Sep 2, 2018

Nail Salon Be Like "We Can Do It"

OK - here goes:

All my life, I have secretly suffered from a condition called Dermatillomania. I pick at my cuticles sometimes so badly they bleed and I soothe myself by pouring peroxide over my wounds, smoothing antibiotic cream over the brutalized cuticles and hoping my ministrations help me avoid a future infection. The cuticles heal and then I start the cycle all over again... and again... and again.  Band-aids are a necessity and mostly hide my ugly secret. I'm mortified and embarrassed about this condition and often console myself with the thought that at least I don't cut myself. Things could be much, much worse.

I have a mental illness related to obsessive-compulsive disorder and I pick unconsciously at my cuticles in times of stress or anxiety. I manage the condition with medication, but it's not a cure-all.

In my case, the only thing that works 100% of the time is getting and keeping up with my acrylic nails. It's time-consuming, costly and expensive. I only do it when I feel completely off the rails. I look down at a couple of my bandaged fingers and just know...it's time.

Because of a particularly stressful afternoon at my volunteer job today, I desperately wanted to pick at my thumb. I was super angry and frustrated. My unexpressed feelings seemed to be overtaking me. I needed and wanted instant relief by doing a little self-grooming. (Unlike an alcoholic, I don't have a sponsor to call when this crazy compulsive feeling overtakes me.) But I know myself very well. One pick leads to another finger and another rip of a cuticle. What the hell was I thinking last week by removing my acrylic nails while driving into work deluding myself into thinking I could do better this time?

When I visited the salon this afternoon, she noticed that I had removed my acrylic nails. "Why you take off?" she asked. I explained that it's hard to secure the clasps on my necklaces as I'm getting dressed for work in the morning. She asked, "Too thick?"  But between you and I, that's only partially true.  I detest wasting 90 minutes of my precious life sitting in a nail salon because I have OCD and can't stop hurting myself. So the answer to her question is yes, much too thick.

Maybe a minute or two passed and apparently I was taking too long to choose my color when the owner asked me if I could use some help.

Let me pause here to say that I could never work in a nail salon because there are simply too many goddamned bottles of polish. The OCD within me tries not to stare at the racks with all the bottles out of sequential order in the gel section.  I itch to rearrange them during every visit. Most of the time, the people who work in nail salons are just sitting there mindlessly scrolling on their iPhones. If they're not busy, why don't they get up and start arranging the damn bottles? People, it's a simple concept. A place for everything and everything in its place. I also couldn't deal with vain customers agonizing over the importance of their color selection as if they were choosing the updated vinyl siding for their home. It's only nail polish!  Choose your color, get your ass in one of those uncomfortable faux-leather chairs and watch the freaking Food Network! You know you're never baking any of that shit anyways.

I remembered that I once saw a waitress with the coolest nail pattern.  The polish was almost like a cat's eye marble and she said it's done with magnets.  What kind of magic is this?  They looked so beautiful and I loved how the light reflected at just the right angle when she moved her nails. Simply mesmerizing.

Someday, I promised myself, I'm gonna be F-A-N-C-Y.

I asked my manicurist, also the owner, if she could do something like that magnet nail polish design. "Oh!" she excitedly exclaimed. "Pick a color, I make it like you like."

First things first, beloved reader of mine, you need to have a concept of the design I was hoping for to understand the end result. (pictured left)

Looks pretty fancy, right? I was going for a Star Sapphire look and sat down at her booth prepared to be amazed. You know where this is going, right? She didn't even know how to properly do it.

She applied a layer of gel polish and then got out this very tiny tongue-depressor looking thing that contained a magnet. She held it over my wet nail and sort of elevated her wrist upwards across it. We both looked closer and saw no change. Some technique.

This little 'magic wand' looked like this:

She tried to get the cat's eye effect several times and in frustration called out to her presumed husband, scrolling on his iPhone, for help.  He came over, smiled at me and inspected her work. Absolutely nothing was happening. She was just guessing how to do it. After saying something unintelligible, he left in frustration with her and returned holding another magic wand.  (I guess they were hoping the double magnetic strength would create the effect?)  She laid one tongue-depressor wand on top of the other and tried again.  Mind you, throughout all of this, my opposing hand was uncomfortably seated inside one of those 36-watt UV drying lamps. The top of my hands were getting, shall we say, crispy. I'm too young for Oil of Olay.  

I finally had enough and just told her to stop. Just give me another lick of paint and let's call it a day.  But her stubborn husband had other plans and returned to the booth proudly displaying a YouTube video he just found that showed how to do that magnetic cat's eye effect. I was dumbfounded because they are supposed to be the professionals in this situation offering a service to their salon customers.  A tutorial on your iPhone does not make a happy customer.

I pulled my opposing hand out of the lamp and started to push away from the table.  She indicated one more try.  Or at least I think that's what she said as she attempted the technique one last time on her own thumbnail. "You work tomorrow? Labor Day." she asked me while still failing miserably. I nodded my head yes and dropped my eyes so no further conversation could ensue.

Honestly, she always does a very nice job on my nails and I have never been disappointed with her services.  

The manicure cost $25 and I gave her a $6 tip.  She smiled at me as she was processing my credit card and proudly pointed to the receipt showing that she had only charged me $23.  "I do better next time, OK?"  




May 13, 2018

My Mother's Love

I had lunch today with my friend Cindy and it was my first time meeting her 4 month old grandson Jaxson. Being in the presence of this tiny, vulnerable little human has given me an entirely new spin on how to view Mother’s Day.  My relationship with my mother, who died in 2006,  was intense and complicated; fraught with emotional land mines that remain tightly tangled up in my head and my heart to this day. When Mother’s Day rolls around each year, I try to remember that my mom was a vibrant force who shaped my life and helped carve out my quirky personality.   But after being around this baby for an hour, I’m thinking about my mom in a way that I never have before.

This 21 year old woman gave me life on January 13, 1970.  She didn’t know it back then, but I broke her baby mold the day I was born – her only child whom she poured her everything into as a mom. 

I never thought about how this was the woman who made sure I was safe, warm, fed and happy. She clipped my tiny nails so I wouldn’t scratch my face.  She worried that I would stop breathing in the middle of the night. When I was a bit older, I remember she would rub my back when I was sick and vomiting in the toilet. I had lots of ear infections and colds when I was younger and she took me to all those doctor appointments with cab and bus rides all over the city because she couldn't drive.  She went after that guy at the Abdow's restaurant when he made a comment about my cute ass when I was about ten years old.  

My mother didn't have many friends so I became her best friend when I was a little girl.  It's not like I remember her having lots of conversations with me, but we spent so much time together that I wonder now what the hell we talked about so much. We would walk to Lincoln Plaza nearly every day while my dad was at work and shop for the afternoon.  On the way home, carrying bags from Zayre's Department Store, she would brag about all the things she bought me and didn't buy herself.  She always told me that she wanted her daughter to have a better life than she did growing up.

She had no problem slapping me hard across the face if I said something she didn't like and she loved slamming kitchen cabinets like a child to show me how pissed off she was at either me, my dad or my grandmother. She smoked up a chimney and drank coffee for breakfast. She slept every night with her bra on and she listened to Billy Joel records when she was depressed. She became jealous of my friends and didn't want me to grow up. 

In my teens, she tried to fit in by being one of the girls. She'd throw me lavish birthday parties and all my friends thought she was the coolest mother and all I ever wanted was for her to just leave me the hell alone.  I wanted space and distance.  I wanted to break free of her choke chain and hoped she'd get a life besides mine.

I moved out when I was 18 and couldn't get away from her fast enough. I remember the day I tried to explain to her that I just had to go. I told her we had nothing in common and I think that broke her heart.  I tried to make it up to her by visiting with her and my dad twice a week and doing everything I could to keep in touch.  I think it's around that time that I started to pretend we had this great relationship because it was easier than always fighting with her.  I couldn't stand the screaming or the drama of being her daughter.

I played my role of the good daughter up until her death in 2006. I loved her and hated her all at the same time.  I know I'm writing this on Mother's Day when everyone is celebrating their moms, but in my own way this is a celebration of what my mother meant to me.  I miss her alot and that's pretty hard to write because I've had my share of private moments when I thought that I couldn't wait to be rid of her so I could just live my life.  

I envy those of you who still have a mom that worries about you when there's a bad storm coming or you're taking a vacation on a plane somewhere and she doesn't like the thought of you being so far away from her.  Take the time to remember your mom on this special day and tell her how much you appreciate her sacrifices to grow you into the adult you've become today.  I know you didn't have a choice in the matter of being born, but remember that your mom did and she chose you.



Apr 20, 2018

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

2 years.  Well, it's taken me nearly 2 years attempting to become that future version of myself.  A middle-aged woman (gasp! 48 years old now) whose hair blows in the wind on a breezy day with a bathroom closet full of hair accessories that allow for sassy styling depending on how I think I'll feel that morning.  In reality, I never realized that it hurts like hell when your hair pokes you painfully in the eyeballs as the wind whips up around your face. (Thanks Lasik surgery!  Before you, I never realized my prescription glasses were actually meant for vision improvement AND eye protection.)  And that closet full of hair accessories?  Who am I kidding - I never knew what the hell I was doing with any of those gels, mousses and fancy argan oils.

I'm not fancy.

I'm meant to have short, no fuss hair that doesn't piss me off every morning if I don't hold my Dyson hair dryer at just the right angle when applying the blow.

I'm not meant to wear headbands to keep my floppy mop under control while secretly thinking that everyone who comes across my pie-hole chubby face is wondering if I actually thought that was a good look for me.  It wasn't.

Sure, I certainly liked the experience of being in the shower and pouring a shit-ton of fragrant shampoo into my hair and feeling like a secret Pantene model. It was fun bending forward under the shower head and gripping all that thick hair to squeeze out the excess water before exiting the shower.

But you know what wasn't fun?  Spending 10-15 long agonizing minutes in front of the bathroom mirror every morning trying to style my hair.  9 times out of 10 were bad hair days. And each time I walked away disappointed with what I'd done up there, I'd talk myself out of cutting off all my hair because I knew I was just going through that awful growing-out stage.

A few years ago, I had to replace the roof on my house.  While I was in the process of learning all of the particulars related to roof size, pitch, nails and layers of shingles, I found myself looking at other people's roofs and forming an unprofessional opinion on whether they should replace their roof. When I decided to let my hair grow, I found myself doing the same thing but with other people's hair. I'd find myself looking at coworkers with long hair and wondering about the process. How did they survive their own bad hair days? How did they break through to the other side of beauty?

It probably took me a couple of weeks of festering to realize I was never going to get there despite encouragement from my friends that my hair was looking good during the growing-out phase. I knew my decision was made when I started searching for pixie cuts on Pinterest.  I searched "Hair styles+Fat faces" and came up with so many hits related to Paula Deen, Kelly Clarkson, America Ferrera and Kelly Osbourne. Dear God. Really?

In the end, I sent an emergency Facebook message to my hair stylist Mille at Salon de la Rosa  that read as follows: "Hi Millie, I am in desperate need of your services. Can we schedule an evening for a color/style of this flop mop that's atop my head?"  She scheduled me for an appointment and last Wednesday I freaking chopped it all off.

After the chop fest, I shly asked Millie if I could take my hair home with me. We swept it off the floor and put it into a plastic Stop & Shop bag.  My plan, thank you again Pinterest, is to put all that shorn hair outside so my backyard birds can use it to make their Spring nests. Although at the end of my hair appointment,  I was thinking carrying around a bag of hair was kind of creepy. Like, imagine if I got into a horrific fatal car accident on my way home and the paramedics had to go through my purse to find information in my wallet related to my next of kin. They open my purse and find that bag of hair.

I LOVE my new hairstyle. Strangely, I'm not too disappointed that my little beauty experiment didn't work out and I'm done hopelessly pining after the fantasy of being a woman with long, thick color-treated hair.  It's just not me.  What I am is a simple woman who wants to spend as little time in the mirror as possible each morning fussing over hair.  Because after all, what really is hair?

"Human hair is a simple thing made of keratin and dead skin cells. Its function is to prevent heat loss from a person’s head, yet it also causes women to weep, men to buy Porsches and people to spend billions each year on its upkeep." 
quote courtesy of Ryan McKee 

I've got just enough to keep this old noggin warm and that's fine by me.




Mar 10, 2018

FML: Wired Smoke Alarm


Asking a Worcester Firefighter standing in front of you for help turning off the smoke alarms from your garage fuse box probably wasn’t the best idea at 2 am this morning. 

{chirp}

{chirp}

I roll over bleary eyed and look at my husband in the dark.  “Did you hear that?”

{chirp}

“I think it’s the smoke alarm.”  And then I recall it’s that very special high-pitched sound it makes to alert you to that annoying task of the battery needs changing.  “I’ll get it.”

{chirp}

I stand below the wired smoke detector looking up to make sure it was the one in our hallway outside our bedroom that was making the disgusting noise at 1 am. Seconds tick by and then…

{chirp}
I walk upstairs into our kitchen to pull out my pink fold-away step stool so I can reach the smoke detector because being 5’2 has never brought me an advantage except for slightly comfortable leg room at The Wilbur Theater in Boston.  But the additional height isn’t quite enough because when I press the 9-Volt battery flap, I still can’t seem to reach it to pull out the offending dying battery.

{chirp}

Time to get the big blue fiberglass ladder.  I go into the garage and pull out the proper household ladder navigating around our two parked cars careful not to take corners too quickly for fear of scratching the paint. I climb up the ladder, remove the battery and replace it.  And then…

{chirp}

Wait. It wasn’t the battery? I climb back up the ladder and hit the button “Press to Hush” but really it’s the same button as “Press to Test Weekly” and now all the wired smoke detectors in our house are shrilling the most piercing sound in the world while a lady that sounds much better than Alexa alerts me of “Fire! Fire!”  I press and hold the only big button I can see without my reading glasses on and after a few long seconds, all the smoke alarms silence themselves.
Well, that doesn’t work.  I rinse, wash, repeat several times with increasing frustration as the Beagle sleeps curled up next to our bed and my husband stays put because he knows I’m all kinds of pissed off now and it’s best to just let me handle it. I can hear our rabbit Mr. Winslow thumping his back paws upstairs in our office in confused frustration and still I can’t fix this fucking alarm.

{chirp}

I stomp upstairs, turn on the desktop computer and start Googling.  It’s 1:45 am and I’m sick of this shit. I pull up the Kidde website to read how to turn off a wired smoke alarm and I learn about the magic reset button.  I’m back up on the ladder with a flashlight, reading glasses and not finding a reset button on my Kidde model KN-COPE-IC Smoke and Carbon Monoxide alarm. I twist the unit off the bracket {chirp} and see the electrical wires connected to the component, but have no idea how to disconnect them.  The Kidde site suggests that sometimes the {chirp} indicates “…it’s time to replace the alarm.” Things I learn while in a panic: smoke detectors by Kidde have an average lifespan of 10 years and choose to die in the wee hours of the morning just to fuck with you.

{chirp}

I can’t turn this damn thing off.  I need to sleep.  How am I going to get to sleep tonight?  This is the point in time when I lose my shit on Google searches and just start typing random search terms such as the following:
  •          Wired smoke detector won’t stop beeping
  •          Turn off wired smoke alarm
  •          Why does a hard-wired smoke alarm chirp?
  •          Who do you hire to fix a faulty smoke alarm?
  •          Electrician emergency calls
  •          24-hour electrician
  •          24-hour emergency electrical service
  •          24-hour electrician 01606

{chirp}

There is NOBODY available in the middle of the night.  Despite the filter that Google provides telling you about businesses that are open 24-hours, the information is conveniently dead wrong.  I call every single business and get answering machines.  Seriously? I might as well page someone like it’s 1994. At least if they had a beeper, they’d feel some of the pain I’m going through right now at 2 am.


Remembering how I was making fun of some dumb bunnies on the local news earlier tonight who nearly died because they were running two generators inside their house after our recent Nor’easter, I get it in my head to call the local fire department.  (And no, I didn’t pull a Rob Gronkowski and call 911, thank you very much.) I find the local Greendale number of the firehouse hoping for some professional advice.

{chirp}

No answer.  Just great.

I visit The City of Worcester website, but their office hours somehow don’t align to my non-emergency.  

I call a different local fire department and a man picks up advising me my call is being recorded. But at least he’s a live human man and not a prerecorded greeting.   I explain my situation and all the things I’ve done to troubleshoot the issue.  “Well, I can send a truck up.”  Ummm.  That doesn’t sound like such a great idea to me and I restate this isn’t an emergency, I’m just looking for some advice about what residents do in the middle of the night when they can’t turn off their wired smoke alarm and really, really need to get some sleep.  “I’ll send a truck.” he says again and hangs up.
I change out of my Hello Kitty bottoms, slide on a pair of wrinkled jeans and throw on a brown sweater over my hedgehog t-shirt which jauntily reads ‘Over the Hedge’ because there is NO WAY I’m putting a bra on for this shit.  I’m too pissed off. Ten minutes later here comes one of the Worcester Fire Department trucks rolling up with three fire fighters in full gear walking into my garage. ]

The first thing the lead firefighter tells me is, “I can’t touch your smoke alarm.” OK.  I eagerly explain everything I’ve done to troubleshoot my situation and he stands there telling me what I already know.  I need an electrician and sometimes even though the smoke alarms say they last for ten years, they really don’t.  Did I mention that it’s with the commotion of three firefighters standing in my hall way that the lazy Beagle decides it’s time to rise from his cozy bed and sniff out the situation?  I find myself rambling on hoping he’ll take pity on me and make an exception to help me out. Having made his proclamation, he turns and starts heading out through the garage to leave.  It’s then that I get truly desperate and call out, “Well, maybe you can just show me on my fuse panel which switch turns off the wired alarms.”

{chirp}

Oh, to describe to you the look of sheer disgust on his face when he stares back at me and says authoritatively, “I am absolutely not going to do that.”  Then it dawns on me that I’ve just asked a representative of the fire department to help me turn off the very thing that is meant to protect me in my home from a fire. He continues, “You can do that as the homeowner, but I’m not touching it. I don’t recommend you do it either.”   I never wanted a five second time machine so badly in my life, but I can’t take back my request.  I thank them profusely and am so embarrassed that when I go to shut the garage door, I press the wrong button and open the second garage door by mistake.  I can only imagine their conversation about me as they head back to their fire house. 

But I told the dispatcher the situation.  Why in the world did they feel the need to send three fireman to my house in the middle of the night to tell me what they could have said over the phone?

So, I return to Googling and start calling the bigger 24-hour services that seem super sketchy like Mr. Electric and QuickResponseElectrical.net which appear first in the search results.  I’m that desperate for paid advertisements from my trusted search engine.  I get through on the phone to Mr. Electric and tell a very pleasant and perky Ashley of my circumstances.  She assures me they can help and will put a call out to a local electrician who will call me back shortly.  “How shortly? Like in fifteen minutes?”

{chirp}

She doesn’t know, but promises one will call me as soon as possible.  OK.  I turn off my answering machine so as not to miss the call on my landline and return to the computer.  It’s then that I find myself on YouTube watching videos of men dismantling smoke detectors and others installing them in barn lofts ‘cause you know, gotta protect the horses. I see this one man pull out the electrical connection from the smoke detector and marvel at how easily the device detaches from the prongs.  I wonder….

{chirp}

I’m back up on the ladder and pulling apart the connection rather forcefully because I’ve got nothing to lose at this point and then success!  Seriously. I did it.  I turned it off.  God Bless YouTube.  I now believe those people who claim to have taught themselves to rebuild a V-8 car engine from watching YouTube videos.  I am so pumped up from my achievement that I absolutely AM going to try to replace the motor on my GE washing machine when it goes on the blink. I am a woman and I can do anything with the power of a YouTube channel!

My resolution to this annoying problem hits me in a flash.  I don’t need Mr. Electric anymore.  I can just order a new smoke detector from Amazon and replace it myself.  Add to cart.  Problem solved.
I try to call back the 24-hour electrical service company, but somehow can’t find the right number so I say, “Screw it.” I’m tired.  I fixed the problem myself no thanks to the Worcester Fire Department.  I’ll just turn off the answering machine and go back downstairs to bed.  If they call me, I won’t answer because I won’t be able to hear the telephone from upstairs.  It’s nearly 3 am and the next issue for me is to calm down enough to fall back asleep.  I’m back in my Hello Kitty PJ’s with a sleep mask over my eyes and just starting to drift off when I hear it.

{chirp}

What the fuck? You’ve got to be kidding me.  It’s disconnected so why is it still beeping?  Did I leave it somewhere in the bedroom?

I look up to the hanging wires in the ceiling that are no longer holding in place my dismantled smoke detector and realize that now the 2nd carbon monoxide device that was placed next to the smoke alarm is chirping. Oh, hell no. 

{chirp}

I climb back up the ladder and twist off the alarm.  It is battery operated and not wired to anything so this should be easy to fix. I pull out yet another 9-Volt battery and throw it on the coffee table.  I’ll deal with it in the morning.  I need to get back to bed.  Just as I’m folding up the ladder, the goddamned thing chirps again.  How can that be?  I took the battery out!  I bring the detector into the light and see there is an additional section with a screwed in plastic flap that probably holds another battery which is causing the offensive noise. Luckily for me, I have a very small screwdriver kit that I bought at a dollar store that is meant for tiny screws so I unscrew the flap and remove a small rounded battery that I’ve never seen before but reminds me of the one that’s in my outdoor garage opener panel. There.  Done.  And then, unbelievably…you guessed it…

{chirp}

Now I’ve got a Zombie Carbon Monoxide detector.  I’m guessing it must have some remaining battery juice left which is causing the chirping-sort of like when a dead body has residual gas that causes spontaneous pooping on the stainless-steel table at the mortuary.

The chirp wasn’t as loud as before so I decide to move the device as far away from me as possible.  I walk into the garage, open the door to my Toyota Camry and place it on the passenger’s seat.  I shut the door and start walking away, but I can still hear it.  I return and wrap it in my slate blue Columbia Sportwear 590 TurboDown winter jacket thinking that if the coat can keep me warm in sub-Artic temperatures, the magic technology contained in the silver lining of this expensive jacket might just muffle the dying chirp of my Carbon Monoxide detector.

As I lay there in bed, I can still hear the chirp, but it’s not loud enough to prevent me from eventually falling into a fitful sleep.  I snooze for the remaining hours of the morning dreaming about a broken Roomba and renting an expensive house with a luxurious infinity pool.

And then it happens.

{chirp}

{chirp}

I’m wide awake. You’re not going to believe this.

The electricity in the house turns off and then on again. My Google Home on my nightstand resets itself with a pleasant ‘Bing, Bong, Boom’ sound.  My Bose Wave Music System spits out a CD and sucks it back in again. I hear the microwave beep in the kitchen upstairs and then I hear the familiar persistent Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep of my home alarm system going off in the garage.  It won’t shut itself off.  I must get out of bed to hit the reset button on the panel to quiet it.

As I walk to the garage to turn it off, all I can think is Fuck My Life. 

I’m sitting here blogging about this awful experience when I happen to glance up at the 1 message blinking on my answering machine in the office.  I press play and it’s some guy presumably from Mr. Electric who has left me an indiscernible message at 7:30 am this morning about my electric problem. I think to myself that it’s ironic that a 24-hour emergency service company has an electrician that can call me back six hours after my emergency.

And I think to myself, sometimes adulting is so hard. But that’s adulting for you and sometimes I really suck at it.