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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Rolling with the Punches

Sometimes the universe just throws shit at you (kind of like the overexcited monkeys at the zoo, I guess). Life will be going along more or less steadily, you have "a plan" (always your first mistake), and then BAM: stuff happens. A bunch of stuff. Usually carrying a large price tag.

I'm not talking about the big whammies here--being diagnosed with a horrible illness, losing someone you love unexpectedly, having your home destroyed by fire or flood. That's a whole different category of cope. I'm just talking about when there is a series of everyday life bumps in the road, and you have to figure out how to roll with the punches.

As gracefully as possible, with a minimum of whining. (Yeah, I know. Where's the fun in that?)

I've had that kind of last few months. Not that it hasn't been a good year overall; I got that long-awaited book contract, after all. But there have been a few more thanks-universe-but-no-thanks punches than I expected.

 It started with the rats. You remember the Great Rat Invasion of 2013, right? Not only was that one kind of icky (rats! in my walls!), but it necessitated calling in the pest guy for help, plus the appliance guy (to repair the washer and dishwasher hoses they ate--TWICE...although I didn't realize it was rats the first time), plus the electrician/plumber to fix the wire from the water pump to the breaker box and rubber gasket they ate through. [I know...a rubber gasket doesn't sound that bad, right? It was on the huge pipe through the basement that led out to the septic tank. Think about that one for a minute. Ew. Thank goodness they didn't chew all the way through. Just sayin'.] If you add in having to replace the kitchen floor because of the first dishwasher flood, which was almost certainly caused by the first rat or rats in the invasion, that one cost me about $1,300. Thanks, rats. You suck. Too bad you're all dead now. Heh.

Still, it could have been worse.

For instance, once the rats were all dead (heh, take that, rats), I had to take a close look at the damage they'd done in the basement. Including paying my electrician to put in five more lights with brighter bulbs, so I could actually see in the basement. Oy. I kind of wished I'd left the lights dim. Anyway, in the process, I discovered that a small problem I'd noted a few years ago had become a major "must be dealt with now" problem. I've always had water in the basement--there's a sump pump in the floor, even, and the woman who owned the house before me had told me to expect it. It is an old farmhouse with a stone foundation, and it seeps and leaks a bit when it rains hard for days. Plus there is an outside metal hatch that leads down cement stairs, and it was rusted and ugly, and I'd been meaning to paint it this summer anyway.

Except it turns out that the hatch and the cement walls leading into the basement have been channeling water into the basement instead of keeping it out. One wall had been moved and shifted by freezing and thawing to the point where the cement was cracked and coming off in chunks (one of the places the rats came in). So I have to have my construction guy in to take out the old wall, pour a new one, patch the cement on the outside wall in the basement, and make a new wooden door to replace the one at the bottom of the stairs that is so swollen by water it no longer closes.

At the same time, we worked at coming up with a permanent fix so that the water wouldn't keep coming down the stairs (necessitating a repeat ten years down the line). We actually came up with a plan that will give me something nice and add value to the house once we're done (but of course, cost more money)--we're tearing out the ugly old raised hatch door, building a 6 X 10 patio with a trap door in it that will open to the stairs. Then we're putting a roof over that, so that the rain will run down and off, reaching the part of the yard that slopes down away from the house, instead of in towards the basement. I'll take pictures when we get to that. But, of course...this all costs money too. About $3,500 that I hadn't been expecting to spend, to be exact. Still, it is going to fix a long-standing problem that should have been dealt with years ago, so that's good.

Thank heavens that was it. Oh, but WAIT.

Then came this last couple of weeks, and the tooth saga. Warning: if dental stuff freaks you out, don't read this part. Seriously. (You can skip to below the next red bit.)

I'll try to keep this short, since this post is already running insanely long. Two years dealing with a probably cracked tooth. Lots of pain the last 3 months, leading me to finally give up and go back to the dentist, who said that "maybe" just a crown would fix it. Last Thursday, going to be fitted for the crown (which involves whittling the tooth down to a nub that the crown can fit over). After, MUCH worse pain. Chasing the dentist, until finally I sat in his office on Tuesday afternoon and just waited until he could fit me in. He told me, no surprise, that I was going to have to have a root canal. In the meanwhile, he would do a partial thingy which involved removing the pulp from inside the tooth to relieve some of the pressure and hopefully reduce the excruciating pain. Two shots of Novocain. They didn't work. Three more shots. They didn't work either. He went ahead and did the procedure anyway, since there really wasn't much choice. If any of you suddenly started hearing loud profanity in your heads on Tuesday afternoon, I'd like to apologize--that was probably me.

So--that hurt. A lot. About an hour of serious dental work without benefit of anesthesia. Afterwards, I said to my dentist (who all indications to the contrary, is not actually an evil sadist, but was in fact trying his best to help me), "Well, at least if I ever need to write a torture scene, I'll have some real-life experience to draw on." He replied, with a straight face, "You're welcome." Humor. Har.

The pain is a little better, although still there, and I am almost looking forward to the root canal on Monday, just to have this over with. And hey, I used to be freaked out about root canals, and after surviving the debacle on Thursday, it barely intimidates me at all. So, hey, bright side!

The total cost of all this, when the root canal and crown are done? Brace yourself: $2,814. In part because of the extra procedure, and in part because dentistry where I live is insanely expensive.

Okay, it's safe to come back.

So, what was my original plan, you ask? My original plan was not to have any big expensive house or other projects this year, because I need to buy a new (used) car. That noise you hear is the gods laughing.

But that's okay, because I'm rolling with the punches. For one thing, I got the first part of my advance for the BABA books. It's not much (especially once my lovely agent gets her well-deserved 15%, and I put 25% in the bank for taxes later), but it helps. Also, well, it's money. I'm not happy about it, but when you have a house (and teeth, apparently), you can pretty much figure you're going to have unplanned expenses. I'm not happy about it, but I'm not letting it upset me, either.

See, that's my theory on rolling with the punches. (You knew I had to be going somewhere with this rambling mess, right?) You can't prevent the universe from throwing shit at you. And sometimes you have to deal with things you'd really rather not. (Rats. Dentists. And did I mention a chunk fell off my car the other day? More about that some other time.) But you have two choices: you can deal with them well, or you can deal with them badly. Either way, the shit is still going to happen. You can't control that. (Dammit.) What you can control is how you cope.

I mostly make a lot of bad jokes, write a blog post, and then come up with a new plan. Because, hey, nobody died and my house is still standing. At least for this week. I call that a win, even with the torture.

I hope that life isn't lobbing too much crap in your direction. But if it is, here's hoping that you can manage it with as much grace as possible, and maybe learn a few things along the way. I learned that I was kind of tougher than I thought: I killed and disposed of 14 rats, and survived a really painful dental experience. Booyah, me.

But if you're listening, universe, feel free to take a break. Really. I'm good.


  1. My dear, you have my profound empathy both for the household stuff and for the dental stuff (but especially for the dental stuff). I've had to have root canals in the past, and Novocain outside the tooth never worked for me either, no matter how much they gave me. My dentists always shot it straight into the pulp of the nerve then, and that worked (though it was the most excruciating three seconds of my life - no lie).

    Best of luck with the house repairs, and I wish you speedy healing, as well. Drop me a line if you need to chat. *Hugs*

    1. Thanks, babe! I'm actually fine. Traumatized for life, but fine :-) I'll just be happy when it is over.

  2. My deepest sympathies and empathy for all this. I do know this kind of shit all at once and needing to spend a ton of money. So keeping my fingers crossed for the end of pain, a quick and painless root canal, and a windfall to help cover everything, including the car. Take care!

    1. I definitely vote for the painless root canal too! At least some of the work is already done...

  3. Oh sweetie. As much as I hate to say this, you just made my punches of the past few weeks very trivial. They were at least physically painless and less expensive.

    Go you on killing the rats. Would you like to have one of my Rat Snakes just in case? I have 4 in the yard, one of which found her way into the downstairs bathroom last week. I like snakes, but not that much LOL

    Sending hugs and blessings your way everything smooths out. ~Rain

    1. Then my work here is done :-)

      And, er, thanks for the offer of the snake loan, but I think I'll manage... (gulp)

  4. Considering that all those shots of Novocain didn't work, I think your dentist should have given you a pain discount. Especially if you did no bodily harm to him during that whole episode.

    It really sounds like you've been beset by plagues of near Biblical proportions this year. You're much more composed than I would be after all that's happened. I hope that the second half of the year brings blessings and happiness to make up for all you've gone through thus far.

    1. There was definitely something biblical about that rat plague. I am now on the lookout for locusts.

      I think the dentist should give me a discount for not biting him. Or even crying. Dammit.

  5. Don't take this the wrong way, but that last line made me laugh - so thank you! I'm also experiencing 'life' (I like your monkey analogy better than my roller coaster one) and its comforting to know I'm not alone. I'd have you over for tea and cookies and we could commiserate. Or we could just go straight for it and have margaritas on the porch! What's been helping me is to stand outside my quirky house, look at the trees and remind myself how blessed I am. And then I thank the ancients for the obstacles (and hope they toss them somewhere else for a while! Not that I wish ill on anyone, but, well, I'm a little tired of the speed bumps)

    Bright blessings to you, and have a cool and crap free weekend!

    The other Deb (yup spelled the same way)

    1. Honestly, other Deb, part of the reason I wrote this post was to make other people feel better about their own poop :-)

      I hope you have a speed bump-free time of it for a while too!

  6. Yowza! That's a lot of poop being thrown. The bright side is now you know how tough you really are.

    I hope your Baba Yaga book makes a TON of money, and you sell the movie rights for another ton of money.

    1. Danyelle, I like the way you think :-)

      *come on, movie deal*