The Last (Beach) Stand.

It was our last trip of the summer, and our twelfth(ish) annual family vacation – the one we take with my family instead of buying each other presents. Not having to buy presents AND a “free” vacation? It’s such a win.

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We started this tradition when there were no kids, then eventually began adding one kid per year for a half-decade.

The first year that we had all five cousins on the trip, they looked like this:

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And now they look like this.

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I’ll let you guess which of those years was easier.

This year, did all the Florida things.

We beached (count five kids – they’re all there. Did you find them? That’s what we do on the beach – count to five over and over),

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We rainbowed,

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We ran to and from the beach in our pajamas to get a better view,

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We learned what was REALLY at the end of the rainbow,

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(Is she taking a picture of her dog pooping at the end of the rainbow? I did, so I guess I can’t judge.)

We ran into random men with parrots,

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We complained about our hands being covered in parrot germs,

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We sand castled,

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We sunsetted,

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We crab hunted at least three different species (and/or goaded the bravest children into doing it for us),

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(Cape San Blas is apparently the most popular Crab Hangout Spot in the world. See all those dots? Crabs. All crabs.)

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We corralled everyone for family photos, which first requires one tribute for a lighting check, and MY GOODNESS did my tribute offer some flair with his role.

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He’s for sure going to get picked up by a modeling agency solely because of this blog post.

Okay on to those family photos…

(Nope, not that one.)

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(Nope again.)

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(Definitely not.)

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(Okay that one will work.)

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(Since we’re on a roll, we should try a different location.)

(Nope, there’s always that one kid.)

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Oh and every now and then we relaxed.

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We also taught all the kids how to play Mafia, which they then became OBSESSED with, and I realized how remarkably good I was at swaying their collective opinions. I could make them turn on someone with just five words. I felt the addictive rush of power after being on the winning side for 8 out of 8 of our games, and realized that I really should consider a career change to either detective or member of the actual mafia. I’ll let you know what I decide.

And finally, we all studied intensely a pair of giant Walkingstick bugs. When Chris brought them up “as a large gift” for me (then lifted the lid and they jumped toward me and I screamed), he told the kids, “Look! It’s a baby riding on a Mommy’s back!”

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We all oohed and aahed at how adorable this was, and I fussed at the children for trying to detach the precious family.

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“Don’t do that to the baby!! He could DIE!!!”

After asking my resident Twitter Scientist, I discovered that actually, the males of this species are a lot smaller than the females, and the actual connection of the creatures at the rear as opposed to what I suppose I imagined – at the mother’s tiny teat – began to make so much more sense.

That poor female. She thought she had a chance of escape with our kid’s help. And then I stepped in and made them end their detaching process.

I went and found Chris. “THAT WAS NO BABY RIDING ON ITS MOTHER’S BACK!!”

He laughed at me. “I know that! I just made that story up for the kids.”

Five hours later, they were still on the porch. And still very much attached.

That night as I was lying in bed thinking about that exhausted female Walkingstick, I googled and discovered that this particular variety have an extremely unique “odiferous secretion” that they can shoot, with surprising accuracy, up to 15 inches. And furthermore, if this secretion is shot into one’s eye, which is a usual target, it can cause pain as severe as if you’d had molten lead poured in your eye socket. The pain fades in a few hours. The next morning, you wake up with a completely scarlet eye that makes light and pressure so unbearable that you are incapacitated for 48 hours. Your vision continues to be impaired for five days.

Hey, y’all – Alabama isn’t the only Hunger Games stadium.

After sharing these findings with the family, along with my relief that the children were not attacked by that feisty little male, my mom had an aha moment. She said that as we were all crowded around observing our new friends, she suddenly felt like she had something in her eye. It got worse, so she ran inside before we’d realized she was hurting. She couldn’t get it to quit, and finally threw her contacts away, and the pain subsided.

We can clearly conclude that the joy of our vacation was saved solely by a contact lens. We should all be so lucky as to have horrible vision.

So, thanks to Gramamma for taking it in the eye from a pair of amorous sticks for the rest of us, we can safely call this vacation a Thumbs-Up success.

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Theories on a Grand Target Adventure.

As I was driving down Highway 280 on Saturday afternoon, lost in thought about all I had to accomplish in the next day and week and year and lifetime, I approached a set of flashing police lights in the median. I slowed down, as one does, out of caution and to ensure that it wasn’t a tricky speed trap.

The cars in front of me slowed as well and then we all slowed much slower than we should have slowed because what was going on was super curious in a fantastic sort of way.

The median was only a few feet wide, but it held a lot of items at that moment:

1. A single cop car.
2. A cop, standing in the median, currently occupied with handcuffing and emptying the pockets of an
3. Extraordinarily tall and skinny gentleman.
4. The gentleman’s apparent mode of transportation, which was a Target shopping cart, containing
5. Two industrial-sized mops and a
6. Mop water bucket (uncertain if it still contained dirty mop water.)

Two more cop cars came barreling up the hill toward the party, lights flashing and sirens blaring, because obviously this situation required at least six policemen, especially since those mops were INDUSTRIAL-SIZED.

My mind busied itself for the rest of the day, mapping out this scene and analyzing it in a studious forensic fashion.

Highway 280, for those of you who aren’t from around here, is our everybody-hates-it highway. It’s huge, always crowded, a continual source of irritation to the entire population, and also the victim of constant reworking to attempt to fix the eternal traffic problems. Currently, there are all these you-can’t-turn-left-but-you-can-U-turn lanes, complete with traffic lights that show the U-Turn symbol instead of a left-turn signal. They’ve barricaded other former left-hand turns and even straight-across pathways, one of which added 15 minutes onto my personal travel situation.

So you get the picture – this isn’t some backwoods country lane. It’s a SERIOUS road.

The location of the Target Cart Incident was directly in front of the Water Works reservoir. Mapping quickly in my head and then confirming the mileage with the help of Google Maps, the closest two Targets were…

1. 1.8 miles away, but up a seriously steep incline on Highway 280,
2. 4.4 miles away, on Highway 280, but crossing over the interstate, passing a huge shopping mall (and therefore much traffic), and containing a slight uphill climb, then a fairly good downhill coast.

Target Mop GuyMap not to scale. Curves on 280 attempting to show elevation change. Because I’m super good at maps like that.

I decided option two was where he’d come from, as option one’s steep uphill would have been impossible while riding a Target Cart in traffic traveling at 55 miles per hour. Which means that, coming from the other direction, if he’d only made it to that steep downhill section, he’d have had the ride of his life. Who needs roller coasters when you have a Target Cart and Highway 280?

I envisioned the journey as this: Extraordinarily Tall Gentleman (ETG) riding on the back of the cart, kid-style, while holding onto the handlebars. He would push himself like a skateboard to get going, then put his feet up on the crossbar, lean over (quite a bit due to his height), and coast when he could, hopefully with minimal dirty mop water backsplash.

That covered the where and the how, but more importantly was the why.

Maybe he was the janitor at one of these Targets.

Maybe some snot-nosed kid had spilled the LAST Slushie he was going to clean up.

Maybe some suburbia Mom had sloshed the LAST Starbucks double Frappe from which he was going to destickify the floor.

Maybe in a revolt against Target’s gross misuse of the word clearance, some angry Tennis Housewife had smashed a case of 10% off “clearance” La Croix.

Maybe there’d been a puker in the home goods section. And maybe it’d splashed all over the sheets and towels.

Whatever happened, I envisioned ETG looking at that Last Mess, saying “Oh no. Uh uh. I’m done here”, and walking his Cart de Mop right out the front sliding doors, pushing it to the end of the parking lot, holding on for dear life, giving a loud Braveheart-Style war whoop, and riding his way to FREEDOM from the tyranny of the Kingdom Tarzhey.

I feel like ETG could have had a slightly better escape route planned beforehand, though. 280 drivers are known for spotting – and tweeting – oddities very quickly. Such as Naked Guy with the tripod (not an innuendo) taking selfies of himself – there were two dozen tweets about him before he could snap his first duckface. No, ETG riding a Target Cart with Two Industrial Mops and a Mop Bucket didn’t have a chance. But he did hold on longer than Naked Guy (not an innuendo), so there’s that.

(As an aside, I did in 2014 have a brief(less) Twitter conversation with Naked Guy. I did not get to the bottom of his motive.)

Later that evening, we passed back by the scene of the crime. I was hoping that the cart would still be there – as a memorial to the ET(and Brave)G. But it was gone. Which led to a whole different slew of questions. Did the cops somehow tow the cart back to the correct Target? Did Target come and retrieve their property themselves? Or was that cart and its contents booked as evidence of a Crime of Passion and Adventure?

The world will probably never know. But I feel like ETG deserves accolades for his attempt to escape the oppression of The Target Empire, not to mention for distracting my mind completely from all I had to do that day and week and month and year and life.

And so I’m here to offer it.

I salute you, ETG.

And I promise to attempt to keep my coffee in my cup and the puke in my kid while I’m in the confines of all Targets from here on out – as a memorial to you and your valiant Stand Against Messes.

What You Hear While Getting Needled.

I don’t talk about Dysautonomia at length here very often, because frankly, I find it annoying. Same for running – I run nearly every day, but I just don’t find running a very interesting subject to talk about. I like running a huge deal. It makes me feel better. I put one foot in front of the other thousands of times in a row. What more is there to say?

(A LOT, according to all the running groups I’m in. I should really work on being more interesting.)

Dysautonomia is also something that is a part of every single day for me. This June will mark four years since I very suddenly began experiencing this very stupid disease, and I’ve come to look at it as something that I have to just work on, every single day. I can’t just leave it as is, or it will get worse. I can’t just keep doing what I’ve been doing to help it, because things quit working. I have to constantly tweak, analyze, research, try new things, and WORK at feeling decent enough to function.

A few things I’ve found in the past year that help are:

1. Tailwind (less weird than it sounds)
2. Cutting out sugar
3. Very controlled moderation of caffeine (one dose in the morning, one in the afternoon, not allowing them to be too close together)
4. IVs of saline and vitamins.

Yes, Dysautonomia is so fantastically annoying that I’m willing to voluntarily get large, straw-like needles jabbed into me twice a month. And I’d do it every day if I could.

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I’ve known for a long time that IV fluids can significantly aid Dysautonomia sufferers, but I wasn’t into paying a $150 ER co-pay to try it out for myself. And you can’t just walk into CVS and ask them to hook you up. However, we have recently acquired a clinic in Birmingham that provides much-less-expensive-than-the-ER private pay IV treatments with a full menu of groovy vitamin choices to add to your IV bag.

This is amazing.

I went once, then immediately signed up for their 12 month package to achieve discounted rates and two treatments a month.

The IV makes me immediately feel like Wonder Woman after a long weekend and lots of sleep (I usually try to go run immediately afterwards because I have the BEST runs of my life that are almost worth writing about.) The saline ecstasy lasts for a few days.

But the real ecstasy comes from what you might get to overhear at the clinic.

The rooms are are outfitted with giant, cushy, recliners and have the privacy of a curtain over the doorway. So if someone else happens in around the same time, you might get the privilege of hearing their life story.

Usually they’re boring, like mine. “I have dysautonomia. I was feeling very blacky-outy.” And the occasional man bringing in his great-great-great-granddad. “He was sick, and now he’s really weak.”

But the other day, we all finally got something to talk about.

I was halfway through my treatment when someone else came in. He sounded brusque, businesslike, and commanding. He spelled his first and last name at least three times while they were trying to pull up his account. He had no patience for how long it took to type his name.

As he was walking past my curtain, I heard him begin, voluntarily and quite casually, to explain why he was there.

“I do a LOT of drugs. I travel for work, and you gotta do what you gotta do, you know? When I’m at the clinic in Atlanta, they’ll give me three IV bags at once. Is that something you can do?”

“Uh…no…the most we’ve ever done for one person is two bags at a time.”

Two bags at a time? I did not know this was a possibility. Isn’t one enough? Apparently not if you’ve done a LOT of drugs.

They put him in the room across the hall from me – I can only assume for my entertainment. He proceeded to explain that he’d traveled a lot this week, then partied for three days straight. And also…he couldn’t pee.

“If I came back tomorrow, could I get two more bags of fluid?”

Holy cow this guy wants four bags of fluids in two days. AND HE CANNOT PEE. And to think I was feeling bad getting two bags a month.

Nurse sounded skeptical again. “Well…I mean…I guess you could…but you really need to give the vitamins and minerals a chance to work their way through your body. If you still can’t urinate after these two bags of fluid…maybe come back tomorrow.”

Wait a minute.

No.

If you still can’t pee after getting 2000ml of saline and vitamins pumped into your body, I think you might need to go to an actual hospital. The body can only hold so much fluid, right?? I mean. RIGHT??

But he seemed unconcerned. This whole organ-failure-by-three-day-party seemed like something he was accustomed to experiencing. He casually explained that he was pretty sure four bags of IV fluids would definitely jump start his bodily functions again.

The nurse came back in my room to unhook me. My single little IV bag was done, and so I mourned the ending of my audio entertainment.

I whispered to the nurse. “Sounds like I’m the boring patient today.”

She giggled. “I know, right??” She told me that she hoped I felt better. I told her I was thankful for guys that do a lot of drugs. Because there aren’t enough Dysautonomia sufferers in Birmingham to justify the existence of this clinic, so they’re totally subsidizing the demand for my legitimate medical needs. And keeping me entertained while I receive it.