the truck cleaned out a little bit, and deliver the collarless dog.

Thankfully, he jumped right into the back again, but un-thankfully, laid right in the huge puddle of goo.

I had to ask...

Why Me?

I also had to ask..."Where the hell was his collar? Who took it off?"

Now faced with hosing him off as well, the day took a turn for the worst.

Without the help of his collar or leash to DRAG him to the hose...I had to body wrestle him across the lawn to get him near the garden hose. He thought we were playing. I was beyond pissed. I'm sure anyone passing by thought it looked hilarious. He is such a huge animal.

Now, REALLY hot, REALLY sweaty, and covered in DOG HAIR, I cleaned what I could from the truck, and raced back to the school to catch some of the game.


Wednesday: Tornado warnings? That's right...tornado warnings in the town of Jay, Maine. Imagine my horror as Chief Meteorologist Charlie Lopresti was instructing us to get to our basement, cover our heads with pillows and stay tuned to WGME for complete coverage...JEESH!!

Nick was at a baseball game, and his Dad had just texted me that the game had now been cancelled.

Ya think?

I texted him to get Nick home ASAP has the tornado was about to hit!

As they pulled into the driveway, it had started to hail...I hurried Nick into the basement, and really had no choice but to instruct my ex-husband to hit the basement as well.

So, there we were...

Me, my three children, my dog, and my ex-husband, all clutching pillows riding out the storm.


Thankfully, we never experienced the tornado, but let me tell you. It was scary to think that it could happen, and my heart goes out to all of those who have recently been through the real thing.

Thursday: Another crazy day at work, but I was looking forward to an evening of doing nothing. No-one had games, or practice, or meetings...Chris was working, so it was going to be a casual, no clean up dinner and Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Just after dinner, Nick came running downstairs.

"Mom! You have GOT to come and see this bird!!"

People. Come on. If you have been following this blog, you could probably guess my reaction.

"What now?"

We have had so many creatures cross the yard, take a swim, come up to the door, if an elephant showed up for dinner, I wouldn't be surprised.

But this bird was unlike any I had ever seen!

It was big, like a duck.

It was tannish, but had black and white stripes under his wings.

It had a distinct black mask that looked like it hooked under his chin.

It had an orange beak and orange legs and feet, and some orange around his eyes.

I know this because I followed him around for a half an hour taking pictures and video.

He let me walk right up to him, and didn't seem to mind. He was leisurely exploring the surroundings of Crazy Road.

I had yet to see anything like that bird.

After hours of googling, posting on Face book, taking advice from local "experts," we got every answer from quail, to a cross-bred duck/puffin to "coot." But nothing looked like a match.

Until this morning: Acting on a FACE BOOK TIP, I looked up Chukar Partridge.



Of Course.

Its only natural for a fowl that is native to that continent would find its way to my backyard.

I know, I know, there is probably a logical explanation. Likely escaped from a local farm....but Jeez Loise!


So last night, after a crazy filled week of work, kids, dogs, Pre-K after parties, taco-eating, crocodile rock singing, hiccuping, laughing, exotic bird watching chaos, it was my husband who put the icing on the coo-coo cake:

He went to the grocery store for eggs and hot dogs.

As usual, he took way longer than necessary, and I wondered what "treasures" he would return with. I've probably mentioned that I rarely concede to him running to the store...unless it is an emergency...because he, bless his impulsive heart, never sticks to a list.

So he finally returned, with his usual proud grin, and presents in grand style...

A long, narrow, package of....sticks!

"what the hell is THAT?" I ask, as I always do when viewing what he believes is the treasure of the century.

"It's a S'MORES KIT!" He excitedly tells me. "And it has marshmallows and chocolate right in the box!!"

"Nice!" I tell him as I look at the bag that should only have hot dogs in it.

"And....you know what else I got?" he asked.

"I can hardly stand the suspense." I replied, wondering if he even bought hot dogs for dinner.


"A coconut? What the *&^% is that for?"

No matter.

He's upstairs right now banging it with a hammer.

Because, well, we needed a coconut.

Who knows what today will bring.

I hope this made you laugh a little.

It's a crazy life. And I'm so lucky to have it.

PS. He did remember the hot dogs.

Thanks for Reading!


On the show "America's Funniest Home Videos," there is a segment called, "Name That Sound." On Thursday night,