Anonymiss in DC

{June 20, 2013}   A Lesson at Wal-Mart

In general, I avoid shopping at Wal-Mart. Not because I don’t like shopping there– I love being able to buy a CD and a box of cereal and a bike helmet and Christmas lights and a waffle maker (for example) all in one place. I love that it’s always, or almost always, open. I love that I can count on there being one pretty much anywhere I travel in the U.S.  And who doesn’t love low prices?

BUT then I remember: Wal-Mart also treats their workers like crap– paying them just enough that they can’t escape poverty,  that they need food stamps and other public assistance programs just to get by.  They never close, which means someone is always obligated to be there, eventually at the expense of their own health and well-being. Where those someones are parents, this in turn takes it toll on kids, whose parents are working long and crazy hours to pay the bills and don’t necessarily have the time or energy to prepare nutritious meals, help their kids with their homework, meet with teachers, or get involved in the PTA.

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart comes into communities, scopes out their competition, and crushes them. The mom and pop shops don’t stand a chance.  And soon, Wal-Mart’s not one place to pick up essentials– it’s the place. They wipe out everyone. Always. (Pun intended.)

Anyway, the point of this posting wasn’t to talk about  the evils of Wal-Mart.  It just so happens that I had a sobering lesson there recently and I want to share it.

Work shipped me off to a small town down south. A friend/colleague and I arrived late, and, in search of some snacks and a few other odds and ends at 11 pm, we ended up at the nearest 24-hour Wal-Mart. To my friend, who was less excited about the late-night excursion, I joked, “Haven’t you seen any of those websites? The People of Wal-Mart? The Wal-Martians? Going to a rural Wal-Mart at 11:00 in the middle of the week is an experience. It’ll be fun. Trust me.”

Except that within about 5 minutes of walking through the door I found myself thinking about what an @sshole I was for saying that and for being so cavalier about the realities of life that bring people to Wal-Mart on a Tuesday night at 11 pm.  An obviously overtired dad in a polo with a name-tag still pinned on, pushing a stroller, grabbing groceries.  In the checkout line, a (possibly single) mom with two rambunctious little boys exalting at being out and about long past their bedtime. What’s Mom buying? Soda, Sunny D, Lunchables, and various other over-processed, high sodium, high sugar products that pack high caloric intent at unbeatable Wal-Mart prices but also increase her kids’ risk of becoming obese and getting childhood diabetes.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, go to a 24 hour Wal-Mart in the middle of the week, and you might see some strange things. But then again, you might just see the working poor. The forgotten men and women who vacuum our offices, make our sandwiches, drive our buses, even watch our children, and then scurry home long after we do to microwave dinner and then trek out to Wal-Mart,  the only place still open to buy necessities. These are the people who will work hard every single day of their lives but probably won’t escape poverty. And they are here, not because they forgot a toothbrush and don’t want to get one of the el-cheapo freebee ones they’ll give you at the hotel, but because it’s open at 11 pm, and they might be able to buy more here with their hard-earned dollars.

This realization on my part was by no means profound, but it hit me hard when I wasn’t expecting it. I guess it serves me right.

{September 8, 2012}   Losing Grammy

I’m not sure if there’s really a normal way to handle the knowledge that someone you love is dying. I’ve been thinking about it for quite some time—perhaps since April, when my grandmother was rushed to the hospital with stomach pains the doctors assumed indicated appendicitis.  I was livid. “She probably has a kidney infection,” I said to my cousin. “Tell them if they cut her open without knowing for sure it’s appendicitis, we’ll sue their socks off.”  Though they did hold off, the next morning, her pain localized, and they were confident enough that it was appendicitis that they went in.  The surgery went well, my uncle said. Except that the surgeon saw “stuff growing” in her abdominal region that he thought looked like uterine cancer. Oh. God. And so it began.

In what I now remember as a total blur, I soon learned she also had a mass on her ovary.  I insisted on being the “grandkid representative” to attend the oncologist appointment along with Grandma, my two uncles, and my mom. I brought a list of questions. I braced myself.

Totally treatable, the oncologist said. Taxol and carboplatin. Very well tolerated by patients with kidney problems. 80+ percent chance she’ll respond.

My uncles and mom, having watched my grandfather die of cancer 30 years ago, seemed skeptical, and I was too, a little, but I thought maybe she could fight. She’s tough, after all, and always has been. And she wanted to fight, she said.  We’re fighters in this family, she said.

If she wants to fight, we have to help her fight, I said. Why does everyone seem so…well… unconvinced?  What is wrong with all of you?

My other uncle texts me as she’s going in for her first treatment. “Here comes the battery acid…” he jokes, trying to lighten things. I smile wanly. Treatment #1 ends, and she seems ok.

Until the next morning, when I learn her assisted living facility has rushed her to the hospital. Heart attack.  They’re using words like “ventilator.” And I’m thrown into a tailspin.  What is going on? How could that doctor have been so wrong?

I go to visit her in the hospital, and she’s off. She’s saying things that don’t make sense.  She’s telling me the doctors are after her.  I pull out some photographs, and I hold her hand, and I show them to her. And she’s with me again. Smiling, asking questions, giggling. She’s with me.

No more chemo, they say. But it’s ok, because the tumors are growing slowly. It’s more likely that something else will kill her first. I don’t ask what this means. Maybe because I don’t want to know. Maybe because I already do.   It takes a little while, but one day I call her on the phone and she’s back. I was so afraid I’d lost her—that her mind had been permanently shaken—but she’s back.  She sounds like Grandma. And I’m so immensely grateful my heart feels like it might burst.

Time passes, and the crisis seems over.  She’s lost her hair, and she wants more than anything to go home, but we talk on the phone all the time. I go visit her and she holds my hand and we go out to eat and things are ok. Her hair’s growing back.

Last week she had another onco appointment.  I told her not to worry, and she practically snorted, confessing to me that she was, in her own words, a nervous wreck. I said “Hey. We will do the best we can with whatever they tell us. And that’s it.” “You’re right,” she said. And I felt strong.

The doctor said the tumors are getting bigger, and they are pushing on her intestines.  They can drain them, to relieve the pressure, but eventually, the cancer will spread to her liver or her lungs… and.. well… we know what that means. How long, the doctor won’t venture a guess.

I sigh, as my uncle explains this to me over the phone. It’s not bad, it’s not just…is, we decide. I say I’d like to have an idea how much time we’re talking about. I ask if, closer to “the end”, we can take her home—let her die at home.  My uncle says we can cross that bridge when we get to it, but to realize that we’ll never be ready. I nod, taking this in. “I know,” I say. “I know.” But I don’t cry. Not this time.

Tonight, my mom calls me and says the doctor says we have maybe six months. And suddenly, I went from being really tough to feeling really scared, really devastated– all over again. “How long of that will she still be my mother?” my mom asks—not really to me—but to the universe.  And for one fleeting, terrible, terrible second, I imagine my grandmother hooked up to IVs,  semi-conscious, and I imagine myself holding her hand—the same hand I have always held—and I am paralyzed.

Though part of me is screaming and crying, thinking I won’t get through this, I know that I will, because I have to.  I have to for me, for my mom, for my grandma. For all of us. But the cold hard truth is that I don’t want to think about a world without Grandma in it.  Grandma, who makes me burst out laughing. Grandma, who I like to make laugh.   Her voice is on my answering machine. Should I record it, so that I always have it? So that I never forget the sound of her voice? Will I have to delete her phone number from my cell phone? Silly things like that pain me more than words can describe.  And the tears come.

{July 27, 2012}   How to recycle properly

There’s this awesome little thing that you can do, that takes very little effort, and saves resources. Win. It’s called RECYCLING. You may have heard of it. The problem, I’m finding, is that people, even in the reportedly “smart” and “progressive” Washington, DC metro area, do some pretty stupid things when it comes to recycling. Why do I care? Because those stupid things result in “contaminated” recycling bins whose contents are often thrown out– that’s right– EVERYTHING in the bin gets thrown out– because some bozo put something in there that shouldn’t be in there. It’s another case of someone ruining it for everyone.

To avoid being that someone, here are some tips from your not-so-friendly neighborhood recycling girl:

1.  You can recycle soup cans and yogurt cups IF YOU RINSE THEM FIRST. I just found two cans of Hormel chili in the bin on our floor that weren’t rinsed before some bozo put them in there. There’s now God-knows-how-old chili all over everything in the recycling bin.  It’s DISGUSTING. And now I can’t dump MY stuff, because then all of it will be thrown out because you were disgusting. Thanks.

2. YOU CAN’T RECYCLE PIZZA BOXES containing any of the following: the pepper or the garlic dipping sauce from Papa John’s, the crusts you didn’t want off your pizza, crumbs, grease stains or greasy napkins, cheese that stuck to the box… pretty much everything. Just break it down and THROW IT OUT.

3. YOU CAN’T RECYCLE PLASTIC BAGS (well, you can, but you have to take them to the grocery store.) Standard apartment pickup doesn’t include these, and they don’t care whether your using them to carry the rest of your crap to the recycling bin is really convenient for you. Use them for this purpose if you must, but dump the contents in the bin and take the bag back.

4. YOU CAN’T RECYCLE SANDWICH OR SNACK BAGGIES OR PLASTIC WRAP (the kind that’s wrapped around stuff you buy at the store OR the kind you put over your leftovers). You CAN recycle clean tin foil.

5. You can recycle your “paper cups” from McDonalds and Chipotle, but don’t put them in there with soda or ice cubes in them (I can’t believe I have to tell people this…) and chuck the lid and the straw!

6. In many areas, you can recycle  plastic take-out food containers. This varies by locality, so please find out what the options are in your area.  But…you guessed it… RINSE THEM before you chuck them.

If you’re that lazy that you can’t rinse stuff out before tossing it, then don’t bother to recycle, because at least you won’t contaminate the bins for the rest of us who ARE doing the right thing.

And by the way, shame on you, because you’re probably also attracting pests into your apartment complex.

That is all.

{July 18, 2011}   Musings on another life event

I really should stop getting so personal on my wide-open public blog, but I feel the need to reflect on another happening in my twenty-something life.

First, some history.

It was the summer before I started kindergarten when we met for the first time. Like any five year old on a hot day, I was running around my yard in my bathing suit, leaping gleefully through my parents’ garden sprinkler.  The sun was getting dangerously low in the sky– the time of day when my parents’ announcement that it was time to go inside was imminent– when I saw her down the street.  She was too far away for me to see her face, but I could tell that she was about my age and that she was looking at me too. Wondering who I was. Read the rest of this entry »

{April 29, 2011}   Yay Royal Wedding

I love this. It’s like a real live fairytale wedding. The church bells even sound like the wedding in Cinderella! And like any woman, I have my thoughts about all the outfits and so on and so forth and I feel like writing about them. Read the rest of this entry »

{February 3, 2011}   Minding my inner child

I have always been one of those people who  delights in all things “inner child.”  I decorated my college dorm room with little plastic Care Bear figurines, got a Barbie VW Beetle complete (with the flower power stickers!) for my 20-somethingth birthday, and gave a friend an Easy-Bake Oven…my Christmas tree ornament is always decked out with happy mementos of Strawberry Shortcake, the Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, and yes, more Care Bears… and I am totally down for watching reruns of David the Gnome, My Little Pony, Captain Planet, Chip N Dale Rescue Rangers, Duck Tales (and pretty much whatever else you can think of)  at more or less any time.  You get the idea. Read the rest of this entry »

{December 3, 2010}   At the breast care center

So I’ve spent some time at the radiology place that specializes in, well, boobs. They do mammograms, ultrasounds, biopsies, you know, that kind of stuff. Even though it wasn’t especially “fun” to be there, the whole thing kind of felt hilariously cliché. There I was, sitting in a pink chair in the waiting room, next to a table with a fake boob with a lump in it, a bunch of women’s health magazines, and a poster about a Race for the Cure, watching P.S. I Love You while I waited for them to call me back to see the doctor. Read the rest of this entry »

{November 30, 2010}   Musings on breast care

So if you read Part 1 of my breast lump saga, you probably remember that Dr. Hot Shot and Dr. New Guy left me with two sheets of paper: one specifying that I needed to make a follow-up appointment for two weeks, and one saying  was allowed to schedule an ultrasound appointment in about three weeks.

So! I took those papers and went back to the scheduling desk, where they asked me which doctor I was told I should see in two weeks. Read the rest of this entry »

{November 17, 2010}   A trip to the doctor’s

About a month ago, I was changing into my jammies when my hand grazed my breast and a jolt of fear shot down my spine. WHAT is THAT? I reached back up, gave myself a friendly little grab, and confirmed it:  a lump. Wonderful. Just what I need. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s kind of funny how something as simple as stumbling upon “Stuff White People Like” can completely throw me for a loop.  The short of it is that, well, a lot of this stuff they talk about? I’m a late twenties (there! I said it!) white, middle-class Jersey girl transplanted in DC….and it so happens that I do, in fact, like a lot of this stuff. I do enjoy wine, traveling, farmer’s markets, organic food, eighties-themed eventsnon-profits, expensive sandwiches, tea, architectureJuno, and, yes, the Sunday New York Times.

Yeah, well… so what? We all do! Doesn’t everyone I know like that stuff too?


Read the rest of this entry »

et cetera

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