Did you know that foster kids often have to carry all their belongings in garbage bags? And that when they enter the system it’s almost always abrupt? Sometimes they’re picked up directly from school and they never see their home or their stuff again. Can you imagine?
The image of these kids toting their possessions in black plastic bags haunts me.
These days I feel helpless, and a bit hopeless, in a million different ways. The problems of the world are too overwhelming. The solutions too elusive. The outcomes too critical.
But these kids. And their garbage bags. That’s a problem I realized I could help fix, at least for a few of them.
A little legwork connected me with a couple of organizations in Colorado, where I live, as well as a national group. They’ve become my liaisons between donations and the caseworkers who interact with the kids. I learned that a backpack with just a few items made a world of difference to these kids.
I’ve started a GoFundMe page to raise money and I’m having a party toward the end of July to collect up backpacks and items these foster kids need when they enter the system.
I’ve asked guests to bring backpacks and/or items from the wish list. The party is just a fun, family-oriented celebration with a taco bar, tournaments in giant-sized team Scrabble, bean bag toss, men vs women trivia, and more. Then after the party, I’ll use the GoFundMe donations to supplement the items and backpacks.
Filling a backpack for a newly displaced foster kid is not overwhelming or elusive, like most issues in the world these days. It’s something I can do. And you can do. It won’t solve the problems that foster kids face, but it will make it easier for them to muddle through those early days with a new pair of pajamas, a toothbrush, a book, and a toy.
We can’t do everything, but we can do something.
Please share this and the GoFundMe page and let’s see how many foster kids we can help.
I plan to make this an annual event, but I think I need a better name for this party. Comment with your entry, and if I think it’s the best, I’ll donate $50 in your name to the GoFundMe page AND send a signed copy of my book FICTION CAN BE MURDER to anyone you want.
Today marks one year since my spinal surgery. You remember, that day they sliced through the fascia in my upper back, hand-cranked my muscles out of the way, chipped away part of my spine, scooped out that benign meningioma, then whispered to my nerves an admonition to behave.
Remember? No? Honestly, me neither. But I’ve been re-reading all the notes I took before and after surgery, the texts I sent myself in the middle of the night in the hospital so I wouldn’t forget anything, the Facebook posts charting my phenomenal victories. “Two laps around the kitchen in my walker … woohoo!”
I was fastidious about keeping notes because one, that’s how I roll, and two, because when I found out I had this tumor and needed surgery, I searched â€” and I mean SEARCHED â€” for first-person accounts. But there were none to be had. So I knew, if I survived, I’d have to write one.
There are some interesting passages in my notes.
“You can do a lot of things with words, but describing pain isn’t one of them. Shooting, stabbing, aching, throbbing, twinging, cramping, seering … none of these describe anything happening to me.”
“When that pain roars back it’s like a bullet train. Fast and directly at me. Feels quite personal. Like a betrayal.”
“I can absolutely see people just giving up. Pain is hard. Moving is hard. Everything is hard. Here [in the hospital] they just do stuff for you. Or they don’t and you realize you just don’t care.”
This fascinates me because I honestly don’t remember much pain.
“My neurosurgeon came in to check on me [the next day], and was very pleased with himself. Said I was fully cured. I disagreed with him just the teensiest bit.”
“These texts to myself don’t make any noise. Once in awhile, though, it makes my “sending” noise and I wonder who I just told all my poop info to.”
This is hilarious in retrospect because I had obviously been cogent enough to turn the sound on and off, but I acted like it was a highly unusual rift in the Universe.
Mostly my middle-of-the-night texts were perfectly lucid. And then there was this one: “I hope I don’t have to muster all the persistence/hope/etc. I’d prefer it to be thrust upon me.”
And, yes, I was on drugs …. “Your leg pain brought to you this morning by Sleeping Too Long On Your Left Hip. Side effects include cursing, saying bad words, expletives, and grandiloquent language. Treatment includes pancakes and finger weapons. Pew-pew-pew.”
When people ask how I am these days, I tell them the truth. Still numb across my upper back, my right underarm, my lady bits, and my left leg. My balance is weird, so it always looks like I’m walking just the teensiest bit drunk. Still some things I can’t do â€” walk barefoot, run without looking like a walrus on the beach, jump, or hurry for any reason.
But that’s about it. Can’t really complain, considering all the slicing, cranking, chipping, and scooping. Unfortunately, my recovery after 12 months isn’t vastly different from my recovery after 2 months. Except I’m less cranky today. And I still can’t clip my toenails very easily.
The difference between 2 months and 12 months is clearly one of acceptance. I’ve lost perspective after all this time about how I really am, versus how much I’ve simply adapted to my limitations.
But I continue to surprise myself. I still work with my personal trainer. Last night she had me do single-leg squats with my foot behind me on a chair. Neither one of us thought I could do it. For the first set, I glommed onto her for balance while getting myself sorted. For the second set, I glommed onto her and then she gave me 15-pound weights to hold and walked across the room. For the third set, she stayed across the room. Afterward she said, “You couldn’t do that before your surgery.”
So, yes, acceptance and attitude. But I would like to find an ending for this tale of sound and fury so I can start crafting my memoir. I was thinking about signing up for the Colfax Half-Marathon, but am so relieved I came to my senses. Running like a walrus on a beach for two blocks of a 13-mile race is a lousy ending to a memoir. Worse if I actually croaked while doing it, which is the likely scenario.
Then I was thinking that the ending would be when I went to soap up my armpit and it magically felt like an actual armpit, but that doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen any time soon. Or perhaps ever.
And then I was thinking, maybe the ending will be when I can tap dance. But I wasn’t really doing that particularly well before the surgery.
So now, I don’t know. How do you think I should end my story about an ordeal that hasn’t technically ended?
Itâ€™s been eight weeks since my surgery. Iâ€™m cranky and I have a litany of woes. For example, taking a shower hurts my skin. My knee buckles randomly and unexpectedly. My balance sucks. Iâ€™m still numb in my entire left leg, my right underarm, across my upper back and in my lady bits. (It dawned on me yesterday that list comprises half my stupid body.) I donâ€™t know if I should be doing something Iâ€™m not, or stop doing something I am. I have very little core strength. And yesterday I realized I could rest my finger in the indentation of my incision and feel the upward splay of my back on either side. It feels like the Sydney Opera House back there.
Shall I go on?
I feel weak, flabby, confused, frustrated, and pissed off. And Iâ€™m tired of feeling weak, flabby, confused, frustrated, and pissed off.
But before anyone gets twitchy with the platitudes, yes, I know how lucky I am. I can drive. I can type. I can walk, talk, squawk, doubletalk, and jaywalk around the clock while I listen to Johann-freakin-Bach, but I canâ€™t clip my toenails.
And, yes, I know itâ€™s only been two months â€œand these things take timeâ€ so I should have patience. But I donâ€™t. Not one thing has changed in the last couple of weeks. Except maybe my optimism.
So if you feel the urge to remind me that Iâ€™m lucky or that I should just be patient, well â€¦ donâ€™t. Just donâ€™t. Itâ€™s not helpful and makes me go all spider monkey. And if you do, I will be forced to creep through the cover of darkness and stab you repeatedly in that well-meaning place where your wisdom, compassion, and common sense resides. Repeatedly.
And I simply donâ€™t have the energy.
Instead, tell me, you know, something else. And while youâ€™re considering your comment, please enjoy these exquisite demotivational posters from Despair.com that seem appropriate today.
Maybe “easy” isn’t quite the right word, but now I can boast that I have a leaf guy, a doggie dermatologist, AND a neurosurgeon on speed dial.
Iâ€™ve been whining for several months about a pain Iâ€™ve been having in my upper back. It started as a knot under my right shoulder blade. I assumed it hung around so long because nobody could reach it â€” not me or my trainer, chiropractor, or massage therapist. Eventually it moved from there, but still we couldnâ€™t pinpoint exactly, nor treat it effectively.
I wasnâ€™t particularly worried. The pain stabbed me early in the morning, but always let me sleep. Worst pain was when I had to blow my nose. Luckily that only happened once or twice a day. Exercising didnâ€™t hurt, and if I set my timer to remember to move around every hour or so, I was fine. A couple of ibuprofins did the trick to alleviate most of the pain. And I didn’t even need to do that every day.
But clearly, something was wrong, since it was hanging around. I went to my doctor who said it sounded like some nerve damage, maybe a pinched nerve. By then the pain would occasionally shoot around my right side, under my arm. We set up appointments for lab work, an ultrasound to check my gallbladder, and an MRI.
Labs and ultrasound completely normal. My MRI was scheduled for 6pm on Friday, January 6, 2017.
Halfway through the MRI a radiologist and nurse magically appeared and they and the technician started acting differently. Their cryptic â€œnoncommunicationâ€ spoke louder than any words.
I got home, knowing something was wrong. Before I left the imaging department, they gave me a CD with the MRI on it. My husband and I plugged it into the laptop. Nothing jumped out at us. No neon-colored blob with flashing arrows and aa-oog-ah horns like I expected based on the technician’s cryptic warning to call my doctor before noon on Monday if I hadn’t heard from anyone.
Within a couple of hours â€” 9pm on a Friday night â€” a doctor called. She scared the shit outta me by telling me I had a 2.3cm mass pushing on my spine, â€œprobably a benign meningiomaâ€ but it â€œcanâ€™t wait until Monday.â€
She said sheâ€™d talk to the neurosurgeon on call and report back. She called me 30 minutes later, less frantic now. The neuro will call me on Monday to schedule surgery. Because I was walking and talking fine, and not in serious pain, the impressive size of the mass is less worrisome. I could have been growing this thing for years. Apparently, Iâ€™m only â€œurgentâ€ and not â€œemergent.â€ Pfft.
I checked my calendar. I have stuff to do In January, not the least of which was going to see the Tony award-winning â€œFun Homeâ€ at the theatre, something Iâ€™ve been looking forward to for two years!
On Monday, January 9, I spoke with the neurosurgeonâ€™s nurse who answered my immediate questions and set up an appointment for Friday 13th (which she assured me was the luckiest day).
She said after that appointment theyâ€™d schedule surgery within 2 weeks. We discussed the fact that theyâ€™re not worried about delaying like that, so I decided I wouldn’t either.
I felt much more calm after talking to her, finally feeling brave enough to google â€œspinal meningioma.â€
Turns out Iâ€™m not such a special snowflake after all. Read this and this.
All week I’ve been back and forth in my head about whether I’ll be able to get to the theatre on Sunday the 15th. (Tomorrow for those of you keeping score.) The doctor who called the night of my MRI told me that I need to call 911 if I have “tingling, weakness, numbness, or loss of bladder/bowel control.” But that last one is kind of a no-brainer, don’t you think?
However, all week long, little by little, like an incoming North Sea tide, I’ve had a creeping numbness spreading over me. I didn’t call 911 â€” surprise â€” because I knew I was seeing the neurosurgeon at 1:00 on Friday the 13th. Besides, I’ve been told that’s the luckiest day. It’s not a numbness that renders me paralyzed or anything. More like I’ve had novocaine shots all around my torso down my legs to my toes. To see me walk, you might not know I’m doing it a bit goofy, planting my feet very methodically and a bit wider than normal. But just like an inflamed taste bud on your tongue, it seems like it’s a thousand times worse than it really is.
But I still packed my hospital Go Bag with all the important stuff â€” books, Kindle, charger, pens and notebook, comfy clothes for when I’m discharged. I was sure when the neurosurgeon saw me and I described my numbness he’d scramble his staff like so many fighter jets and I’d be whisked across the street to the hospital.
But you know what he said?
“Yeah, your spine’s not working so good right now.”
Kinda love him.
He’s calm and very, very patient. He answered all my questions and told me how many of these operations he’s done before. I told him I wished that number was higher. He deadpanned, “I do other stuff too, you know.”
He told me to go to the theatre on Sunday. So I will. And I’ll enjoy every minute.
I’ll spare you all the gory details of the surgery, although I want to remember to ask somebody to take photos for me. Suffice it to say, this tumor is in my upper back, filling the space in my spinal cord between T2 and T3. It’s pushing the nerve way off to the side. He’ll go in, snip it out, then smooth everything back where it goes, all over the course of three hours. Remarkable, eh?
Surgery isn’t technically scheduled yet but I suspect it’ll be late next week. Iâ€™ll be in the hospital about 4 days, depending on my pain (again, ay caramba!), but no bed rest afterward. Up and at â€˜em, with restrictions like no lifting, no exercise other than walking, and such. Follow ups at 3 and 6 weeks.
I’m writing this on Saturday afternoon January 13th and I’m beginning to find the humor in most every part of this situation.
For instance, in the shower this morning I was irked that the water wasn’t getting hot enough and kept nudging it up. Then I remembered. “Oh yeah. I’m numb.”
They gave me some special soap to use before I come for my surgery. Because apparently, my homemade lard-and-dill pickle shower gel suddenly isn’t good enough.
They told me I’d be able to do light housework. I told them they were wrong.
They told me it might take up to three weeks for the anesthesia to clear from my system and that until it does, I might find I get weepy or angry for no reason. I caught my husband’s eye and said, “See? It’s been the anesthesia all these years.”
I’ll be here all week, folks. Don’t forget to tip your waitress.
And I got to make one of my favorite stupid jokes. I asked the doctor if I’d be able to play the piano after my surgery. He said of course I could. “Great! Because I couldn’t before.”
He laughed and all was right with the world.
It’s been suggested that Nala can be my service dog while I recover. But in her befuddlement that I was trying to nap the other day â€” something she’s never seen before â€” she literally jumped on the bed and sat on my head.
I’m thinking her talents are better used elsewhere. Not sure where. Just elsewhere.
While this is major surgery â€” very delicate and very scary â€” I don’t really have a choice about it. As with all experiences, I’ll blog and write about it because that’s how I process and remember information. I’ll post updates here and on Facebook. I’ll also keep trying to find the humor in my situation. Mainly by encouraging my surgeon to do this …
Five years in a row of record tourism revenue makes the Colorado business community happy, but not the locals who have to mitigate the impact of all those people. I think we should change our state motto to whatever is Latin for â€œStay Home and Just Send Moneyâ€
In a related note, the CO Tourism Board will not be actively promoting marijuana because, shh, itâ€™s still a federal crime. The Board will continue to remind people they canâ€™t smoke in public and to paaaassss the dutchie on the left hand side.
Tommy Chong and Marky Mark both wanted pardons from Barack Obama for their youthful crimes. Marky Mark dropped his request, but I don’t think Tommy Chong will get his. Have you seen “Up In Smoke”? Some things simply can’t be forgiven.
Exorcist Reverend Gabriele Amorth died at age 91. He served as the official exorcist of the Rome diocese since 1986 after facing â€œtrue demonic possessionâ€ 100 times. The editorial board here in BeckyLand wonders if he simply rode in a Roman taxi 100 times.
The FAA is registering 2,000 drones per day. Time for everyone to step up their crop circle shenanigans.
So many of us are binge-watching Netflix while we eat that TV trays are making a comeback. Get your set of four burlwood or mahogany trays for only $685 so you can eat your bowl of cereal and watch reruns of Star Trek in style.
â€¢ As part of their settlement in the food poisoning case with Chipotle, one client asked for “Free Burrito” coupons. I suspect their attorney donated his 33% to a worthy cause.
â€¢ The first Pizza ATM was installed by its French manufacturer at Xavier University in Cincinnati. For $8-$10 you use a touchscreen to choose a pizza, it’s heated, dropped into a cardboard box and ejected through a slot. Finally. French food for the masses.
â€¢ The “Five Second Rule” was found to be five seconds too long.
â€¢ Shanti, the 41-year-old elephant at the National Zoo, received size-20EEEEEEEEEEEE custom made Teva sandals to help with her arthritis and foot problems. They’re like rubber bird baths without the pedestal. She also has some custom boots made from the spray-on lining used for truckbeds. They have red soles, Christian Louboutin-style. Like most reasonable women, she likes the more casual sandals better.
â€¢ July’s marijuana sales hit an all-time high. Even better than, you know, April’s.
â€¢ Left Hand Brewing is recalling Milk Stout Nitro because, despite it’s fully-disclosed name, it’s too fizzy when ‘hard poured.’ I guess I’ll just keep mine to drizzle over my cereal.
â€¢ Olive Garden is offering 10x the number of Pasta Passes as last year. The pass costs $100 and lets you eat as much pasta as you want for seven weeks. The time limit makes sense because they realize you’ll be in a carb coma and won’t be able to roll in until next year.
â€¢ Dennis the Menace had to sit in the corner. Again.
â€¢ 3,000 people participated in Philadelphia’s 8th annual Naked Bike Ride. Some wore undies, some wore body paint, some just wore a smile. All had to be treated for cooties.
â€¢ On this date in 1959, Elvis met 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu and a tiny crack appeared in the Universe.
â€¢ A bigger crack appeared when we learned a fertility doctor used his own sperm more than fifty times instead of the donated sperm. At least 8 people are now searching for just the right Father’s Day card.