The pain is getting to me

I’m having a hard morning.

My lower back and abdomen hurt. I hurt so bad that it awakened me from a sound sleep. (That happens pretty much every day, tbh.) The pain is bad enough that when my daughter dropped a box of oyster crackers earlier — why, of course upside down! — I couldn’t help her clean them up. And snapped at her for dropping them. I hurt bad enough that I have to hold on to things to sit down and stand up. I can hold a plank for three minutes, but can’t sit on the toilet without bracing myself.

And there’s more. My belly is flat now, but if I consume anything other than tea, anything at all — a smoothie, a snack, a meal, a sunflower seed — by evening it will be resting on my thighs like I am pregnant. My legs swell. My face. My skin itself is stretched and itchy, and is marked with grooves left by the loosest of clothing. I can’t tell you exactly when this all started, because for a time the symptoms blended in with the endometriosis symptoms and I simply wrote them off. But I can tell you that it’s been going on for several years, and that it’s only getting worse.

I wish I had faith that the nutritionist will help me, but I don’t. If the ER docs and the GP and the GI all got it wrong, can her blood tests do any better? And if she can’t help me, who can? WTF is going on, and what brought it on, and how do I stop it?

I’m healthy. I’m in good shape — not the best shape of my life, perhaps, but fit. I eat a healthy diet. I take care of my body. I’m older, but not old yet. Why do I feel so bad?

You can see in my kids’ faces that we’ve been through this so much, they’ve adapted. Their voices soft and solicitous, they bring me blankets and give me gentle hugs that do not involve contact with my abdomen. They squabbled for a second earlier, but now they’re calmly watching a tablet and waiting for the storm to pass.

They know it will pass. I know it will pass. But I’m tired of having something that has to pass.

I know that hope will return, but I’m tired of dealing with the lows between.

I just want to feel better.


Happy birthday, [insert relationship here]

Anya is sick, but may be well enough to attend a friend’s birthday party tomorrow, so I ventured out in the icy rain to buy the child a card. (We have the present already, but forgot the card.) And it was so hard. I’ve purchased birthday cards for family, for friends, for my children, for acquaintances, but never for a child from another child. Would a child buy a card for another child that states the age that child is turning? No. Would a child buy another child a card calling her a princess? Not likely.

That eliminated the entire kids’ section.

Almost all of the not-kid cards mentioned womanhood, alcohol, old age, farts, or boobs. Those that didn’t were *very* specific about the recipient or giver. To: Mother, daughter, aunt, niece, grandma, sister. From: Sister/brother/mother/grandma/all of us. My selection at the local Walgreen’s thus dwindled to two cards I considered appropriate that might also appeal to 7-year-olds. I bought the one with the most glitter.

I thought this was going to be an easy purchase. I underestimated how specific greeting cards are. Were they always this way? Why are they this way? Is it for the convenience of the giver — to narrow down the selection, thus making the card aisle less intimidating? Is it somehow more personal if a store-bought card acknowledges the relationship between the giver and recipient?

It feels very preachy to me. Like social media preachy: Smile more, worry less. Live, laugh, love. Savor the moment. Give experiences, not things. You know. You have social media too. Well, this feels like that. No longer can we give a greeting card without getting super personal. “Happy 55th birthday, Second Cousin Twice Removed!” “You’re 88 years young, Step-Grandmother!” “Happy 8th birthday, Daughter of My College Roommate!” Anything less than utter accuracy is intolerable.

Or perhaps my local Walgreen’s is simply not a good barometer of the available pool of greeting cards. That’s also a possibility.


The doctor’s visit that wasn’t

Last Friday, I was beyond ready to see my GP. The day before, I’d taken my daughter for allergy testing, which was so traumatic for the both of us that I indulged myself with a small order of fries. I realized at the time that what I was doing was akin to “treating” myself to overindulgence in alcohol, as my younger self was wont to do, and the outcome was every bit as pleasant: I awoke in the middle of the night that night in excruciating pain, and that pain didn’t loosen its grip on me until the following Tuesday. (So, yesterday.) Because apparently all I have to do is eat food that has touched something that touched gluten to react. Sheesh.

Friday morning, I got up, knocked out my freelancing (fwoosh), ate, dressed, fed me and my sick little boy (whoosh) and buzzed on down to the doctor’s office, arriving a mere 3 minutes late (zoom). Only to be told that I had no appointment that day. My appointment was Monday. I had two confirmation emails stating that I was right and they were wrong, but whatevs. Could I come back Monday, when they had me down?

No, I couldn’t. I had extra work scheduled on Monday — it’s one of the reasons I opted for the Friday appointment in the first place. Nor could I come Wednesday at 9, or Thursday at all (Thursdays are my insanely busy days, and like Monday, I was also covering for a coworker). And that was it. They had no other openings in the coming weeks. They tried instead to get me in with one of the nurses. Who I like, don’t get me wrong, and I’ll gladly see if I have a sinus infection or something. But this is a bit bigger than that. So no, I’ll pass.

I was livid by the time I got home. What the hell good does it do to make an appointment if they refuse to honor it? I love my doctor, and his nurses, but this was pretty much my breaking point. I’ll just find a new GP.

But that doesn’t help right now; I’m not breaking in a new GP on this. I decided instead to skip straight to the dietitian. I spent an hour and a half researching local offices, reading reviews, and then confirming coverage with my insurance…only to be told they won’t see me without a doctor’s recommendation.

“But I can’t get in to see my doctor,” I told the lady, after she’d put me on hold for 10 minutes with some of the worst hold music I’ve been stuck with in my life. “He diagnosed me with idiopathic chronic constipation back in April; does that help?”

More hold music. A few minutes later, I hung up in disgust.

So. Now I don’t have a GP or a viable dietitian option. And I’m still hungry.

I’ll sort it out. I always do. It just would have been so much easier if I’d had medical help.

But no more fries for me. They are simply not worth it.

When does the hair positivity get here?

I have naturally curly hair. Some days it looks good…


Other days…not.


I live in the Memphis area, so I have a lot of not days. Especially in the summer, which lasts roughly 9 months around here.

I didn’t grow up curly. My hair was curly as a toddler, but it changed to silky straight around preschool. Then somewhere towards puberty, it started waving and frizzing while simultaneously becoming thick and coarse:

Yep. That’s a goat.

I wore it in a ponytail for a few years because I didn’t know what else to do with it. Finally I cut it off. That was a bad idea. Grew it back out, and discovered hot rollers, which at least helped me control the poof. Then I dialed the frizz up to 11 by bleaching the crap out of it for a few years, because it was the 80s and everyone else was doing it:

I do miss the red, but the price is too high.

When I stopped doing that and let it do its own thing, I was stunned to find that it was curly. I don’t mean a little wavy, beachy, whatever. I mean seriously curly. I grew it out, thinking the weight of it would turn the curl to waves. Um, no:

Pulled straight, my hair was down to my tailbone here.

So…it’s curly curly. Over the years I’ve constructed a hair routine that isn’t exactly in line with what’s recommended to curly girls, but works for me: I wash it at night, put some mousse on it, and try not to crush it too bad when I sleep (on satin pillowcases, because tangles). In the morning, I wet any fuzzy sections, then straighten my bangs with a curling iron.


I still have bad hair days, but that’s what buns are for.

I used to straighten my hair (or have my hairdresser straighten it, because she’s better at it) for any and all photographable moments, but in recent years I’ve come to discover that I prefer my hair curly. When it’s straight, I just don’t look like me. So you can keep your flat irons and your blowouts; I might straighten my hair on a whim, but most days I go twirly.

Then today I saw two things that made me sad and horrified. Horrified because…well, just go look at that. Here I thought it was bad when I applied bleach to my head every 4 weeks to be pretty, but jayzus. Sad because I grew up watching people — guys and girls — apply all sorts of chemicals and products to their hair to look good, wondering what they thought was wrong with it in the first place. Then I spent 20 years hating my own hair, at times frying it with various implements up to and including a clothes iron, because I fell victim to the fashion bandwagon. Now the pendulum’s swinging back the other way, and I feel sorry once more for the girls who will douse their head in chemicals to try to look like someone else.

I see a lot of body positivity these days, but we’re still screwing with our hair. Can we stop that, please?

Look. I’ve had straight hair, curly hair, short hair, long hair, red hair, dark brown hair, and salt-and-pepper hair. It all had its good days and bad days. But overall, my hair looks best when I don’t mess with it too much. My mother taught me that; she’s worn her hair the same way since I was 6 months old. It works for her. I think most people are that way — we tend to look best with what we were born with.

You do you, I tell my kids. Nobody can be you as well as you can. That goes for your hair, too.

What’s in a name?

I did a lot of research on last names before my first marriage. (Which was 15 years ago, for those playing at home.) I was starry-eyed at the prospect of matrimony, especially given my track record of failed engagements. I’d been planning my wedding in my head for years, it felt like. I also had some actual wedding plans; I had an engagement fall through six months before I met my first husband, and while I fortunately hadn’t paid for anything yet, I’d made a lot of the decisions already.

I was so ready for everything married. The ring. The dress. The registry. The name. Being Mrs. Somebody. I’d been through the whole dating-engagement-breakup loop so many times that I was all but daring someone to actually go through with things for once.

But I was also attached my my own name. All of it. My first name is derived from my uncle’s middle name, my uncle who was killed at the age of 14 in a car accident when my mother was 6 months pregnant with me. He used to rub my mom’s belly and call me Little Tommy. Not wanting to saddle me with Thomasina, she opted for the feminine version of his middle name, Nicholas.

My middle name is the second half of my maternal grandmother’s name, Anna Marie. I never met her, either. She passed away from cancer, three months before my parents were married.

My last name, obviously, came from my dad. Who got it from his dad, who I also never met. (Yes, most of my family is dead. A great deal of them died before I ever was.) He died when Dad was 5. Dad was the only child of my grandmother’s first marriage, and I am an only child, and while I know the name Brown is hardly going anywhere, I felt like I ought to at least carry our little vein of it on a while.

What to do?

After much hemming and hawing, I decided to slide everything over a slot. My first name became Nicole Marie. Both my mother and grandmother have double-barrel first names, and I liked the symmetry. My middle name became Brown. My last became my husband’s last, which I won’t mention here because he’s one of like 4 people in this country with that last name and I don’t want to make it any easier for him to cyberstalk me. (He’s kind of a creep.) I didn’t make anyone call me Nicole Marie. But I did sign the full thing on all legal documents. Which was quite a pain in the ass, to be honest.

A year and a half after we married, we got divorced.

It took me a while to change everything back over. It wasn’t that I thought we were going to get back together (I kicked him out); it was more that the whole process of changing your name is exhausting, and I just didn’t have it in me to go through it all again so soon. Anyone who’s gone through the whole name change saga with anything more than a driver’s license and a bank account knows what I’m talking about here. But finally I did get everything changed. (Confession time: I didn’t get the last credit card updated until I was changing it to my new married name.) And swore I’d never go through that mess again.

But then I fell in love again.

As you may know, I did things in a socially unacceptable order this time around: I had the babies first. So I had to decide what to do with my name long before we married, as I wanted my children and I to have the same last name. After much research into the legal issues, many discussions with my baby daddy, and much reading up on societal norms, I decided that Anya (and, later, Kai and I) would take both of our last names. Perry Brown. Not Brown Perry, because R and I agree that sounds dumb. And not hyphenated, because I wanted the option to use just Brown professionally. (At 28, I had fewer than 5 years of professional experience on top of my degrees. Now I have 20.) Way back when I was researching the matter for my first marriage, I read that when you have two last names and don’t hyphenate them, legally you can use either. That sounded great to me.

What does it matter what order the names are in?

Answer: It doesn’t matter at all unless you live in a small Southern town.

The clerk at the first DMV I went to told me I couldn’t change my name to Perry Brown. Couldn’t. Her supervisor concurred. (I am not a “let me talk to your supervisor” kind of person, but sometimes you have to be.) I told her SSI had no problem with my name. (Or my daughter’s or son’s name, though I didn’t drag them into it.) She told me changing my name with SSI wasn’t legally changing my name, that I’d need a court order to change it to anything other than Brown Perry.

‘Scuse me?

I had to go to two DMVs to get my license updated. The second clerk, at an urban DMV, merely asked if I wanted a hyphen or not.

The credit cards were all changed quickly and easily. Nary a raised eyebrow. But the bank employee was taken aback. “You’re taking his last name as your maiden name?”

Let’s pause here for a moment.

There is no law stating that you have to list your birth last name before your spouse’s. None. In fact, many people do it the other way around. Secondly, the term “maiden name” is a bit antiquated at best, offensive at worst. (Case in point: I was not, by the presumptive definition, a “maiden” when I married the first time.) Brown is my family name. My name. In recognition of the (legal) expansion of my family, I have added my husband’s name to my name, in the order most pleasing to us both. (We did discuss him taking the same name as me and the kids, by the way. Lots of people do that. But he’s named after his father, so his name is as important to him as mine is to me.)

So why does it matter what order the names go in? Well, best I can figure, it’s a way of tracking ownership — figurative, of course. (Or is it?) Before a woman marries, her father “owns” her, as evidenced by the label of his last name. When she marries, she is “given” to her husband (who historically bought her — literally — with a dowry, and in modern times proves he can afford to take care of her by buying her a stupidly expensive ring), and adds his last name to her father’s last name so everyone knows her owner history. Thus is patriarchal lineage traced. (Yes, I realize that’s a very simplified explanation, but I’m not wrong.)

Well, nobody owns me. And it’s not really important that anyone be able to readily tell who my father is — what, are you going to tell on me?

As I kept telling the clerk at the first DMV, first nicely and then more emphatically, it is my name. You can’t tell me what it can’t be. Some people pick a new last name — a mix of each spouse’s last name, or something all together different. There is no wrong answer here.

I do realize I’ve created confusion for future generations tracing the family tree. I apologize to them. And to my children, who have one hell of a moniker to fill in on bubble forms. Everyone else can deal.

But I’ve finally changed everything over. Well, mostly. I’m still updating doctors’ records. My dental appointment reminder came to Nicole Brown Perry, even though I was careful to point out my new name on my new insurance card so they’d submit the bill properly and the claim wouldn’t be rejected. Oh, well. I’ll eventually get everyone on the same page.

A side note: This is such a hetero issue. Can you imagine someone arguing with a gay couple over this? How would you possibly determine which last name “should” go first? But I would be willing to bet that the clerks who balked at changing my name would have had more issues with the gay couple themselves than the order in which they blended their names.

Rainy Sunday, with snotty raisin

I meant to open Fitbit to log my breakfast and opened my blog instead. So I guess subconsciously I want to write. Or I’m just sleep deprived and typing on autopilot. Either way, here’s the haps:

  • Kai shoved a raisin up his nose last night. He tried to sneeze it out, to no avail. I tried to suck it out with the nasal aspirator, and also tried to blow it out by closing his other nostril and giving him mouth-to-mouth, like the internet told me to do. I can see the raisin, but I can’t dislodge it. So I’m waiting for the clinic to open so someone can pull it out with tweezers. The only thought keeping me together while I wait is “at least it’s not a battery.”
  • I’m having some pretty serious endo pain this weekend. And also hot flashes, so I’m unsure that I will start my period and thus get relief from the pain. It’s…pretty depressing, to be honest.
  • The Medrol the dentist gave me for my oral virus (did I mention that? I have some sort of mouth crud that has made everything from toothpaste to food feel like broken glass on my tongue for two weeks now) is contributing to the hot flashes and giving me red clown nose. Also blinding headaches. But I ate almonds today for the first time in days without wanting to cry, so I will deal.
  • Here is life with this two-year-old: He was, just now, screeching like a banshee, at glass-shattering octaves. “Kai, can you please not do that?” I ask, wearily. “Okay, Mommy. Sorry.” And he stops. I’m torn between pride that I can have a conversation with my son (I didn’t have intelligible conversations with Anya until she much older) and frustration because he’s proven that he hears and understands me, but simply chooses to ignore me 90% of the time.
  • I have had very little sleep. I stayed up later than usual last night because I was in desperate need of me time. Then Kai’s snoring awoke me in the wee hours, which is when I was able to confirm that his congestion included fruit. Wasn’t able to get back to sleep after that, because I was too busy Googling “Toddler raisin nose removal” and trying to find a sleeping position to place him in that would prevent him from inhaling the raisin into his lungs.
  • Anya is all dolled up, but will not be going to the minor med with us because boredom is her kryptonite and I can’t handle two crazy babies on 4 hours of sleep. She is going to Mimi’s. She’s cool with the arrangement for now. But I wonder if she will remain cool when I drop her off and leave with her brother.
  • My bright spot right now is that Kai will very likely doze off on our way to the clinic, so I can have a little break from the terrible almost-threes.

Think good thoughts at me. I need them today. And a swift and minimally traumatic raisin extraction.

Keeping up with the world

I’ve been Facebooking a lot less these days. I know that the plan was for them to show me a lot more posts from my people and fewer things I don’t care about, but I’m not seeing it. Plus I’ve noticed a distinct shift in the types of things I’m seeing: Negative posts from family and friends fill my timeline and horrific, sensationalized stories flood my news feed.

So I’ve stopped checking the news on FB, and only peek in on my timeline once or so each day. I also restrict my Twitter and Instagram checks to one or two per day now. (Not that I post any less. But I’ve always considered my social media posts as a digital form of talking to myself. If I entertain anyone by doing so, that’s a bonus.) However, I’ve come to have a greater appreciation for the news in this brave new world, so I have found other ways to keep up. My two favorites are The Skimm and NextDraft — both highly informative and entertaining, and bonus points for managing to avoid bombarding me with political propaganda and stories about dead babies. (In the interest of full disclosure, if ten of you sign up for Skimm using that link, I’ll get a t-shirt or something.) 

Now I just need to sort out my social media. Because I still want to keep up with everyone. But FB is such an annoying harbinger of doom lately, Twitter is a pit of harpies, Insta’s overflowing with ads and “related posts” I don’t care about, and I’m apparently too old to fully grok Snapchat. I really wanted the 43t reboot to be the end-all, be-all, but it’s not taking off.

It’s not that I don’t care how everyone else is doing. I’m just frustrated with my current means of doing so. I used to get emails. Texts. IMs — on AIM, and before that, AOL. (On dial-up.) And way back in the day, people called me on my cordless phone with the telescoping antenna. Or even ::gasp:: stopped by for a visit, or invited me out somewhere. Seems like nobody does stuff like that anymore. If you want to know how someone’s doing, you must follow them on these sites. And the sites are a cesspool of negativity and capitalism, stupid quizzes and clickbait.

So I’ll continue to project my signal into the darkness. And I guess I’ll keep peeking in on everyone from time to time. But it’d be nice to skip the sites and get an email. Or a beverage.

Even I tire of my hermitude from time to time.