Thursday, September 24, 2015

So a Pope Walks Into the Capitol...

I don't often write about religion.  I don't really write about politics either.  I have my own views of both, very strong ones in fact, but for the most part, my choice is to keep those things to myself and support my own beliefs in whatever manner I am able.  To vote for the person in elections who best represents me and how I feel, to look to a Higher Power that I feel is present and true, and to live my life in a way that would make my Dad proud.  That pretty much covers my Haley Guidelines.  This blog?  It's just something I mess with for fun and to get a reaction from people who don't understand that.

I am not Catholic.  I've always been drawn to Catholicism, but I think that is more for the beauty and the history than for anything based on religious beliefs.  I was an English major with a History minor after all, so even at a university in rural Tennessee, we studied about a lot of Catholics.  I have a handful of friends who are Catholic, and I've begged them to "make me a Catholic because it sounds really cool," but they know that I'm joking and that I would make a terrible Catholic because I'm totally supportive of divorce and birth control, and know that Lent is not for me.  I know a handful of other people who are also Catholics, but I wouldn't call them friends because they are assholes-- not because they are Catholic, but just because they are unpleasant to be around.

I tease and I write, but I don't judge anyone.  Well, I DO, but then I usually catch and morally reprimand myself (like right now, for example) because JUDGING ISN'T NICE and I at least I try to keep it to myself.  I mean, I didn't LIST the assholes I mentioned above, right?  And maybe it's more of a comparison than judging, but I don't believe most humans are capable of functioning and not doing this at times. Also,  I don't feel this way because the Bible says you shouldn't judge (although it does) but because I do not believe that my God would want us to judge.  My God supports the greater good of mankind and love, and judging is neither good or loving.

I have a point.  I promise.  Hang in there.

Today, while I was on the elliptical, I listened to Pope Francis address our Congress.

I can tell you about the Pope, from a historical standpoint--basically, things that I was taught in school or read about whomever was Pope at the time.  I've always thought the Pope was highly intriguing, but I'll admit that, based on my limited Pope knowledge and Baptist/Presbyterian/Methodist raisin' in the heart of Protestant Land, the Pope was not a very influential person in my life.  When Pope Francis was elected, I became vaguely more intrigued than usual because he seemed like a very "modern" Pope, for lack of a better word, and this was quite different than what I expected and from what came before him.  (I'm pretty sure that I only first learned that Popes are elected when I read Dan Brown.)  Today, when I watched him being chauffeured in his little Fiat to the Capitol, I thought it was kind of neat, and I knew that his speech to Congress was a big deal.  I mean, the guy doesn't even speak English all that well-- Spanish is his native tongue as he was born in Argentina, although he's fluent in Italian (which is HARD to speak, by the way, as I can tell you from personal experience) due to his ancestry.  Yet he came to America, where we (and our media) are often not that nice, or, maybe Fake Nice is a better description, and spoke to us about how he thinks God wants us to be.  All of the articles I have read since the speech was given have nice things to say, or give a very non-judgy rundown because HE IS THE POPE, YOU DON'T WANT TO PISS HIM OR JESUS OFF BY SAYING BAD STUFF ABOUT HIS SPEECH.  However, I am not the media and I say whatever I want, whether Jesus likes it or not.  And what I want to say is this:

The Pope made me cry.  I don't agree with everything he said.  I don't believe the same that he does in, actually, a lot of things.  Some of this misalignment in beliefs is regarding things about which I feel very strongly.  Hearing them from a figure like him feels like being kicked in the stomach.  Regardless of that, I feel something when I hear him speak that no preacher or pastor has ever made me feel before.  I feel hope.  I feel peace.  I feel like here's a guy who God might TRULY be listening to--not because he's the Pope, but because HE CARES.  He wants the Greater Good.  I can submit to that, even if the specifics aren't the same.  God never touches me in a church unless it is a centuries old church in Europe that I'm touring and certainly not attending for the sermon-- he has touched me out in nature, in my living room with my Dad when he died, in a hospital room when I held my sick 8-week-old baby boy and thought he wouldn't recover--but apparently, he also touches me on the elliptical.  Hallelujah, Evans Fitness Center.

I've traveled and studied and read and learned in my thirty-eight years.  Not as much as a great many people, but much, much more than some.  My Dad is my greatest hero, and he never left the country except for a traumatic day trip to Tijuana once with my Mom before I was ever born.  His blood ran red, white, and blue.  He believed that America was the greatest country in the world, and although I think we are failing in SO MANY WAYS (he would be pissed that I said that) and that we have so many problems (that too), I agree.  I want to make our country better, and for us, in turn, to make the world better.  Not by taking things over and forcing our beliefs upon others (this is not a comment regarding the middle east, but a generalized statement), but through love and goodwill and hope.  I want the whole world to stop being assholes.  I want the whole world to be like Pope Francis.  My Dad would be on board with that.

We need to be better.  I, you, probably even the Pope, all have the capability of being better.  We should embrace that.  We should heal the world.  We probably won't, but I'll be damned if we shouldn't give it a shot.  Failure is OKAY-- what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?  I've learned that lesson repeatedly in my life.

My Dad always told me, "Work hard every day, and take care of the people you care about."  Maybe we should all start caring about a few more people.

Maybe that's something to think about.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Going to the (Ex-Girlfriend's Alaskan Wedding) Chapel

I know it's silly, but every time I come to write a post, I stop because right now I have 333 posts.  You have to understand that 333 is a magic number for me.  I was with my Dad when he died at 3:33am, and I looked at the clock specifically to see what time it was, mostly because I am so OCD that I was afraid the coroner would need to know the exact Time of Death (grief negated the reality that I am not qualified to officially establish the Time of Death).  Since then, I see 333 all the time, and it reminds me of my Dad.  It used to make me sad, but now it feels sort of like him saying, "Hey, I'm here."  B texts me all the time at 3:33 just to tell me it's 3:33.  He's a sweetheart that way.

But I'm writing another post.  It's probably going to be a mess, because I'm a bit of a mess these days, but it should at least be entertaining because I'm going to tell you about our Alaska trip to go to B's ex-girlfriend's wedding (which JUST reminds me that I never blogged about how B and I nearly went to jail in Italy two years ago-- later, I promise).  Bear with me, guys.  Life is tough sometimes.  Like now.


We only decided to attend the wedding about a week and a half before the event.  In our defense, Heidi (the bride) only gave the World at Large a month's notice anyway, so it wasn't like we were SUPER rude with our change in RSVP.  Just, you know, SOMEWHAT ill-mannered.  I texted her first and asked if it was too late for us to come and she said no, so we bought tickets and that was that.  Our plan was to drive to Atlanta on Wednesday night, stay at a hotel until 4am when we had to get up and get to the Atlanta airport to catch our super early flight, and land in Seattle before 9am (their time) to spend 24 hours with a good friend we hadn't seen in YEARS, then head to Juneau on Friday.  Easy, right?

Things were not easy.

First of all, the same week we traveled, I had the last-minute endoscopy and the Celiac diagnosis.  Yay.  The endoscopy was no big deal (they didn't even give me pain killers for recovery that I could hoard and take whenever my Mom came to visit, those bastards).  Neither was the diagnosis.  But it's still hard for this anxiety-ridden girl to have outpatient surgery, get a new disease, and travel 3000 miles in one week.  I DON'T ROLL THAT WAY.  I'M A PLANNER.

B did some Internet research for a cheap, close-to-the-airport hotel we could crash at in Atlanta so we didn't have to leave Augusta so early to get there.  He found good reviews, booked the room, and we headed out around 7pm.  HOLY SHIT, Y'ALL.  Around 9pm we arrived at what was easily the 2nd grossest hotel I've ever stayed in (the first being a random pit-stop in Hattiesburg, MS, on our way to New Orleans when EVERY PLACE WE STOPPED WAS BOOKED except this super-sketchy joint called the "Western Motel," the likes of which I am still having nightmares about).  Now, you have to understand, I am NOT SNOBBY.  We just wanted a place to sleep.  But Sweet Jesus, I was afraid to sleep here.  Afraid I would get murdered, afraid I would catch an infectious disease, afraid the scent of maple syrup that mysteriously permeated the room would soak into my veins and jack my blood sugar.....there was a lot going on.  It was bad.  I SLEPT IN MY SHOES SO I DIDN'T GET UP TO PEE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT AND FORGET TO PUT THEM ON AND CATCH SOME WEIRD-ASS FOOT FUNGUS.  It was that bad.  B is still reaping the punishment, poor fellow.

We got up at 4am and showered, dressed, and headed to ATL, shaking the maple syrup scent out of our clothes.  Once we got on our flight, I took a handful of Xanax, put on my sleep mask, and gently slumbered (aka:  probably snored and drooled) against B's shoulder while Alaska Airlines whisked us off to Seattle.  All was well until B mentioned that we were IN Seattle and had been circling a while.  Then the pilot came over the intercom to announce that our wing flaps wouldn't unfold due to a mechanical issue and we were GOING TO HAVE TO CRASH LAND.  But never fear, EMERGENCY VEHICLES WOULD BE ON HAND JUST IN CASE.

(Just in case WHAT?  If we crash, we DIE.  They are just there to extinguish the fire before the airport explodes.  I KNOW SHIT LIKE THIS BECAUSE I COME FROM A FAMILY FULL OF PILOTS.)

So we crash landed.  And rolled down the runway with six emergency vehicles following us, lights and sirens a-blazin'.  B was videoing the whole shebang.  I was swearing.  I was actually rather impressed with the pilot.  He did a stellar job considering we landed going nearly 200 mph faster than we were supposed to.  Kudos, Alaska Airlines.  Plus, I like your sweet adjustable headrests.

Once in Seattle, we picked up our rental car, only to find out two things.  1:  one of the friends we were supposed to meet was in the hospital with his child who had been attacked by a dog at his preschool the day before (what kind of preschools ARE these in Seattle?); and 2:  the friend we were staying with was at the hospital (different hospital) with his daughter, who had broken her finger.  (Don't worry, they sent photos.  They weren't just making up excuses to avoid us.  I requested proof.)

So we took the car and had a fabulous day wandering around Seattle.  I hadn't been out there in a long time, and the weather was GORGEOUS that day.  We saw the Fremont Troll, browsed a gluten-free bakery (yay!), had lunch at the dogbite kid's dad's Puerto Rican restaurant (La Isla, it was WONDERFUL-- if you are ever in Seattle, go there), and meandered around Pike Place Market.  We bought flowers and wine for our friends with whom we were spending the night, then headed to Port Orchard to see them.  It was lovely-- they made an amazing dinner, we met their beautiful, smart, wonderful kids, saw their lovely new home,  and we got to chat and catch up and, honestly, it was one of the best nights I had had in a very long while.  The next day we headed to the airport and caught the plane and headed to Juneau.

This time there was no crash landing, but I have never flown into a place so....desolate.  When you looked down from the plane, there were no houses, no cars, no streetlights, just lots and lots of trees and land.  Once we landed I found out just how desolate Juneau is-- did you know there are no roads in or out of Juneau?  If you want to leave the city, your only options are boat or plane.  IT WAS LIKE WAYWARD PINES ON CRACK.  (Did anybody else watch that this summer?  It was weird.)  We had ended up finding out in Seattle that we were on the plane with two other friends of Heidi's, one of whom I had been drunk with before (and who ran up to me in the airport, threw her arms around me and screamed "HEY, BITCHES!" even though I had only met her once in 2009 and hadn't seen her since-- I LOVE YOU NATHALIE, YOU KICK ASS) so Heidi's two aunts picked the four of us up and delivered us to our respective locations.  Several family friends had opened up their homes to wedding guests, and we were staying at the home of Heidi's Dad and Stepmom's closest friends, Lee and Sherie.  Now, for an introvert like me, it's terrifying to fly into a strange place and stay with people you've never met, but OH MY GOODNESS they were SO AMAZING.  We immediately bonded and I will love them for life.  Lee used to be a reporter for the LA Times, Sherie was a nurse, they have lived all over and done so many things and have this amazing home on the beach in Juneau-- it was incredible.  I LOVE THEM.

I'm digressing due to my love for Lee and Sherie.  Sorry, they are just really awesome.

Once we got settled in, we had about an hour before we needed to leave for the whale-watching rehearsal dinner.  Since so many people were coming from so far away for the wedding, Heidi and John (the groom, because I don't think I've mentioned John yet) invited everyone to everything, which was lovely.  You know how you go to weddings and meet people and are around them for 2 hours and never see them again?  Well, we spent 3 DAYS with this motley crew, so we REALLY got to know some people.  We saw whales and sea lions playing in the ocean.  We had dinner on a tiny island, in a pretty little cabin.  And later that night, we saw GUILLOTINE RIOT play, the groom's band, a Punk Metal group from New York City whose lead singer is my girl crush, Christa.  (I love you, Christa.  Even though I may be older than you, I want to be you when I grow up.)

The next day was the wedding.  The wedding was beautiful, the bride was gorgeous, the reception was amazing.  It was like a fairy-tale, minus the hike through the forest in heels and the 50-degree temperature, for which I had not packed.  The highlights for me were the following:

1.  I insulted a Muslim neurosurgeon, when I refused to believe was a neurosurgeon until I googled him while standing in front of him and realized OH SHIT, HE IS THE CHIEF OF NEUROSURGERY AT FSU.  My bad.  I apologized and offered to find him a wife (any takers yet?)  He's really funny.....

2.  I had the best Manhattan of my life, courtesy of my husband, who knew that by the time we reached the wedding I NEEDED SOME WHISKEY.  

3.  I exchanged numbers with Christa, who offered to take me and Belly on a girl's voyage through Brooklyn next time we're in NY, exchanged info with Adrian, who offered to send me spicy margarita mix from his company, and met Danae, a lawyer to whom I now text random photos of my dog (because we're awesome like that).

Lowlight:  B and I got in a nasty fight over him wanting to set up Nicki and Alberto, to which I cried "No!  CHRISTA, MY GIRLCRUSH, IS WITH ALBERTO!  IF I CAN'T HAVE HER, ALBERTO MUST!" and then I threatened to kill and disembowel him (B).  Apparently I went into a lot of detail in regards to the killing.  Oops.  I was drunk.  And I think I have PTSD (but that's another story).  I was BAD, BAD BAD.  *SORRY B*

Don't worry.  We're okay now.

The next morning, everyone showed up (extremely hungover) at a skate house near a glacier where we were supposed to eat bagels and go on a hike (I can't have bagels now and the hike was canceled due to rain).  It was still lovely (but cold) and I got my first chance to see a glacier and a waterfall RIGHT NEXT TO EACH OTHER.  In Alaska.  How cool is that?  And I met a dog named Buoy, with whom I am madly entranced.

The next morning, we headed home.  We left Juneau on an 8am flight, and got into Atlanta at midnight, where we still had to get our bags, retrieve the car, and drive 2 1/2 hours home.

Other items of note:

1.  Juneau has the best coffee ever (Heritage Coffee) and GLUTEN FREE FOOD at the Hangar, in case you are ever there and need said items.

2.  Juneau is tiny.  Everywhere we went beyond the strip where the cruise ships dock, people asked us "Are you with the Hansen wedding?"  Because everybody knows everybody.  It's fabulous.

3.  People do not like to be called "Eskimos."  Don't do it.  Although they will forgive you if you are from the South because the manner in which you say it is so charming.

4.  I could never live in Alaska, despite the beauty, because the weather and the darkness would make me leap off a glacier to my certain (hopefully) death.

5.  Sleep is overrated.

Congratulations, Heidi and John.  Although I did not get to make a fool of myself on your wedding video (no videographer), we had an amazing time just the same.

And the 333 spell is broken.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Enter Chaos

You know how you're sailing along through your life, and everything is pretty much the same most every day for the longest time and then all of a sudden the Universe sweep kicks you and you go tumbling down a rabbit hole of batshit crazy?

Welcome to the past three weeks of my life.

It started with me sitting on the porch, drinking a cup of tea and waiting on Sutt's bus to drop him off from school.  It was Thursday and things were feeling pretty settled around here, for the first time in a while after moving and adjusting.  It was hot, but it's always hot, I had been cleaning all day, and it was nice just to sit still.  Then my phone rang and it was a Boston area code (I know this because B used to have one) and since I don't know anyone in Boston (at least, no one I really want to talk to), I ignored it.  They left a voicemail, so I decided to check it, only to hear my doctor say, "Don't freak out, but I'm calling you from my personal cell and I need you to call me back at this number immediately."

WHAT DO YOU MEAN "DON'T FREAK OUT?"  When your doctor gives you their personal cell phone number and calls you on her day off, two days before you're expecting to hear regular old blood results, and says "don't freak out" your first reaction is to FREAK THE HELL OUT.

Side notes:  My doctor had recently moved here from Boston, and she is a badass.  She went to med school at Harvard, did her residency at Beth Israel, and then joined Harvard's faculty where she's won a zillion awards and published a bunch of papers and SHE'S ONLY 40.  (I looked her up-- I always do my research because I have no desire to put my life in the hands of some person who went to med school in the Caribbean because they weren't smart enough to get into a decent one elsewhere, or who has been sued for malpractice thirty-two times already when they have only been practicing for five years.)  Anyway, the other side note is that I have been feeling pretty rough for a LONG time now-- like, several years-- and had seen a slew of doctors about a slew of symptoms only to repeatedly be told that it was all caused by anxiety.  ANXIETY, MY ASS.  My joints hurt, my hands kept going numb for no reason, I had a weird rash appear on my knees, and I felt like I was getting a cold ALL THE TIME and was always exhausted.  THAT'S NOT ANXIETY.  Even I know that.

So I called Rakhi back (by the way, doctors who ask you to call them by their first names are my favorite, because they are usually less likely to be assholes) and she started explaining that my blood panel had come back and that I very likely had Celiac Disease.  A normal person's numbers were supposed to be 0-19, 30 was a strong positive for Celiac, and I was 140.  AWESOME.

So while she's telling me all this (which was complicated because I didn't know ANYTHING about Celiac Disease), call waiting beeps in.  I ask her to hold for a sec because it's B and it was unusual for him to call at that time.  I answer, and before I can say anything but "hello," he says, "Hey!  So, we're gonna go to Alaska next week."  HUH?

Then the landline rings.  Belly brings it to me (while both lines are still occupied on my phone) and it's Sutt's school calling to tell me that he missed the bus and I need to come get him.  NOW.

While the school secretary is talking, the phone beeps again.  It's the hospital OR scheduler calling to set up my endoscopy.  WHAT IS AN ENDOSCOPY?

AT THIS POINT I HAVE FOUR PEOPLE ON TWO PHONES, AND I HAVE NO FREAKING IDEA WHAT THE HELL ANY OF THEM ARE TALKING ABOUT.  Not to mention that Belly is hovering over me asking, "who's on the phones?  what's going on?"  Holy shit.

I hung up on everybody except Rakhi.  She kept telling me "honey, you have to feel really bad" to which I politely answered that I'VE BEEN TELLING YOU PEOPLE, AND HALF THE DOCTORS OF HAMPTON ROADS, VIRGINIA, THAT YES, I FEEL LIKE SHIT.  SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH ME.  Luckily, for Rakhi AND for myself, the Celiac thing wasn't that big of a deal to me, but more of a relief.  I've been thinking I had cancer or something and that I was going to keel over before anybody figured out what was wrong.  Plus, I already have diabetes and deal with that crap all the time, so giving up gluten?  Whatever.  She gave me the number to return the call to the OR and told me she wanted to run a tube down my throat and take some samples of my small intestine on Monday, I said cool, and we hung up.  Then I headed to get Sutt and scheduled the endoscopy on my way in the car.

B showed up at home about the same time I got back from picking Sutt up, and by then I had forgotten he wanted to go to Alaska.  (Yeah, ALASKA.  WHO CALLS THEIR WIFE ON THE WAY HOME FROM WORK AND GIVES THEM A WEEK'S NOTICE THAT THEY WANT TO GO TO ALASKA?  B.  THAT'S WHO.  AND THEN WHO FORGETS THAT IT HAPPENED ONLY A HALF HOUR AFTER HE CALLS?  ME.  I DO.)  He immediately launched into how he had found tickets and made a plan and we were going to go to Seattle first and visit old friends, then hop up to Juneau for a few days and he would talk to my Mom to see if she could watch the kids.  Heidi, his ex-girlfriend, who I've known and loved for years (and who came to OUR wedding) was getting married near her Dad's home in Alaska and he had made the decision last minute that we would be able to work it out and attend.  Yay.

Which was awesome except I was already feeling a little overwhelmed from the previous hour of getting diagnosed with a new disease, setting up surgery, and locating my missing child who is too much of a dumbass to listen to the announcements when the buses are called.

That was three weeks ago today.  Since then, I have had the endoscopy.  And a CT scan for a lump in my abdomen (scar tissue).  And an MRI for a mass in my liver (still waiting on the results because it was only done yesterday, and we only found it because it showed up in the CT scan, totally unrelated).  And been to Seattle (where our plane crash landed-- next blog), and Alaska.  I have been to a whale-watching rehearsal dinner on an island, my first Catholic wedding in a shrine to which you had to hike through a forest to reach, and a brunch by a glacier in a skating cabin.  I have befriended a Punk Metal band from New York City, made life-long buddies with an amazing couple who opened their home to us in Juneau, met the lovely wife and kids of a long-time friend who I haven't seen in thirteen years, and traded cell numbers with a lawyer in DC for the sole purpose of being able to randomly text her photos of my dog.  I got to know a neurosurgeon (whom I harassed for a while at first because I thought he was lying about being a neurosurgeon--he wasn't) for whom I am now trying to find a girlfriend. (Any takers out there?  I can set you up.  I think he's hilarious because, like me, he doesn't have much of a filter, but everybody else seems to think he's kind of an asshole.)

And I did all this stuff while becoming Gluten Free, which, as it turns out, is ridiculously more complicated than I thought it would be because gluten isn't just bread, it's in SO MUCH STUFF.  Gum.  Makeup.  Cleaning supplies.  Soy sauce.  Pretty much every sauce you can imagine.  SO MUCH STUFF.  And Georgia is NOT A GLUTEN-FREE FRIENDLY PLACE.  I'm pretty sure I may starve to death here.  But I'm learning and I'm getting there.  I feel so much better already, which makes sense because since my small intestine wasn't absorbing a lot of what I ate, I wasn't getting any of the vitamins and nutrients and whatnot I needed, hence the feeling like I was getting sick all the time.  My joints/legs/etc are much better (JJ, if by some reason you are reading this, file away in your mental medical file that Celiac is something to consider, especially if you see a Type I diabetic with mystery ortho pain), my headaches are gone, my creepy knee rash is gone.  Life just still feels crazy, though.  I gotta readjust.

Next blog I'll tell you about our trip.  It will be funnier, I promise, and highly entertaining.  Just covering my bases here.

Happy Thursday.