It’s been eight weeks since my surgery. I’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. I’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 don’t know if I should be doing something I’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 I’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 can’t clip my toenails.
And, yes, I know it’s only been two months “and these things take time” so I should have patience. But I don’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 I’m lucky or that I should just be patient, well … don’t. Just don’t. It’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 don’t have the energy.
Instead, tell me, you know, something else. And while you’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.
I’ve been whining for several months about a pain I’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 ”” not me or my trainer, chiropractor, or massage therapist. Eventually it moved from there, but still we couldn’t pinpoint exactly, nor treat it effectively.
I wasn’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 didn’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 “noncommunication” 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 ”” 9pm on a Friday night ”” a doctor called. She scared the shit outta me by telling me I had a 2.3cm mass pushing on my spine, “probably a benign meningioma” but it “can’t wait until Monday.”
She said she’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, I’m only “urgent” and not “emergent.” 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 “Fun Home” at the theatre, something I’ve been looking forward to for two years!
On Monday, January 9, I spoke with the neurosurgeon’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 they’d schedule surgery within 2 weeks. We discussed the fact that they’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 “spinal meningioma.”
Turns out I’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 ”” surprise ”” 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 ”” 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. I’ll be in the hospital about 4 days, depending on my pain (again, ay caramba!), but no bed rest afterward. Up and at ”˜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 ”” something she’s never seen before ”” 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 ”” very delicate and very scary ”” 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 …
My husband and I are in a bit of a food rut. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, and in fact, it saves us time, money, and energy to eat the same lunch every day. Wait. We don’t eat the same lunch, we each get our own, but we’re eating exactly the same thing every weekday. You knew what I meant.
We jumped on the SALAD IN A JAR bandwagon.
It’s been a couple of months and we’re really loving it. He takes his to work every day, but I have mine here at home where I work.
I’ve been posting about our journey on Facebook and someone commented that they didn’t understand why I would need to do this if I worked at home, perhaps picturing a woman with my name and hairstyle who wasn’t quite so lazy as me.
But I am lazy, er, efficient and I have the misfortune of a history of gaining weight due to not eating enough. A ridiculous problem to have, but there it is. I tend to get very involved in my writing and the other work I need to do, so I forget to eat. Or I postpone it. This means I either grab something easy that I can eat at my desk, or I end up so ravenous that I storm through the kitchen like a competitive eater at the county fair.
So, now, with my Salads in Jars, I mitigate my damage by setting an alarm to remind me to eat, and looking forward to it because it’s also the only time I allow myself to do my beloved crossword puzzles. And because it’s Real Food, it takes real time to eat, giving me ample guilt-free crossword time.
When we decided to do this, I sent out a call to my Facebook peeps and they gave me some basic info to begin with.
• Wet ingredients on the bottom, dry on top.
• Find a very long fork or a bowl to dump them into. Unless you enjoy getting salad dressing all over your fingers. This was excellent advice because I was all set to tip it back and slurp it down like a drink.
• The plastic lids are a lot more convenient and dishwasher friendly. This might be good advice, but I had already bought the metal ones and we wash dishes by hand so it’s kind of a moot point. I was smart [read lucky] enough to buy the wide mouth jars because that definitely matters.
Here’s what I’ve learned along the way.
May 25 ”” Our journey begins.
May 30 ”” Prepped our first dozen Salad-in-a-Jar lunches. Took 40 minutes with hubs doing all the chopping and me, you know, directing. Without the cost of the jars, these salads are $3.46. (I got a dozen wide mouth 32oz jars for $12.) Now we’ll just have to see if we like having salads every day and what the last couple ones look like. Right now, though, they’re purty! One thing I hadn’t thought about was whether we had enough room in the refrigerator for 12 quart jars. Luckily, we did.
May 31 ”” Day One Salad-in-A-Jar. One smaaaaall problem. The olive oil had solidified in the refrigerator. (See it there on the tomatoes?) Turned out to be no big whoop. Five minutes or so while I filled a drink and got my crossword ready and it was fine. Gave it a stir and presto! Everything crisp and delish.
June 1 ”” Day 2 Salad in a Jar. Today I got it out of the fridge and shook it, to unsolidify the olive oil. Clearly, I’m stronger than I look. Despite my vigor, just bruised the lettuce a bit. All still crunchy and delicious.
June 2 ”” Day 3 Salad In A Jar. Started eating before I remembered to take a picture. Still good, crunchy and delicious. Halfway through our stash.
June 6 ”” Today is Day 7 of Salad in a Jar. Day 3 was Thursday and I didn’t have one Friday-Sunday. Happy to report everything is still crunchy, but a couple of the cucumbers that were sliced thin are a bit wilty. Except for them, all is delicious.
June 8 ”” Blech. Ten days is too many for Salad in a Jar. But all in all, an excellent experiment.
Here’s what we’ll do from now on.
on Sunday, we’ll make five days worth of salads for each of us
we’ll chop the cucumbers bigger and make sure they’re closer to the top
and even though it was perfectly fine to have the oil and vinegar in there, we don’t really need to, so we won’t. Hubs can keep a bottle of dressing in his fridge at work. It will make cleaning the jars easier, too.
June 19 ”” Salad In A Jar experiment continues! This week we’re trying to quantify and simplify so we don’t have to think. No salad dressing, and no cucumber because we got a bitter one last time and it put us off. Here’s our new recipe. I’ve written it in the order it goes in the jar. That way hubs knows what to chop up first so I’m not standing around twiddling my thumbs.
2 pkgs cherry tomatoes
1 can of beans (garbanzo or black, rinsed and dried a bit with paper towels)
1 head cauliflower
3 large broccoli crowns
1 red bell pepper
1 red onion
1 bag lettuce
1 pkg chicken breast from the deli (or a small summer sausage)
green olives (I put 6 or 8 in each jar)
sunflower seeds (1T per jar)
1 pkg blue cheese
1 bag spinach (or kale from the garden)
This time it took us less than an hour from leaving the house to grocery shop (for the salads PLUS our other food for the week) until the salads were in the refrigerator and the kitchen was clean.
July 11 ”” I forgot we put black beans in our Salads inJars this week and had a fleeting thought we added candy. Which is hilarious because black beans do not look like candy. Not any that I’d eat, anyway.
Have you played with Salad In A Jar? Any other good tips? What do you put in yours?
Because I only do for others every minute of every day … and because I’ve been named Mother of the Decade … I was asked recently for advice on how to shower Mom with affection on her upcoming holiday.
As I think about it, though, I guess it could have been a ploy to keep me from talking about myself so much, but we don’t dwell on unpleasantness like that in BeckyLand.
At any rate, here are some inexpensive ideas for those of you hit hard by the recession. Remember, it doesn’t mean there has to be a recession of love.
• Get busy on a stylish macaroni necklace for the mom in your life. The more glitter the better. In fact, spill a bunch on the carpet. Moms love that.
• One year I brought a new baby boy home from the hospital on Mother’s Day. I had to return him a few days later at the request of the hospital administration … some legal mumbo jumbo about kidnapping and indictments. It might not be the right gift for everyone, but it was a fun way to celebrate before my prison sentence.
• Hand-letter some “Hug Coupons.” These are best if you live near her. And have impeccable hygiene.
• Give her a six-pack of beer. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that there are six hours on Sunday afternoons. Mother’s Day is no exception.
• If you still live at home, move out. If that’s not quite feasible because you’re, say, between “this many” and 34-going-on-35, then at least give her a written timetable for when she might get her life back.
• Bestow upon Mom one of your grimiest, most used toys, elaborately and lovingly wrapped in the Sunday funnies. She’ll appreciate the humor that makes it look like you “forgot” Mother’s Day. Again.
• Bring her a carefully crafted breakfast in bed that includes a Mom-sized portion of Teriyaki beef jerky, a fruit roll-up with maple syrup dipping sauce, and a can of Mountain Dew. Include a straw and a couple of napkins from Burger King. Make it elegant.
• Everyone knows moms never get enough time to themselves to indulge in their favorite relaxation activities, so help her by managing her time for her. Read the current issue of Mad Magazine to her through the bathroom door while she soaks in the tub. Be sure to shout so she hears every calming word.
• Go to the mall with her and mock hoochie girls. That’s some good bonding time right there. Really, a gift for you both.
• Start doing your own laundry. But in a good way. Not the way that requires her to grab the mop and call the repairman.
• Transplant spider glands into your body so you can spin your own silk to make her a pretty scarf. (Granted, some of these ideas are more complicated than others. I guess it just depends on how much you love your mother.)
• Friend her on Facebook and make a conscious effort not to delete all the messages she writes on your wall. You don’t have to send her a L’il Green Plant though. Some things are obvious.
• Sneak a peek at the appointment book at your local day spa and smuggle your mom in as “the two o’clock.” Be sure to get there early. Oh, and before you go, remind her to wear sneakers as there might be running involved. Call it “cardio” if you must, but don’t refer to a police chase through the downtown streets.
• Quit playing wii for ten minutes so Mom can yogafy herself in the exertvputeraryden room. Or if you just can’t drag yourself away, would it kill ya to invite her to wii bowl once in awhile?!
• Clog her inbox with adorable videos of cute widdle puppies like this one …
• Put on a show! Act out all the parts in her favorite movie. Or Star Wars.
• Nominate her for Mother of the Year. This is really an idea for next year because, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve already won for this decade … But it will give you the jumpstart over your siblings a mere twelve months from now. THEN you’ll be her favorite.
• Better yet, let Mom agonize over and analyze every little thing in your life ”” from your poop to your diet to your clothing choices to the way you drive to your love life to how you raise your kids, whether you have any or not. Seriously. This makes her happy.
I hope I’ve helped make your Mother’s Day celebration special. And to my own mom I say, “Hey … Wanna wii bowl?”
What will you be doing for your mom this Mother’s Day? Which of these things are you hoping for from your kids?
I’m still reeling over a conversation I had with a friend at my book club the other night.
In passing I said something about wondering what your life would be like if you’d never had kids. She looked at me as if I had inadvertently started reciting ancient Sanskrit texts about cheesemaking.
She said she never did anything like that.
She must have misunderstood me. “You’ve never come upon a car accident and been thankful that you stopped to tie your shoe or else it could have been you t-boned in the intersection?”
“You’ve never pictured how your life would be now if you’d gone to a different college or grown up in a different town or been born a different race … or … or?”
I’m still stunned because I think about things like that forty-leven times a day.
What if my boys hadn’t been in marching band in high school? I wouldn’t have met her or been in this book club.
What if my oldest son hadn’t worked a crap retail job where he met a kid who joined the Navy? He wouldn’t have joined and wouldn’t have worked in emergency medicine to find out how much he loved it. Plus, my younger son wouldn’t have joined and therefore wouldn’t have been in Guam to meet and marry his lovely wife. And what if she hadn’t joined the Navy?
What if we hadn’t taken that vacation to the Pacific northwest? My daughter wouldn’t have fallen in love with the area, wouldn’t be living there now, and wouldn’t have met and married her lovely husband. And what if they didn’t have the mutual friend who introduced them at her birthday party? What if she decided not to have that party?
What if I’d have chosen a different college? I wouldn’t have met hubs or created those amazing creatures we call our children.
Those questions never end for me and it honestly never occurred to me that everyone doesn’t do the same thing.
My family will attest to the fact that I’m a planner. I love lists and any/all methods of organization. I ALWAYS have a contingency plan. I’ve seen those people on the side of the highway with a flat tire on their way to the airport. I ALWAYS know who I can call to rescue me in any situation.
Lest you think I’m a complete whackjob, because I fear it’s beginning to show, this doesn’t preoccupy all my thoughts and actions. But I take comfort in knowing regardless of what the universe throws at me, I have a way (often several) to cope.
Of course, who’s to say that your life would be better or worse if one little butterfly flapped his wings differently? It’s all utterly unknowable, and maybe that’s the draw for me.
In my novels I tend to explore the issue of a perfectly ordinary someone thrown into extraordinary circumstances. What will they do? What would I do?
In Banana Bamboozle, a slightly overweight middle-aged woman sees a girl she is convinced is her niece, even though the niece died as an infant.
In Marshmallow Mayhem, she and her cohorts stumble on a dead body.
In the new mystery I’m *thisclose* to finishing, a midlist mystery writer is pulled kicking and screaming into a murder investigation that hits way too close to home.
What would I do? What would you do?
And for years I’ve been noodling over a novel about the seemingly inconsequential choices we make every single day that could lead to either your best day or your worst, if only you veered left instead of right. Guess what the working title is? Yep … “What If?”
The concept fascinates me. Maybe that’s why I’m a writer.
What about you … do you ever play the ‘What If’ game? Do you think I’m a complete whackjob? Because of this or all the other weird stuff you might know about me?
I am a creature of habit. I like schedules and checklists, maps and files. Grocery store trips are never launched without a lengthy list, often written in the order I expect to tackle the aisles. Errands are grouped in the most efficient manner. I know deep in my soul that filling in calendar squares tames the chaos. A weekly planner still in its cellophane sets off waves of anticipation some people reserve for foreplay.
I live by the maxim, “Better an hour early than a minute late.” I’m the first person to the airport gate, the movie theatre, and the meeting.
Outlines for the novels I write litter my computer desktop like so much digital confetti. And by “litter” I mean, “placed in appropriately labeled, color-coded folders lined up and down my screen as precise and tidy as a high school marching band.”
All this to illustrate I do nothing at the last minute. So, imagine my surprise when a recent wild defensive swerve of my steering wheel ”” at the last minute ”” averted my literal last minute.
My husband and I spent the night at a hotel on New Years Eve. We weren’t too far from home, but we didn’t want to get up at the crack of early to race home and feed Nala the WonderDog.
So I contacted our fantastic pet sitter, Robin at Prairie Home Pet Care. “No changes since you were here last,” I told her, “except Nala is taking an antibiotic with breakfast. FYI, she will politely take it from your hand, and just as politely remove it from her mouth, often without even being observed. So you’ll have to cram it down her throat.”
“Not a problem. I’ve had to pill a duck all week, so I’m sure I can handle Nala.”
Thus was born my new favorite catchphrase.
Pill a duck: something you must do, but it’s a little unpleasant and ridiculous.
I’m one of the few native Coloradans still in existence. We really should be in a museum. But such an honor comes with responsibility. Like shoveling snow from driveways and sidewalks.
Let me just say, we’re absolutely blessed here in Denver. When it snows, which it does periodically, the next day the sun comes out and dries up all the snow so the itsy bitsy spider can drive her car in town.
I think all the sunshine has permanently erased some aspect of my long-term memory, perhaps my short-term, too. [Note … I literally had to stop here and check my scribbles to remember the point of all this. Sigh.]
My point is this. No matter how many times I have shoveled snow in my life, I forget EVERY TIME how to do it without hurting my back.
I never learn.
We had about a foot of snow over the weekend, so hubs and I split duties, roughly half and half. Once on Sunday and then again yesterday. [I loved our 3-car driveway when we got it poured, lo, those many years ago. Not so much when it’s covered with snow.]
Yes, my back is killing me. Why? Because I never learn.
This morning I was repeatedly reminded of this travesty. I get up around 5am most days and am able to read (novels! for fun!) in the quiet early morning hours. It’s also when I drink my coffee.
I have a lovely antique table next to my purple armchair, where my writer’s clock and my Splat Stan coaster keep me and my cup company. But occasionally, I need to refill. Okay, fine, more than “occasionally.”
Every damn time I needed more coffee this morning, I twisted and reached for my cup the exact wrong way, sending me into paroxysms of pain equaled only by my shrieks of profanity.
I was sitting with my husband at a restaurant bar watching my beloved Broncos get spanked by the Patriots yesterday. The game was less than spectacular, but it’s always fun to watch football with a beer and a crowd.
The bartender was a true professional, hands and bottles flying, mixers mixing, shakers shaking. Fun to watch. Whenever he slowed down, I peppered him with questions about his job. He indulged my curiosity and kept my glass filled.
We chatted with a middle-aged couple who stopped in for a quick drink before they were off to an event. They both wore Bronco jerseys, so I wondered where they were going. The game was almost over and being played in New England, so I didn’t think it was football-related. They excitedly told us they were going to a punk rock concert nearby. Now, if you’d have asked me where they looked like they were headed and gave me three choices ”” all three “punk rock concert” ”” I still wouldn’t have guessed punk rock concert. But their enthusiasm was endearing.
A few minutes later a woman walked over and stood by my side. “I just had to tell you how fabulous your hair is,” she said. She went on to compliment the color, the style, how it was perfect for my face. We chatted for a moment and then she left me to bask in the glow of her generosity.
it’s not the first time someone complimented my hair like this. It had to have been ten years ago. I was walking into the post office when she walked out. Same kind of conversation as at the bar. It, too, gave me warm fuzzies. And I’ve never forgotten it. Total stranger compliments me out of the blue. BAM. Take THAT, you lazy cynic.
We all get compliments ”” on our looks, our clothes, our home, our work. Some are less than sincere, some are undeserved, some are a freakishly long time coming. But hearing them makes us feel all squishy.
So why don’t I hand out more compliments?
It won’t change the world, but it might change somebody’s world.
[Psst. Hey, you. Yeah, you … you just read the HELL out of that. Excellent job!]