Thursday, April 25, 2013

You Know You're Popular When...

...a spammer advertising a lesbian porn site posts a comment to your blog. Yay! I've made it! No! I'm not going to share the name of the site!

'Til now, most spam comments have been advertising INCREDIBLE LOW RATES ON CREDIT CARDS or SUPER-FABULUS (sic) AIR JORDAN SNEAKERS!!!!! While it's super-fulfilling to be popular [rolls eyes], I'm getting a bit tired of deleting spam every day. Most comments don't get past my spam filter, but some do, which is irritating. I've seen all of you, my favorite bloggers, employ different methods of dealing with spam: the "please prove you're not a robot" system of typing in random letters/numbers; the "comment will be visible after approval"; and, like me until now, nothing.

As I'm still fairly new to the blogosphere, I'm curious as to why you've chosen the way comments are posted to your own blogs. I've liked the notion so far of people being able to comment and see their comment right away, but when porn advertisers (lesbian or not) weasel their way in, I have to Take a Stand.

Ms. Getting Crankier CrankyPants!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

My Niece vs. MS: Leveling the Playing Field?

I don't have kids. Oops, hang on, the peanut gallery is responding angrily to that statement.

"Hey! What about us?!"
Oh, I'm sorry my widdle sweeeeties!!! Mommy didn't mean to hurt your feelings! Allow me to clarify: I don't have HUMAN children. I do have a nephew, R., and a niece, K., who are kind of like my children, except I get to return them to my sister and brother in law when I'm done! Given my oh-so mild tendency to worry about things that haven't happened or may never happen, it's crossed my mind that K., a 'tween, has an increased risk of getting MS, courtesy of her Aunt CrankyPants.

In general, I prefer to make statements with little or no supporting evidence (as long as there's no one more knowledgeable in the room who might correct me). In this case, though, I have a few readers who probably know a lot more than I do. So I'll try to keep my facts straight, or at least base any statements I make on things I've read in vaguely reputable sources. Things such as:

(1) As a Caucasian female in a northern climate, K. already has some strikes against her. According to some guy who appears to teach an anthropology course at Michigan State University, " addition to MS being most common among Caucasians, it is also two to three times more likely to occur in white females."

(2) My having MS increases her risk of getting it. The National MS Society says this: "While the risk of developing MS in the general population is 1/750, the risk rises to 1/40 in anyone who has a close relative...with the disease." 

(3) She was born in the spring. Huh? This was news to me. My sister sent me an article (you can read it by clicking here) that says the month in which you were born can play a role in your chances of developing an autoimmune disorder. Here's a quote from the article: "Many patients with MS are born in the spring, and rates of the disease are lowest for those born in November." I was born in March; my niece, in May. (Interestingly, my sister was born in November. Seeing any signs of favoritism here, people? I know I am....)

Without wanting my niece to become a raving hypochondriac (like some people we know), I am wracking my brain for things she might or might not do to help level the playing field a bit. At least they might tip the scales back a little in her favor, as there's not a thing she can do about having me for an aunt or the fact that her parents so rudely had her in May.

Here's my much-too-short list (and please remember, people, I'm not a doctor, I'm just a cranky blogger):

(1) Don't smoke. Now, did I listen to my parents, who told me not to smoke? Ummm, no. I thought it was fun and cool and most of my friends were doing it. But there is evidence that smoking makes MS worse, and can perhaps even trigger it. If I'd never started smoking, who knows? Maybe I wouldn't be giving myself shots every night and worrying that one day I won't be able to walk.

(2) Get some sun but not TOO much sun. Oh, this one's exasperating. Too much sun and she'll be seeing the dermatologist every other week like I am to check on Suspicious Moles. But, according to this article, a "...lack of vitamin D and lack of sun exposure were both risk factors for nerve damage, which can be an early symptom of MS."

My sister, K.'s mom, for many years has taken great pains to avoid sun exposure. In that same article, the author says, "Less sunlight for Mom means less vitamin D in her blood for the baby in the works. A low level of vitamin D could affect the developing immune system."

(3) Chill out on the salt? I very recently heard about the possibility that too much salt might (or might not) affect "...the development and severity of autoimmune diseases in people." Studies were done on mice, not humans, so the jury is still out on this one. Still, it couldn't hurt to watch salt intake. (Read an article about it here:

I know lots of you have children and grandchildren, or nieces and nephews. What, if anything, have you done or told them to help mitigate their risk of developing this dread disease? Or is it pretty well out of our hands? I'd love to think that there's something, anything, I can do to help sweet K., who from the time she was a little girl has helped raise funds for the National MS Society with bake sales and lemonade stands. The same goes for my nephew, of course. I know males tend to have it worse when it comes to MS. God forbid either of them take after their Aunt CrankyPants in this way. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

K., showing off her newly pierced ears. She was SO excited that day!

Friday, April 12, 2013

What Muffin Top, Damnit?

I've been working out a lot lately.

HAHAHA! That was a complete and utter lie. I just wanted to try it on for size. It sounds good, huh? So here's the truth: I've been thinking about working out a lot lately. Okay, okay, I haven't been thinking about it a lot. Just a little. Especially this morning.

It's finally cooled off here, I'm no longer a hot, hot mess, and I decided today was a good day for jeans. I experienced the first glimmerings of dismay as I surveyed the neat piles of denim in my closet. I took a deep breath and seized the closest pair. I got one leg in and heaved the jeans to the top of my left thigh, at which point any momentum ground to a halt. I engaged in a shimmying struggle to get them up any farther.

"Fine, I'll just get another pair," I thought, flinging the clearly-shrunken-in-the-wash (and hideously ugly to boot) jeans on the bed. The next pair similarly resisted my frenzied hitching and heaving. I hunched in the middle of the bedroom, panting, the jeans wadded up at the top of my grotesque sausage legs.

I scraped them off, kicked them under the bed, and looked balefully at the remaining jeans in my closet. Was I going to subject myself to any more of this humiliation? Yes, yes I was. This time, though, I checked the labels. Finally I found what I was looking for: the jeans that are about 10 percent denim and 90 percent some stretchy material. They slipped on like a rather snug glove.

"That's more like it!" I thought triumphantly, sauntering over to the full-length mirror to admire myself.

Big mistake. I should have just thrown on a baggy, forgiving shirt and left the room, because what greeted me was a reflection of myself crammed into ultra-tight pants with a pale and doughy muffin top. For those of you unfamiliar with the term "muffin top," allow me to illustrate (brace yourselves):

Incredibly, here's what I thought I'd see (note, please, the ample bosom; that should have been a clue that I was delusional).
And THIS is what I actually saw. If you click on the images, you can see them in all their glorious detail. 
So, here I sit in my nearly 100-percent-stretchy-material jeans, vowing that I will start exercising, STAT! Oh, and in case you are wondering, I immediately put on a baggy, forgiving shirt after seeing my muffin top in the mirror. The cat? I have no idea where she is. Kitty therapy?

Monday, April 8, 2013

I'm a Hot, Hot Mess

Let me hasten to assure you, I'm not a hot mess in that sorta sexy way suggested by Matchbox 20 in "She's So Mean."

Umm, yeah, after watching that video (which you can see by clicking on the link above), I can say with 100% certainty that I DEFINITELY don't mean hot mess in that way. No, sadly, I mean hot mess as in something more like this:

In case you've never seen this godawful picture, it's Nick Nolte after what I presume to be some kind of debauchery. 
Nick looks just about how I feel right now. Okay, I'll be honest, I kind of look like that right now too (minus the tacky shirt; mine is much cuter). This is somewhat alarming. Why? Apart from the hugely disturbing fact that I even slightly resemble Nick Nolte and whatever he's done to his hair,  BECAUSE IT'S APRIL! And not even the end of April!

I had a to-do list today, which included a trip to Lowe's to pick up some boring items like a light bulb and a new spray-attachment thingy for our hose. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. But as I pulled into the parking lot I spied them: rows and rows of flowers and hanging baskets. Hooray! My husband and I had done some mowing, weeding, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...oh, sorry, and other dull, yard-related stuff yesterday. Today, upon seeing the flowers, I figured it was time to reward our hard work by getting some hanging baskets. And maybe a pot of flowers for the front steps. Also, perhaps just a wee plant or two for the garden beds.

I hurriedly found the boring items on my list and trotted outside to investigate the flowers. I kept grabbing heavy pots that were spilling over with beautiful flowers, cramming them in my cart, and then spying something even better one row over. So I'd remove Now-Not-So-Great Pot 1 and replace it with Ah-That's-Much-Better Pot 2. After about half an hour of this nonsense, I had annoyed even myself (often there's another beleaguered party with me who is sighing and sneaking looks at his watch). Plus, I was hot. And sweaty. And irritated. What the hell? It felt pleasant out when I was walking to and from the car. The temperature was in the low- to mid-70s. Perfectly delightful. But all of my heaving items on and off shelves and pushing a heavy cart had taken its toll. I made my way to the checkout counter sweatily and sullenly, wondering what on earth it's going to be like come July and August, when sometimes just getting to and from the car is enervating.

Speaking of the car, it, naturally, was broiling inside. I can't believe it's already time to use the sun shield! I guess it's also time to haul out my cooling neck wraps and, if I must, my super-attractive cooling vest. Oh, warm weather. I love you for making beautiful things grow, but I am less fond of you for how you make my MS so much worse.

What are your strategies for dealing with the heat?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Here Comes the Sun Damage

It's a good thing I'm not working right now. This period of unemployment sabbatical leaves me with loads of free time to do important things, such as:
  1. Catch up on the "The Walking Dead" (everyone was right: it IS awesome!!)
  2. Notice how filthy the baseboards are
  3. Ignore the filthy baseboards
  4. Think about working out
  5. Think about writing a book
  6. Think about learning a new language
  7. Think about doing volunteer work
  8. Train my cats how to use an expensive new self-cleaning litter box
  9. Clean up after my cats refuse to use the new litter box
  10. Study my skin for new Suspicious Moles
I know what you're thinking. Why did they have to kill Shane in "The Walking Dead"?!! Oh, you're not? So it's just me then. Fine. Whatever. You've just had more time to go through the Five Stages of Grief. Give me my space. (But did you SEE him with his shirt off? Just checking....)

Here's what you may be thinking instead: Ms. CrankyPants, what's UP with the moles? What are you, some kind of freckle- and mole-ridden freak? Because if so, ewww, and Shane (even Zombie Shane) would be totally turned off. In response to your extremely rudely worded question, YES, I am a freckle- and mole-ridden freak, although I prefer "babe" to "freak," thank you very much.

Hey, we haven't played Can You Guess What THIS Is Supposed to Be? in a while! Let's play!

Hmmm, this one's tough. A piece of moldy cheese? A chicken breast that has fallen on a filthy floor? 
NO! It's an extreme closeup of my forearm. Note the almost blindingly white skin, and the overall mottled appearance. That, friends, is the result of genes, heritage, and years spent cavorting in the sun in tropical countries, with no thoughts of sunscreen, skin cancer, or leathery, hideous-looking skin.

As the daughter of a foreign service officer, I spent a significant portion of my childhood in Brazil and Costa Rica. When my family and I lived in Brazil, I was pretty little and at the mercy of my parents, who may have insisted I wear sunscreen. By the time we moved to Costa Rica, I was a teenager and convinced that having a tan was cool. My pale, sickly skin was decidedly not cool. So I never wore sunscreen, and when I went to the beach with friends, I'd lie out like a beached white whale, hoping desperately to get tanned, pronto! Of course, that never happened. Instead, I'd get burned, pronto! And then I'd peel like a diseased grape. Not cool. Did that stop me? No, sir! I persisted in this foolish quest, hoping to overcome my genes and heritage, and magically transform into a bronzed babe. Silly, silly girl.

So now I'm paying the price. Highly Suspicious Moles lurk everywhere. I've had a couple on my back removed. Hey, remember this?

These hushpuppies are quite similar in appearance to a particularly revolting mole on my back I had removed recently. 
And, just last week, I had a dark and tiny new mole on my toe removed. I know new moles are a Bad Sign. Indeed, it was. The dermatologist called me while I was in a movie with my nephew. As a considerate movie-goer, I'd turned off my phone, but I saw that I had a message and who it was from. Horrors. I crouched furtively in the back row, trying desperately to hear the message over the movie blasting all around me. I couldn't hear the specifics, but I got the gist: mole biopsy not good. Call us back.

ShitShitShit! By the time I got out of the movie, the dermatologist's office was closed. So I had to wait until the next day to talk to someone. Turns out, I was lucky. The biopsy revealed abnormal cells that, unchecked, could have turned into a melanoma. So on one hand, YAY! I'm relieved. On the other hand, AAAGH! How many other such abnormal spots are there on my hideously mole-riddled skin? Yes, I have already made my annual skin check appointment. In the meantime, with all my free time, don't think for a second I won't be scrutinizing every last spot. And learning a new language, while cleaning the baseboards.

Monday, April 1, 2013

How Do You Say "Diaper" in Italian?

Pee. I'm obsessed with pee. Regular readers of this blog will hardly be surprised; after all, not only do I detail my cats' activities in the litter box, I, regrettably, also post pictures (see How to Party Like a Rock Star if you are so inclined. I apologize in advance).

No, friends, this time it's *me* I'm talking about. Those of you with MS know that the need to urinate, FREQUENTLY, is part of the rip-roarin' good times associated with the disease. I hadn't entirely realized how much my incessant need to void my bladder affected my life until my husband and I began planning a vacation to Italy. 'Round these parts, I can take a quick trip to the grocery store or the mall, no problem. They always have bathrooms. On a road trip, McDonald's are ubiquitous, so there's little chance I can go very far without finding a bathroom and, pre-Swank-diet days, a greasy 6-pack of chicken nuggets and a chocolate shake. (Don't judge; it's impolite.)

Oh, this gross bathroom is a sight for sore eyes if you are desperate!
When I'm on a proper outing -- to go antique shopping with friends, say, or on a nature walk -- things become...challenging. First, I have to severely ration what I drink (and this includes milk in my cereal) before setting out. That's a drag. Typically, I drink two cups of coffee in the morning and a glass of orange juice, plus the aforementioned milk in my cereal. I'm quite often thirsty when I get up (pre-bedtime beverage rationing is firmly in place, for obvious reasons). So to have to skip my OJ or, horrors, a cup of coffee, quite frankly sucks. Because then I'm really thirsty. And, with the reduction in caffeine, I inevitably get a headache. THEN I get cranky, and everyone on my proper outing wishes I had stayed home within three feet of a bathroom so they could enjoy the damn trip without Ms. CrankyPants!

If I'm lucky on these proper outings, I can duck into a shop that happens to have a bathroom, although these shops are rare. More often, I'll trot into a sandwich or coffee shop and buy a drink (makes no sense, I know, but by this point I'm thirsty as all get out), and then saunter to the bathroom. If I've bought something, I don't feel bad about using the bathroom. However, actual sit-down restaurants that have signs such as "BATHROOMS FOR CUSTOMERS ONLY!!!" totally intimidate me and, in spite of my husband's patient urging, I cannot slink into a restaurant and try to scuttle past the hostess stand to the bathroom (which is always in the farthest reaches of the restaurant). I am in constant fear of a blaring confrontation: "HEY, YOU! [all patrons turn simultaneously]. Where do you think you're going?? Didn't you see the SIGN??" The mere idea has kept me standing on a sidewalk in front of a restaurant whining while my husband tries to persuade me that there's little chance of this shouting business actually happening.

And now I'm faced with a whole new challenge. Trying to find public bathrooms in Italy. I know they exist. I've used them, I'm sure, but that was years ago, before MS made every outing a question of "where's the nearest bathroom?" I've already memorized how to say, "Where's the bathroom, please?" in Italian. (My husband memorized how to order a beer, by the way.) But what to do, say, when we're browsing around shops or seeing sights? In no way am I suggesting Italy isn't fully equipped to deal with having-to-pee tourists (let's face it, lots of old people are tourists), but still I'm a bit apprehensive. I believe there are medications one can take to inhibit the need to urinate QUITE as often. I'd be interested in anyone's experience with such drugs, if you don't mind sharing. I'll even make a confession, which I hope will propel some of you to suggest some good drugs, and lots of them, STAT: I've actually wondered if I need to bring, er, incontinence pads or something.  

Payback. This is some kind of karmic payback for all the times as a wee lass I chortled with friends at adult diaper commercials, or the many times I snorted with laughter watching the Saturday Night Live "Oops, I Crapped My Pants!" faux-mercial (you have to scroll down a bit to the video on the page).

For the love of God, someone please tell me there's a better way!