Moving, and Moving Forward

For a long time I was told to keep moving in order to improve my fibromyalgia symptoms, but it never helped me. More often than not it would send me spiraling into a flare up of symptoms that would make it impossible to move for days, sometimes even a week or more. Yet over and over I would do what “they” told me to do because all these people saying the same thing couldn’t be wrong, right?

I’ve always been a person who has not only met but surpassed any goal laid out before me. So to constantly fail at simply moving every day was a very big blow to my self esteem. I started to believe what a few truly awful people and a lot of really awful doctors were saying – that I was just lazy. And they must be right because there was no other reason for me to not be able to do this very simple thing.

Fast forward to today where I’ve spent the summer learning the ins and outs of my newest diagnosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and receiving the proper medical treatment for it. For the first time in my life swimming is actually refreshing, whereas before it would feel good for only the first few minutes then slowly begin to crush me for days afterward. For the first time in so long I can actually feel the benefits of moving every day, whereas before there were only consequences no matter what I did or didn’t do. I now know that weird sensation of my finger joints suddenly feeling bigger than I remembered was not a hallucination because now my doctors feel them and record the ups and downs themselves, and that getting trapped under my comforter in the morning wasn’t because I wasn’t working hard enough in physical therapy – it was because my immune system was attacking my shoulder joints making them inflamed, painful, and weak. For so long my doctors just assumed all these things that are so clearly RA were  “just fibromyalgia,” proving that they neither properly understood fibromyalgia nor were properly caring for me, and I’ve lived every day second-guessing my sanity because of it until now.

Fibromyalgia still has that “garbage can diagnosis” stigma and it’s not doing anyone any good. If you are a person diagnosed with it, plenty of crappy people will take it upon themselves to wield that stigma like a sword and cut you to your core because according to that stigma there isn’t really anything wrong with you, you just have a bunch of symptoms caused by a whole bunch of things that are your fault, and you need to just do better and you’ll feel better. If you are being treated by a doctor who believes that stigma, how can you ever feel human when the person treating you believes your symptoms belong in the trash? If you are a doctor who believes that stigma, you are failing you patients who have fibromyalgia…and even more so the ones who don’t.

Now I still do have fibromyalgia – as well as hypothyroidism, degenerative disc disease, depression, anxiety, and now rheumatoid arthritis – but being treated as if that were my only problem caused me so much unnecessary pain. I’ve lost years of my life. I can no longer work. I’m a completely different person than I used to be. And all it would have taken was one doctor way back then to rebel against the stigma, properly do their job, and save me. But instead I saved myself by never giving up until I found the treatment I deserved.

I’m very thankful for my current medical team; they are quite simply amazing. I’m on two new medications for RA and the difference is night and day. I’m nowhere near normal, but my quality of life has drastically improved. There’s still a lot for me to learn about pacing myself and RA in general, but now I finally feel better when I move every day. Now I can make health goals and meet them, and every now and again exceed them. But along with the new diagnosis and medications has also come a new mindset, and all together that is ultimately what is helping me.

When I started to feel a bit better I went crazy and overdid everything. Cleaning, social visits, trips with my child – I went nuts. And then because I was feeling so much better my doctor and I finally decided to get rid of one of the last fibro medications I was prescribed. I was so excited! I continued to go crazy as I was nearly a full week free of that medication when I found myself doubled over in pain in the middle of a clothing store with my son, unable to move. The pain didn’t go away. It lasted for a full week and that is when I learned a few very important things.

One, I still have fibromyalgia and clearly need that other medication. I had to learn that my goal was not to be on less medication but to be on the medications I needed to feel better – no matter how many that may be – and that it was bound to be a good amount of them considering I still have several conditions as RA did not magically replace everything else. So I called my doctor and went back on that medication, and within four days I was back to what my new normal had been since I started my treatment for RA. Lesson learned.

Two, most of the things I was overdoing was because I thought I had to do them. I’ve learned that I do not, in fact, need to do all of the cleaning to be a good person. I can actually ask for help even if I’m not in pain in order to prevent myself from burning out or ending up in pain. I don’t need to prove anyone wrong; I just need to be happy. And I’m not happy when I’m doing everything.

Three, I still need to rest even when I feel good. This is possibly the hardest lesson I’ve learned so far. Doing nothing while feeling good feels like a slap in the face to feeling good. But then I had to ask myself why did I think that? The answer is because I was worried about what people would think. How lame is that? New rule – screw what people think and do what is best for you at all times. What others think has never helped you before, why would it help now?

Four, I do actually need to move now in order to continue feeling good. When the pain set in after I stopped that medication, I ended up in bed for nearly a week. I started taking the meds again and it took another four days of being in bed before I felt back to my new old self…except that my back still really hurt. I had a feeling that it was stiffness from not moving, so I bit the bullet and did some physical therapy exercises and in a few short days my back pain levels were way down again. Now that I’m being treated for RA l actually know what it feels like to feel good, and because I have RA I will become very stiff in very bad places if I sit too long. Five minutes of physical therapy a day is enough to combat that. Yes, it really truly is. But that was never the case before I was diagnosed and treated, so it’s been hard to believe it! But the evidence so far speaks for itself.

Five, learning to balance Three and Four is going to be a lifelong journey. It’s not easy! It almost requires me to have a schedule of sorts, something that I haven’t been able to stick to in years because my symptoms and pain were so out of control. But I’ve found that a very small amount of practice every day is actually yielding results. I don’t need to overdo it and I can’t not do it at all, but somewhere in-between it all is my very best life. And that is something that is worth spending my energy on.

Six, everything I’ve learned that I need to do now in order to keep feeling good never helped me before I was diagnosed and treated for RA because my symptoms were far too out of control – it was like throwing ice cubes at a house fire. I may not be able to educate every person who thinks they know what is best for me or what I should be doing in order to help myself, but I can change the narrative within myself when approached by these people and know that my instincts have always been correct from day one. So when stupid things are said to me or bad advice is passed on to me, I can confidently say, “Thank you but my medical team and I have a very good plan right in place right now and none of those things are in it. But thank you, again, for your care and concern.” Or just stick up my crooked, swollen middle fingers, smile, and ethereally float away.

Moral of the story is that there will always be dumb people, rude people, people who mean well but are ill-informed, people who don’t mean well and are ill-informed, bad doctors, good doctors who are ill-informed about your specific condition, people who mean something to you and have no clue what they are talking about, and people who mean nothing to you and are just know-it-alls and/or nosey and just like the feeling of superiority they get when they solve other people’s problems…poorly. But how other people treat you is their path and how you react is your own. And I know it’s even more difficult to stick to your path when you are in excruciating pain, feel abandoned by the medical field, and are questioning your sanity. But I think that if you are travelling a similar path as I have, take it from someone who is a little further along and keep believing in what you know is right, never stop looking for the better medical care that you deserve, and do not put any of these weirdos’ words in your own narrative because living with a chronic illness is a very rare thing that not many truly have a grasp on. I wish I would have learned that sooner.

And also flipping people off, smiling, and ethereally floating away from them. I totally wish I would have started that sooner, too.



It Doesn’t Get Better, It Gets Different

I feel as though I’ve written about this before, yet I can’t find a single shred of evidence that I have. Maybe the feeling and the idea has just been with me for so long now.

I was very recently diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. After suffering for nearly 12 years with no name for what was wrong with me, I finally earned myself a Fibromyalgia diagnosis and proceeded to fight for proper care and treatment for another 15 years. That’s when I met the team who cared enough to listen. And because they did that, I am now being treated for RA.

I began my treatment in the beginning of summer and I could feel the difference with the very first injection of methotrexate. I know it takes around 8 weeks to feel the full effects, but I most certainly felt something change for the better immediately. The week after I found myself lazily coloring with my 3 year old nephew out of the blue and it took until we were nearly done for me to remember that I hadn’t been able to color, draw, paint, or write by hand for about 10 years. I caught myself doing origami with my son. I even French braided my hair. I wasn’t forcing myself to try any of these things; I was simply doing what felt natural at the moment. And then the medication began helping me so much that I eventually went overboard – but boy did I enjoy it.

What I didn’t enjoy, though, was the after effects of overdoing it. At one point I ended up writhing and rolling on the floor, crying in pain, after cleaning way too much of the house. I scared my son. I scared myself. It was time to calm the hell down and realize that even though I sometimes felt like my old self, I wasn’t my old self.

And that is the paradox of “getting better” when you have a chronic illness.

I soon started Enbrel in addition to the methotrexate, and it has been an entire world of difference. I’ve driven to see my sister more times since starting it than I have the whole year prior. I took my son to Great America twice, but the second time I ended up in laying down in pain my sister’s van for the second half of the outing. I’ve been able to play my guitar, something I had to give up 6 years ago. And my daily level of pain is down significantly – I can just “be” and not be in agonizing pain much of my day, unless of course I’m in a flare.

And that all sounds amazing, right? And it is amazing! Except that the actual change in my daily life isn’t much of anything.

I still cannot work because my symptoms are still wildly unpredictable. Fatigue has been crushing me since I started these meds and I often lose an entire day to sleep. These meds make me highly emotional, so I cry about nearly everything right now. I still can only use my arms so much – even if it feels ok I have to set strict limits so that I don’t overdo it and hurt myself. Things are so much better for me right now yet in so many ways they are exactly the same that I almost want to stop saying that I feel better and instead simply say that I feel different.

And I do feel different. I can have a day where I do nothing and not be in pain and it feels so damn amazing, but the guilt always sets in. I should be doing something. The house needs cleaning. I should take my son somewhere. I’m feeling fine so I should take the opportunity…and so on. Well I’ve taken the opportunities and abused them so many times now that I don’t really trust myself anymore, so I save it for really special things that are totally worth the pain. But that leaves a lot of days where there is just nothing… and it is driving me insane.

Now here is something I do recall writing about before – not knowing what to do with myself. Wanting to be productive so badly but being physically incapable of doing so. And now that I’ve gotten a taste of the old me I feel like I had an addiction to accomplishing things in my old life and now I’m relapsing.

I had a really, really good run once both of the new meds  were working in my system and ended up feeling great for a few weeks in a row. So I ignored the new calm the hell down rule and tore up my rug and painted my table and organized drawers and then fell into a flare right in the middle of it all and woke up one day in a werid foggy pain, barely able to walk through my dining room because of all the projects I started at once, and immediately felt overwhelmed in a very, very awful way. Having to stop hit me hard. I thought I knew my new limits but they were as unpredictable as before, and I fell into a bit of depression because of it. I’m once again climbing out, just as I was the last time I wrote about wanting to be productive. But having to live with the mess I made while trying to be productive was possibly even worse than the flare itself.

So I’ve had to make some very hard choices about what it means to be feeling better, er different, and what I want to feasibly do about and with it. I think the only good that has come of it all is that I have finally decided I am done using my better for cleaning and projects that are simply too big for me and will be finally getting help.  I even decided to let go of grocery shopping and used an order online and pick up at the store service today just so I didn’t have to lose an entire day to groceries. And it felt amazing!! I was able to put all my groceries away as soon as I got home, something I can never do because I’m either crying or in a pain coma. But I put them away, made myself a great cup of coffee, sat down feeling very accomplished and pleased with myself… and proceeded to have *nothing* to do for the rest of the day.

It’s not easy finding the balance here. I know I’m done torturing myself and that I’d like to use my feeling better for good, like for myself or for my child, but when my son isn’t home there is quite literally nothing for me to do. Because I don’t really have a life anymore. So I don’t know what to do!

Yes, this girl needs a hobby. I love music and have been able to get together with my father and a few other good musicians and play about once a month since my new meds, so there’s that. But it’s not enough. I love writing, but I am limited to about 30 minutes on the computer before I cause myself serious pain. That is the same problem I run into with working on my podcast – limited computer time. I can only work on it for so long. I read somewhere that I should get on a schedule and I thought “Yes! This is the answer!” and then I laughed myself silly. The problem with being on a schedule is that it works great until you are in flare and lose two whole weeks to it and reemerge from the pain cave just to start all over again. Hence half the reason why I don’t work – schedules. If you can’t stick to it, what’s the point? I’d need like three different schedules. One for good days, one for ok days, and one for flare days. Who does that? Me? Maybe? No. No. I’m not doing that.

I suppose if I could sit around and not do anything and just be happy doing that my life would be pretty good right now. I hate to come off as not being happy for having less pain, and please know that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s simply that less pain and more fatigue and unpredictable limits brings more problems that need to be solved – problems that I do not have the answers for because I’ve never been here before and I’m simply doing the best I can. I find it as freeing as I find it frustrating. I’m as happy as I am irritated and lost. I’m as clear as I am confused.

This is a very strange place to be.

It’s certainly different.


Chasing Ghosts

I’ve written so much about my struggles with fibromyalgia that at times I can’t imagine any new way to describe it all. Thankfully fibro keeps changing and evolving, constantly giving me new material! I know how that appears. Why is there always something wrong with that woman? When will she feel good? How can she have that many things wrong with her? How can it hurt if there really isn’t anything wrong? And those are just questions from my own brain, what the hell are other people thinking??!!

It’s near impossible to imagine pain with no cause (rebels with no cause are cool, though). I didn’t break my leg or get injured; my nervous system is injured which means you can’t really see my pain and it doesn’t appear to follow much rhyme or reason – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

I have a new primary care doctor, recommended by my pain doctor (when does that even happen?), and he is wonderful. But I can’t help but to think he’s at the “why the hell did I accept this patient” stage of our relationship (even though I was told he loves a challenge, hence why he got me). If I had to be honest I would tell you that I feel emergency levels of pain several times a month, every month of my life. This is pain that my body knows is bad and needs urgent medical attention because something inside me has to be in the process of dying in order to feel this way. My brain, however, knows that this is just par for the course and that the last time (and time before that, and the time before that time) I went in there was nothing wrong with me. It’s like going on Maury on a regular basis, each time certain you have found the daddy of your pain baby, only to hear those words “you are NOT the father” and now everyone just thinks you are a pain slut.

I might’ve taken that too far.


It’s embarrassing. At least it is for me. And if the attitudes are just right, or if I feel the attitudes are just right, i.e. judgmental, I can very easily be discouraged to come in for any kind of treatment for a very long time out of pure shame or simple self doubt. Knowing I can’t trust my body and that I can rarely tell if I’m actually sick, actually injured, or if I’m just chasing a ghost means I’m not going to trust my uncertainty with just any practitioner unless I absolutely have to. Which means I often end up in a bad place that was completely preventable had I just gone to the doctor. It’s a crazy, endless cycle.

This is my life. This is why I’m a total dipshit.

Every day I am monitoring myself for hints of things going wrong so I can stop them before they get too overwhelming while already dealing with whatever has already gotten overwhelming. This is why when I feel good I just go batshit crazy and do all the things, which must be terrifying for people because I don’t even know how to socialize anymore; I swear to sweet baby jeebus in his little tiny sparkly spaceship that the last time I escaped and tried to be social I sat down next to someone and said “I like pot-roast”.

I’m a grown-up, you guys. I’m in charge of a kid and a dog (and a cat, but we all know no one is really in charge of a cat). Someone let me loose on this world and thought I could adult and check my own engine oil and not explode microwaves and otherwise just basically function, and I don’t even know what a normal human body is supposed to feel like.


Take me to your leader right meow.


Breaking the Silence

Yesterday was my 6 year blogiversary here at Still Smihlen (thanks to my friend Rita for naming it!), and seeing that little notice really kicked me in the ass. I realized that I haven’t been here as of late. You know, here. Not necessisarily here at this blog or on my facebook page – which really sucks because posting ridiculous stuff for you guys is on my Top Ten List of Bomb Ass Shit – but, yes, both here at the blog and here in the normal, functional world. Since I checked out I have taken blow after blow after blow and each time I thought about chronicling my experience I just cringed. It was too depressing, too dark, and simply too painful to recount while I was trying to recover. It’s a bit like falling through an ice covered lake in subzero weather and someone offering you a glass of ice water once you finally pull yourself out. No. I need a blanket, dumbass. STAT.

And so I climbed into that blanket and just stayed there until I could feel my toes again. It took almost a year and a half. I’m not proud, yet here I am so perhaps I should be. Not everyone makes it back.

Writing is normally very therapeutic for me, but I haven’t been able to pick up my blogging ever since my last fall. I’ve tried, but the nagging feeling that I was avoiding something, that I was leaving something important out of the story blocked me every time. And so I am going to tell you this part of my story and just get it out there and over with in hopes of being able to move on AND in hopes that it will help someone else.

So here we go.

Let’s talk about Depression.

In high school I decided I’d be a great psychologist because everyone told me I would be a great psychologist. I remember one time being called out of class thinking I had done something wrong, but it turned out a peer was in crisis and only wanted to speak with me. Yeah. Pretty badass, right? I know. I know.

Once I was an adult (and not a psychologist lol), I really enjoyed studying and reading about psychology. And I’m glad I did because it really came in handy after I almost caused a severe car accident due to my irrational fear of spiders. That experience really shook me and I knew I had to do something about that fear before I hurt myself or others. So I read up on desensitization therapy and did it my damn self. Successfully. I cured myself of the fear of spiders and also learned that my mind is my own and I am absolutely capable of keeping it in check.

Fast forward about 20 years and there I was crying in my bed, isolated and hopeless, a prisoner of my own mind. I hadn’t posted a single thing on social media in several weeks. I’d try…but nothing would come out. Nothing.

Also, I couldn’t feel happiness for ANYONE.

New baby?




And creepily I had no reaction at all to people dying or any otherwise awful event. I remember saying to myself “I know I’m supposed to feel something, but I just don’t”.

I was depressed.

We tend to think of depression as sadness, but I’m here to tell you that it’s actually closer to nothingness. And that is quite terrifying.

I set out to help myself and quickly found that no amount of indulgence (I got a dog,) or ridiculousness (I watched only cat videos for several days on end), or self-help (allll the books), or meditating (books and apps and books and apps) was completely lifting me out of the dark, and no amount of telling myself to just snap out of it and feel things that I couldn’t feel was working. I needed professional help. So I called and made an appointment.

Going to therapy felt great. I appreciated having someone objectively examine my situation and explain exactly how I got where I was, by no fault of my own, and how we could improve things. Having a therapist diagnose my fibromyalgia pain as the cause of my depression was the biggest relief of all. Why? Why did it matter? It mattered because I didn’t want to have that flaw that caused me to not be able to control myself. I didn’t want to be weak. Please, anything but weak.

When you are fighting something like chronic pain or depression, you are also fighting stigmas. Mental illness and invisible illness are perceived as lapses in character or strength and control; a poor choice that you continue to make and dare to complain about. If your heart fails you are rushed to the emergency room and prepped for surgery; if your mind fails you are told to smile.

I have always fought these stigmas for others, but when depression landed in my lap let me tell you that my PRIDE took a beating. Everything I knew to be true about mental illness didn’t matter because I was stronger than that. Or at least I was supposed to be.
That pride nearly killed me once before so thankfully I knew better than to let it win, but that doesn’t mean it was easy. The mere fact that it was even an issue at all proves how deadly these stigmas can be.

I’ve done a lot of work. I’ve got a good mix of medication and therapy and coping skills to help ease the symptoms but I am not in the clear yet and I do not know when I will be. Also, I’m pretty pissed. I’ve been busting my ass to beat depression and the truth is that I may not pull through this until my pain is under control – which, based on my medical history, could be never. I honestly thought that if I worked hard enough I could just eliminate this issue from my plate. Learning that it doesn’t work that way has sent me into what I can only describe as rage.

I grieved my former life, I did the soul searching to find my worth beyond a paycheck, I found ways I could still help the world and feel satisfied with myself and yet I still ended up severely depressed. I was not prepared for the level of isolation and utter exhaustion paired with my pain and frustration…. but who could be prepared for that? And then, after I crawled out of that hole, I had to discontinue a medication that sent me into actual for real withdrawal. I’m talking cold sweats and spasms, brain zaps and nausea, and pain like I’ve never felt before. And I was right back in that pit all over again.

It’s not easy. And it’s been a non-stop cycle that I just can’t see myself talking about every day because I need to use that time to watch dumb videos that make me laugh and write ridiculous things on my page so that I do not hate life.

I have support. I have a great medical team. I have an amazing family, beautiful friends, and my child shoots sunshine from his butthole. I’m educated on mental illness. I have everything I need to recover but I have to accept that it is a very slow process that is much more like a rollercoaster than a marathon. There is no quick fix.

So there you have it. I don’t have much more to say about it other than if you’re going through something similar, just know you are not weak and you are not alone.

Now go watch that damn Sharkira video. That shit is hilarious.



From the Chandelieeeeer

Ok, look. I’m just going to be straight up honest with you here and admit that I am NOT the best housekeeper by any means, but I’m not disgusting. Gross, sometimes [I do have a kid], but not disgusting. And I tell you this because we’ve developed a bit of a fly probem, which might bump me up into the upper tiers of grossness but, honestly, most of it is not my fault so hold that Judgey McJudgerson judgement for just a bit longer as I explain.

Our dog was diagnosed with Lymphoma on April 13th, and a few weeks later stopped eating her regular dog food. So I started scrambling to feed her whatever people food she would eat – which worked great for about two weeks. Then one day I had to feed and water her by hand. When she regained her appetite, or so I thought, I served her a big spoonful of her favorite beef and rice…and the entire bowl disappeared.

No, not like she ate it. She HID it. The entire bowl, with it’s contents. I laughed at first. What a weird thing for her to do, right? I laughed until I couldn’t find real people food in an open container for three days. Not so funny anymore.

I learned that she hid it because I put it next to her new sleeping spot and that she wanted her area clean AND probably also did not want the food period because her appetite was just about completely gone. And so, while looking for my son’s hoodie, I found the bowl and the spilled food in the corner of our “coat rack”, which is a bunch of hooks I hung behind the door but nothing really gets hung on them because my son throws his shit on the floor.

But I digress.

Grossness ensued as I cleaned rancid fat and meat…the rice held up nicely, I must say…but by then it was really too late. And I was too tired – let’s not forget that I’m pretty broken over here – and the seeds had been planted. Or the eggs. Whatever.

Fast forward to a few more episodes of her hiding food no matter where I put it, me having to leave plates of baby food out for her overnight in *hopes* that she’d eat, and, well…flies. Lots and lots of flies.

I was overwhelmed with the whole process of trying to find food for my dog to eat, on top of already being too overwhelmed to clean a normal house much less a house riddled with the remains of people food that was now dog food that was now hidden somewhere inviting problems.

I made a few homemade traps – I am an EXPERT at fruit fly traps, so why shouldn’t I be good at this? I mean, a fly is a fly, right?? After a few spills of just *disgusting* stuff, I quit. I quit and I went online and searched for where the hell I could get fly ribbon…which is where I came up with my first piece of comic relief in this entire fiasco – please see the description.

Ass water. I should have known.

I stuck with the fly ribbon.

So here I am, pulling the first fly ribbon apart, and just praying that I do NOT get it stuck in my hair. Because I ran right into one once as a child and the memory of that thing in my hair still haunts me to this day.

I got the first one out very carefully, barely getting any on my hands, and managed to hang it in the bathroom without a hitch. This falsely raised my confidence levels, which really wasn’t a good idea, and so I was a little more cocky with the next ribbon.

I decided the next one should go above where the pet food bowls were. And so I started pulling it apart…pulling….pulling….until somehow it was stuck to the front of my shirt.

No problem, I told myself. It’s ok, I said as I peeled it from my shirt watching the residue stay stuck to my shirt in little patches. It’ll wash off…

Next fly ribbon was to be attached to the dining room chandelier because a) I really like Sia and b) they are really attracted to the light that comes from the window it hangs in front of. So I find some tape, open the ribbon, get the ribbon stuck to itself, peel it apart again, and successfully tape it to the chandelier.

Or so I thought.

I finally go to sit down, flipping off every fly caught on every ribbon on the way because I’m a bad ass bitch, when I hear FLOP!!!

The ribbon hanging from the chandelier had fallen to the floor.

Thank goodness it’s only tile, I tell myself as I get MOAR tape and go to pick up the ribbon.

[cues A Christmas Story’s tongue vs metal pole scene] Stuck? Stuck?? STUCK!!!!!!!!!!!

I finally pull that bitch off the floor only to find MY FLOOR TILE ATACHED TO IT.

So I pull off the floor tile, and the ribbon gloms right onto the front of my shirt as if my shirt were made of fly ribbon magnets. My hair sets on fire, figuratively of course, and I rip the damn ribbon off my shirt only to lose my grip on it and send it plopping back down to my damn floor tiles.

Shampoo. Rinse. Repeat.

I finally get it taped back up to the chandelier, to the chandelieeeeeeeeer, and then I go and flip every little stuck fly off AGAIN because FUCK THIS, I AM THE BOSS.

The very sticky boss.

Do you know that soap won’t get this shit off your hands???? Thank goodness I tried to be a good mom once two years ago and make my own baby wipes [because CHEMICALS], therefore I still have a newish bottle of baby oil in my cabinet – even though my baby is 8 years old. [Boys have pooping/wiping issues until they get married.]

And so here I sit, waiting for all my hard work to pay off, hoping I won’t walk right into a ribbon like I did as a kid, half knowing I’m probably going to do just that.

And that is life right now in the Ihlenfeld house. Thanks for tuning in. I’ll be pouring baby oil all over my floor tile if anybody needs me…and probably pouring it in my hair later if anyone would like to bring me some wine…

Maybe I should have gotten the ass water.

life lessons

That Look You Give Your Child When You Know His Fish Died and He Doesn’t Know Yet

We’ve been going through it over here as of late. I’ve been going through it, my son has been going through it, hell even both cats and the damn fish have been going through it. And, based on me catching our dog scootching her ass across the living room carpet earlier today, she’s going through it as well.

Apparently it all started the day I was born, but we’ll start at the end of this summer just to make things a little easier. At the end of summer I scouted out some delicious used furniture from the rich side of town and moved into the era of being a real person that has real people furniture. You know, furniture that is somewhat modern, fairly stainless, and actually improves the look of your entire room. Furniture that looks like you put thought into it. Furniture that matches and coordinates with your room. Furniture that you actually don’t want the dog on…or the kids on….or your guests on….

And as I sat in my glorious new (used) living room, a sense of peace and harmony washed over me and then drained right out of my feet as my hand came down and rested in a wet spot caused by a leak that had sprung from our elder cat. Then I instantly became a basket case.

It was all so easy when I had a hand-me-down couch that was beautiful (but not toddler friendly) and a big patterned couch that *was* toddler friendly and beautiful in my eyes but, based on the $35 price tag at the local Goodwill that has been known to try to sell chipped paint scrapings for more, apparently no one else agreed. I was mildly happy with my acquisition, very happy with the price, and therefore not worried one bit about rips, spills, pee, puke (ok, yes I was worried about puke because omg it’s PUKE), markers, boogers, mud, feet, pets, farts, or anything else my child, nieces and nephew, pets, guests, and even self could throw at it. It just didn’t matter. It only cost $35 and the pattern hid everything. And I mean *everything*.

(My friends are all now wondering what they have sat in over the years. You’ll never know, guys. You’ll never know…)

But now I had real furniture. Light beige furniture. Why did I buy light beige furniture? Was I crazy? Yes. While I may not have been when I bought it, I most certainly was now that I had it I. And so I learned a valuable lesson that I would like to share with you all:

Don’t buy nice shit. All you do is worry about your nice shit getting ruined, and then your entire life is ruined because it’s all you think about. Live in squalor and be happy. Please. I beg you.

So our cat had a leak (big problem) and I was covering all three pieces of new (used) furniture with aluminum foil every single evening (possibly a bigger problem on the crazy person scale) because cats don’t like aluminum foil. Dogs, however, don’t give a shit fyi.

I’ve gone through 5 bottles of Urine-B-Gone and upholstery cleaner and three rolls of aluminum foil since then, spent about $300 on a leaky cat and still have a leaky cat, spayed the other cat so she would stop spraying but she’s still spraying and, somehow, still got her monthly visitor, and the dog is scooting across the damn living room carpet.

So we thought we’d alleviate some of the insanity by upgrading my son’s fish tank. He loves his fish – he’s had them for 4 years. Had. He had them.

First Hammer died. Yes, Hammer. My son went through a stage where he wanted to name his fish Hammer, his baby cousin Hammer, and even himself Hammer. Only the fish got lucky enough to keep the name. Hammer was also lucky enough to have me notice he had passed just in time for my son to look at my face and know something was wrong but I just couldn’t bring myself to tell him his fish was dead so I tried to use telepathy and it kind of worked but mostly it was just the “your fish died” look on my face that probably told him… but regardless, he was a lucky fish. Lucky to have a headstone made for him by my niece, an entire funeral in our front yard, and the undying affection of my son for forever and always.

So we replaced Hammer with Bubbles and my son focused on his original fish, Emo. Yes, Emo. He was 4 when he won him from a fair, and I initially thought he was trying to name it Nemo….but, as always, I was wrong because I’m a mom. Emo. His name is Emo.

So I transferred Bubbles the newbie and Emo the oldie to the new tank and pretty much killed my son’s favorite fish. He’s currently in our freezer as the trauma still hasn’t ended and my son can’t bring himself to bury him.

Oh, and then just two days ago one of the other newbie fish we added to make up for Emo dying, died.

I’ve found myself actually having chats with the the tank, telling the occupants that no one else is allowed to die because I can’t handle another bedtime fish investigation trauma extravaganza. I. Just. Can’t. My son has a heart so big that he cares so deeply for even the small animals and eyes so quick that I wasn’t able to sneak out and replace any one of the three fish before he knew it was dead. Or maybe I’m just slow.

And I could be slow. I’ve lived on my couch for the past month and a half in a woozy haze thanks to new meds. I might technically *be* a couch now. And while my pain levels are down and my depression is lifting, I am so tired that I fall asleep in the middle of being asleep. I also break all the things and dumb all the things and, well, am basically a hot mess….yet…it’s a million times better than the hell I was sitting in before, so I guess I’ll take limbo. An upgrade is an upgrade, right?

Oh, and everything tastes like crap. When I actually have an appetite I swear all the food is spoiled, and that coupled with the extreme nausea caused me to drop 20lbs in a month – something that my fluffy frame can certainly stand to lose, but it’s just not the most fun way. Like, I can’t brag about my lack of appetite or post pictures of an empty plate on facebook to get healthy life points like all my friends who are on raw food vegan triple venti diets that will make them live for forever. They get points, right? That’s why they photograph and post it, right? And you get to cash the points in for stuff, right? Right????????

Point being (see what I did there), no one feels bad for the fluffy person who is too nauseous to eat and is losing weight quickly. No one.

On top of all of this I caught a nasty virus and just couldn’t even parent, so I didn’t hang out on the playground before school with my child that day and then I also didn’t come in to read with his class that day either because I was either burning up or freezing at the moment…and I temporarily broke my child. All the fish deaths, and then his mother disappoints him twice in one day…..I broke him. Which broke me. So now we are all broken but only one of us is leaking and only one of us is scooting our ass across the living room (it’s not me), but we are all still broken.

But the furniture looks fucking fantastsic.



A Typical Friday Afternoon

I stand on my front porch fully medicated and woozy. A chemical taste emits up my throat and out of my mouth like invisible cigarette smoke, and while it’s not horrible it’s most certainly weird and noticable. It feels as if it has permeated my lungs, and the damp post storm air does nothing to help.

Landi is rambling about the yard, testing limits, yet again, ever since both cats went in to the vet one after the other. I think she worries she’s next ever since that crazy Petco experience where she incited every dog in line with her incessant high pitched bark. She honestly just wanted to play. I swear. Fun times.

Little guy is on the floor playing with fully *clothed* barbies for a change along with a headless G. I. Joe doll. Why is he headless? We don’t know. Best not to ask. Plus, little guy has strep throat and is currently happy, so sometimes you just need to keep the peace by leaving well enough alone.

Unless the peace is a hyperthyroid cat with possible kidney failure who is leaking diluted urine down his legs and all over the house non stop. Then you pick that dude up and shove him into a modified baby diaper that you learned about from a YouTube video, at around 1am last night during the power outage, and freak him out and make him miserable, and eventually watch him escape from its grips around his bum using his hind legs, destroying all your hard work.

Pick your battles wisely, they always say.

Hindsight is totally 20/20.