Monday, June 22, 2009

T-minus 12 hours and....blaaaaaaaachhhhh!

"Attention, Delta passengers on flight number 65...we will now begin the pre-boarding process. For our passengers requiring special assistance, those traveling with infants, small children, or with swine flu, please proceed to the gate with your boarding passes at this time."

How many times were we sick while we lived in the UK? Once, maybe twice? Seriously. We aren't a sick kind-of family, fortunately, but I would much rather be sick in, say, mid-March, as opposed to the last 12 hours before we are taking an international flight. But that's exactly what happened.

Let me set the scene. I'll backtrack a bit and explain the environment in which we were traveling. It was before swine flu was named a pandemic, which made it more relevant and widely-known to the US.  However, prior to the declaration of it being a pandemic, the swine flu was definitely on the minds of most folks in the UK. In fact, the day before we were
leaving, the first case of human-to-human transmission was confirmed. (How were people getting it prior to that? From all those daily encounters we humans have with swine?? I don't know.) What I do know was that every single channel on TV had coverage of the situation. The airport officials were using heat-sensitive body scanners to screen individuals at the airport...presumably to detain and quarantine you if you had a fever (the first symptom). You've heard of those scanners that are designed notice the sweaty palms of nervous potential terrorists? They were being used to detect fever in of unsuspecting travelers.

The weekend before we were traveling, there was a sign on the door of the neighborhood pharmacy that read, "Attention Patrons: If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, or you are caring for someone with flu-like symptoms, please DO NOT ENTER. Return home and contact the NHS on instructions for treatment." I swear to you that's seriously what it said. I only wish I had my camera with me, but I had already packed it. (The NHS is the National Health Service...they have nationalized healthcare.)

Back to the scene. The boys and I were leaving first; John was remaining to finish the season and would be back about a month later. We were invited to dinner with some friends on that Monday evening, and were leaving early on Tuesday morning.

Early Saturday morning, Son 2 woke up sick. He was throwing up every 45 minutes or so, but recovered within about four hours. I have to say that my children are the BEST little barfers because they always make it to the toilet or in the garbage can or whatever else I throw their way to catch it. Not that any of that is relevant to the story, but I'm just saying.  After all, in what other forum can I give my kids props for puking? Anyway, he was all good and I chalked it up to his less-than-stellar handwashing practice.

Then, on Monday afternoon, Son 1 started complaining that he didn't feel well. I didn't even link it to Son 2's bout of illness until Son 1 began with the vomiting. Remember those dinner plans we had? Count Son 1 and I out of the picture. Husband and Son 2 went, I stayed home and did some last minute packing in-between Son 1's fits of dry heaving. The boys and I were leaving in 14 hours.

It keeps getting worse from this point on. Husband and Son 2 get back home from dinner at about 8:00 pm and Husband went straight up the stairs to the bathroom. |Son 1 had his last round of the heinous puke-poop cycle about an hour before that. He was sleeping, pale as a ghost, completely drained and weak, grateful that nothing was being emitted from his body outside of his control. Now Husband had the next four hours to suffer, and suffer he did. In the meantime, I scurried about, doing the last of the last of the last packing. We were leaving in less than 12 hours.

At around 11:00 pm, I got a rumble in my stomach...could it be? No, I told myself. I will NOT be sick. Mind over matter. Just keep doing the final packing. Zip those bags shut. Charge those Gameboys. Pack those snacks. Check the empty drawers one more time.....okay, maybe if I go to sleep I will feel better. Probably just nerves. We were leaving in about eight hours.

I had completely and totally misdiagnosed my case of "nerves" and quickly changed my diagnosis to whatever it is that can make you involuntarily heave and expel matter from various orifices with complete loss of control. When I say orifices I'm including my eyes...are they an orifice? I was also crying while I was being "sick" and it was not pretty. Here's what you would have heard had you been inside my head at the time (and managed to not get expelled from an orifice, that is):

Good God in heaven, we've got the flippin swine flu. Damn all the f-ing bacon around here, I know that's how we got it. If I can get better in the next 10 minutes, I swear to all that's holy that I will never eat pork again. OHMYGOD, in 10 minutes it will be 1:00 am and I have to board a plane at 8:00 am. A plane. Wasn't there a movie about snakes on a plane with Samuel L. Jackson? And he was also Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction and said, "I don't dig on swine," and that pigs are filthy animals. I think there's a message in that somehow. F-ing bacon. I'm hot. I am SO glad I printed my boarding passes already. Where did I pack the gum? Ugh. I might have a chance at being okay by the time we have to leave because everyone else has only been sick for four hours. I could be finished with this nightmare by 5:00 am and still sleep an hour and then get up and get the last minute stuff packed and be ready to go. I'm cold. Might have to break the rule about fast food for breakfast if the boys are hungry...OHMYGOD, why'd you have to think about food?????? I wonder if barfing is good for my abs, because they sure feel like they're getting a workout. Do I still have those pills for nausea and would they work for puking if I took double? Can I even swallow a pill right now? I'm hot. Why won't this toilet paper roll stay on the holder? Who breaks shit around here and leaves it for me to find? I think I can get away with this straightened hair for one more day. I don't even want to try and wash and dry and straighten my hair again before I go. How can I pack a hot flat iron? That's just gross to even THINK that post-hurling hair is okay, Renee. Idiot. I'm cold. I hope I'm not waking anyone up with all this flushing and coughing and sniffing and nose blowing. I wonder if this is helping me lose weight. I am SO leaving our toothbrushes here and buying new ones in the States. I hope the alarm goes off and we don't lose power like the McAllisters did in Home Alone. If we miss our flight, do we have to pay for a new one? Do they let you do that on international flights? I'm hot. Maybe we can upgraded to First Class and have lots of room. If I concentrate really hard, maybe I can communicate with Husband's mind and wake him up and tell him to bring me something to sip on. I want some Sprite. I need my pillow.

So, yeah. That was my next four hours. And true its history with the rest of my family, the bug ran its course and left me weak and shaky, but able to be upright and more importantly, to get to the airport. That was our next hurdle.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

'Country' as a noun; 'Country' as an adjective

I just realized something that I didn't miss while living in the UK. Yes, I am Stateside again, albeit in a holding pattern of temporariness as we await the news from the new club - but more on that later. In the meantime, I promise to keep working my way through the endless notes I scribbled down in an attempt to capture the essence of living abroad. To whom am I making this promise? I'm not quite sure...but in case anyone is still reading, I'm still writing.

Considering the fact that I still have my faithful 13 followers and not a single new one for like four months, I'm guessing I might be writing for posterity sake at this point. So be it. Some gals have a therapist, others keep a journal - I have my currently mis-named blog. But Renee in the US doesn't rhyme like Renee in the UK, so I can't change it.

I digressed again. Sorry. Back to what I didn't miss when I was gone.

Just to explain how much I didn't miss this thing, I should first say that I didn't even KNOW I had been blissfully free of it for six months until this past Monday, when I was at the gym (which is a whole other story for a whole other time...let me just preface it by saying that locker rooms should be segregated by age so that I don't have to be all nakey next to the hot 20 year old with no tan lines.) I am at the gym, working out with Husband, who graciously trains with me despite the fact that he has to adjust the seat and the weights between each set we do because I am on weenie weights and he is on grown up weights - not in a Hans and Franz-ish way, though...he's patient and supportive and rarely laughs at me. Back to the, the gym has music going all the time and has done an impressive job of not making it all "Eye of the Tiger" or "Gangster's Paradise" while I'm in's always appropriate. However, on Monday, I just about broke my foot as I nearly dropped a barbell (okay, it was 7.5 pounds...I woulda cracked a toenail at best) as I struggled to cover my ears to prevent my eardrums from rupturing in response to the heinous noise coming from the speakers. Yes, it really happened like that.

What was the noise? What could make me want to run from the building, or perhaps fall down on the ground in a seizure like the lady who couldn't watch Entertainment Tonight because of Mary Hart's voice? (True story...check it out: )

I'll tell you. It was COUNTRY MUSIC.

I should first mention that my experience with country music is limited to The Donny and Marie Show where Marie claimed to be "a little bit country" and Donnie was "a little bit rock & roll." Aside from just loving him in ways inappropriate for my age of seven years, I chose Donny's rock and roll. There was also a show called Hee Haw that my parents must have watched...I know I wouldn't have turned it on myself. But it was ALL country...bales of hay, overalls, missing teeth, and a weekly special musical guest like Tammy Wynette and Roy Clark. So those are my country music "roots" so to speak. I went once to a country bar in St. Louis...a friend of mine was into it for a while so my girlfriends and I would go...I was more into the $1.00 long necks, though. But one should not draw conclusions about life based on what one sees in 70's sitcoms...after all, was Hogan's Heroes was an accurate depiction of life as a WWII prisoner of war? Still, I have never been a country music fan.

So back to England, where the locals are unaware of this stuff called country music. How? Well, I can't speak for the entire kingdom, but in the north west region, there were no country music stations on the radio. There was not a country music tv station wedged in between my MTV and VH1. And there certainly weren't any pick-up trucks, cowboy hats, fringe of any sort, line dancing, or cut-off jean shorts. Am I stereotyping here? You betcha. But what I mean to say is that country music is uniquely American, and for something that is just ours, we sure have a LOT of it. Its abundance in our culture demonstrates how much we, as Americans, like to have everything in big, major ways. In the span of six months I went from living where there was not even a notion of country music, to a place where at least three of the 20 or so radio stations are country music...whether that's classic or contemporary or "all country, all the time" format. And this is Portland...there are places in the rest of the United States where it is even more prevalent. But that's the American Way...if eight ounces is good, then 32 ounces is best. Or, if you really mean business, get the 64 ounces.

When British people found out I was an American, they would often ask, "Why did you come here?" which implied that I left paradise or something similar. I told them it was because I had just HAD it with country music. No, I'm kidding...but the point in mentioning their "why?" questioning is to show that to those on the outside of America, we've got it pretty good. Even with Toby Keith.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Things are tough all over

We went on a hike today, and here's what greeted us when we went to use the bathroom at the parking lot:
We decided the the trails near that spot probably weren't the best ones after all. What's that saying about what a bear does in the woods? I'm thinking it applies to people as well.