Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Worst root canal; Best view

I had the worst root canal with the best view. I assumed it was a sinus thing and since I was already on meds for a UTI, I thought, "Huh. One antibiotic, two targets, we got this." But the sinus thing didn't go away and when my fork accidentally touched my tooth while I was eating at my desk and I screamed -- I SCREAMED -- my coworkers kind of said in unison: "Will you go to a dentist, please."

Bacteria was circling the root of a troublesome molar. My dentist had photos to prove it.

"That sounds like a root canal," I said when he explained how to alleviate my pain.
"I was trying not to say those words ..." he said.
"Can't I just, like, take some antibiotics to kill the infection?" I asked.
"That's a good question," he said, then turned to his hygienist. "Isn't that a good question?"
"No one has ever asked that before," she agreed.
"But no," he said.
"No?" I said and looked at the hygienist.
She shook her head.

Two days later I was at the endodontics as the sun rose over Lake Superior. I mean, they gave me sunglasses to wear in the chair and when a 1,000-foot freighter passed under the Aerial Lift Bridge the doctor and the hygienist both bolted for the window like genuine ship geeks.

Long story short, my anesthesia wore off -- a few times, actually -- and tears rolled off my face from beneath my sunglasses. I screamed. I yelled "Stop." They dabbed at my tears with a Kleenex. Kleenexes. "Are you a redhead," the doctor asked. I nodded. "But that's not a real thing, is it?" Flashback to my OB/GYN telling me that redheads have a low tolerance for pain. It is true, this tooth doctor tells me, and we also cycle through anesthesia faster. Wipes tears. "I thought it was folk lore," I sniffed. "It's not," she said.

Toward the end, I had a face spasm and the hygienist chucked a bunch of Tylenol and Advil into my face and the doctor massaged my jaw and gave me her cell phone number and I thought "Why does it have to be like this. Why can't we get out of this place and go, like, talk about aging gracefully. Do you like lattes? Because I think I do."

Within an hour, I was fine and Chuck and I went out for lunch.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Ghost cat ...

Tonight I went into the kitchen for a glass of water and saw a dash of black fur snake around the corner and move out of sight. I rewound my steps again and again trying to recreate the visual.
The combination of late-night shadows, a jutting door jamb and a hunk of black plastic on the bottom of the refrigerator made it seem like something my brain might have stewed up.
But it was so real! I saw the texture of the fur.
Listen. Orin died about a month ago. It was horrible and sudden and deserves more words than I'm giving it right now. The gist: He was a cuddly little lover who used to put his little paw on baby Chach when she sneezed. We called him Empathy Cat.
So when I saw the swish of black fur, I assumed it was Orin. And when I remembered Orin was dead, I thought it was his ghost. I'm like this. Here's how I prioritize theories: 1. Supernatural; 2. Everything else.
After staring at the ground and walking in and out of the kitchen about a dozen times, I finally explained myself to Chuck.
He gave me a look, his face shifted a certain way.
"... but it wasn't a mouse tail," I explained, reading his mind. "It wasn't thin like that."
He stood half in, half out of the kitchen and explained that he had seen a mouse fairly recently on the front porch. It was nibbling at some leftover bird seed following The Great Bird Feeder Assault By Bad Birds of 2017.
Cut to an hour earlier when he came home from work and mentioned that I'd left the front door open.
Cut to winter when the bottom of our storm door got stuck on a snow pile and fell off, leaving a mouse-sized gap straight from the wilderness to our inside scrap heaps.
"I'll go get traps," he said.
I turned on the TV to create the illusion of a high-traffic area, just in time to catch Melissa McCarthy say "... like a mouse caught in a kitchen!" on some dumb sitcom.
I shivered. I ran upstairs.
Chuck returned later with the details the variety of mouse traps available to a human at midnight, then we went back downstairs to watch Season 2, Episode 9 of "Game of Thrones." While Joffrey's domain was under attack, so was our kitchen. Less than halfway into the episode we heard the trap snap. Chuck took the trap outside and I squealed under a blanket. Animal Allies, for the record, has this adorable litter of little kittens with the cutest faces right now.
Here we go again.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Meals al fresco, lord of the literal flies through No. 14 ...

Meal No. 13 was doubly important, as it was a dinner al fresco as well as a hotdog of Instagram. #summergoals
It's been weeks since the night when an attempt to eat outside was thwarted by a swarm of nasty, salmon-loving flies who circled cartoonishly above our plates. We unset the bistro table faster than you can say "every time a fly lands it pukes on whatever it landed on, according to nature." Turns out the salmon was thicker, meatier than any of us really like anyway, so.

We tried again a few weeks later. On this occasion, we had received a bunch of bok choy from our CSA. I brushed it with a mix of butter and spicy-spices, then we grilled it on both sides and hot diggity dog was that amazing. We also roasted the radishes and turnips and again attempted salmon. Here's what I've learned in our third year of getting mega-loads of vegetables: If you can't use it in a salad, juice it. And if you can't juice it, grill it. (I italicized this because it's closer to a bit of needlepoint wisdom that should be captured on a throw pillow.) We also had salmon because we're basically one-meat ponies. Also: on Saturdays I eat gluten. Actually, Fridays, too.

Perfect Duluth Day turned 14 so we went to its birthday-slash-all you can eat coleslaw party on the patio Sir Benedict's Tavern on the Lake. One local hero downed more than a dozen coleslaw shots, sometimes sloshing the ramekins with beer to make it go down more smoothly. I missed this part, but was able to get the fever of the flavor on The Snapper. Me, I just had a bratwurst with raw onions and mustard and a noticeable absence of relish and sauerkraut. Anyway, there were also baked beans and coleslaw -- either creamy or vinegar-y. I opted for the former. Meanwhile, Chach really latched on to the word "Tavern" and can't stop talking about the concept.

We had plans to surprise Chach with a Family Fun Day trip to the local parking lot carnival. Last year she liked it so much, she rage barfed pizza all over the back seat when we told her it was time to leave. (This year she contends that she had to poop last year, and it had made her extra cantankerous.) Anyway, we went back to Sir Ben's for dinner because Wednesday was such a mega-success, palate-wise. I had a tomato-pesto sandwich that was right on and we accidentally sat under a speaker, which was blaring a live, in-house musician playing violin alongside recordings of pop hits from all the decades. Think: "Final Countdown." Chuck called it "violoke." The server turned down our speaker, so I was finally able to hear the crunch of my own Kettle Chips in my head. We might eat every meal on this patio until December.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

My week in parking ...

Chach, who had spent Sunday learning the fine art of a sick day, refused to eat her morning yogurt. It seemed to be a standoff, a battle of wills, until I noticed she had turned green sitting at the kitchen table.
"Are you going to barf?" I asked her and she nodded.
"Alright," I said, we have wood floors. "Just let it go."
She barfs so infrequently that each event has its own special story that we trot out on occasion for a chuckle. There was The Rage Barf, where she filled the folds of her dress -- and our car -- with chunks of pizza because we had made her to leave a parking lot carnival; Then there was the one where she simply sent a watery spray straight into my face and I still chose to love her forever.
On Monday, it was like she was waiting for permission. She emitted two foamy streams.
The last bit, she held onto in her mouth.
"She needs to spit that out," Chuck said, so I leaned her over the sink and she hawked it down the drain.
I texted the Norwegian Wonder that Our Pet Monkey was sick, we would be keeping her at home. I went to work for a while, used Chuck's parking spot, then came home at midday and passed off the garage door opener to him.

I parallel parked with ease -- not another car on the block -- and plugged a quarter into the meter. It had been a little sticky, plugging it in, so I added another. That one, too, stuck. I gave the meter a little poke and the word FAIL popped up on the display.
FAIL? Not for me, City of Duluth. I call it an UNFAIL.

I'm no dummy. I slid right into the same old FAIL spot for another round of free parking. When something like this happens, you do have to tap into heightened awareness. They will find other ways to getchya. They'll chalk your tires to make sure you don't extend a two hour stay or they'll fix the meter and then give you a ticket. You have to be cool, man, and be on guard.

JCrew sent me a text. One our coworkers was on vacation, she told me. His spot was open and was allll mine.

Chuck doesn't work on Fridays, so I always use his spot.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Every runner has a crap story ...

The night before this year's half-marathon, I maxed out the dosage on my magnesium drink at bedtime. I was a bit clogged, it had been two days, and I imagined a scenario in which the concoction would act like Liquid Plumr. While I slept, the mineral would throw some muscle at the stoppage, flushing out my pipes in the hour before race time.


I have a distinct memory of being introduced to The Drink a few months ago. The Magnesium Pusher had told me that the only side-effect of ODing was loose stool. I'd snickered. The phrase "loose stool" is so visual that I cannot be expected to remain stoic in the face of it. Anyway, that's the effect I was going for when I downed the drink in consecutive rapid swigs on Friday night.

Unfortunately, on race day morning, there was nothing. And instead of considering the Worst Case Scenarios of high mileage and loose stoolage, I delighted in imagining myself as a medical anomaly. Able to withstand two teaspoons of The Drink in a single day. They'd coo about me in folk songs someday.

Anyway, for a series of boring reasons, this is just another way in which I was ill-prepared for this year's half-marathon. Basically, since turning 40, my body has turned into a collection of rusted hinges and frayed ball joints. Then, in the days before the race, our cat died suddenly and I caught a wicked cold.

Whereas last year I'd set a personal world record after thorough training, this year my longest run was 7 miles at the last minute while watching a couple episodes of the TV Land series "Younger," my new favorite of The Mediocre Television Genre.

So, goal-wise, I had big plans to dip back into digits previously seen in my opposite-of-training years.

Speaking of opposite of training: While waiting in line to take a bus up the short, I saw a man stretching his calves and smoking a cigarette. "Just charging my batteries!" he yelled to his partner. I cackled. As the line moved, she responded "Okay, Smokey."

Anyway, the race was fine. I'd forgotten to launch Map My Run while I was still in civilization and instead had to guesstimate my splits -- which were consistently in my Don't-Go-Any-Slower Zone. After I passed the 2:15 pace-setter, I blinked a couple of times and thought "Oh. This might be okay." At Mile 8 I lost track of how far I'd gone and was pleasantly surprised to pass the 10-mile marker.

At some point I heard The Most Annoying Sound In The World, a real brain-clanger, and realized a runner up ahead of me was wearing bells -- which is the kind of thing you do when you actively do not give a rip about the 7,332 other people who might get trapped in your radius. (I spend much of my time on a half-marathon course finding new ways to be annoyed: people who play Katy Perry on their iPhones without headphones, groups of runners in a line, intimate conversations.)

The magnesium hit on the home stretch. I wasn't in danger of that proverbial freeing whoosh, but I did have to lock the doors and make sure nothing, nothing escaped my body. I finished in 2:09ish -- which means that the difference between heavy training and light training is merely 10 minutes -- and got my bag of clothes in record time. Found my family, took a photo, headed about half a mile to the car -- and doubled over.

I actually know an otherwise civilized adult human who had to crap in an alley mid-run once.
For about 2 minutes I wondered if that story wasn't so funny anymore.

I scanned the horizon for public restrooms on a street void of public restrooms as Pa Pista snapped Chach into her seat, Ma Pista shouted encouragements and I gnawed on the back windshield wiper. Long story short, we found a bathroom Just. In. Time, once again saving me from becoming the Urban Legend about The Runner Who Craps Herself.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Meals al fresco (7-11) ...

JUNE 1, 2017
The Apple Hills are, probably were, a legendary route for cross country runners in the 1990s. From the high school (in its old location), up past the Mullany's house (though they've moved) behind St. Mary's (or is it the Mayo Clinic now), then down to the frontage road. Past Bamber Valley, tear off to the right toward a rolling set of mega-hills -- the kind where you begin to hallucinate reptiles, you can taste your pancreas' every move, and the lyrics to a Steve Miller Band song can synch to your steps until the repetition wears your brain smooth as stone.
I did the hills part, but backward, and I want to say I killed it -- but mostly I just did it pretty A-OK.
I landed at the haircut place just as Chuck was leaving, and then we drove around in search of a lunch with a side of green juice.
Bam, a weirdo oasis I've never seen. Two beet juices and two wraps -- mine had sprouts and avocado -- to go. We ate on a side patio at my parents and didn't even finish the kale chips.

JUNE 1, 2017
By just-after 4 p.m., the patio in Loring Park was full. A player could do some sort of eyeball math to figure out how many laps around the block and how many elbows would have to be thrown to secure a spot if ever a table cleared. But a couple saw us scanning the patio and said we could join them -- they were just waiting on the check.
Early on in the convo, they asked if we were empty-nesters.
"We have a 3-year-old," I told them.
We chuckled, all for our own reasons, then they left.
Then Chuck and I ate a cheese plate and I had Mahi Mahi Tacos and he had spicy Falafel and we were still super hungry later so we had soft pretzels at Glueks, but I'm not sure that counts as a meal taken outside.

JUNE 2, 2017
Oof. We hoofed on down to another restaurant in the same strip for beet juice and breakfast. I ordered smoked salmon on an everything bagel -- and about 4 seconds before it came out I realized it was going to be lox -- which I was not going to be able to stomach under the current circumstances.
Sure 'nuff.
Chuck had ordered a brown rice bowl with a poached egg and kimchi. He traded with me, but I could barely eat that either. Bummer, man.

JUNE 2, 2017
Beet salad and two glasses of wine at French Meadow with Hank and K. I added a side of salmon -- a kind I could have done just fine with in the morn. Eventually we settled into a booth at CC Club. Around 10 p.m., Hank threw down a bunch of cash, insisted that the server refill our drinks, then he and his wife beat it before we could object.

JUNE 3, 2017
We sat on a bench in St. Paul and drank a pre-juiced beet juice -- which seemed weird, that I didn't get to watch them juice it, but it was delicious so whatevs.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Meals al fresco (4-6)

MAY 20, 2017
The details of the meal escape me, though I'm assuming there was a salmon element. What I do remember, however, is that Chach, who can now activate the deck door without assistance, dragged a fourth chair to the small, round, stone bistro table I bought from Shopko in the mid-aughts. One of her favorite dolls, a baldie named Bentleyville who is permanently stripped to the equivalent of an old-fashioned swim costume, sat between us as we took our fourth al fresco meal of the summer.

MAY 25, 2017
This seemed like a terrible idea. It had been raining, then not raining all day long. We had a brief moment of sunshine just as I was finishing making dinner: polenta with vegan pesto (spinach-basil, nutritional yeast, olive oil, garlic). I make this at least once a week. It was Chach who suggested we eat outside and I started to say Nah until I realized that was insane, carpe diem, etc. So I dried off the chairs and we took our plates out. A few gnats swirled, like, "we're coming for you but not yet," and it was like one degree below optimal comfort. Ah, well.

MAY 28, 2017
The annual Memorial Day party at The Great Archivist and Geo Grl's. The latter asked for feng shui advice in placing the table, then opted for a spot less soggy. Chach played fetch with the dog -- only in this version she'd throw and they'd both chase the ball. We were part of the early swarm, Chuck had to work, and we filled plates with dogs, macaroni and cheese, chips and other picnic fare. I doubled back for an extra dog and the stranger next to me invited me to come to her house to learn how to brew my own kombucha -- because this is the kind of party where those kind of great connections are made. We left before the bocce.

Dammit, plural ...

Eager to swear, age 3. 

"What does 'Geez, Louise,' mean?" Chach asked me last night during dinner. First I explained the pure pleasure of a phrase that rhymes, then we discussed famous Louises in history (well, just Erdrich), then I tossed out some comparable exclamations -- 'ah, man,' 'oof!' 'holy moly' and 'shucks.'
I asked if she could think of anything similar. She got a coy look.
"Dammits," she said, quietly but confidently. With an S.

Is there anything cuter, any greater comedy, than a kid testing a swear. Answer: Absolutely not.

"Right," I said, keeping it light and airy. "Except that is an adult word. So maybe we would say 'darnit,' instead. Where did you learn that word, anyway?"
Her tiny little pointer finger inched toward me.
"And dad," she added.
Then: "Grandma and Grandpa never say it," she said. "Neither does (the Norwegian Wonder)."
I inserted a little monologue about how some people use only nice words and some people, like her parents apparently, use not-so nice words.

"When can I say that word?" she asked.
"What word?" I coaxed.
I just wanted to hear her say it one more time before it was banned.
She shook her head.
"When you're a grown-up," I told her. "Right around when you're 18."
She looked a bit dejected.
"Or when you're alone and no one is listening," I added. "Not at school, not in front of friends. Maybe just when you're alone in your room, playing with your toys and no one can hear you."
"But you can always hear me," she pointed out.
"That's right," I nodded. "I can always hear you."

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Meals al fresco (1-3)

On April 22 we took two of our three meals in the open air. For the first, we raided the deli at the Co-op for two adult sandwiches to complement the daily homemade PB preferred by our Baby Chicken. We took this backpack load to Rock Knob at Hartley Nature Center -- which offers a trees-upon-trees vista.

Him: A hummus wrap.
Her: A turkey-cheese sandwich.
To be shared, but really eaten by her: a bag of salt-n-pepper crinkle chips.
I'm sure there was some fruit in there.

Later that night we used a cedar log acquired at Christmas to cook salmon and a grill basket also acquired at Christmas to roast up a mess of something that I've already forgotten about -- though there were avocados. We ate at the small, stone two-top table on our deck adding a bonus chair from the kitchen table. It's a tight squeeze for us three. I bought that table in the early 2000s so that I could turn an extra room of my apartment into skateboard park by day, bistro by night. Anyway, the place was totally gross and when we had that Asian beetle infestation, I probably ended up swallowing 200 of them in my sleep. I also didn't get my deposit back.  

Sometime last week, while Chuck was home vacationing: We grilled brats that had been cooked in Bent Paddle. I was awarded the final two sips from the can, which was enough to make it mega festive.

This is just a snack taken al fresco, which does not count toward our summer Meals Al Fresco tally

Monday, May 15, 2017

Um, It's Mother's Day ...

I'm sitting on the couch listening to songs by The National or that people who like The National might like (think Iron & Wine, The War on Drugs, Bon Iver, The National). I'm also sipping an Old Fashioned and the one that follows this one will be made with ill-gained whiskey.

We were deadlocked at who would cross the bridge to Wisconsin for provisions. It was after 11 p.m. -- not to mention a Sunday night. It was my idea, the whiskey, but he was the one still wearing adult pants with special drying instructions rather than yogurt-stained (1) Abercrombie sweats (2).

Anyway, right before we broke into Rock-Scissors-Paper I just ended it, clear-cut:
"It's still Mother's Day."
This was the second time today I'd flashed this badge and expected to skate past security. The first time it failed. The scene:  a 3 1/2 year old, belly button deep in bubble bath, who dared respond:
"Nuh uh. It's Kids' Day."
I flipped on her in the way that moms of the past, present and future have all/will all respond(ed):

And that's when I changed my mailing address to Panel Four, 55807 of a For Better or For Worse comic strip.

Anyway, Chuck went for the whiskey -- round trip like 12 minutes max (3). Earlier in the day, I was also gifted a pair of classic checkerboard Vans -- which I've wanted since I was 10 (4). In fact, I wanted them badly enough in 1985-ish to draw a checkerboard pattern on my Keds with Magic Marker. But I was also self-aware enough to know not to wear those knock-offs in public.

It is Day 3 of vacation. Chach and I went to a parade, but it was too cold/windy in Duluth, Minn., to even consider standing next to The Largest Freshwater Urinal in the World. Even though there were people dressed like Famous Smelt from History, a ceremony for Smelt Royalty, stilt walkers (5) and music by the Brass Messengers, we ducked into a Caribou Coffee where I had a London Fog and she ate this weird veggie-fruit-vegan-GF-potentially raw bar (made at a place that processes tree nuts and soy) that clung to her lone front tooth in a disconcerting way (6). Then we went to Target to buy a new Magic Bullet since I wore out the motor on our current Magic Bullet trying to pulp ice cubes.

On Day 2 of vacation we went to a wrestling match at an art museum and on Day 1 of vacation we went from one gorgeous corner of Minnesota to another gorgeous pocket of Minnesota to climb, dangle from, and otherwise parkour over acre-upon-acre of larger-than-life sculptures -- only two shaped like pieces of human anatomy.

1. I don't even eat yogurt.
2. I'm super into A&F again.
3. This is an old stat. We now use a different Superior liquor store, plus there was construction. This round trip was closer to 16 minutes.
4. I always thought this was another "My parents wouldn't let me ..." story. A thing like "wouldn't let me eat sugar cereal" and "wouldn't let me watch MTV" or "The Dukes of Hazard." My mom clarified tonight that she probably just couldn't afford Vans, which makes the story just kind of fizzle into not-a-"I wasn't allowed to" story. Zzzzz.
4. Chach called them "Kilt Walkers." "No, it's 'stilt walkers'," I corrected her. She gave a single snort. "I call them 'kilt-walkers,'" she said.
5. I bought a box at Target. They're like Fruit Rollups. And eventually the glob came off her tooth.