Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Strange Brew

I'm not a big fan of the mall—mostly because I tend to have horrible experiences there.  I frequently get hoodwinked by enthusiastic salespeople who sell me junk I don't need and never use, and I have had enough dressing room blunders to write an entire book of anecdotes on fitting room mishaps.

For example, when I went to the mall around Christmastime, I was confronted with the following dressing room horror show:

(Yes, that is a used Band-Aid, a packet of ketchup and an open safety pin.  I'm not sure what the pregnancy-test-like thing is.  I can only imagine what was going on in this fitting room before I arrived.) 

For these reasons I generally avoid the mall, but when my husband's aunt recently offered to accompany me there to get some new clothes for the kids, I just couldn't resist.  I had been lying around nursing my broken tailbone for so long that any opportunity to get out of the house was irresistible.

We had a plan—we would start at one end of the mall and work our way through the department stores, purchasing clearance clothing for the kids for next season.  All was going well until, as we strolled through the corridor between Macy's and Boscov's, I heard a friendly voice chirp, "Would you like to sample some tea?"

I turned and found myself gazing at the most amazing tea shop I had ever seen.  Wonderful, fruity smells wafted from the store, and I could see all manner of decorative teapots and pretty cups sparkling on the shelves.  I heard heady, new-agey music pulsing inside, and I began wandering in that direction in an awed trance.

Now, I think I should probably preface this next part by saying that I am not really a tea drinker—I prefer coffee.  I do love a good iced tea in the summertime, but I'm just not a fan of hot tea (unless I'm at a Chinese restaurant; for some reason I always end up drinking ten cups of the addictive concoction they brew in there).

Nevertheless, my curiosity was piqued by all of the sparkly tea paraphernalia, and between my good mood and the alluring music I just couldn't stop myself from wandering in.  I happily sampled the tea being offered.  It was delicious, and I readily agreed when the salesperson asked me if I'd like to try another.

I was led to a table with some science-experiment-like equipment on it.  I noticed little dried-up balls on a plate; they resembled owl pellets and I had a flashback to middle school science class. 

I screwed up my face and wondered if I was going to see some rodent bones.  Fortunately I needn't have worried; they were just tea balls, and the saleslady—we'll call her Betty—directed my attention to a clear glass teapot with what looked like flowers and moss growing inside of it.

Betty explained that this was called "blooming tea."  According to her, impoverished workers in China hand-roll dried flowers into these blooming tea balls for our American enjoyment.  She stated that the workers get paid, "A penny for every twenty they do...or something like that."  I thought this sounded like a lousy endorsement for buying owl-pellet tea balls assembled via slave labor, so I passed on those. 

I then continued my tea-sampling orgy, trying iced tea, fruit tea, jasmine tea, white tea, herb tea, and Chinese tea (which didn't taste nearly as good without the accompanying pork fried rice).  I was particularly fond of the iced tea, and Betty explained that it was a mixture of two different blends.  It was completely caffeine free, she said, and therefore it would be perfect for the kids.

I envisioned myself having a Martha Stewart-ish moment, mixing up delicious pitchers of fruity iced tea for the family in the summertime.  Heck, if I couldn't impress my family with my lousy cooking, at least I could make some yummy tea.  I immediately told her I would take some.

At the counter, Betty removed two giant metal tubs from a rack on the wall behind her.  She began scooping contents from each tub into two different bags while telling me all about the health benefits of fresh tea.

"We have doctors sending their patients to our store for holistic remedies," she said proudly.  "The tea is so fresh and full of nutrients, it can even cure migraine headaches and other physical ailments."  I immediately grew curious and began telling her about my chronic muscle and nerve pain, which I take painkillers and muscle relaxers for on a daily basis.

"Oh, we have a tea that's great for muscle spasms!" she replied.  "It's got these special cherries that have relaxing qualities.  It would be very helpful for your problems."

I told her to go ahead and add some of that to my purchase.

By this point, my daughter Clara was getting restless.  She had been sitting in the stroller for at least twenty minutes while I sampled teas and talked about health remedies, and she now wanted to get out of the store.  Unfortunately we couldn't leave just yet, because scooping and bagging my teas was taking Betty longer than I'd expected, so I purchased a sugar spoon from the counter and handed it to my daughter.

"Look, Clara!  Lollipop!"

Clara picked up the sugar spoon, took a couple of sucks, and then promptly dropped it on the floor and started to cry.  I groaned.

"Oh dear!" Betty said.  "Would you like me to rinse it off with some water?"

"No, no...I'll just buy another one."  I gave Clara the new sugar spoon, and she successfully managed a few more sucks before dropping that one too.  She started to wail.

I told Betty I needed to get on my way, so I asked her if she could start ringing up my order.  That's when I looked at the counter and noticed that I had several mostly-full bags of tea, and I had not a clue how much any of it cost.  I buy tea about once a year—for my husband for Christmas—and I'm used to buying it at Target, where an $8.00 box of teabags will last us until the following holiday.  I realized that I was most likely looking at a forty dollar tea purchase, and I started to sweat.

As she started weighing everything, Betty asked me what I was planning on storing my tea in.  After all, she said, tea will degrade if exposed to light or air, so I needed something both air and light tight.

"Oh, I'll just put them in the ceramic canisters on my kitchen counter."

"Well, see, that won't work," explained Betty, "because light penetrates ceramic.  Only metal will block the UV rays, so you need to use something like these handy tea tins that you can purchase right here at the store.  You'll probably need two, because you have a good amount of tea here, and you don't want it to lose its freshness."

I looked at the obviously overpriced tea tins and tried to figure out if I could avoid buying them.  Clara was still mourning the loss of her second sugar spoon and was nearing meltdown status.   

"Fine, fine...just ring them up too," I added, anxious to get out of the store.

"Okay, and, um, how were you planning on brewing the tea?" Betty asked.

"Uh...with my one-cup coffeemaker?"

"Oh, well, this is whole-leaf tea, see, so you need a tea ball or other brewing device.  We have some right over here..." and she walked me to one of the walls full of fancy tea accoutrements.  I quickly selected what I hoped was a modestly-priced brewer and pulled out my credit card.

As Betty rang up my order I watched the growing total with alarm.  I silently prayed that my bill wouldn't exceed sixty dollars.

"That will be one hundred and five dollars and eighty-two cents," Betty chirped.

I'm pretty sure the blood drained from my face at this point, and I sensed the beginnings of a panic attack.  I felt like a complete idiot.  I hadn't, at any point, even asked how much the tea was.  After all, how much could tea possibly cost?  It's tea!!

Apparently it costs quite a bit if you purchase a POUND of it.

I quickly thought about my order and tried to figure out if there was anything I could put back.  Short of emptying the meticulously-weighed-and-measured tea back into its original tin and returning it to the shelf, there seemed to be no solution...and I just didn't have the time to wait for Betty to re-measure a different quantity of tea.

I sheepishly offered my credit card, stared at the floor and shuffled my feet while the ridiculously long receipt printed out.  Betty bid me a friendly farewell, and I hustled out of the store with my tail between my legs.

Once we were out of earshot of the saleslady, my husband's aunt laughed, clapped me on the back and shouted, "Well, she sure took you for a ride!!"

My face burned with embarrassment.  

My palms sweated all over the steering wheel as I drove home.   I realized I was going to have some major explaining to do.  Not wanting my husband to arrive at the house and be surprised by a ridiculously huge credit card receipt, I called him at work to explain myself.

"Um, I made a little, um...oopsie," I said in my most timid and remorseful voice.

"Uh oh...what did you do now?" my husband asked.

I sheepishly explained that I had been tricked into purchasing a pound of tea and accompanying paraphernalia for a hundred dollars.  I tried to explain how the saleslady had used her wiles to con me, but I was interrupted.

"Wait a second.  You don't even like tea!!  I'm the only one who drinks it!  So you spent a hundred dollars on something you don't even like?!"

I started to share my fantasy of making iced tea for everyone this summer, thinking that I could cheer my husband with talk of refreshing fruit tea, but he interrupted me again.

"What the hell else did you buy?" he snapped.

"Um...just some tea tins and a brewer," I said sheepishly.

"Well, we're going to return the tins.  We don't need them—we have canisters on the counter that will work just fine."

I relayed Betty's assertion that light penetrates ceramic, so the canisters won't work.

"Wait, wait... I call 'bullshit' on that!!" my husband hollered.  "Seriously?  I mean, think about it.  Ceramic isn't light-tight?  You mean if I sit in a glazed ceramic container on the beach I'll get a sunburn?  That's freaking ridiculous!" 

I stared at the floor.  "Well, we can return the tins if you really want to."

He huffed.  "We'll figure it out when I get home," he said before hanging up.

I swallowed and took a calming breath.  At least the worst was over.  I stared at my glossy bag filled with overpriced tea and vowed to drink it every day for the next year if I had to, just to prove that it wasn't a complete waste of money. 

That evening I brewed my first glass of iced tea from my stash.  As I scooped the tea out of the bag, this twig came out with the dried berries.

I estimate I probably paid about $1.00 for it.  On the bright side, since it's a gourmet twig I'm sure it's one of the freshest twigs I'd be able to find anywhere.  Too bad I couldn't bring myself to brew it. 

After disposing of the stick, I installed myself on the sofa with my iced tea and tried to look like it was transporting me to previously unachieved levels of ecstasy.

"So, how's your ten dollar glass of tea?" my husband asked sarcastically.

"It's good, actually."

"Well, it better be.  We've got enough tea to last us the next ten years."

I had nothing to say.  I was significantly admonished and completely embarrassed.

"Well," my husband said, "All I have to say is...you'd better write a damn funny blog post about this!"  

Well, at least that's taken care of.   

Now I think I'll have a cup of tea.


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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Broke Butt Mountain

Most people have love-hate relationships with their bodies, and I'm no different—although it's not for the reasons one might think.  I don't hate the stretch marks that I bear as a result of having my children, and I don't get too upset over the venetian-blind effect that characterizes my tummy every time I slouch our bend. 

No—my issue is with my backside.  For some reason, having children has caused my bum to go all flat and droopy.

Now, I expected that my belly would be a bit loose after stretching to accommodate the equivalent of a small watermelon.  I also knew that my boobs would begin their migration to what will surely be their final resting place—just north of my belly button.  But I never thought my bum would go from "bootylicious" to "bootylifeless."

I first learned of the unfortunate situation plaguing my backside when a friend happened to catch a shot of my rump at a child's birthday party.

Exhibit A:
Where's the beef?

After seeing this photo, I quickly dispatched with the offending jeans and replaced them with a "booty-enhancing" pair with flappy back pockets.

Unfortunately, the problem wasn't just aesthetic.  My butt seems to have lost all of its functionality too.  Lately, my hindquarters seem to be incapable of performing even the most basic of duties—like, say, holding my jeans up.

I discovered that one of my comfiest pairs of jeans was failing me when my husband recently assaulted my derriere during my daughter's diaper change.  I was bent over—busily tending to my squiggling little girl—when my hubby stealthily crept up behind me, stuck his finger in my butt crack, wiggled it and yelled something resembling "blalalalalaa!!" in a high-pitched voice. 

Seriously—he could have just told me my butt was sticking out.  It would have been a lot less traumatic for all involved.

Needless to say, those jeans were donated to Goodwill.  It cheers me to think that some other gal can now unwittingly flash her butt crack every time she bends over...and for only six dollars (what a bargain)!  I have since been guilty of buying those dreaded high-waisted jeans that most women avoid.

But there's one side effect of my new condition that I never could have anticipated: I no longer have any padding on my bottom to protect me when I fall.  Not that I fall a lot, mind you, but on a scale from "graceful" to "clumsy," I certainly come in closer to the "clumsy" end.

I've suffered several major falls in the past few years, and one time I actually succeeded in herniating a disc in my back.  I now deal with back pain on a daily basis, and any type of injury exacerbates things terribly.

It was for this reason that, when I announced that I was planning to try snowboarding, my husband shot me a look that could have melted steel.

"Do you really think that's a smart thing to do?" he asked me in disbelief.  "You'll kill yourself!"

"Well thanks for the vote of confidence, sweetheart!!" I responded, stomping off in a huff.

Now, if anyone knows what a stubborn idiot I can often be, it's my husband.  He can tell right away when I've got some crazy idea in my head, and he also knows that there's not much he can do about it.  This didn't stop him from trying to talk me out of snowboarding, though.  After much arguing, he realized he wouldn't be able to thwart me directly, so he sought to wear me down by calling everyone we knew and complaining on a daily basis about how unreasonable I was.

My sister also joined the chorus of concerned voices.  She had offered to teach me to snowboard, and when she arrived at my house she wasted no time in soberly warning me of the dangers I faced.  She even insisted that my husband and I come in a separate car just in case I was in too much pain and couldn't continue at some point.

I responded to her concern by rolling my eyes and grumbling.

I probably should have recognized that people were honestly trying to help, but by this point I was so annoyed with everyone that any suggestion concerning my safety was immediately disregarded.

When my husband asked me how my back was feeling on the way to the mountain, I fumed and huffed and told him I was fine.  I just about bit my sister's head off when she suggested I get a helmet from the rental shop, and when a small argument erupted over whether I should start on the bunny trail or one of the beginner slopes, I had to restrain myself from forcibly ramming my rental board up someone's backside.

I had sufficiently angered pretty much everyone in our party by the time we all had our gear, so it was decided that we should stop talking and just head out to the slope.  I quickly became giddy with excitement—I had made it!  I was on the mountain, and no one was going to stop me from having fun!

I smiled for the camera, strapped on my board and promptly slid into a ditch, where I spent the next ten minutes flopping about on my back like a wounded beetle trying to right itself. 

My husband spent a few victorious moments laughing at me, then made some half-assed attempts to drag me from the rut with his ski pole.  Eventually I swallowed my pride and took the board off.  I walked back out to the middle of the trail and started again.

My next attempt was significantly better and resulted in only a few falls.  Before long I had made it to the bottom of the hill and was mounting the lift to try the slope again.  I was excited to be getting the hang of it, but I had to admit that my sister had been right about one thing—I was falling a lot, and by the time an hour had passed, I was feeling quite beat up and sore.

My back was hurting in the usual places, and my shoulders and neck were cramping and burning.  Nevertheless, I pushed on—learning to snowboard was exhilarating!  My hubby stuck with me as I repeatedly tumbled in the snow, even though he would much rather have been swishing down the advanced slopes on his skis.  I was extremely grateful for his company, especially since I had been such a crabby-ass earlier.

Things were going along swimmingly until I caught the back edge of my board wrong, tipped over backwards and fell down hard on my woefully un-cushioned butt.  Pain exploded in my rump and I curled up in a ball in the snow, rocking and moaning "Owwww...." 

My husband took the pause in activity as an opportunity to snap some scenic pictures.  He captured some photos of the mountains around us, then turned the camera on me and said, "Smile, honey!"  I struggled to my knees and slapped a smile on my face.

 I think I did a pretty good job of hiding the fact that I had just sustained a massive tailbone injury.

"Great!" my husband shouted.  "Ready to get going?" 

I wobbled to my feet and told myself that I was fine, even though I was nauseous from pain and a bit weak-in-the-knees.  We were due to meet up with my sister in the lodge in an hour, and I was not about to let her see me admitting defeat.  And I was certainly not about to say that I had to stop and go home early. 

I struggled through another half an hour of falling in the snow before telling my hubby that I needed a break.  We went back to the lodge and he worked on getting me some food, while I rested and took some pain medication and muscle relaxers.

When my sister arrived, she was thrilled to hear that I still had my snowboard (I had threatened to switch to skis if boarding sucked), and she couldn't wait to go down a run with me so she could see my skills.

My hubby was more than excited to be relieved of the task of babysitting me, and he quickly took off by himself to do some serious skiing.  After he left, my sister looked at me sorta funny and asked, "Do you have any idea what you look like?" 

"What do you mean?" I asked.  

"You mean he didn't tell you?" she asked in disbelief.  "Here, I'll show you," she said, and she took this picture of me: 

I looked at the picture and affected an expression that I hoped communicated horror.  Inwardly I was in way too much pain to give a whoopdie-doo about some errant hair.

"I can't believe he didn't tell you that your hair looks ridiculous!" my sister exclaimed.  "I mean, how could he just let you sit here looking like that?!" 

I shrugged, but inwardly I thought that it was likely that my husband was afraid to give me any suggestions after my earlier displays of bitchy behavior.  I put my hat back on and my sister gave me an approving look.  She declared I was once again fit for public viewing, and we headed back out to the slopes. 

I suffered through several more runs down the mountain on the board before deciding that I just couldn't endure any more falling.  Besides, it was now absolutely impossible for me to latch my own board on—every time I sat on the ground to fasten the straps I was struck by excruciating pain in my bum.  I was thus stuck awkwardly waiting for my sister to bend down and attach my board each time we got off the lift. 

Common sense says that I should have just quit at this point, but I had packed my skis in my car, and I didn't want to leave the mountain before getting in a few good runs, dammit!

I took off my rental gear, limped to the car, retrieved my skis and got suited up all over again.  Unfortunately I was in worse shape than I'd anticipated.  My shoulders were on fire, I had pain shooting through my hips and back, my neck was a mess of knots, and I had a massive headache.  I also felt like I had a red-hot coal embedded at the base of my spine.  I went for a few clumsy runs on my skis and finally cried "uncle."  

I hobbled to the lodge on shaky legs and put my head down on a table.  I breathed slowly, trying not to throw up because of the pain.  My hubby found me, saw the state I was in and kindly offered to pull the car around for me.  By the time it pulled up I could barely heave myself into it.  

Once we got on the road I said in a shaky voice, "Um, I think I may need to go to the hospital.  I think I may have actually seriously hurt myself." 


I waited for the "I told you so," but it never came.  

Instead, he just quietly said, "Well that sucks."  
(Have I mentioned that my husband is wonderful?)

As it turns out, I had broken my tailbone in my fall.  Stupidly, I had then proceeded to snowboard and ski with a fractured tailbone for another six hours, just because I didn't want to admit that I had hurt myself.  

I told you I'm an idiot sometimes.

The next day I could barely get out of bed, and my husband took care of the kids by himself.  He didn't complain once.  When he came to check on me, he was tender and loving, and when I beat myself up for being stupid, he hugged me and said, "It was just one of those freak accidents.  There's nothing you could have done about it." 

Well, I suppose I could have just skipped snowboarding in the first place.

I have spent the last couple of weeks taking painkillers and doing a whole lot of resting (hence why this post is so overdue...I've found it rather difficult to collect my thoughts on regular doses of narcotics).  The docs say that tailbone fractures take a long time to heal, and that my rump could take up to six months to fully repair itself.  I guess I won't be snowboarding again anytime soon. 

But oddly enough, I sort of want to do it again.  It was truly exciting to learn a new skill, and I was actually getting fairly good at it by the end of the day.  My hubby's pretty sure I'm insane, but I think I would snowboard again if I had the chance. 

Except, perhaps next time I should don some ass armor to protect my flat bottom before hitting the slopes.  Anyone know where I can get a butt helmet?
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