A Funny Thing Happened On the Way Home From the Prison…

If you know me at all, you know two undeniable facts:

1) I am OCD
2) My life is ridiculous

About a month ago, I went to visit a friend in the Federal Penitentiary in Mendota, which is down by Fresno, so it’s basically in Hell. The visiting trio consisted of our hilarious friend Holly, Mark, and me. It’s quite the adventure to visit someone in the Pen. It’s an hour and a half drive down there, so we have to leave early, which I’m not used to (what’s this “morning” you speak of?). When you get there, you sign in, fill out paperwork, hand over your ID, then wait. Then you are taken through metal detectors. Then you wait some more. ALL this waiting lends itself to some great conversation between Holly, Mark, and me…

The conversation about dead spouses started with me saying something like this:

“Mark and I had a conversation last November in Yosemite, while we were driving up to Glacier Point. I said that if he died, I don’t think I could get married again. It wouldn’t be this easy with anyone else. I could never love anyone else this much. He said I’m thinking of it as replacing him, which wouldn’t be the case. I’d be moving on, and that’s what he’d want for me.”

Holly said, “What did he say he’d do if YOU died?”

“He said he’s bringing a date to my funeral!” (This is a conversation Mark and I have had since we were engaged, about him bringing a date to my funeral. The first time I told him that I wanted to die before him so I wouldn’t have to live without him we were engaged, and he said, “That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me!!!” Which is true, considering that his second wife literally tried to kill him by turning the car into oncoming traffic.)

Aaaaaaanyway, sitting in very uncomfortable chairs in the waiting area, our dead spouse conversation continued. Holly said, “If Jeremy dies I’m marrying someone way younger. I’m already making a list.” Her eyes popped open wide and she made an “O” with her mouth, like she does right before she’s going to say something epic. “I think I’ll just get married at his funeral! I mean, everyone will already be there, and we’ll be at the hall!”

Doubled over in my chair, I laughed until I cried.

After passing three security checkpoints, we got into the visitation room (a big room with rows of hard plastic chairs and an elevated guard desk in the center), and we hugged our friend, who shall remain nameless. We’ll just call him Qwerty. Once you’re in that room, you are in. that. room. There is no leaving and coming back. There is no bringing ANYTHING in with you. There is a bathroom, and a row of vending machines, which hold the most disgusting food on the planet. I eat VERY clean. No gluten, no dairy, no preservatives, no artificial sweeteners, and usually no sugar. I don’t even drink water out of plastic bottles because of the poison that’s in the plastic, but of course, if that’s all that’s available, that’s what I’d drink. Then I saw that the only vending machine that had water was out of order AGAIN!!! I HATE YOU MENDOTA YOU JERK POOP HEADS!!! I was, effectively, screwed.

I could’ve lasted the five hour visit without food, but not without water. I drink at least 64 ounces of water a day, and I get very sick if I’m not hydrated. So Mark and I were standing at a machine that had five drinks left in it – four generic vitamin waters and one Snapple iced tea. Mark got Holly’s vitamin water and said, “What do you want? You want this, or that?”

I took the vitamin water and read the ingredients, which were twenty long words I didn’t know, so I said, “Ew no, I’m not drinking this poison. Get me the Snapple, and don’t tell Holly I said her drink is poison.” Hey, Snapple is all natural! Snapple commercials show that you will frolic through a field of daisies and be thin and awesome if you drink their brand!


While visiting with Qwerty, I drank about half a cup of the Snapple, then, in HORROR, realized it had the word “diet” on the label. I had one of those “Oh poop” moments. It contained aspartame. I said, “EW this has aspartame! I’m not drinking this poison!!!” and I threw it at Mark. I waited until Holly finished her vitamin water, then filled it up at the drinking fountain. Okay, let’s be real here, I made Mark fill it up for me at the drinking fountain.

We had a great visit with Qwerty, laughing, joking, and sharing delicious secrets, then we were on our way, through three security checkpoints to get out. At this point, I was feeling VERY ill. My head had been buzzing since we started the visit, which I thought was from the caffeine in the Snapple iced tea since I NEVER drink caffeine. But I felt really nauseous and dizzy. I said I needed food and something to drink. However, we were in the middle of NOWHERE. When we got to the next town, there was a local burger joint, and I said that was fine, I could get a soda. I was so dehydrated and so sick. And I had to pee REALLY badly.

So we went into this dive, I told Mark to order me a root beer, and I headed to the bathroom. How do I explain this bathroom….. Imagine that Hitler and Evil Knievel share a bathroom in Hell. Now imagine it’s even dirtier. No joke, the toilet had so much dark dirty crap in it that there were little rivers where the water ran down after each flush. I looked overhead, right into a vent, and dust landed on my face. DUST LANDED ON MY FACE!!! IN MY MOUTH OHMYGOD I WAS GOING TO DIE!! I grew up on a ranch in the country, I’ll pee anywhere, especially with toilet paper covering the seat. But when I went to wash my hands, there was NO soap, and NO paper towels. There was, however, one of those continuous fabric towels that were in gas stations in the 60’s. Like, where the hell did they get that thing anyway, Antique Roadshow? That the HECK?!

I came running out of the bathroom, my hands in the air, screaming, “You have to take me somewhere else!!! YOU HAVE TO TAKE ME SOMEWHERE ELSE!!!” I told Holly to take my purse from my shoulder, then literally said to my purse, “I’m so sorry Brahman, for taking you into that filthy bathroom!”

Mark said, “Just ask her for soap and paper towels,” as he motioned to the big girl behind the counter.

“NOOOO!!!” I was literally almost crying at this point. “You don’t understand! You HAVE TO TAKE ME SOMEWHERE ELSE! IT’S SO FILTHY!” I gagged like a cat with a hairball. “I think some of the dust from the vent got in my mouth!” *gag gag gag*

Mark has been with me for over twelve years. He knows I’m overly dramatic. He said, again, “Just. Ask. Her. She’ll probably let you use that sink in the kitchen.”

So, my hands up in the air still, I said, “Excuse me, can I get some soap and paper towels?”

“Oh sorry,” she said, moving sloth-like, taking for-ev-er. “I’ll get some.”

As soon as she turned the corner to that filthy bathroom, I shouted, “I HAVE TO LEAVE!! YOU HAVE TO TAKE ME SOMEWHERE ELSE TO WASH UP!”

And, get this… He said, “I’m waiting for my fries.”

“WHAT?! OHMYGOD DON’T EAT THEIR FOOD! OHMYGOD!!!” totally starting to cry.

A very very long minute later, someone handed him a greasy brown bag and we headed out the door. “You have to take me somewhere,” I kept saying, over and over, tears coming. So we went to the Chevron across the street, I jumped out of the car, hands in the air, and ran full-tilt inside and toward the bathrooms. Ironically, a man with a mop and bucket stopped me because he’d just cleaned and mopped. I said, “I have to wash my hands!” and in broken English, he said I could use the sink behind the restaurant counter. “THANK YOU THANK YOU!” and I washed up to my elbows, like Moses.

When I got back in the car, Mark handed me my root beer, and I said, “Was this straw wrapped?!”

“Yes. Want a fry,” waving it in my face.

I screamed so loud out of terror of the food that came from that disgusting burger pit.

“They’re good,” he said, waving another one at me. “They taste like fish.” He thought it was hilarious.

I was not amused.


Later that night (yes, there’s more to this ridiculous story), I got really sick. I was up all night with really bad, deep cramping in my abdomen, which felt like menstrual cramps. I was doubled over in bed, trying not to cry, then realized I was probably going to be on that show “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant,” and I kept thinking about how we have no baby stuff! When I broke out into a fever and a severe headache, I realized it probably wasn’t childbirth, but I was terrifyingly sick. And like most small business owners without health insurance, I stayed in bed, refusing to go to the ER and wait four hours.

The next day, Mark got up for work and asked if I’d slept at ALL. No, I hadn’t, but that happens once in a while, so he wasn’t too alarmed. I said I felt sick and had a bad headache, and I was scared there was something going on with my ovaries, like cysts, which are very common. But I still wanted to wait it out. He went to work and I stayed in bed, feeling worse as the day went on. The pain spread to my entire body, and it was so intense that I couldn’t lay in bed. The softness of the mattress pad hurt so bad that I laid on my back on the floor, thinking my back must be out, that, even though I hadn’t been in that kind of pain in over a decade, I must’ve been having a Fibromyalgia attack. Then my lips swelled up, covered in huge blisters, and I knew what was happening. I was having an allergic reaction to the aspartame I drank at Club Fed.

By the time Mark got home from work, he found me rolling around on the bedroom floor crying real tears, in so much pain I couldn’t stop crying or moving. He stood over me, clearly worried. “Well you haven’t slept. I wonder if you need to get up and walk around.”

“I can’t.” I was bawling. “I can’t stand up. I’m not going to the ER. It’s the aspartame. My lips are swollen. I must be allergic.” I cried and cried, then said, “Call Andrea,” and handed him my phone. Andrea is my Black Mama, the woman who owns a day spa where I do detoxing infrared saunas, massages, and other treatments. I KNEW she’d know what to do.

He dialed and gave me the phone, and I explained my symptoms and the evil aspartame and she said yes, it was an allergic reaction. She said to run a HOT HOT bath, as hot as I could stand it, and pour in Epsom salts and baking soda. Mark ran me the bath, helped me walk into the bathroom and into the bath, and I immediately started sweating torrents, and within five minutes the swelling in my lips started to go down.

Sweat pouring down my face, my stomach in pain, tears in my eyes, I said, “Don’t get married at my funeral!” and we started cracking up laughing, because we laugh at everything. We just always laugh. Then I said, “What, you’re not going to take horrible pictures of me in the bath tub?” (He loves to do that kind of thing to me.)

“Do you want me to?”


A few seconds later, I hear him rounding the corner into the bathroom, a camera shutter firing firing firing… *snap snap snap snap snap*, then I see him doing the crazy photographer thing, the make-love-to-the-camera kind of photo stances, with our new camera body that didn’t even have a lens on it. That made me laugh so hard I cried more tears.

God I love this man.

The hot detox bath helped enough that the pain started to subside, and Mark helped me into bed, then brought me heated up bone broth he made from scratch a few days before. We watched The Voice together and hung out, and I felt better just him being there for me.

I spent four days in bed from the aspartame attack, and when I went to my regularly scheduled appointment with my pain management doctor, he said that yes, I was in anaphylactic shock, and that he was prescribing me an EpiPen because if it happens again, it will likely be worse and my throat could close up. He also said we did the exact right thing with the detox bath and doing the infrared sauna the next day.

When I went to pick up the EpiPen, it was $475 because I don’t have insurance, so I didn’t take it. I’m just going to have to be really careful, especially since there’s a list of about ten people who’d love to see me fall over and croak. So… Hope I don’t die!

So on that note, good night my fans! Thank you for reading! Love ya!

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