Three Kinds of Hell

This is yet another cautionary tale against going out to eat. I know there are plenty of them out there on the internet. And with my history, you’d think I would have learned by now. Out of a group of ten people, I’m the one most likely to get food poisoning. It’s a curse. Think I’m kidding? Read on and learn.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was served, not once, not twice, but three different times undercooked chicken. Fortunately, after the first time, I became obsessive about checking my food. At one point a few years ago, I was given food poisoning – again, not once, not twice, but on three different occasions from three different locations no less! – food poisoning from Subway’s chicken breast. Another case in point, I bought some steaks (years ago) from Walmart, not once but twice, was given food poisoning from the meat (despite cooking to the proper temperature). 

Mind you, I have a sensitive stomach anyway. There’s a long list of things I’m allergic to – chocolate, red wine, any kind of dried pepper or spice (paprika, cayenne, chili, cumin, taco seasoning) and any kind of hot pepper. I have to be careful around marinara sauces and pizza sauces. I’m the queen of bland foods – the spiciest I get is black pepper. 

But this weekend, a group of us (five) decided to go out to eat at a local chinese place that serves mongolian BBQ. I’ve been going there for four and a half years. The food is always perfect – I know what I can eat and what to stay away from. I did my usual – I grabbed a bowl for the mongolian bbq, filled it with mushrooms, onions, a nice scoop of garlic, a little carrots for crunch and color. Along the way I was behind a gentleman who had a heaping bowl of veggies and a second bowl in his hand for his condiments. I watched him ladle three heaping spoons of chili sauce, plus garlic pepper and jalapenos. I remember thinking, “Wow, that’s gonna be one hot dish! Glad I’m not eating that – it would just about kill me”. (Now don’t get ahead of me here).

He leaves his bowl and I stand and wait with my bowl, as I always do. I turn my head for a second as my daughter is talking to me, taking my eye off my bowl. I turn back and I’m momentarily disoriented. My bowl is gone. Startled I look up and the server nods and smiles at me, confident and in control. I look at the silver disk and there’s two heaps of veggies but I can’t tell at all which one is which. My boyfriend walks up with his bowl and I give him a baffled look. He points at the server, I shrug. I walk over to him and he suggests I go get food with our daughter and he’ll bring the food to the table. I smile, say thanks, tell him I think mine is on the left but the server should know, and off we go. 

The trouble doesn’t really start until the first bite. “Wow, that’s a bit spicy,” I mutter as my mouth catches on fire. My oldest stepdaughter takes a bite and declares, “I don’t taste anything.” My boyfriend does the same with the same result. I shrug, figuring it’s just me and take a few more bites. I’m picking around the edges, I’m grabbing from the middle and every couple of bites seems a little hotter. 

Then I find it. A sliver of zucchini under a piece of chicken. I don’t like zucchini. No way I put any in there, not even by accident. My boyfriend finds a red pepper flake – another thing I never put in my food.

Jalapeno_Estonia_3So I start digging a little deeper. Then I find it. Buried like a dubloon, seeds still intact, is a bright green sliced jalapeno. I pick it up with my fork like it’s diseased and hold it up for the table to see. There’s a stunned silence. Everyone there knows – beyond a doubt – I would never put something like that in my food, even accidentally.

My mouth is officially aflame. I can feel the roof of my mouth swelling. My tongue feels a little thick and I feel a slightly sick to my stomach. This is my favorite restaurant other than Olive Garden. My mind is madly calculating – how much did I eat? How long will I pay for this careless mistake? I’ve eaten at least a dozen or more good sized mouthfuls. About 1/10th of the plate is gone. I can practically picture the little chili flakes, red pepper and jalapeno seeds swimming gleefully in my stomach acid, bouncing off my stomach walls, leaving sizzling pockmarks in the tissue before joyously smashing and bashing their way through the rest of my digestive system. I’m almost paralyzed with terror.

This means 24 hours of three kinds of hell. It means the kind of diarrhea that has you clinging to the toilet for dear life, praying for death. It means hours of sweating, groaning, and intense pain that will leave me weak, drained, and exhausted. At this point, I’m done eating. I try to force myself to eat a little something. I’m trying not to ruin it for everyone else. I manage to eat most of a roll, part of some sweet and sour chicken and a handful of jello, terrified to eat anything more for fear of the consequences.

None of them have a clue what awaits me but I’m remembering the last time. I went to a Mexican restaurant (another thing I can’t eat) and ordered a grilled chicken salad. Little did I know their chicken came pre-seasoned in paprika. I didn’t realize it until the meal was done and I was running to the bathroom. That was about eight months ago.

I tell the manager, request a refund of the meal, which he gives us (but not before asking all kinds of questions as to what kind of reaction I will have. I’m not sure if he’s afraid we’ll sue or is fascinated), somewhat reluctantly it would seem. We go home and I take a benadryl, hoping it will lessen the effects but pretty certain it will only delay the agony.

As if that weren’t bad enough, I wake up the very next day, twelve hours later, and start my period. My esophagus feels like someone poured battery acid down it. My stomach is full of lead and I’m cramping fit to put a full grown man into the fetal position, sobbing and begging for mercy. The universe has a really fucked up sense of humor.

I take Midol and Advil like they are candy all day, eat some soup for lunch and generally keep the food consumption light until about midday when I can’t take it anymore. I must eat – I’m dizzy with hunger. So I have some salad and chicken and veggies for dinner.

Around 11 p.m. it hits me, like a freightliner to an iceberg. I’m trapped on the toilet, sweat pouring off of me. It’s hell and I’m practically in tears from the pain. Four hours later, I finally emerge, take another Benadryl in the hopes it will help unclench my sphincter muscles from their death throes, and crawl into bed, praying for sleep. It takes another hour but finally sleep comes at almost 3 a.m.

I’m up again at 7, groggy and dealing with two ornery children and a daughter trying to get ready for work. I have a meeting at 9 a.m. that I’m barely conscious for and currently I’m sitting here typing this dreaming of my bed. I just ate a bagel, which has somewhat soothed my stomach, although not the rest. Now instead of 24 hours of hell, this has turned into about 72 hours. And my week has only just begun.


It’s Not Fair

I’m so angry right now. I mean livid, rage-at-the-world, pissed. Why the hell am I the bad guy? Why the hell does my daughter blame me because my ex-husband is a piece of shit who couldn’t do right by me or my child? Doesn’t anyone understand how fucking impossibly hard all of this is? I didn’t want to tear apart my family but I had no other choice. The alternative was just too much to bear. He was hurting her. He was killing me. Not physically but emotionally and mentally he was destroying me. Piece by tiny piece until I was left as nothing but a shell.

But to him, and to my child, I did this. What the fuck? Because I was the only one strong enough to step up and say “No more!” Because I refused to take anymore of the shit?

My seven year old daughter doesn’t understand it. I don’t know how to make her understand that the man who has been her father for the last four years is a manipulative, lying dirtbag piece of shit who doesn’t deserve to lick the dirt under her feet. He doesn’t love her. How could he when he never loved me? She’s a part of me. All he does is hurt her. And yet, when she looks at me with those baby blue eyes and says, “It’s not fair, I miss him,” what the hell do I say to that?

I’m happy in my life. Not perfectly but for the most part, I’m happy especially compared to where I was. I have a man who loves me and accepts my child as his own. Truly accepts and loves her. And yet she wants my ex-husband. And nothing I say or do can change that.

I’m just fucking tired. I’m tired of listening to it. For four months I’ve had to watch her cry, listen to her blame me and no matter what I say or do, it’s not enough. So I finally said, “Fuck it,” and called him to arrange a time for him to see her. Which also makes me the bad fucking guy. WHAT THE HELL! I can’t fucking win.

All I know is I’m tired of being in the midst of it all. I’m tired of being the bad guy no matter what I do. I can’t do right so what the fuck is the point?

I hate how hard this is. I hate watching the child I love more than life, hurt. I just want that to go away. I just want my life back. I really fucking hate him for lying to me. He promised to love me, to be there for me and then refused to do as he promised. He married me and decided that meant he owned me, and could do whatever the hell he wanted.

Yet I’m the one suffering while he goes on about his life. I hate it. I officially hate him and I don’t care at this moment whether that’s the right thing or not. I fucking hate him. I hate him for hurting me, for lying to me, for belittling me. I hate him for all of it. Most of all, I hate him for fucking hurting her. And for that hurt being the one thing that made me break into little pieces of despair and allow him back into her life.

What the hell kind of mother am I? What the hell was I thinking? And why is it so goddamned confusing? Why does it hurt like someone is stabbing me over and over in the heart? I just want to see her happy and whole.

On top of it all, the man I love is livid with me. He’s angry and I don’t know if he has a right to be or not. Am I just stupid? Selfish? Weak?

One thing I know is I’m lost in it all and I have no idea what the right path is. Which also isn’t fair.

Unfortunately, I’ve created this path and I guess I just have to walk it and see where it leads. If there is a divine essence or presence, please protect her from my foolishness and weakness. Please help her to understand what even I can’t seem to understand myself. Please give me strength to carry on because right now I feel so weak, lost, and alone I can’t stand it. It really just hurts. And that’s not fair either.

Morbid Musings About Life & Death

Almost three years ago, one of my favorite authors, Sara Douglass, tragically died from ovarian cancer. I don’t recall what led me to reading up on her again but I was delighted to find her websites have been restored. After several hours of reading, I decided to blog about my thoughts.

One thought that immediately comes to mind is an ongoing and intense debate my ex and I had about death and illness. I am admittedly a big wuss. I hate needles and all things medically necessary. I have a living will and have ever since Terri Schiavo‘s case made national news. I lived less than a mile from her (what a circus that surrounded her once the media really got involved!). I am adamantly against being artificially kept alive.

If I get cancer, I don’t want chemo. Why on earth would I want to ruin my last few months of good life? If I am brain dead, why keep my organs going when the biggest part of what makes me who I am is gone? I do not understand other people’s selfish needs to keep another from dying. Why can’t I just have peace and surround myself with those I love? No one lives forever.

The argument I would get is “But what if chemo gives you six more months or a year?” To which my response quite simply is, “What quality of life would that be?” I would rather create a bucket list and pursue it than fight against a medical certainty.

Fortunately, as far as I know, no one in my family has ever died from cancer. Heart attacks, yes. Cancer, no. So I’m not necessarily predisposed to cancer but regardless of that, if I can’t be independent, if I’m going to be a burden on those I love, and be unable to truly participate in and enjoy my life, then there’s really no point. Maybe I’m old fashioned but I think a person’s right to die is their choice and shouldn’t be taken away from them. Let me sign an affidavit with witnesses and then help me find peace. Is that so hard? Instead of being a drain on the medical community and my own family’s resources?

Personally, I think Steve Jobs did a great job. He died with dignity as far as I can tell. He sought medical treatment that would extend his life in positive ways and then when the end was certain, he allowed himself to fade amongst his family. He did as much as he could do but he didn’t cling to life unnecessarily. Patrick Swayze did the same thing.

I’m not saying I would assume cancer to automatically be a death sentence but I would have to weigh it all pretty heavily. I have had three major surgeries in my life and I hated every one of them. I’ve had over 15 dental procedures, each one more grueling than the last. I’ve developed an allergy to Novocaine because of all the dental procedures I’ve had since I was 15. Most of the time, to start an IV they have to drug me. When I was pregnant and laying on the operation table for my c-section with my daughter, my heart rate and blood pressure were so high they were concerned I might have a heart attack or other medical event. Medical procedures terrify me. Just being in a medical setting is enough to get my heart racing.

Recently I went to the doctor’s office for my annual ob/gyn exam and the office wanted to do bloodwork. It took the entire exam to convince me to let them draw my blood and they had to have the tech come to me. Thankfully it was one of the best blood draws I’ve ever had but I was still terrified. So why would I go through some of the most horrendous medical procedures known to man to treat cancer? No thanks!

I do what I can – I eat reasonably well, I’m working on losing some weight (which is much tougher since having my daughter 7 years ago – stubborn muffin top!), I’ve eliminated caffeine, I don’t smoke, rarely drink and I don’t do anything dangerous. So if cancer comes into my life, it’s obviously something outside of my control and should be a sign that my time has come. So let me go gracefully and peacefully in my own way. I can only hope I will have left some kind of positive mark on the world, through my writings, my kids, and my life.

Fortunately, I do not have cancer or any other life threatening illness. I expect to live long and prosper (thanks Spock!) and die an old, crotchety lady in my bed, hopefully surrounded by people who love me. I just want, in the words of One Stab (Legends of the Fall), what every warrior wants: “Every warrior hopes a good death will find him.” I’ve been a warrior in this life – fighting against abuse, fighting to overcome and break the chains of abuse, poverty, and violence. I’ve fought to better myself.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s been good too. My daughter is proof of that. Other children who have come into my life in need of a mother are proof too. But overall, life has always been hard, from the moment I was born two months early. So yes, a good death would be the best I could ask for after all the struggles.