Holy Guaca-MOLE! How I Made a Mountain Out Of a MOLE-Hill

****WARNING: This post contains an insane amount of exclamation marks!!!!!!****

How often does one see a mole scurrying around their bedroom in the middle of the day?  Anyone?

And I am not talking a mole like, on your face:

dreamstime.com

dreamstime.com

I am talking a dark furry disgusting blind rodent like this one:

dreamscapes.com

dreamstime.com

Don’t give me that, “it’s kind of cute” business, because – it is NOT.

Questions: What the heck is a MOLE? What is the difference between a MOLE a VOLE a SHREW and a MOUSE and more importantly, why is it in MY ROOM?

Answer:  No difference, they are all disease-causing parasite ridden barbarians that do NOT belong in my bedroom!!!

For the love of children all around the world, why am I being punished?  It was bad enough having a gigantic pregnant spider in my coat closet a couple of months ago, now this?

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Let me tell you the burrowing details;

My daughter and I were hanging out on my bed (well, technically it’s also Mr. brickhouse’s bed but he wasn’t home) last Saturday morning chatting away, while still wearing our batas (bathrobes).  My son had a college friend over for the weekend.

All was lovely and peaceful, when suddenly my daughter yells out, “AHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!  There is a black mouse right there, OH MY GOD!!!!!”  

Typically, as I have mentioned in earlier posts, I tend to stay calm during emergencies and try not to show fear so that my kids stay calm as well.  This did not happen.

Are you insane, daughter of mine????? You must be hallucin…HOLY GuacaMOLE!!! There it is! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

While standing on the bed utterly horrified, we yelled out in unison, “MATT!!!!!!!!!! HELP US, THERE IS A MOUSE in here!!!!!!!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Get it out!  Get it out!  Get it out!

Traumatized by our screams, the little savage squeezed under the bedroom door and ran out into the hallway.  But as my son and his friend were running toward our room to rescue us (wait for it…) the rabid earthworm- eater came BACK into the room and disappeared behind my dresser. Did you know that their saliva is toxic and they use it to paralyze the worms they capture? Yea.

Before I go on, are you able to truly appreciate – shear hysteria?  Have you ever suffered or witnessed someone else suffering from a full blown case of irrational and diabolical hysteria?  No?  Well, let me tell you, it ain’t pretty.  Especially, if you are an educated adult, a parent and many years older than your children.

My son and his friend (who will likely never return to our home after this debacle) ran into the room and began looking for the brute.  It ran behind the TV.  It hid behind the file cabinet.  It scurried across my papers on the floor.  They chased it, they tried capturing it and hitting it with a stick.  But the little vermin was too fast.  

Needless to say, my daughter and I had stopped breathing at this point and had no feeling in any of our limbs.  Get the f-in thing, NOW or I will kill you both!!!  Yes, I actually said those exact words to the two boys…

Next thing we know, it runs back out under the door into the hallway and straight to the bathroom.  The boys lock themselves in the tiny bathroom with their weapons to try to catch the beast.  Meanwhile, my daughter and I stuff a towel under the door blocking any possible re-entry and barricade ourselves in the bedroom.  

vastplanetnews - barricade

vastplanetnews – barricade

The boys came out of the bathroom and informed us that the thing was GONE!  Vanished!  Not in the bathroom!  WHAT??????????????????  ARE YOU F’N KIDDING ME??  I TOLD YOU TO GET IT NOW OR I WOULD KILL YOU!  LOOK AGAIN!  IT CAN’T BE GONE!! PLEASE, GET IT NOW!!  Yes, I yelled out those exact words.

“Mom, it must have gone down the dryer vent or something, it is not in the bathroom!”

My daughter and I held each other tight and began to whimper.  For the love of God, GET HIM, PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  

Two hours later, we were still barricaded in the bedroom with no intention of ever coming out.  We tried to read and pass the time as best we could but every couple of minutes one of us would say, “Oh my God, I’m going to die.  Where is it? I am never leaving this room, ever!!!!

After my son came in to check on us to make sure we were still breathing, he closed the door and left.  The towel!!!  He messed up the towel under the door!  At that moment,  I stared my daughter down and demanded she go secure the towel tightly in the event the monster came back.  “No mom, I’m too scared. What if it’s hiding in the towel?”   My eyes widened and with pure and raw intimidation I replied, IF YOU DON’T FIX THE DAMN TOWEL NOW, WE ARE GOING TO DIEEEEEEEE!!!!!!” Yes, I said those exact words.

google Yup, this was me

google
Yup, this was me

That’s when my son’s friend (who feared for his life now) yelled out that he could see the killer (the mole not me) going down the basement stairs.  He and my son cornered it and trapped it using my wicker wastebasket.  Prolem: the wastebasket had small holes all around it and the savage was trying to squeeze out of one of the holes.  AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!  

wickerliving Not a good mole trap.

wickerliving
Not a good mole trap.

My son quickly put the wastebasket inside one of his big fishing buckets.  It let out a deafening high pitch squeal as it tried to climb up the bucket.  OMG! Kill me now!!!

My son yelled out, “I think it’s a vole or maybe a mole, take a look at it mom.”  NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Put a cover on that bucket, or it will get out!!!  “Mom, it can’t climb up the bucket!”  I don’t care, cover it up NOW!!

Because Mr. brickhouse is a biologist, we decided we better not kill it (damn biologists) and left the bucket outside so that he could identify it and get rid of it once he got home.

I braved it and decided to take a peek at it.  EWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!  It was black and furry and had a horrid pointy nose and paws with one extra thumb on each paw and it was shiny and gross and what the hell was this subterranean evil-doer doing inside my house!?  

talesofamoleman

talesofamoleman

Just as my daughter and I were beginning to regain our strength, it occurred to me.  What if there are more of them????  Where is its mama? AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  

It has been three days since the horrifying incident and my daughter and I are still being treated for having a severe case of MOLE-phobia, to which there is no known cure.

 

If you give a mole a muffin…

Is That a Heart Attack You Are Having or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

It was 1:30 am and I was sound asleep.

Suddenly, I was rudely and abruptly awakened by a piercing pain in my chest.    I gasped for air and shrieked.  Was there an intruder in the house and had he stabbed me?  Thinking we had been attacked by aliens, Mr. brickhouse jumped out of bed alert and wide-eyed, ready to defend his domain.

Oh my God, it ****ing hurts!  When I breathe in and out it’s worse.  Help me, please.

Mr. B (still technically asleep) was frantically circling the bedroom asking me if he should call an ambulance.  I signaled for him to hold off and I began to relax my body and to breathe slowly.  The pain was gone.  No need to call the ambulance, it was probably just gas.

During the next couple of weeks I became increasingly weak.  Walking to the kitchen felt like I had climbed Mount Annapurna (Mount Everest is so overused.) I was short of breath all the time and continued to have chest pains, particularly at night.

After seeing a cardiologist and discussing my long-term use of steroids for my Rheumatoid Arthritis, he was concerned that them “roids” had done a number on my heart.  A stress test was ordered.

Gulp.  I failed the stress test.

I am used to things being wrong with my body but this time, I was really scared.  I was only 44 at the time and was not ready to die of heart failure.  I had visions of living a long life (with deformed joints and all, nevertheless, a life) and was NOT prepared to die.

That evening my chest pains intensified.  So much so that we should have called an ambulance but stupidly decided to wait it out at home.  After propping myself up with pillows, the pain vanished once again but not before I promised Mr. B that I would call the doctor first thing in the morning.

What happened next made me seriously doubt all my parenting skills and wonder where Mr. B and I had gone wrong.  The next morning I put a call into my cardiologist and left him a message alerting him of the continued pains.  In trying to maintain some sort of normalcy with my children, I took my daughter and her friend to their scheduled manicure appointments.  Just stay calm, brickhouse and don’t scare the kids.  While waiting at the salon, my cardiologist called me back and told me to do exactly as he instructed.

“I want you to go home right now, pack an overnight bag and get yourself to the hospital ASAP.  Enter through the ER, and I will be waiting for you there.”

google.com

google.com

Oh My God, try to stay calm brickhouse and find a way to tell your daughter.

After calling Mr. B and telling him to meet me at home and calling a friend to ask her to pick up my daughter and her friend, I decided to tell my daughter what was going on.

Sweetie, mom is ok.  Everything is fine.  I just have some pain in my chest and the doctor wants to check it out.  I have to stay overnight at the hospital , but I am sure it will be nothing.  To which my daughter responded, “But MOM, who’s going to take me to get my haircut later?”  Okay… I must have done a really good job of hiding my fear, so much so that all she cared about was her haircut.

To make matters worse, as we were arriving at the ER, my son (knowing what was happening) called my cell phone and said, “MOM, where did you put the Dunkin Donut munchkins? I can’t find them anywhere!”  Really?  I may be dying and you want to know where the munchkins are.  What kind of evil children had we raised?

Ok, I’ll get to the important stuff now.

After getting hooked up to all types of monitors and EKG’s, the pain came back.  We are talking, GIVE ME SOME DAMN MORPHINE NOW OR I WILL KILL YOU ALL – type of pain.  Handfuls of Nitroglycerin tablets were forced into my mouth by the nurse while other nurses ran around the room checking my vitals and monitors.  It hurt so bad.

Next thing I know, I am riding in back of an ambulance in pain but this time, the pain was not coming from my chest.  The pain I felt was in my whole body – as the ambulance hit every single pot hole on every road as it sped to a bigger hospital, 20 miles away. OUCH

I was wheeled to a room on the cardiac ICU floor.  I looked around and noticed that the average age of the patients on this floor was...95.  Why was I here?  I didn’t belong.  My roommate was waiting for me in our room.   A very nice elderly woman who for her own protection, was placed on “bed-arrest”.  Meaning, a bed alarm would go off if she tried to escape.  Yea, It was not a good night.

The next morning, they performed a Coronary Angiogram (a cath) via my groin, to check my arteries and my heart.  I was given the good news once I awoke, that my heart looked perfect and that there was no sign of damage or disease.  You mean, I’m not going to die? AYA CARAMBA!!!  But, what is wrong with me?

After the procedure, I was to lay still and flat on my back on the hospital bed for several hours to avoid any bleeding or other side effects of the cath going through my groin.  Ugh.  I looked over at my roommate’s bed but she wasn’t there!  Oh Shit.  Did she…perish?  I was afraid to ask.

The next several hours were by far the most humiliating hours of my life.  Having to lay flat without moving my legs or body meant I could not get up for any reason, including to use the bathroom.  The instructions were to ring for a nurse and she would help me, using a bed pan.

I don’t know if they were short-staffed or what but after ringing the damn bell for 20 whole minutes, no nurse came to my rescue.  I was wishing my roommate was still with me so that she could help call a nurse.  I really had to pee.   I kept hearing the beeping out in the hallway but it was as if the entire floor had been deserted.  Finally, not being able to hold it any longer, the flood gates opened and I was soon laying in a pool of my own urine, completely drenched.

rottencards.com

rottencards.com

The nurse finally showed up and saw that I was crying.   She apologized and began complaining about staffing and how it was someone else’s fault.  Are you kidding me?  I am in a cardiac ICU floor and it took 20 minutes for a nurse to show up?  I could have been having a heart attack!  Maybe that’s why my roommate was “gone”!  

After filing a formal complaint the next morning and listening to the head nurse profusely apologize, I was released from the hospital.

In the end, we found out that the pain in my chest was caused by inflammation and  fluid around the lining of my heart and lungs (pericarditis),  which would get worse when laying down.  Just another lovely symptom of RA.  The abnormal stress test?  That was a fluke.

I learned a few important lessons after that whole traumatizing  experience;

* Never use my poker face with my kids during an emergency

* Never buy Dunkin Donut munchkins again

*  Write my city council to request more funds be allocated to fixing all the damn pot holes on our roads

*  Though warm, never lay in urine again – be it mine or anyone else’s.

The Three Wise Men Arrive Tonight, But I Need Advice from YOU, Oh Wise Ones

dreamstime.com

dreamstime.com

Happy Three Kings Day mis amigos!

 I am hoping they bring a lot of gold this year (I can do without the frankincense and myrrh.)

Do you like my new blog theme for January? I decided that I am going to change my theme every month just for ha-has.  It’s fun and will help with the winter blahs and keep things interesting .  There are so many color palettes and backgrounds to use!  I recommend playing around with all the different themes available.

****Speaking of blogging themes and blogging.  I need advice from all you wise bloggers out there.

How do you do it?

How do you manage your time effectively so that you can write, read, comment, tweet, facebook and have a life with your family?  Am I missing something?  Is that even possible?

My little family is getting tired of watching me sit around in my bata (bathrobe), typing away, ignoring them, not cooking, not cleaning, not talking, not ANYTHING else – but blogging. I try to change positions so I at least look different than I did the last time they looked at me and I even change my bata for variety – it’s not helping.

I try to esplain (like Lucy) to them that this is the etiquette for blogging.  You write, you read, you comment and then you – REPEAT.  I tell them that this is serious business and that it is imperative to developing and maintaining a wonderful blogging community.  They just stare blankly at me.  The common questions I get are, Are you getting paid for any of this? and Why?

Last night I went out to my favorite Mexican restaurant (ate killer fish tacos) with Mr. Brickhouse.  The entire time I talked about my blogging friends.  I discussed what they do, what books they have published, their experiences, their sad posts, their happy posts, their funny posts, their sexy posts, their underwear size and their menstrual cycles.

He listened attentively (either that or he was pretending to listen as he checked out the young girl at the bar) and even asked questions.  I figured, If I introduce my blogging friends to him in this way, he too will feel attached to you all and will understand my need to blog 24/7.  I think it worked a little…or it might have been the beer hearing aids he was wearing.

He is sober today and watching me in my bata right now writing this and does not look as happy or interested as he was last night.

This is my usual daily blogging routine:

(Keep in mind that my RA makes it difficult for me to have a real job since my pains and fatigue are unpredictable although usually present)

1) While waiting for my joints to un-stiffen every morning (usually at 1:00 in the afternoon), I stay in bed and begin reading all the new posts of the day.  While doing that, I get interrupted by an email or 5 or a Facebook message.  Then I remember that I have to transfer money using my online banking tool and switch over to that.  

2) Two and a half hours have passed and I have answered 20 texts and my mother’s phone call – which usually lasts one hour, while reading posts.  I check my Reader and there are now 10 new posts from bloggers I follow.  I don’t know if I should I read those or comment on the comments I commented on while reading the comments in the comment section? 

3)  I think of an earth shattering post I must write, right there and then and begin a new post.

4)  It’s 1:00 pm and I haven’t had breakfast, lunch or taken my important meds.  

5)  I get up and it takes me one hour to make breakfast, empty dishwasher, do dirty dishes all while trying to read new posts.

6)  Now I have to nap because I am exhausted from making breakfast and cleaning.

7)  It’s 4 pm and I go back at it on my laptop, while watching Judge Judy.

8)  It’s 6 pm and there is no dinner in sight.

9)  I make dinner, clean up and sit to rest while trying to catch up on the 50 new posts posted by the people I follow.

10)  I fall asleep at 11:45 pm with my laptop on my belly.

11)  New day = REPEAT

Please help me, oh wise ones.  

What strategies, tricks, time management skills,  or super powers do you have or use?

Pains of Passion

favim.com

favim.com

It was day one of 2014 and I was utterly exhausted and had done more on that day than I did all last year. The festivities began with Mr. Brickhouse and I attending a crazy New Year’s Eve Party with a Beatles theme, a strawberry vodka killer-punch, a ball drop and a spectacular fireworks show.

After making it to midnight, I was feeling simultaneously hyper and relaxed.  Relaxed thanks to the punch and hyper because it was the beginning of a brand-spanking-new (albeit frigid) year!  And, I was actually awake to welcome it. But by 1:30 am, the champagne had gotten warm and tasted more like stale racoon pee rather than bubbly happiness.  It was time to go home.

One of us was sober enough to drive (we won’t mention names) while the other, was feeling no pain.  That is, until the…

New Year’s Day Pain of Passion

You see, Mr. Brickhouse and I have a tradition of “christening” each new year with an abundance of passion.  It was 2:00 am and we could not break tradition. It was time to start the year off with a BANG (why not start the new year giving my readers TMI too?)  Needless to say, my recently turned 50-year-old arthritic body was once again victim to the New Year’s Day Pain of Passion (NYDPP).  

I’m getting too old for this.

After dragging my aching body out of bed and taking the additional dosage of Prednisone (steroids) – saved specifically for the NYDPP, I resumed my New Year’s Day activities. Shhh, don’t tell Mr. Brickhouse but what we did next was by far my favorite part of the new day.

Being married to an avid birder, we were privied to “on the lowdown” type information that a Snowy Owl was spotted in an agricultural field a half hour away.  Why did we care and why should you care?  Because the invasion of Snowy Owls flying south from the arctic for food is being described as the Invasion of the Century and a Tsunami of Snowy Owls.

Apparently, the population of lemmings (small rodents) in the arctic is lower than in previous years so the adult owls shoo off their young to fend for themselves since there is not enough food for all.  Thus, these young Harry Potter birds are showing up everywhere and as far south as California, Texas & Florida.  They are typically seen on the coast but are now being spotted inland.  Unlike their relatives, Snowy Owls hunt during the day time making them one of the “most wanted” birds on a birder’s wish list.

We successfully spotted the owl perched on a fence post.  It was shielding itself from the biting -100 winds and familiar arctic conditions.  Not exactly my favorite time to be out and about or on a frozen cow field – but Mr. Brickhouse’s passion for wildlife was contagious.  It was a bit far away from the road but we could see its beauty from our telescope.  It was an awesome feeling to watch it as it hunted from the post.

.Photo taken from telescope lens

Photo taken from telescope lens

In spite of the many other spectators who apparently also got the memo, showing up to get a view, it did not fly away.

photos courtesy of John Lambdin

photo courtesy of John Lambdin

photo courtesy of John Lambden

photo courtesy of John Lambden

As passionate as I felt looking at this lovely creature, it too was causing me PAIN on this New Year’s Day.  There it was, my #2 Pain of Passion!  The wind was so brutally strong and the temperature so frigid that even my spleen was hurting – and I don’t even have a spleen.

I would also like to add that I almost caused pain to another human being by being tempted to throw the $5,000 telescope at her.  This lady had decided to bring and walk her TWO dogs (with sweaters on) right near the owl!  I love dogs, but WHAT??  Brilliant! Let us bring dogs to a rare sighting of a bird, why don’t we?  The fact that it is a new year and I am supposed to be kinder to people, saved her and her dog’s life.

My New Year’s Day ended with some more pain.  After making my little family some hot chicken soup to warm up their souls (and their little behinds), I decided to deep fry some green plantains (tostones) to go with the soup.  Because, of course everybody wants to deep fry on New Year’s Day, duh.

hostthetoast.com

hostthetoast.com

My kids love tostones with… you guessed it, a passion so — frying I did.  Pain of Passion #3:  scalding frying oil landing on my arm as it splattered all over the kitchen.  The tostones were worth it (said my family), but I could have done without the pain.

My New Year’s resolution:  To have a more passionate and less painful year ahead.

Did you suffer from any NYDPP?  Particularly of the love kind?

Memories of Many ‘a Christmas Mornings…

wrestlingwithretirement.com

wrestling with retirement.com

Growing up, my family had a fascination with bathrobes.  Since before I could walk, I had a bathrobe.  My dad and two brothers also had bathrobes (though they didn’t always wear them.)

The women in the family still love their robes.  They signify complete and utter laziness coziness.  On many ‘a day,  we have been known to throw our robes on in the morning, stay in them through lunchtime, perhaps through happy hour and heck, throw them off and jump back in bed at night.   We have a name for these special days:

We call them BATA DAYS!

 {Yes, bathrobe in Spanish is bata.}

There is simply nothing better than a Bata Day.

As you can imagine, Christmas mornings were and still are the perfect mornings for wearing your bata. On these special mornings, we would usually still be recovering from a night filled with wonderful Puerto Rican traditions like gorging on greasy pork, rice and beans,  fried pig intestines, fried everything else, flan, a lot of rum and singing and dancing while shaking our maracas, which in turn caused irreparable damage to our ear drums. What?   If that does not scream BATA DAY, I don’t know what does!

Undoubtedly,  besides having food and alcohol hangovers,  some of us were simply  not able to hide our crankiness on Christmas morning.   That would be… my older brother whose middle finger always managed to “photo bomb” our pictures and videos. My dad would have the Spanish music blaring and my mom the mimosa’s chilling as we would sit in the living room in a catatonic state, staring at the presents we would soon open.

Now, as braggy as this may sound, we were known to many as a, “pretty” group of people – my family.  But on Christmas mornings, there was absolutely no sign of prettiness to be found.

My dad’s bata would be partially open exposing his Santa-like belly and tighty-whities.  His surviving strands of hair would stray from their usual position and stick straight up into the air.  My mom’s curly hair combined with the static electricity of the season,  had a life of its own – It too had a hangover. Her bata stains were reminders of the previous day’s grease fest.

I remember us kids suffering from either flat as a board bed hair or hair that had permanently set into our skulls with a different part than our usual.  This resulted in our hair hurting.  We were also blessed with pillow marks etched deeply into our faces that would take days to fade.  Our breaths could light the house on fire and my younger brother always smelled like fried eggs.

Ahhhhh….the memories.

gettyimages.com

gettyimages.com  This is NOT what we looked like.

Yet, for some twisted and probably narcissistic reason, we would take out the cameras  and document ourselves in this state, every Christmas.  Not that we showed the pictures to anyone else, in fact I still keep them locked up for safety in my basement.  They are a reminder of how fragile our good looks were/are and how quickly they can disappear into thin air.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at these beauties.  Faces were covered to protect the guilty: As you can see, we had brown batas, white batas, floral batas, pink batas, short batas and long batas.

I have learned a bit since those days and now brush my hair, brush my teeth, cover the pillow marks and wear a nice bata on Christmas mornings.  It is only then that I allow the all familiar *clicks to take place.

My childhood bata traditions must NOT BE REPEATED – EVER. I wish you all a wonderful Christmas filled with no hangovers, grease stains, pork breath or messy hair.  May your day be filled with the warmth and comfort of your batas.

Feliz Navidad!

College “friends”, College acceptances & Botox

DSCN5728 DSCN5731Telephone conversation with my twenty-year-old son:

 Son:  Mom, do you mind if I bring some friends home for the holidays?

Me:  Of course not honey, your friends are always welcomed into our home.  Will they be sleeping over?  Do they need towels?

Son:  Yea, they are sleeping over but they don’t need towels.  Eh…they kind of like to party at night, Mom and they can be a bit noisy (contrary to literature out there, some Gerbils are nocturnal.)

Me:  Well, I am sure they will be respectful and understand that we need to go to work and school.

 Son:  Yea, maybe…

*I am consequently now hosting, two of his “college roommates” who are partying it up like party animals do, chewing things up and getting ON my dining room table!  There is one word in Spanish that sums up perfectly when something is disgusting and that word is, FOOOOOOOOOOO!

**********

Conversation with my seventeen-year-old daughter:

 Daughter:  Mom, guess what?

Me:  What, dear?

Daughter:  I got accepted to Fordham University!

Me:  Oh my gosh, that is wonderful.  You must be so proud of your hard work.

Daughter:  I am!

*While she was at school the next day, this is the title of an article written by the NY Times sent to me by my sister-in-law – in a panic:

2,500 APPLICANTS GET FALSE NEWS OF ACCEPTANCE TO FORDHAM

Oh, SH**!!!!!

I immediately called Fordham to confirm that she is NOT one of the 2500.  They informed me that they could not give me that information (aren’t’ I the one paying?) but that if her notification was sent via the Fordham portal and not a separate email, then the acceptance is legit.

GULP.

Do you know what it is like to think about having to tell your Type-A 17-year-old daughter that the acceptance was a mistake?  Let’s just say that I had a major hot flash at that very moment.

Thankfully, the GODS heard my cries and all the planets and stars aligned perfectly and she is indeed, accepted.  

PHEW.

*She got a couple of other acceptances from her early applications and now we wait for the next round of applications to be sent. JOY!

**********

Conversation with GI doctor about esophageal problems I have been experiencing (can’t swallow, feels like something is stuck):

Me:  So Doctor, if the endoscopy showed that there is no obstruction, no GERD, no cancer and no other issues AND the MRI showed that I do not have bone spurs poking my esophagus then, WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH ME?

Doctor:  Well, it could be a motility issue where your esophagus goes into muscle spasms when you swallow food.

Me:  But I already have all kinds of weird ailments and vagus nerve issues that affect my “movements” and even my hair hurts sometimes!  Why do I have this strange motility issue?

Doctor:  Let me consult with my colleague at Mass General in Boston to check if there is a correlation between dysphagia (problems swallowing) and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Me:  In the meantime, how do I do what I do best? Eat?

Doctor:  I will call you on Monday.  One thing we could do is to perform another endoscopy but this time inject Botox into your esophagus while we are in.  Botox can relax your muscles in your esophagus and its effects will last several months.

Me:  Oh, goody!  This idea thrills me immensely!  What happens after a couple of months when the much wasted on my esophagus  Botox wears off?

Doctor:  If the muscle spasms do not stop, we give you some more Botox.

*I will accept the gerbils, and the almost mistake with a college acceptance but please, give me back the glorious joy I feel when swallowing all the foods I love (and there are many!)

scary-botox-19853111

My Big Fat Puerto Rican Christmas

travelpickr.com

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It’s a bit of a challenge to celebrate your childhood holiday traditions that are meant to take place in the warmth of the Caribbean, when you are living in arctic-like conditions and are no longer anywhere near that sunny oasis (why have I not moved back yet?) Not only is the weather a factor but it is difficult to find all the delicious typical fried and fattening foods that make the holidays what they are. I have such fond memories of Christmases in Puerto Rico.  I lived there until I was nine when my parents we decided to move to the Northeast, to freeze to death.  As you might have guessed, I haven’t recovered from the move yet.

First of all, almost everyday from December 1st to January 15th in Puerto Rico, is a holiday!  Nothing is open and you can’t get anything done( I’m exaggerating just a tad.)  This leaves you no choice but to party like an animal and eat like one too. Although I enjoy  traditional Christmas carols, frankly, they tend to put me to sleep.  They are not exactly get-down type of tunes, unless there are moves to “Come all ye Shepherds” I don’t know about.  Many of the Puerto Rican aguidaldos (Christmas songs) are great party songs.  It is not possible to stay still while listening.  The beat and rhythm of the songs take over your body and ignite the, Elaine from Seinfeld in all of us. Take a listen to this medley (really do click on it before reading on, I promise you will enjoy.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=jJAPPPWIfLY

If you are not dancing around your office or kitchen right now (after listening) then you must be dead.  The music just perks me up and makes me feel like I can do anything (sometimes I vacuüm to it).  Fortunately, living in “Iceland” has not impeded my ability to continue this tradition.

This next tradition is a bit tougher to sustain.  Because the music is so festive and makes you want to drink and eat more, it’s only natural that you would want to share in the celebration with your friends and family.  So you go on a Parranda.  

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Parranda is a gathering of a group of people with fun instruments like maracas & guiros that go from house to house singing together.  Except for, it is not soft angelic music and you don’thave hot chocolate afterwards.  You “surprise” (asaltar) a suspecting or non-suspecting friend or family member in the middle of the night by showing up at their front door, singing at the top of your lungs and begging them to let you in to give you drinks and food.  Then, you kidnap that person and take them along to the next house.

 Yea, no.  My parents tried doing a parranda one year in our quaint little New England college town but the neighbors called the police – cutting short the festivities.  We were just a group of people keeping with our traditions.  Had we been in Puerto Rico, all the neighbors would have joined us.  Sigh.

Lucky for my kids, this has never stopped me from doing a parranda indoors in the comfort of my living room.  All visitors that walk in get an instrument handed to them and are forced  encouraged to join in.  I admit that I too hated it when I was a teen but now, it’s a big part of their tradition.

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“Before” picture
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I know it looks gross but this is one tradition I really miss! Navidad is not Navidad  without charred swine to munch on.  Deliciousness and juicy fat dripping in your mouth (oh, sorry).  Seriously, you slowly “rotisserize” the pig right in your back yard (or front yard it you want to make your neighbors jealous) for hours until it is just perfect.  Then you serve it (pernil) with arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas) and some sweet plantain. Ay, ay, ay!

"After" picture foodspotting.com

“After” picture
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That tradition, my father managed to sneak through in the privacy of our backyard (probably in the snow and sleet) a year or two without a visit from the police.    

Other foods I miss and love are, pasteles made with a masa dough combining yuca & plantain stuffed with pork, beef or chicken and boiled in a plantain leaf.

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Pasteles
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These are hard to come by in this bone-chilling area but every once in a while my mom brings them with her from Puerto Rico when she visits for Christmas.  Deliciosos.

My kids immediately took to celebrating, Epiphany or Three Kings Day,  (the 12th day after Christmas when the Magi arrived bearing gifts for baby Jesus) on January 6th, after figuring out that they would get even MORE presents.  Since they were little, the eve of Epiphany, we take a shoe box for each child (yes, they still like to do this), we fill it with grass (if we can find any under 5 feet of snow) and carrots and leave it under their beds for the night.  While they innocently sleep, the Three Kings and their camels trek through the snow (the poor things are used to the desert or tropics and now have to endure the winters in search of children who moved away), and put small presents in the shoe boxes.  At 20 & 17, my kids still love this tradition unlike Mr. Brickhouse who reminds me that we are not Magi and don’t have extra gold and frankincense lying around the house after Christmas, to give to the children.

The truth is that I cherish these traditions and enjoy passing them down to my kids in hopes that they appreciate them and continue to celebrate them with their own families.

*You can take the girl away from her culture,  but you can’t take the culture away from the girl.

  I will leave you with the recipe to a must have beverage when celebrating a Puerto Rican Christmas or any Christmas.

Coquito

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(Similar to Egg Nog but with Bacardi Rum)
30 ounces coconut milk
14 ounces condensed milk (you can use light condensed milk if you prefer)
1 cup Bacardi rum
½ cup water
pinch of salt
½ tsp. cinnamon

Mix all ingredients in the blender. Taste and add *more rum if you like it stronger. You need to add the water because it will get thicker later in the fridge. Pour into a bottle and refrigerate well. Make ahead for richer flavor. Serve in small glassware.

Salud & Feliz Navidad!