Sep 29, 2014 - Naturals by Gina B.    3 Comments

The plight of an entrepreneur

Although I’ve spent about half of my career as an independent, I’ve recently learned that there’s a distinct difference between offering a consulting service and manufacturing my own products.   In fact I will quietly admit that if I’d known all that was involved in getting a product off the ground, I might not have jumped in feet first.  That said, I guess there is a benefit to ignorance.

Although Naturals by Gina B. is a burgeoning company that has yet to really take off, I’m tenacious, encouraged, and therefore optimistic.  A few key lessons that I’ve learned so far to share for anyone who is thinking about becoming an entrepreneur in any industry:

  1. Relish in your mistakes.  I’ve made a lot of them, and I’ll make many more.  Some of them have nearly caused me to pack up my materials and take down my website.  I’ve learned to laugh at them, and in most cases just write another check.  My solace is that I’ll never make the same mistakes again (and if I do, I’ll have to laugh again, and write another check).  Enjoy the journey.
  2. Everyone will not love your products.  This is common sense, because everything is not for everyone, however when you spend a long time working on something and create an outcome that you’re absolutely enamored with, you want the world to share in your excitement.  Newsflash . . . most of the world will not.  In fact people think absolutely nothing of making negative sideways comments that will not make sense to you, and make your doubt your creation.  Move on and find your audience.  It’s there.  You just have to look for it.
  3. Marketing is a real struggle, and it takes time.  In this age of information, we are over-saturated with content.  Yours needs to stand out and you must have a strategy.  I’ll let you know when I develop one.
  4. Take the time on the front end to properly set up your organization.  This includes incorporation, solidifying all legal documents, bank accounts, etc.  It’s more difficult to implement a proper structure on the back end than to set up your company correctly in the beginning.  Fortunately, I learned this lesson several years ago with my first business.  Never again.
  5. Here’s a hard lesson — most of your friends will not support you.  And it’s not because they don’t love you, but you can’t rely on your friendship base as your customer base.  Nor should you.  As an example, I’ve penned at least 4 regular columns, and some of my very close friends have never read a word that I’ve written.  Now don’t get me wrong, some of your friends will be incredibly supportive and insist on purchasing your product and becoming true customers.  Others will not and will expect that the benefit of your friendship is endless free shit.  Maybe it’s because they feel that you know they’re in your corner, or perhaps they’ve known you so long that they don’t take you seriously.  Whatever the case, it’s best to set the expectation in the beginning that your friends might be the last to jump on your bandwagon, and be surprised and appreciative when a few gems step up to the plate.  Your friends like you for reasons other than what you do for a living, and you should be happy about that.
  6. Don’t start off trying to make money.  I realize this is counter-intuitive, but if the end game is money you won’t succeed.  Be patient with the business and have low expectations in the beginning.  Focusing on money takes away from your ability to properly structure your business and provide good service.  Focus instead on your love for what you’re providing.  If you think too much about what you’re making, you will become disgruntled and resentful.  Find another way to make a living until your baby grows to become a prosperous adult.

 

That’s all I’ve got for now.  I’m sure there will be more as I continue to stumble through this.  Sigh.

Oh, and if you’re interested, check out my products!  :-)

KMABalm

Aug 17, 2014 - Rants    3 Comments

Natural Hair Rant, or “Why I Look a Hot Mess”

This won’t be a popular post, but I really don’t care.   There’s a big push toward natural hair among the Black female population.  Black women everywhere are discarding their previously coveted jars of relaxer in an effort to celebrate their natural hair textures and stop adapting to an anglo aesthetic.

I’ve been natural for many, many years now — at least 10 – and not because I was so excited to embrace my culture, per se.  It was more of a decision that I made because relaxer isn’t necessary to straighten my hair.  A little bit of heat from a flatiron and my hair is stick straight.

Now . . . before you go thinking that I’m “bragging” about this, please know that my wavy, easily straightened hair texture is more of a curse than a blessing.  In fact, I honestly find very little to celebrate about my hair.

I’m normally what is referred to as a “straight natural,”  which is a person who has natural hair that chooses to straighten it.  I honestly love my hair straightened.  It’s easy and doesn’t require a cocktail of 5 perfectly mixed products that combine to make me look human.  I’m often vilified for this decision by women who choose the textured natural look, and I occasionally get irritating snide comments: “Oh.  I didn’t realize you had natural hair.  It’s always so straight.  Why do you do that?”

Okay, beeyotch, I’ll tell you why . . . because my natural hair is a scorching hot ass mess!  I’m not appreciate of my quasi-curl pattern (which is more like a very unsexy wave pattern), and my hair isn’t big and voluminous like others who have the natural hair that I covet. Believe me when I say that I would love nothing more than to have gorgeous curly hair that I could wash and go and wear with pride.   And before you ask, yes, I’ve tried any product that you are about to suggest.  But unless you can guarantee that there’s some sort of solution that will transform mine into an entirely different head of hair, I will work with the large collection that I already have.  Because, honestly?  Beautiful hair will be beautiful hair, irrespective of the treatment.  And my hair will be my hair.  Unfortunately.

The other delicious byproduct of being a straight hair natural is that the flat iron used to straighten my hair actually contributes to the ugliness of it all by providing the gift of heat damage, which means that any curl I had is now reduced (if not eliminated) and reinforces my need to straighten my hair in order to avoid looking like a taller version of one of those early cave women depicted in the Museum of Natural History.  My hair was horribly heat damaged some years ago and I’ve never recovered from it.

The only good thing about my heat damage was that my quest to fortify my follicles resulted in the creation of Naturals by Gina B., my body products company.  The leading product, Kiss My Ash, was originally created as a solution for my hair in my effort to rejuvenate my hair with natural ingredients.  The good news is that it did amazing things for my skin and it’s also a magnificent hair moisturizer.  The trouble is that heat damaged hair can’t be revived, irrespective of the product.

Natural hair enthusiasts adamantly suggest that I never straighten my hair again if I ever want to regain my curl pattern, but that means that I would have to walk around looking completely unkempt until my hair does . . . what, exactly? Maybe I’m waiting for it to grow out so that it can be . . . what?  Longer?  So, twice the amount of messy hair?    I don’t see how I can win here.

That said, I’ve made the executive decision to abandon my closet full of products and continue my tendency toward being a straight natural.  I might one day make a return.  In the meantime, I hope that the natural hair purists will understand that it’s not personal.  I respect and appreciate the mission, but straightening my hair is the only way to keep me from ripping it out in frustration.

 

The Power of No – My Favorite N-word

The best gift I’ve ever given myself is the right to refuse.  Egregiously.

Sometime in my twenties, after becoming angry at myself for being a people-pleaser and finding myself spending time getting roped into doing things that I really didn’t want to do,  I made the decision that if I were asked to do something, I would do it only if I thought I wouldn’t complain about it.  If I believed I would be mad at myself later, I would say no.  Just no.  No explanation needed. No would be good enough.

It was absolutely the most liberating decision I’ve ever made, and I’ve never looked back.

This decision was born of frustration.  If you’re a person who always says yes, you become the go-to person.  I was tired of being the go-to person, and I didn’t have the time or resources to be the go-to person.  People will drain you dry if you allow it.  So I decided to shake things up one day and say no.  It was great!  By not doing whatever it was that someone else wanted of me, I had free time to spend doing exactly what I wanted to do!  It was so addictive that the word ‘no’ became prominent in my daily vocabulary.   It was my private joke, and as addictive as any drug.

I was saying no to others, but I was saying yes to myself.

The pitfall is that the habit of saying no frequently can lead to isolation and refusal to try new things.  When I look back, some of my best stories are from times where I probably should have said no, and would have said no by my current standards.    I have enough tales of my stupidity (that’s what teenage years are for), so I was willing to take that chance.

I was afraid that people would sense my change in willingness to bend over backwards and get mad at me for my newly adopted philosophy.  But, as my mother always said: “if they’re not paying any bills in your house, they have no right to get mad at you for your choices.”   I stuck to my decisions, and a few surprising changes ensued.

First, once people got wind of my new attitude toward nay-saying, there were certain requests that I no longer received.  They already knew the answer.  ”Can I borrow money?”  No.  ”Can I drive your car?”  No.  ”Can you co-sign a loan for me because I have bad credit?”  Umm . . . HELL no!  ”Can you babysit?”  Have you met me?  No.  ”Can you help me move?”  Love ya, but no.  (As an aside, I’m SO happy that people have stopped asking me to help them to move.  I’m not the best candidate.  I’m strong but I care more about preserving my manicure.  Oh, and for the record?  NOBODY wants to help you move.  They might agree to help, but they’re bitching about it with every over-packed box they lift.  At this stage of my life, beer and pizza aren’t enticing enough to cajole me into spending 6 hours doing manual labor.   Besides, I hate beer.  You’re an adult.  Throw some money at that problem.  Hire professional movers and preserve your friendships and your furniture.  But I digress . . . ).

Granted, most of my friends have never made any of those requests, but you get the point.

I noticed that a few of the needier people in my life disappeared altogether, which was ultimately fine.  Once I developed the reputation as a person who would say no, many of the odd requests stopped.

Next I noticed that when I said yes I was more enthusiastic because whatever I had agreed to was a choice that I actively made.  I was sincerely excited, which improved the quality of my experiences.  When I agree to be there for someone, they know that I really want to be there.

Now let me be clear . . . I don’t say no to everything.  Most of my friends are delightful and not imposing.  After serious consideration I do occasionally say yes to things that I perceive to be uncomfortable or things that I’m willing to try.   I continue to love to do favors for my friends, although I avoid those that will put me in a position of compromise and ones that could ultimately ruin the friendship.

Being in a relationship means a great deal of give and take, and therefore saying yes to a lot of things that I’m not always happy about and wouldn’t normally agree to, but that’s an entirely different topic.

I’m sharing this because there are a lot of people out there who are similar to the pre-no-me, and it’s amazing how a two-letter word can significantly reduce your use of four-letter words (although a well-placed f-bomb can also be quite liberating).

If you try it, please comment and let me know how it’s working for you.

 

LovethepersonIvebecome

 

May 8, 2014 - Naturals by Gina B.    No Comments

Accidental Creativity – Naturals by Gina B.

You know what?  I’m going to stop apologizing for taking such long breaks from blogging, because it never seems to do any good.  I need to embrace the fact that I’m a sporadic blogger and stop trying to “do better,” because this is probably the best that I can do.  For now.

Everyone has a social media persona.  Some people find each detail of their lives worth mentioning.  Some people use it as a form of promotion.  As for me, it tends to be an outlet for my temper, thus the title of this blog.  If I’m really happy, living my life, I’m MIA on social media.

That said, I’ve been extremely busy lately, creating things by accident.  Story of my life.  The BF and I have a debate as to whether or not I could be considered a true creative.  He says yes, because he’s an extremely sweet glass-half-full, ever-encouraged optimist.  I, on the other hand, say no (because I tend more to the pragmatic side).

I argue that I know true creatives and I’m not fit to dine at that table.  My dad is a true creative.  My friends Jen and Stacey?  True creatives.  My cousin and favorite graphic designer, Connie, is a true creative.

I would say that I’m an accidental creative.  I do what I like, and sometimes those things end up being interesting and give the illusion of creativity.  I’ll take it.

Writing columns was born of a place of need.  I had thoughts that I needed to release, and stories that I needed to tell.  I needed to find a way to laugh at my own ridiculous love life.  The G-Spot was created, and I was fortunate enough to find people who would allow me to do it in a public forum.

And because I like to abandon all rules of journalism in my blog, I’ve provided you with a long (somewhat irrelevant) introduction and buried the lead, which is that I have another accidental endeavor that will be soon officially revealed.

If you’re fortunate enough to have escaped my endless chatter about this topic, I’m releasing a line of body products.  At this point, they only amount to two body balms and two body scrubs, and the company name is Naturals by Gina B.  I would tell you the individual names of the products, but I would have to kill you.  I truly mean that, because they’re trademark pending and took a LONG time for me to decide on.  I would literally kill for them.

There’s a story (because of COURSE there is).  Long story short, I was unhappy with my hair.  (If you know me personally, you will know that I’m ALWAYS unhappy with my hair)  I was displeased because my naturally curly/wavy hair had been heat damaged and I’ve been left with areas that are straight and others that have remained curly, somehow.  Not really high on the cuteness scale, and very distressing.  I didn’t love any of the products on the market (and I have an entire closet full of them to prove it).  So I decided that I was going to make a super-product myself that I would formulate specifically to address my issues and get my curls back.

Chemistry was one of my favorite subjects in high school — and in life, really.   So I got busy blending natural ingredients and came up with a usable conditioner.  I learned a harrowing lesson.  The trouble is that, once damaged, curly hair can’t be restored (it’s still a hot mess and I will ultimately have to cut it in stages).  However, I did really enjoy the residual effects that my concoction had on my skin.  So, I retooled the product, worked on texture, and lo and behold, I had body butter.

I instantly fell in love with my own product because it was made with my issues in mind and addressed all of my needs for moisturized, glowing skin.  I hate sticky products and watery lotions, and mine have none of those qualities.  I also detested lotions and oils that soiled my clothes, and my concoction dried quickly on the skin without staining my garments.  I could also use it on my face and it would eliminate the post-cleansing tightness without making me look like a walking oil slick.

I was lounging poolside in LA with a girlfriend.  She needed oil and I offered mine.  She wanted to know the brand, and I confessed that I had made it myself.  She enthusiastically told me that I should think about marketing and selling them.  I laughed and sipped my refreshing Chardonnay spritzer.  What a cute and funny idea.

Then, as I began letting others try my product, they agreed.  They say that it’s very emollient and works wonders on dry skin.  And when the BF became addicted to another product that I made — the body scrub — I gave it serious thought.  Love him, but he’s one of the most particular people I know.

So here we sit, nearly a year later.  I’ve done endless market research.  I’ve gotten deeper into the science of it — which has been SO much fun and rewarding.  I’ve picked out packaging and sourced materials.  I’ve turned my friends into my own personal guinea pigs and foisted samples upon unsuspecting strangers.  I’ve created a list of future releases and I haven’t been this excited and anxious about anything in years.  If ever.  Who knew?

I will be keeping everyone posted on the official date of release.  If you’re interested in trying a sample, let me know.  The problem is that I’m not mailing anything yet, so you’ll have to be local and see me in person.  If I don’t have any in my purse, the BF usually has a few tucked in his pockets.

I won’t harass anyone about trying my products.  I only ask that if you’re one who consumes such products, that you will give mine a shot.

Jan 21, 2014 - Rants    1 Comment

Ode to the valet parker

I have an aversion to valet parking.  I’m not comfortable with the concept of other people driving my car, and I cringe at the thought of handing my vehicle over to someone whose driver’s license status is questionable at best.

I’ve tried it.  I don’t like it.

Some of my friends don’t quite understand my hesitation — especially Jen, who is an avid customer of the little men in red jackets.  I maintain that my experiences have forced my mistrust, and I’m convinced that if valet parkers would alter their business practices just a tad, I might reconsider my stance.

If you know a valet parking “technician,” please pass this along . . .

Dear Valet Man:

Please know that I love convenience.  I really do.  To the extent that I am able, I go out of my way to reduce or eliminate the complicated, unpleasant aspects of my life.

And, really?  What could possibly be more inconvenient than having to:

  1. Competitively hunt for a parking space
  2. Parallel park in an impossibly small spot (being mindful to leave enough space so that the raggedy hoopty behind me and the urban assault vehicle in front of me – complete with ominous tow hitch – don’t scrape my car upon departure)
  3. Navigate the often inclement weather of Chicago while trying to avoid killing Divvy rental bikers, who don’t obey the rules of the road
  4. Locate the parking meter (the closest of which always seems to be 1/4 mile away from my car.  Especially when it’s raining or snowing)
  5. Wait in line, in heels, in the cold to pay for parking, while praying that the suburbanite chick in line ahead of me (who has been toying with the meter for what seems like an eternity) realizes the correct orientation of credit card insertion and knows that one must hit the ‘print receipt’ button in order to complete the transaction
  6. Fork over $176 for a mere two hours of street parking (because our dear former Mayor Daley sold us up the river, likely for his personal gain.  [But I'm not bitter])
  7. Trek to my destination in cute shoes that are only meant to be worn inside while mingling, for no longer than two hours
  8. Nervously check my watch every 15 minutes while at social outing, to make sure that I don’t get a $50 ticket on top of having to take out a second mortgage to pay for street parking
  9. Limp back to the car on stiletto-clad bloody hooves in enough time to avoid getting a ticket issued by a soulless meter reader who is lurking around my car, waiting to issue a ticket the second the clock ticks 9:31

 

Doesn’t sound like a fun experience, does it?  In fact the whole thing rather sucks.  Yet I typically opt to deal with the irritating process of parking my own car rather than use your service.  It has nothing to do with the cost or the obligation to add gratuity.  The recent surge of street parking fees in Chicago has made valet pricing seem inexpensive by comparison.  

Although the parking situation is tantamount to Mission Impossible (more like Mission Ridiculous),  parking my own car gives me a greater peace of mind than entrusting you.  Because I’ve simply had too many bad experiences with your profession.

With that in mind, here are a few suggestions that might make the transaction a little more pleasant:

Be nice to the customer.  When I pull up to your station, please don’t beat on my window or open my door before I’m ready to exit.  It’s annoying and not a great introduction.

SAFELY park the cars of your customers.  Many of us love our cars, and when we valet park we hope that you will treat our cars with care and that you know what you’re doing.  Slamming the door, peeling out and violently turning the corner — nearly steamrolling three pedestrians –doesn’t instill confidence.  I don’t think to myself: “This man is a professional; he obviously knows what he’s doing.”  Instead, it makes me want to run down the street behind you, screaming “Give me back my car, you bad driving freak!” (Fortunately my dignity has saved me many times.)

Realize that I have not LOANED you the car; you are merely PARKING the car.  While I understand that some adjustments need to be made for you to drive safely (although I think we’ve established that safety isn’t your concern), please try to return my settings when you return the car. And, let’s refrain from programming your favorite radio stations and altering my carefully chosen temperature settings.  In fact, you shouldn’t be in the car long enough to get quite so comfortable.   Also?  Know that many of us track our gas levels and odometers.  You should not have driven 22 miles in my car and burned 1/4 tank of gas while I’m having dinner.

Do not treat my car like a dining room.  Granted I’m a little quirky about this, but let me be clear . . . I don’t eat in my car.  I don’t allow my best friends to eat in my car.  If my boyfriend even thinks about pulling out a Tic Tac in my car, he gets the side-eye.  I wouldn’t dream of eating in anyone else’s car, especially when I haven’t been given permission.  That said, you can imagine my annoyance and anger when I find evidence that you’ve been eating Flaming Hot chips in my vehicle!  Especially when said evidence consists of an obnoxious empty bright red bag carelessly left on the passenger seat, and red sticky stuff on my steering wheel!

Don’t rifle through my things and think I’m not going to notice.  I know what’s in my ashtray and glove compartment and I know when things are missing.  I will check for those things before I leave for the evening, and I will shamelessly sit there and block the valet station until they are returned.  And while you’re at it, stay the hell out of my trunk!

Please don’t park my car in an area where it will get ticketed.  If I wanted a ticket I would have parked it my damn self.  But if you do happen to screw up and get a ticket, let me know.  So that I can make you pay for it before I’m surprised with a boot.

Don’t lose my car.  If I give you my claim ticket and you nervously ask me about the color of my car and whether or not it has four doors, it’s painfully evident that you have no clue as to where it might be.  And don’t try to appease me by saying that you’ll return in “a few minutes,” when you know damned well that it will be at least a half hour before you remember the location of my car.  Which probably has a ticket on it.  Because you were too busy eating dinner, checking the glove compartment, adjusting my seat and listening to my radio to make sure that you were safely parking my car in a memorable area.

Know that each and every new scratch will be noticed . . . and discussed.  Let’s not play the “it was there when you dropped it off” game.  Not only is that game absolutely no fun, it makes the customer feel like you think we’re stupid.  I know my car and all of its scratches.  Don’t make me hurt you.

I thank you for considering these mild behavior modifications, even though something tells me that I lost you at “Dear Valet Man.”    Which is fair, because you lost me at “Flaming Hot.”

 

Warm regards,

The owner of the dark silver four-door sedan that passes you by

 

 

 

 

 

Jan 11, 2014 - Health    4 Comments

Sometimes, NOT Sharing Is Caring

I’m a writer, and therefore in the business of sharing.  On social media, I don’t tend to favor those who launch deliberately vague posts which cause others to wonder about the circumstances, but remain respectfully afraid to ask followup questions.  It has recently dawned on me that I might have been one of those very people over the last few months.  For that I apologize.

I haven’t been intentionally opaque but as a writer, I’ve also been taught to share things that people might actually care about.

Having said that, if you really don’t want to know about my health issues (and believe me, I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t!), stop reading now because I’m about to bore you.  However, if you’ve been wondering about my weird Facebook posts on the subjects of surgery, back pain, and pain meds, I will solve the mystery for you.

So . . . many moons ago, I was accidentally diagnosed with a few fibroid tumors — like half of the female free world.  I was having lower stomach pains and during an ultrasound intended to rule out appendicitis, a few fibroids were detected.

My doctor told me that we were coexisting nicely, my fibroids and I, and if they became a problem I should do something about them.  But not until.  Her only concern was that they were positioned in an area that could prevent conception should I want to have children.  If you know me at all, you’ll realize that this was only an incentive to keep them.  They weren’t bothering me AND they were an added bit of birth control?  I had hit the medical jackpot.

She gave me a few warning signs to look for that would indicate that the fibroids were becoming a problem.  Excessive bleeding was the one that stuck out, as several of my friends experienced similar issues that forced them to have surgery.

I lived my life very happily for many years, until I began noticing things about my body.  Things I didn’t like.  My increasing waistline was of major concern.  I’ve always been the girl with the small waist.  Even though I have an ass and huge thighs, at LEAST the Universe gave me a tiny waist to offset them.  However, I’d noticed a little thickening over the years, which was upsetting and perplexing.  The other problem was my ability to watch my food digesting.  Probably more information than anyone needs, but I noticed that, whenever I ate a large enough meal, I could see the resulting lump in my stomach.  Sometimes through my shirts, if they were clingy enough.  Yuck.  I was also starting to have random pain in my lower back — around the kidney area.

But because I thought I felt good (in the grand scheme of things), I didn’t think about any of these problems very much (until I attempted to zip my smaller sized jeans).

If I weren’t vain, I might have happily lived on with small issues cropping up randomly and my stomach expanding annually.

I was in Miami for about three months last year and while shopping on Lincoln Road, decided to slink into BCBG to try on a Herve Legere bandage dress (because whenever I’m in Miami, I like to skank it up).  I zipped it, turned around and yelled “What the fuck is THAT?”  Turns out, that?  Was a gut!  An honest to God gut?  I’ve never had a gut in my life!  (Again, a major butt, but never a gut!)  And, I might add, a gut that looked absolutely terrible when accentuated by a purple bandage dress.

I thought about it, and realized that the fibroids were clearly out of control.  I channeled my friend Jen, and went on WebMD to check symptoms, and while I didn’t have the normal associated ailments, I had others, and because my stomach was hard, not flabby, I was pretty sure that my fibroids were the problem (either that or I needed to abandon the pizza — which I should probably do anyway, but that’s hardly the point).  While recalling all of the small abnormalities in my health, it was amazing that I had grown used to them and that they were the new normal.

Long story short, I eventually returned to Chicago and had an ultrasound.   The technician lost count at 13 fibroid tumors.  I met a doctor whom I instantly hated.  She was only too happy to tell me that I needed a hysterectomy, with a big smile on her face (yeah lady, bite me!).  I did research, and research and more research to find a minimally invasive way to take care of a maximally invasive problem.  Everyone had suggestions, but none of those suggestions pertained to me.

I was referred to a wonderful doctor whom I instantly loved and he convinced me that, not only did I need a hysterectomy, but that I needed the kind that required the big incision.  And not the cute horizontal bikini cut.  The ginormous vertical cut!  Because apparently I had let this scenario drag out for too long, and if I did nothing else well, I grew fibroids superbly.

If you’re in this situation, what I recommend you DON’T do?  Is read too many bulletin boards and websites of women who have had similar surgeries.  They will give great tips, but they will also scare you to death.  They will make you think your life is over and that you’re never going to be even remotely attractive, ever again in your life.  They will make you believe that you won’t be able to walk for an entire week, and that it will take 6 months to put your jeans back on — if that ever happens.  You’ll read about their infections, emergencies, and their tremendous weight gain.  Those websites freaked me out, and almost kept me from having surgery.

The BF, however, who had been a saint throughout my emotional and physical drama, finally told me in no uncertain terms that the surgery would happen if he had to take a kitchen utensil and perform it himself.   My doctor assured me that some of those women were sedentary, in poor health otherwise, and just plain out of their minds.   He roped me back in.

So, after about 15 people asked me if I was SURE I didn’t want to have children, surgery was scheduled, and on October 28th I became fibroid free.  My operation was a complete freak show.  If you watch Grey’s Anatomy, you’ll know that interns and residents love nothing more than having the chance to work on a patient who has a weird condition.  They hovered over me in pre-op, which was nothing short of hilarity.

The surgery went perfectly, and I received a series of post-op visits from interns and doctors who were eager to discuss the amount of fibroids (17, all told) and size of my stomach, and how they’ve “never seen anything that large come out of a person of my size.”  Unlike the predictions on the bulletin board/website, my stomach flattened immediately, and eventually I was pleased to have lost weight (as opposed to the weight gain that I had anticipated).

After 2-3 days, I strong-armed my doctors into releasing me from the hospital, and the BF was an incredible caretaker (despite the fact that he had bronchitis at the time).  I had previously been skeptical about his nursemaid skills, as I’m the natural caretaker of the two of us, but he was attentive and did a great job.  I’m not the best patient.  I was supposed to limit my stair climbing (I was ALL up and down the stairs all day), I wasn’t supposed to lift anything heavier than 10 pounds  (I think my purse alone weighs 12 lbs), and I was supposed to focus on relaxing and healing (I think I’m allergic to relaxation).  I was unable to drive for an entire month (he confiscated the keys, which forced me to comply).  It was a process.

A month later, around Thanksgiving and JUST when I was feeling good after the surgery, I started to feel like I had a knot in my right shoulder blade.  Like, maybe I’d slept in a funny position and needed to get it worked out.  I got a series of massages from great massage therapists (not including the one guy whom I’m convinced was highly skilled in happy endings).  In all cases, I felt better for about an hour, but always returned to the pain.  The pain grew progressively worse, and I went to chiropractors and muscle therapists.  Each had their benefits, but no real improvement.

I tried every form of painkiller that could be purchased over the counter.  I learned a few valuable lesson.   First OTC drugs ain’t shit!  Great for headaches and slight relief, but if you REALLY want to wipe it out, you need a prescription for something heavier.   Second, people who don’t know what’s wrong will take your money to experiment on you.  It’s not their fault, per se, but it’s something to be mindful of as you advocate for your own health.

I discovered the wonderment of pain patches.  I covered my shoulder blade in Salonpas (which I always thought was an extremely stupid name.  Sounds like an animal in a spa, doesn’t it?).  A few days later I realized that pain patches aggravate my skin, so I could have either continued to look like I had been laying on a Weber grill, or leave the patches alone.   Again, vanity won, even though I was seriously considering trying to find a special drug dealer who sold muscle relaxers by the pallet.

This nightmare continued on for weeks, and on Christmas day I fell down the stairs in my house.  And not a graceful fall, either.  I took a nasty spill that included a leg flying in the air and landing directly on my back.  As my luck would have it, I landed directly on the pained area, and slid aggressively down the stairs.  I felt the blow of each stair on my right shoulder blade until the BF caught me at stair 13 of 15.    I continued the day, and even managed to visit the home of one of my BF’s cousins (who are big affectionate huggers, which is frightening to someone with a back injury, but I made it through).

On December 26th, I woke up and decided to make a trip to the ER.  I received x-rays (and a lovely dose of valium along with a coveted limited prescription), and it was determined that I hadn’t fractured anything.

On December 27th, I had a followup visit with a doctor from my primary care physician’s office.  I got more x-rays, and they found a degenerative joint disease in my neck (which is essentially the normal degeneration we have when we age), and shortening of the space between a few vertabrae.

Right before the end of the year I was prescribed a mild muscle relaxer for the pain (and by “mild,” I mean “barely noticeable”).

On January 9th, after leaving me on hold for nearly an hour, my insurance company FINALLY approved my order for physical therapy (which I must complete before I’m allowed to have an MRI).  On the same day, I visited my new physical therapist and received a treatment plan.  I was previously irritated that I had to go to physical therapy, but I have to admit that my therapist has been the only person who has given me some sort of logical explanation as to why I have this problem.  Now, let’s see if she can successfully improve it.  The jury is out, but I’m optimistic (desperate).

I should note that by January 10th, I had signed up for health insurance with a different company.

So, where we stand today is that I’m still in pain (and would strangle a small child if I were promised a good comfortable night of sleep), I’m in physical therapy, still looking for the perfect painkiller, I’ve abandoned all other therapies, and it was suggested that I remain active and have a daily cardio activity.  Today I also determined that spinning is a bit much for me at this juncture.  Soon.  I’m tired of doctors and diagnoses and ice and smelling of Ben Gay, and am looking forward to a new chapter.  A new healthy chapter.  And I’m planning a party to celebrate the return of my waist.

And now that I’ve shared, you still might not care. But at least my posts will make more sense going forward.

Dec 24, 2013 - Holidaze, Rants    3 Comments

The most useless appliance of 2013!

Every year I peruse the hundreds of Christmas catalogs that overflow my mailbox — especially the Bed Bath & Beyond circular — to determine the most inane appliance that’s being marketed as an amazing holiday gift. This year, the winner is the Cake Pop Maker!

cakepopmaker

So, while I see cake pops in Starbucks and assume there’s a market for them, I didn’t realize they were sweeping the nation to the point where there’s a need for a dedicated appliance to make bite-sized cakes that then need to be pushed onto a stick and decorated.  I don’t really get it.  I guess it’s for people who want a little bit of cake, and are afraid to have entire layer cakes at their disposal.  But, really?  If you make 12 cake pops and decorate and eat them all, you might as well have enjoyed a fabulous slab of decadent devil’s food.

My prediction is that, as early as next year, yard sales and Goodwill stores will be full to bursting with rejected, unused cake pop makers — right next to the discarded quesadilla makers, panini presses, flavor injectors and salad shooters. Or anything else by Ronco.

And guys?  Just in case you’re desperately seeking a last minute gift for your girlfriend, and somehow think the cake pop maker is the answer to your question, say no.  There are better ways to spend $17.99.  Ways that won’t elicit a breakup.

Happy holidays!

 

Dec 20, 2013 - Rants    No Comments

Who ARE these people? WTF is a Duck Dynasty??

I used to be an avid reality television watcher, but this was before reality TV became absolutely ridiculous.  I watched early seasons of the Real World, Survivor, the occasional Bachelor/Bachelorette, Biggest Loser, etc.   I watched about as much as I could stand of Real Housewives of Atlanta.  I pulled back when I realized that I spent more time watching the lives of others than I spent living my own life.  (I lived my life SO much that I even made an appearance on a reality show of sorts with Six Brown Chicks.)

I’m still a junkie for competition shows, or any home buying or renovation show on HGTV.   But, I have deliberately refused to pay attention to the newish crop of reality TV (even though the BF tried to suck me into Storage Wars and later boycotted it himself when he realized it was staged).  I don’t choose to watch shows about pregnant teenagers, women who throw chairs at each other, little plump children who perform in pageants or hillbilly handfishing — whatever the hell THAT is.  I don’t kare about the Kardashians.

I don’t even think of it as reality TV, as much as I consider it to be “Lab Rat TV.”  Let’s put these odd, volatile people in a sticky situation and see what happens.

The trouble is that these reality stars have somehow become celebrities, and I find myself perusing the entertainment magazines while in line to buy groceries, and failing to recognize most of the people who are plastered all over the covers of Us and People.

Recently, I’ve chosen to remain completely ignorant about whatever’s going on with the “star” of Duck Dynasty.  I honestly don’t want to know what that show is about.  I  refuse to know the name of the man or learn about his family members who think it’s appropriate to have beards that could house wildlife, and his opinions don’t matter to me.  I see his face plastered all over Facebook with commentary about his socio-political views, and while I’ve been tempted to click and read, I feel as though that would be tantamount to actually watching the show.  Not gonna happen.

Here’s my question . . . why do we care what he thinks or how he feels?  As far as I can tell, that man is contributing very little to society (except to serve as a great example of a fashion don’t).  And why do we have expectations that his ideals will align with ours?  Because, of COURSE they won’t!  Truth be told, I would actually be more concerned if his opinions matched perfectly with mine.    But then again, I know not of what I speak.  He could be an upstanding citizen with a bad sense of style.

I don’t want to give this any more airplay than it deserves, and I’m honestly not trying to be elitist or judgmental, but I’m just curious as to why we, as a society, have taken to glamorize and elevate people to celebrity status who have no visible talents, other than their abilities to be interesting to watch on a reality show?    I’m writing this because I really don’t get it.

I encourage a healthy debate.  Please feel free to comment with your opinion.

Dec 19, 2013 - Holidaze    1 Comment

Living up to my favorite Christmas

Today, I looked up and realized that Christmas is less than a week away.  How did that happen??  I’ve reached an all-time low.   As I wonder how I’ve managed to stick my head in the sand to the point where I’ve forgotten about Christmas, I realize that it’s because nothing will live up to what was my absolute favorite Christmas.

We have a rocky history, Christmas and I.

For years, I’ve had different ways of dealing with Christmas.  Being an only child, and living in an area where I have very little extended family, family Christmases were always pretty boring.  The idea of visiting my extended family on the east coast didn’t sound like a terrible idea to me, but was annually vetoed by the parents who didn’t want to travel and pack all kinds of crap just to be immersed in what might have been their own traumatic family memories.  As my mother was the youngest of 11, and my father was the oldest of 8, I can’t say I blamed them.

So, we stayed home.  Our Christmas dinner was held in the same room, at the same table where I ate dinner nightly and there were no additional guests that made it feel especially festive.  We had a tree every year, but even as we decorated, I dreaded the chore of having to take the tree down on New Years’ Day — because my mother would have crumbled with shame had we left our tree up even one more day into the New Year.

We didn’t have the Norman Rockwell Christmas (or even the trashy Kardashian Christmas), where the whole family gathers in their PJs and gazes in merriment at the gifts below the impeccably decorated tree.  First of all, there was only one of me.  There was nobody to gaze at.  Second, I was lucky if my mother wrapped my gifts half the time — not that I really cared.  I could count on getting a major item that was on my “Santa” list (unless my personal team of Santas determined that my request was ludicrous and was therefore deliberately absent from my gift selection.  I once asked for a baby sister, and not only was there not a baby under the tree, that entire topic was never introduced.  I later thanked them for their prevailing common sense [and ultimate decision that they couldn't run the risk of having another like me]).

Then there’s my father’s odd collection of gifts.  Love my dad, but he’s a horrific gift giver, and he’ll wrap anything and put it under the tree.  To add insult to injury, he hermetically seals whatever he wraps in as much Scotch tape as they sell at Walgreen’s, which means that you’re fighting for your life to reveal what will undoubtedly be something that you don’t want.  We had to have a talk when I struggled to unwrap an oddly shaped gift that ended up being a giant candy cane stick.  Really, dad?  (As proof that you live and learn, he’s taken to giving me checks instead.  A tradition that he should have started years ago.)

At some point we began going to the more exciting homes of others to celebrate Christmas (because anything was more exciting than staring at my parents).  This was all good — or at least a welcome departure from the holiday doldrums —  until I realized that I never really enjoyed other peoples’ food, nor did I enjoy downloading the entire previous year to the relative strangers with whom I shared the holiday table.

At some point — well into adulthood —  I decided that Christmas would be MY day.  The first year I ordered thai food and watched marathons of Trading Spaces.  My parents were somewhat jealous (because even the worst Pad Kee Mao is better than dry turkey).  I was thrilled.  I felt like I was stealing time from the world, and I added elements each year.  Some years I went to matinees, and other years I chose to be somewhat social and visit friends for a handful of hours.  Was I lonely?  Hell no!

As an aside, only children tend to be one of two ways.  Either we have to be around people all of the time because we grew up solo and lacked a feeling of belonging.  OR we can be alone all day and not really notice until it occurs to us that we haven’t spoken to anyone all day.  It will surprise you to learn that I’m the latter.  

When I began dating the BF, he made me participate in Christmas.  He has a larger family, and they tend to make more of a big deal of these things.  He insisted that I go with him to his sister’s house on Christmas Eve the first year that we were together — even though we’d been dating mere weeks at the time.  His sister-in-law asked if we were exclusive, and I had no idea what to say other than “Ummm . . .did you ask HIM that question?  What did he say?”  (She and I are great friends now and laugh about this in retrospect)

I’ve been slowly trying to acclimate him to my version of Christmas, and he beats me over the head with his.  I’m gradually pulling him over to the dark side (even though he’s kicking and screaming to keep some semblance of Christmas tradition).

But by far, the best Christmas in either of our memories was our Jamaican vacation.  Eleven blissful days of sun and seclusion at an adults-only resort which included a Christmas morning of spa visits and  a phenomenal private lobster dinner on the beach.  Does it get better?  (In case you’re pondering, the answer is a resounding NO, it doesn’t.  Say what you like about family tradition, but seriously?  Nothing gets you excited about the birth of baby Jesus quite like eating freshly caught lobster tail while waves crash mere feet from your table.)  While everyone else was fighting the snow, we were laid out on the beach.  While other people were bundling themselves up in preparation of braving the cold and dealing with their most irritating relatives, we were swimming with dolphins.  Granted it wasn’t perfect.  The BF had a cold for the first few days (and managed to forget to pack socks and underwear) and I got stung by a jellyfish, but I’d do it again. (And before you ask, NO, he didn’t pee on me)  Seriously . . . if you’ve never traveled to a warm destination for Christmas?  Treat yourself!

I wish I were treating myself this year.

This will be our 5th Christmas together, and I’m still mourning our 3rd Christmas.  Last year wasn’t so bad because we were planning an extended trip to Miami in January.  But THIS year?  I haven’t done a lick of shopping (except for things that I’ve bought myself), and having had two colds already this season, I’m not overly anxious to be in social settings where people are breathing in my face and wanting to shake my hand.

So, now I’m at the point where I almost wish we hadn’t taken that vacation, because everything else will pale in comparison.

Or perhaps I need to start planning our vacation for next year.  If I’m going to stick my head in the sand, it might as well be REAL sand!

Oct 18, 2013 - Technology    No Comments

A Surprising Source of Entertainment

I hate sweeping, but I also hate dirty floors.  A few weeks ago, I broke down and bought a Roomba.  I’d previously received a cheaper model of robotic vacuum as a gift several years earlier, but it didn’t have cool features, like the ability to schedule cleanings or the programming to return itself to its charger.

So of course I got the one that has the remote control just because it has a remote control . . . not because I NEED a vacuum with a remote, or that I will ever use that feature.  I’m gadgety, and it seemed like a good idea at the time.  Roombas aren’t cheap (especially those with remote controls), but with one of the fabulous Bed Bath and Beyond coupons, I was able to get a generous 20% discount.

Roomba has an online registration where it asks consumer to name their vacuum cleaners.  Not sure why, but I had no choice but to go with it.  My lack of creativity at the time caused me to name it Zumba.

I programmed Zumba to dance its little way around the first floor each night at 7:30 (if I’m being honest, I thought I was programming it to run at 7:30 am.  Clearly there was a user error).

I have been entertained by Zumba since the moment it took its first sweep.  I haven’t been this amused since having cats.

The first time, I was amazed at how long it ran, and how much dust it picked up.  I moved it upstairs for a few days, and couldn’t find it after the second sweep.  My assumption was that there was so much dust and junk on the floor that Zumba rolled out the door in protest.  I finally found it wedged under the dresser.

I’ve since found Zumba stuck in various places, and it has a penchant for closing itself in the powder room.  It rolls in, and then closes the door behind itself.

We got in late last night, and I parked in the garage while the BF parked in front of the house.  When I approached the back door, I was wondering why he hadn’t unlocked the door because he had a head start.  I walked in and found him staring at the floor, perplexed.  There were white tufts all over the floor outside of the powder room and the door was closed.

The BF was a little freaked out, and didn’t know what happened.  I knew immediately.  This had Zumba written all over it.

When I opened the door, I saw what Zumba had been up to . . .

RoombaTP

So, my forensic skills told me that the toilet paper, which once occupied the stand in the top right corner of the picture, somehow got sucked up by Zumba (which had already locked itself in the powder room) and was pulverized.  I had my work cut out for me, and it took about an hour to clean up the mess and unclog the toilet paper from Zumba’s rollers.

At this point, I’m wondering whether the time I’m spending rescuing Zumba couldn’t be better reallocated if I just decided to get off of my lazy ass and sweep.

Nah . . .

 

 

 

 

 

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