Archive for February, 2012

My Pack-a-Day Habit

I used to be a smoker.  I smoked for about 12 years – I was a junior in college when I started, certainly old enough to know better. Worse, I grew up with my Mom being a chain smoker, and my sister and I both hated it. So how I went from being a non-smoker to smoking a pack a day seems really hypocritical, but I must have been pre-disposed to it or something.

No one – especially not my family – ever knew I smoked.  When I started was right when my Mom decided to finally kick the habit for good. It was really difficult for her, so I felt like a jerk being all like, “Hey! Guess what! I smoke now too!” and throwing it in her face. So I smoked in relative secret.

I quit about four years ago.  Truth be told, my ex, also a smoker, really wanted to quit and pushed me into it. I wasn’t sure I was ready at the time.  There is a mental component to having cigarettes that I was always fond of – maybe it’s because there’s always been a part of me that gets really overwhelmed in social situations, but I liked the idea of escaping  (a bar, parties) to have a cigarette. First, you do your best bonding in the cigarette circle – smokers always seem to have stuff in common. Second, if no one was out there, I enjoyed the solitude as I would puff away. I always maintained that I couldn’t be terribly physically addicted, because I could go for exceptionally long stretches without a cigarette (hiding the habit from most everyone you know will often put you in that situation).  I always held the belief that I would eventually go back. In fact, I’d tried to quit once before and did go back. But, something clicked for me that last attempt. I went on the patch, and as soon as I was done, cigarettes were just different to me. The second hand smoke smell, which I used to think smelled great – was suddenly revolting.  Part of me still misses the habit and excuse to slip away, but now I hate the smell and am one of those people I used to hate who walks by smokers with my hand in front of my nose and mouth so as not to catch any of the second-hand smoke.  Any time I did try to take a puff, the taste was so revolting to me I immediately gave up. So, I was cured!

A few years ago, still missing the physical routine of smoking and wishing there were some reasonable substitute, I started smoking clove cigarettes. These were actually my “gateway” cigarette in college – I enjoyed them so much that I started smoking for real.  This last time, I would mostly just smoke them socially or when I was having a drink. I still sort of miss that habit too, but my lapse into cloves was right before my stroke.  I also take birth control, and having a blood clotting disease, being on birth control and smoking is pretty much suicide. My desire to live is much greater than my desire to smoke, so it was easy to say good-bye to that habit once and for all.

Today I realized I may have replaced my addiction with something more innocent but also sort of disturbing. I chew a ridiculous amount of gum. Orbit gum, to be specific. Spearmint, Sweet Mint, and sometimes the fruity Citrus one.   Every day that I am at work, I sit at my desk and chew gum.  Part of this is to avoid bad breath, but I think the other part is the physical addiction of having to be doing something. It also helps me not snack on junk food. Maybe sometimes I just do it because I’m bored.   When Target has a “gum sale,” I will buy the 3-pack packs (they’re usually 2 for $3) and spend about $20 on gum to keep in my desk drawer.  However, I hate when gum loses its flavor, even remotely, so I’ll chew a piece for a few minutes, then spit it out. I also hate having gum in my mouth before a meeting and when I’m on the phone (it’s unprofessional, gross and rude!), so I spit it out then too.  Additionally, I have a weird thing about not chewing gum in the bathroom, so I’ll also get rid of it before any restroom trips.

The result of all of this gum chewing/spitting is that it takes me no time at all to go through a 14-piece pack of Orbit.  In fact, I think I can just about go through one pack in a day or day and a half.  The people who empty the trash at night must think I’m disgusting.  My other revelation is that I’m going through a pack of gum at the same rate I used to go through a pack of cigarettes.  Which, I suppose, besides being gross for the cleaning people and potentially leading to TMJ in later years for me, really isn’t hurting anyone.  I mean, at least it’s sugar free.


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The title of this post comes from an episode of Charles in Charge. Yes, the sitcom from the 80s starring Scott Baio.  I don’t remember the set up of the scene, I just remember it was something his crazy mother (played by John Travolta’s sister) said to him as way of giving advice in the most befuddling way possible. It made me laugh at the time, and I like to quote it still, which makes people look at me like I’ve lost my mind/am retarded (either scenario being completely possible).

Because of my health issues, I need drugs. To get drugs, one has to go to the pharmacy. I’d been going to a CVS pharmacy in Burbank for years, mostly because it was close to my hospital and doctors’ offices, and was generally convenient.  I’m not sure what has been going on over there, but it is always a zoo. I think a few smaller pharmacies in the area closed and all of the clientele were transferred to this place.  The line to pick up prescriptions is always at least five people deep, no matter what time of day (I’d go mid-day during the week and stand in the same line).  If you call in a refill, it is hardly ever ready when you request it.  If you need them to fax an authorization request to your doctor, you may as well pick the request up up and drive it to your doctor’s office in person, because that task has as much of a chance of being completed as I have a chance of winning the lottery and being crowned Miss America. On the same day.

Since my bigger health issues a year ago, I’d been dealing with the aggravation of this pharmacy for almost that entire time. Sick of listening to me bitch about the same thing over and over again, my boyfriend finally convinced me to cut the shit and just transfer everything to a Rite Aid that is fairly close to my apartment.  My life improved immediately.

Rite Aid has a 15 minute wait policy for prescriptions, so if you drop something off, you never wait more than 15 minutes before it’s ready.  If you call something in ahead of time, it will be waiting for you when you get there. I have two different prescriptions for my Coumadin because I take two different doses.  Once, I was almost out of refills on one and asked them to contact my doctor for an authorization.  I hadn’t realized that my refill on the other one was also almost up, but they did and took care of it for me. When I went to pick my prescription up, they had both waiting for me.  They saved me so much time and aggravation, I’m not even sure I properly conveyed thanks because I was in such shock.  People are never this helpful anymore!

I went there again just this afternoon, because they had been calling me leaving messages to let me know that I had a refill waiting for me. I never called it in, they just knew.  I thought it was just one, which made sense, and then I realized they had two because they actually anticipate what’s coming up and fill it as soon as the insurance lets them.  I was further impressed when, at the check-out, the woman asked for my last name, and then said, “Oh,” and then said my first name. She remembered me!  I would spend a collective 3 hours a week at the Burbank CVS, pacing back and forth in front of the pharmacy counter, and no one ever remembered who I was.  It fully cemented my love for this place.

My mental love fest with Rite Aid was almost shattered when it became impossible to ignore the woman at the register to my right. She was railing on the three pharmacists  working there, because they apparently made a mistake and gave her the wrong medication.  They were very apologetic and seemed like they were behaving professionally, but she was having none of it.  I believe her parting words were a very loud and petulant, “I’m going to tell everyone I know not to come here!” before she turned and stormed out of the store.

My first thought was, “if she thinks these guys are bad, she’d never survive at the CVS in Burbank!”  And then I thought of my favorite line from Charles in Charge (shut up), and how much it rings true (again, shut up).   This lady’s personal hell has been my saving grace.  More idiotically put, her floor is my ceiling.

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It’s like some sort of nightmare – it’s 2012, the economy has been in the toilet for the better part of three years, and birth control has become of the hot button issue of the upcoming elections?!  I cannot stand the Conservative Right for their diversionary tactics (among other reasons), but this one has gone way too far.

I am really not a political person. I barely even know what’s happening in the world politically – and if I know anything, it’s because I learned it from either Jon Stewart or Bill Maher (incidentally, I would very much like to go drinking with the two of them sometime).  But, being a woman, I take a lot of womens’ issues pretty seriously.  I am furiously pro-choice, to the point where I refuse to eat at In ‘n Out or shop at Forever 21 because they donate some of their profits to pro-life organizations. Seeing “John 3:16″ on Tim Tebow’s stupid face during Broncos games sent me into an inward rage.  How dare anyone – especially a man – tell us what we can or cannot do with our bodies?!

As if it needs to be said….”pro-choice” doesn’t mean “pro-abortion.”  It means you are for people making individual choices, for whatever their personal reasons. The government should not have a say in something so personal, especially in this country, where most of the opposition is steeped in religious arguments.

Besides the fact that I am a woman – and I think women everywhere should be as outraged about this as I am, whether or not they want birth control – there is a reason I take this so personally.

Just about a year ago, I had a stroke.  I have an auto-immune disease (APLS) that causes blood clots. It’s atypical that my first problem was a stroke, because this thing usually affects women, and they only ever find out because it will cause chronic miscarriages.  Women who are trying to get pregnant will miscarry over and over again, for seemingly no reason, until it is finally discovered that they have this disease. The blood clots somehow wreak havoc with the fetus, and it can’t survive.  To manage the disease, I take blood thinners (Coumadin); to manage birth control, I am on a low-dose birth control pill (a higher dose would cause blood clots…you see the problem there).   You absolutely cannot get pregnant while taking Coumadin – it causes every sort of birth defect possible.  So, if I was not on birth control and got pregnant, I would have a defective baby with no real chance for survival in life. If I decided that having a baby was more important that being on blood thinners, I would probably die before making it to term, either from a stroke or a heart attack…or I would miscarry and it would all be for naught anyway.

I am a thirty-six year old woman in a long-term, committed relationship with someone whom I love.  But, according to Santorum and his right-wing asshole friends (really, Foster Friess?? An aspirin between the knees?! What the fuck?), I should not have sex at all because it is immoral.  Makes sense – Santorum is a crazy Catholic who home-schools his 7 kids and thinks that sex should be for procreation only.  Again, it’s 2012!!!  Where is this coming from?  I am eagerly awaiting the day when some prostitute  or sex worker comes forward and claims Santorum as her best customer – or similar.  No one lives as straight laced as he is proposing people to be – not even priests.  There HAS to be some sort of hypocrisy lurking behind all this.

We’ve come to expect this sort of ignorance from the Catholic Church (it’s ok, I was raised Catholic, I can say that).  But from someone who’s trying to be the leader of (arguably) the greatest country in the world? Well, that’s just frightening.

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The other day, driving around town, I noticed a billboard. I can’t even remember what the business was – I think it was for a small, local business.  But the billboard said something like, ” ‘Like’ us on FaceBook and we’ll donate $25 to xx charity.”

Something about that didn’t sit well with me.  If they can afford to donate $25 for every person that likes them on FaceBook, can’t they just donate the money without making consumers feel guilty first?  “Hey people, little Billy is starving. We have the money to get him food, but we won’t do it until you click the “Like” button on Facebook. So have a heart!” It’s such a self-serving move made under the pretense of charity.

Honestly, I had forgotten about seeing that billboard until this morning.  Over the weekend, I had stopped by an Aveda salon to pick up the overly priced shampoo and conditioner that I love.  While at the salon, the woman checking me out convinced me (she didn’t have to try very hard) to join their rewards program, Pure Privilege, for a mere $10.  When you buy things, you earn points that you can later redeem for free Aveda stuff. Since Aveda stuff is expensive and I love it, this seemed like a good deal.  I logged on to the website today to see what the gift options are.

The rewards are offered in tiers based on how many points you have.  In the second tier, the gifts include a set of lip glosses, fancy candles, or charities. Yes, charities. You can use your points to make donations to adopt endangered animals (like eagles or harp seals), give money to starving people in Africa or Haiti via Oxfam America, or, my favorite, Save the Children.

Enjoy your lip gloss, bitch.

This seems really noble, but it kind of pissed me off. I can no longer feel good about scoring a free trio of Aveda lip glosses when there are starving children and cute animals that will probably die because I just made a selfish choice.

We live in a consumer-driven, capitalist society.  Sometimes that bugs me, but I’m all for not upsetting the order of things.  Let me purchase  stuff that I need or want without making me consider the greater good or how I could be helping others. Maybe I just want to buy shampoo that smells good and makes my hair look nice without having to think about everything that is fucked up in the world and how I could have helped.  I am really not a selfish or heartless person, and I donate to charities where and when I can. I just don’t like it being thrown in my face in such a heavy-handed way by people who are, ultimately, mostly concerned with their own bottom line.  Kind of hypocritical, no?

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My parents each turned 60 last year.  This May, they’ll be celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary.  I love them both dearly, but I fear they have lost their minds.

Last year was not a good year for celebrating milestone birthdays.  My grandfather died in the middle of January, and then I had a stroke at the end of March and my entire family had to fly to California. So, since my Mom’s birthday is in February and my Dad’s is in April, any notions of grand celebrations were scrapped and they celebrated by taking off to New Hampshire and shutting out the world.  Which seemed fine to me.

Some family history that is important to note: my parents are notoriously awful with finances. We were never the family that had cool vacations or the newest clothes (I had hand-me-down clothes from the 70s…from my male cousins).  We didn’t go out to eat often if hardly ever (does McDonald’s count?).  Yet, for some reason, my parents decided to send us to a private Catholic school for an ridiculous amount of money, where we got a very sub-par education.  So any disposable income was squandered at St. Francis of Assissi. See what I mean about bad with finances?

I think my parents (or my Mom – my Dad generally follows suit and agrees with her regardless of subject matter, as a method of keeping his own sanity) are in the midst of some sort of mid-life crisis or nervous breakdown where they’ve decided that they are sick to death of being the people who don’t get to do the fun stuff and are going to make up for lost time by cramming a stupid amount of family fun into one year.

At the risk of being annoyingly repetitive, I would like to draw a fine point on the fact that my parents are bad with money. This is important because I’m still unsure how they have decided to bankroll this Family Year of Fun.  This is further upsetting to me because, much to my sister’s and my mutual horror, my mother likes to go around telling people, “My retirement plan is to be a burden to my children!”  It is the unfunniest joke in the history of jokes. I think my sister automatically gets the short straw on that one because 1) she lives closer and 2) is the one with my parents’ grandchildren.

To be fair, I know that one way they have some money to pay for these activities is from the sale of my deceased grandfather’s house.  However, my grandfather built that house himself back in 1955. It was in decent shape, but my sister was right when she said he was a “Level 2 hoarder”, so it probably needs a fair amount of work. It’s in a good location close to the city, but with the real estate market what it is, I have a hard time believing that the proceeds from the sale of that house – split five ways amongst his children – amount to a substantial amount of money.

I try to ignore the non-logical nature of it, but it’s getting more difficult with each passing conversation with my parents because they are so excited about everything coming up.   Here’s the timeline of activity:

* May:  An anniversary party for my parents on their actual anniversary, which happens to be Memorial Day weekend.  We will have 80 people in a function hall. Now, my sister and I, hardly financial whizzes ourselves, will be chipping in for this.  We are scared.  My mom asked if we should get a DJ and I snapped, “No, we can just load Sinatra on an iPod and hook it up to some speakers.”

* June: My parents are taking a 7-day cruise from Boston to Bermuda. This is actually the one activity I approve of because 1) it doesn’t involve me and 2) they went to Bermuda on their honeymoon, so it seems very fitting.

* December/Christmas:  My parents are taking my sister, brother-in-law, their three kids, me and my boyfriend to Walt Disney World for Christmas and New Years.  This is the one I can’t quite get over.   It’s a full week!  In Orlando!! Besides the expense of it, I think the rest of my family has failed to take into consideration that the last vacation two adults sans children want to take is to a place that is crawling with other people’s children (actually, people with their own children probably don’t want to do this either, but that’s one of the benefits of not having children; sure, you have no one to love you in your old age, but you get to take vacations that are blissfully free of screaming children who have just pooped themselves).

The kicker of my parents mad spending spree of 2012 was the conversation I just had with them, when they told me they just found out from their mechanic that my mom’s car won’t make it much past the Spring. My mother hates to drive. Hates it. So she only drives herself to and from work every day, which is approximately 1 mile. If she were less lazy, she could just take a bus. The moral of the story is, spending any amount of money for my mother to have a new car is quite possibly one of the stupidest ways to spend cash that I’ve ever heard of. Yet, they are talking about leasing a new Corolla, because at the end of the lease, they can “just buy it out.” Well, kids, I have done this, and I’m here to tell you, it’s a superbly dumb idea. My 1998 Corolla was brand new when I leased it for three years. At the end of the lease, needing a car but unable to afford a new one and wanting to break the lease cycle, I decided to buy out my lease because at least I knew where that used car had been, and it had really low mileage.  I ended up making payments on that car for seven years.  I still drive it because I can’t bear the thought of having a car payment again.  I can’t even imagine how much over sticker price I ended up paying because of that boneheaded move. When my parents told me they’re going car shopping over the weekend and I said, “Don’t make any rash decisions!”, they seemed insulted by my lack of faith. But, given their recent track record, I think someone needs to keep them in line.

I really, truly do not want this to be my job. I am not prepared to parent my parents.  But, since it seems most likely that my sister will be the one saddled with them on a day-to-day basis, it’s the least I can do to contribute.

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