Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Picture of Ms. CrankyPants

Okay, so I was going for a whole "The Picture of Dorian Gray" thing with the title of this post. But if I have to explain the title, clearly it sucks.

I'm going to keep this brief, for there's not much to say except: (1) I'm doing this because people have been harassing me since my previous post when I mentioned the stupid thing and (2) STOP LAUGHING.

And: This is molto embarrassing.

FINE. Here it is. I hope you're happy.

It really doesn't look like me at ALL.
What the hell are YOU laughing at, Wee Squeaky? You're standing in a cupcake. Jerk.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Top 5 Things I Learned on My Trip to Italy

I'm back from a lovely trip to Italy. It was more than I could have hoped for, and I'm very displeased to be home (please don't tell Squeaky the Cat or Capt. Nap).

"Oh, you're back? Whatever. Feed us at once!"
In spite of my efforts to make this an "I don't actually want to learn anything" trip (i.e., avoid museums, churches, and other Places of Cultural Significance), I did manage to glean five important tidbits, which I will now share with you:

1. Plane Food Sucks. Wait, you knew this already? Well, I hadn't traveled internationally in some time, so I was used to having a minuscule bag of desiccated pretzels and a thimble-sized cup of soda being grudgingly tossed at me. Not so when you fly overseas. You get entire meals. Like this one!

Time for my favorite game! Can you guess what THIS is?
"Now wait just a darn minute, Ms. CrankyPants!" you may be exclaiming to yourself. "Those look like delicious pancakes."

And I'd reply to you: "Yes, they do...IF THEY WERE PANCAKES!"

Nay, readers, nay. Those are not pancakes. This was the "chicken" dinner I'd asked for. Naturally, the entire dinner was masked by foil; had I seen it in advance, I would have gone with the beef stroganoff. (Okay, not really: I once had a Very Bad Experience with beef stroganoff). Here is a picture of the full dinner, for your enjoyment:

The chicken tasted like a poultry-flavored sponge. The roll: an ice-cold bullet. The best thing about the meal was that pathetic salad. Don't get me started on the dessert. RHUBARB? Who serves dessert with rhubarb in it? (Apologies to any rhubarb lovers.) How about a more mainstream fruit; you know, apples or strawberries? Blueberries? Come on, Lufthansa. You disappointed me. Greatly.

2. You Can Always Spot the Americans Abroad. I did not take any pictures, as I didn't want to get my ass kicked, so you'll have to trust me on this. Here in America, of course, one doesn't think twice about men in baggy cargo shorts, logo t-shirts, and baseball caps, and women in capri jeans and sneakers. I own more than one pair of capri jeans, and my husband is overly fond of his baggy cargo shorts. However, we left those at home in favor of clothing that we hoped would allow us to blend in a bit with the stylish Italians. (You can read about my efforts to become stylish here: Buon Giorno, Big Butt!) It was probably a wasted effort on our part. I don't think anyone was fooled by our H&M wardrobe. As soon as we opened our mouths, the jig was up. I could usually get across the subject well enough (e.g., bagno, gelato, pizza), but those pesky connecting words left me fumbling, pointing, and blushing a lot.

3. It's Impossible to Stay on the Swank Diet in Italy. That sadist Dr. Swank says of dieting on vacation:  "Although eating the low-fat way abroad is more difficult than at home, our experience indicates that it can be done." To which I say: "HAHAHA!" followed by something rude and unprintable. So it was with great glee that I left behind Tofurkey, cheeseless pizza, and fat-free ice cream.

Would you rather eat this...

...or this? Yeah, me too. 
4. Cute Animals Are Surefire Ways to Separate Tourists from Their Money. You know when you're strolling around a piazza and there are all sorts of artist types painting watercolors of landscapes or doing those godawful caricatures of people? Yeah, I always rolled my eyes at the people having their "portrait" done until I saw this:

"Look at how cute I am! Don't you want to buy something?"
I was immediately taken in by this little charmer. I approached and he wagged his tail winningly. They don't warn you about this insidious trick in any of the guidebooks I read in advance of my trip. As I crouched down to pet my new friend, the owner lurched out from behind his paintings and said he'd LOVE to do a sketch of me. Well...Ms. CrankyPants is immune to flattery, really, but the combination of the charming dog and the Italian-accented artist was too much for me to resist. Seconds later, I was sitting in a chair, having my "portrait" done while passersby looked on condescendingly. HEY! They hadn't been subjected to the dual charms of the dog and the artist. I was powerless! 20 minutes and 20 euros later, I was the embarrassed owner of a picture that looks nothing like me and that currently (and quite likely in perpetuity) is rolled up in a tube in my closet.

5. Italy Is Molto Bella. There really isn't much to say here. Below are pictures of my very favorite place in the world, Positano, which is on the Amalfi Coast. Ahhh...

Before I go, I must tell you that my brother in law, Clay, is once again doing the National MS Society's Bike Ride. He's been a great advocate for this cause, which really means a lot to me and many of you, I know. If you have, possibly, some extra cash lying around that you've been wondering, "HOW on earth will I spend this?" please consider donating to his ride at the following link: My brother in law's fundraising page

Friday, May 10, 2013

Buon Giorno, Big Butt!

That's what my husband said to this me this morning when he saw me heaving myself out of bed. Okay, not really. He'd be dead right now if he did that. He wasn't even in the room when I rolled slowly out of bed, springs protesting mightily. Directly to the right of the bed is a full-length mirror. (You may remember that mirror from my awesome drawing in the post "What Muffin Top, Damnit?")

Having been permanently scarred by the Muffin Top Incident, I studiously avoid looking in that direction. The bathroom, naturally, is my first stop, where I am forced to shield my eyes from the massive mirror that takes up the top half the wall. (Who decided a bathroom that is half-mirror was a good idea? Clearly, some horrible person who wakes up looking lovely with no makeup, has fresh breath, and sleeps in an adorable nightie that showcases a fab set of gams.)

There IS one place you cannot avoid looking in a mirror: the dressing room of a store. (Well, I suppose you can, but that would be rather silly if you're going to pay good money for clothes.) This morning, I trotted out to the mall to buy some clothes. Specifically, I was seeking to trade in my frump-about-town look with a few posh yet casual, alluring but not slutty, pieces. I felt rather excited. I hadn't been clothes shopping in quite a while, and as we're planning a trip to Italy, I decided my high-waisted, ill-fitting capri jeans surely would scream AMERICAN TOURIST IN HIDEOUSLY OUTDATED ATTIRE and I'd be surrounded by those massive gangs of children who are lurking all over Europe waiting to prey on unwitting foreigners. I needed to get items that would allow me to blend in with the locals. Never mind that I don't speak Italian and will be clutching a phrase book and map, while my husband wrestles the camera out of its case to take pictures every 5 minutes. If anyone bothers to look at our clothes, we'll be the picture of European chic. I know, because I stopped in H&M straightaway.

For those not in the know, H&M is a super-cool European store with tons of clothes at inexpensive prices. (At least, it was when my friend from Spain was here...several years ago.) In fact, it has its own Wikipedia entry: "H&M is a Swedish multinational retail-clothing company, known for its fast-fashion clothing for men, women, teenagers and children." Yes, friends, yours truly is now the owner of FAST FASHION. That means straight off the runway. See if I don't get a modeling contract while I'm overseas. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The mirror. I was talking about the mirror. Ah, crap, so much for the modeling contract fantasy. Back to reality. I strolled into H&M, determined to not let the 20-year-old salesperson slouching near the entrance intimidate me. I gave him a curt, European-looking nod, and casually rifled through a rack of tops, trying to not make it obvious that I was checking prices. I was pleased to note several other women in the store who were even older than I am (and no, they weren't accompanying their teenage daughters). 

It took a little digging: the first few displays featured items that were a bit too, er, exciting for a woman of my advanced years. Think fringe, faux leather, and extremely short shorts. I pushed on, determined that I would find something, anything, and then I struck gold. Here's a secret: they hide the older-lady garments in the back! I began snatching items from shelves and off hangers and into my arms, which were soon full. Slouchy Salesperson didn't offer to help, so I staggered into the dressing room with far more than the 7 Items Per Customer allotment. I hurried out of my embarrassing non-H&M outfit and into the first pair of pants. They were...a bit snug. Damn European sizes. I threw on my embarrassing non-H&M outfit and raced back into the store, grabbing some larger pairs of the same pants. I was horrified to discover that the pair two sizes up fit (TWO SIZES?). Damn European sizing. Everyone knows it's all off. No matter. They were cute and, combined with some fast-fashion baggy tops, I was looking molto bene. 

After hastening back into the embarrassing non-H&M outfit I'd worn into the store, I made a grievous mistake. I glanced in the mirror. Blast! Damn dressing room lighting. Everyone knows it's designed to make you look ghastly. The skirt, in particular, in the harsh overhead light, was showcasing some dimples and crevices I thought, you know, that CLOTHES WOULD COVER PROPERLY. Damn skirt. I knew what I needed, STAT, and the mall was the right place to get it: Spanx. My God, I've heard of these wonders but I had no idea how fantastic they are. In essence, they are skintight underwear that squash into oblivion about 47 bumpy spots on the hips, thighs, bottom, other words, they make you look as if you are toned and fit without the hassle of actually working out. I fell instantly in love. Unfortunately, the effect is temporary. When I wrestled out of the Spanx, my thighs actually made a cartoon "Sproing!" noise as they resumed their former shape. 

Nevertheless, I am buoyed by this miracle of modern science. Watch out, Italy! Ms. CrankyPants in her fast-fashion wardrobe and Spanx is coming to town!  

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Shot Night!

I know what you're thinking: What's that wild and crazy Ms. CrankyPants up to? More carousing? Partying 'til the wee hours? Getting drunk and performing (horribly) "You're The One That I Want" from Grease at a karaoke bar?

No, no, and no. All of those things happened in a different life, before I was Ms. CrankyPants and when I was Ms. PartyGirl. (The same young lady who earned a staggering .25 GPA her third semester at college.)

No, ladies and gents, the shots I'm referring to now aren't vodka-soaked jello or tequila, they're actual shots. As in, injections. Quite a different type of shot. Instead of hurting the next morning, you hurt right away! Instead of making you think you are sexy and can sing well, they make you feel like a cranky pincushion! 

Yeah, THIS kind of shot. Not nearly as fun as the jello kind. That book with the diagrams and scribbles is how I keep track of where I've injected myself. 
When I was first diagnosed, my neurologist prescribed Rebif. A nurse was assigned to come by my house and show me how to give myself the three-times-a-week subcutaneous injections. Ms. Nurse sat at my dining room table patiently while I worked up the courage to give myself a test injection using an auto-injector thingy that you slip the needle into and push a button, which then pops the needle into your skin. Incredibly (it seemed to me), she said injecting myself in the stomach would be the least painful. (Could she detect my muffin top through my clothes? Obviously.) Lo and behold, she was right! The cushiony folds of my stomach proved a fairly painless place to inject myself. Thank God I never got in shape! Now I had an ironclad excuse for not developing abs of steel.

As it turned out, I also would now have an excuse for remaining flabby all over. I was to inject myself in my arms, thighs, hips/butt, and, as mentioned, stomach. All problem areas covered! (My knees and elbows are in tip-top shape, as naturally I've been working out rigorously where I can...)

I remained on Rebif for more than three years until an MRI revealed new lesions and a blood test showed I was developing antibodies to Rebif. So, my neuro switched me to Copaxone. Now, instead of three times a week, SHOT NIGHT!! would be every night. Ugh. A different Helpful Nurse came over to my house and sat at my dining room table to show me how to inject myself. By now I was an old hat at this. I sat there patiently while she showed me the new auto-injector thingy, which was identical to the old injector thingy, and explained the areas where I was to give the injections (same). She did give me some exciting new items, such as an attractive carrying case for my supplies.

As you can see, it's casual enough for everyday use, yet elegant (note French writing), so it won't look out of place paired with a gown. Importantly, Wee Squeaky can fit inside. 
For those who haven't seen one, here's the auto-injector thingy.

The needle is nicely hidden inside so you don't have to SEE it jabbing into your skin, although I know some people prefer doing it themselves [shudder].
I've been on Copaxone for several years now, with no serious side effects. There is the dreaded Immediate Post-Injection Reaction, which I've heard Actual People say feels like a heart attack coupled with an inability to breathe and Copaxone Representatives say feels like slight shortness of breath and maybe a little chest pain. I reckon the truth is somewhere in the middle but knock on wood, I haven't had that experience yet.

The worst of it usually is some temporary pain/burning at the site and bruising. So much for toting the elegant blue bag, pictured above, with a short gown. Also, and probably for the best at my advanced age, shorts and miniskirts are OUT. My thighs routinely look as though I've been in an unfortunate horse-trampling incident.
Sorry for the suggestive picture; I show this not to titillate but to educate. 
The bruise above happened after a routine thigh injection. I don't even think it hurt very much. I was horrified (as I'm sure you are) to see THIS beauty blooming on my thigh the next morning. It lasted for many days, providing me ample time to point to it piteously and ask my husband to bring me a snack. But I think you can see why my days of wearing anything above the knee are long gone.