Author Archives: Bryce Warden

About Bryce Warden

Mom, wife, business owner, doer of good deeds, writer of life experiences. My cape is torn and in desperate need of being laundered. Twitter - @thebrycewarden

Vigilance, My Constant Companion

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Vigilance, My Constant Companion

Well hello blog friends. I’ve been pretty quiet since I got back from the hospital 12 days ago. Don’t let that fool you, my thoughts have taken on a squirrelish  pattern, darting between cars on a 6 lane highway during rush hour.

Hard to know how successful the surgery was at this point. The surgeon proclaimed it “perfect” so I’m counting on that to be accurate. My zombie arm has improved greatly – now I’m afraid of accidentally undoing all the good the surgery did. Plus I have weird sensations in other areas. Hoping it’s just my nerves coming down from some fairly traumatic events.

Recovery from surgery is a strange place to be in mentally. I expected the physical pitfalls – pain, medication issues, potential blood clots, physical restrictions, general discomfort and overall ickiness. I was not fully prepared for the anxiety, mood swings and FFS tears (who am I).

Before I give you a glimpse into my particular rabbit hole of recovery I need to first state the obvious…I’m very fortunate. I am relatively young and healthy. My recovery is projected to be months and isn’t terminal. The surgery I had was to correct a problem and prevent further damage. It was to relieve the chronic, relatively short term pain (months, not years) I experienced and hopefully prevent further damage.

This isn’t terminal cancer or some chronic debilitating disease that I have to manage for however much time I have left on this planet. I am mindful of this and deeply grateful. I also recognize that the fickle finger of fate has the option to change her mind at any point, even the best strategic plans and intentions can implode at any moment. I’m aware of the transient nature of life and my blessings are abundant.

Some things I have observed about myself…

I’m pretty much a rule player. Sure I may wax poetic about what a rebel I am but when the rubber meets the road, I’m a by the book gal. I want to follow discharge directions to the letter, sadly the letter is fuzzy.

Having more questions and curiosity than the discharge papers accounted for, I took to Google to quench my thirst for knowledge. Probably not ideal. There is a wide range of opposing opinions by medical professionals in regard to Anterior Cervical Discectomy & Fusion.

To brace or not to brace? Collar or no collar? Movement or none? When can I drive? When can I safely load the bottom rack of the dishwasher or put a fitted sheet on the bed? I feel safe pouring dry kibble into the dog food bowl but filling the water bowl seems like risky business. These are the activities that stump me daily.

I’ve already contacted the surgeon’s office about a potential blood clot and difficulty swallowing (which to be fair, are valid concerns and warranted calls) I draw the line when asking about specific mundane household chores. I see the surgeon next week for my first follow up visit since my surgery, I’m making a list.

I’m afraid of breaking myself. My biggest hurdle right now is the mental bandwidth I’ve handed over to fear of botching this surgery. Some is valid, some is unlikely. I find myself in a place of fear more often than I anticipated. It takes months, perhaps up to a year for bones to fuse. During this time of healing I will need to be mindful of what I do and do not do physically. Which activities are considered high risk and should be avoided? Vigilance will be my constant companion for the foreseeable future.

Some people don’t appreciate gruesome neck scars. I was able to drive yesterday for the first time since the surgery. My first errands out included dropping the kids off at school and getting some thank you gifts for my friends. My scar is supposed to air out so I didn’t cover it. There was a definite look of disgust on one clerks face when I came back into the store to borrow a pen. Her exact words were – “Take this pen, we have 100 of them. Now get out.”

Do you have a surgical recovery story? Any pro tips? Feel free to comment with your words of wisdom.

 

 

Fixed It

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Fixed It

Well hello my blogging friends. I am happy to report that I got through my ACDF with all parts in tact and a few extra…two discs replaced using a combo of my bone and donor bone and a nifty titanium plate with 6 or 8 screws. I feel frickan’ fantastic and I’m not high right now. Got out of surgery a little over 24 hours ago and I am amazed at how good I feel. I suspect there will be some pitfalls along the way but wow what a difference. My right arm is my arm again, not some alien appendage that causes me pain 24/7. I forgot how good it feels to not feel bad all the time. It’s like a rebirth. Anyway, that stuff is nice but boring so let’s get on to the funny stuff before I go night-night.

The hubs and I got caught in traffic on the way to the surgery check in. The traffic was so bad I grabbed my backpack and walked the remaining 4 blocks. I did that to get there on time only to encounter an empty desk upon arrival. That was unsettling but I had faith in the surgeon so I didn’t walk out the door. The vacancy lasted long enough for me to call a general service number to confirm the room number, yup I was at the right place. So much for my efforts for being on time. I just got seated in registration when the hubs came through the door.

After about half an hour I was sent to hospital purgatory. It’s a holding pen before you get to the specialized OR area. This was a fun place. It was set up like an ER with curtains for privacy between beds. The first lady took basic information when she asked me my weight I told the hubs to cover his ears. She said I could whisper it to her, so I did. He said she’s probably lying and sonofabee I was but only by like 2 or 3 pounds and I rounded down so shoot me.

Anyway, I happened to get my period that morning because WTF not. I am 51 years old folks this should be in the rear view mirror and yet here we are…I mention this to another nurse who had the task of rubbing me down with antiseptic cloths (this would be the worst porn scene ever). Anyway I mentioned the menses to my new friend and she gave me mesh underwear and a sanitary pad that could double as a mattress. It was YUGE. I kind of felt bad for the pad, there was no way it was going to live up to it’s potential. I’m at the trickle stage this pad was worthy of postpartum tide. Oh and on one trip to the bathroom part of my gown went into the bowl so I had to explain that mess and get a new gown, at least I entertained the staff.

It was clear that I had at least an hour to go or so in purgatory so I encouraged the hubs to go get something to eat. He was already on Yelp looking for options, he didn’t fight me when I made the suggestion. Mind you it was noon and I didn’t  have anything to eat or drink since Midnight. I would have given my still tingling zombie arm for a coffee at that point. Half an hour after the hubs leaves…

Me: If you send me food pics I will cut you.

Hubs: I literally had my finger on the send button,

Me: Get yo fine azz back here…it’s moving day.

Half an hour later I was sent to OR prep and he was sent somewhere else, a waiting room.

Hubs: I miss u

Hubs: OK, just remembered u don’t have ur phone, so I’m talking to myself.

Once I got settled into my room I sent him home to be with our kids. My friend Kristy dropped by to bring them dinner – a chicken parm sub and a Brooklyn Pizza from our favorite local place.  I also got soup from Lisa, my Rocky Horror partner. And Amy just went full on ridiculous she made soup, cookies, orzo salad and salmon….oh and my friend Iris made me a spectacular chicken soup with matzo balls and magic. I am blessed beyond measure friends. I hope you all have people like this in your life.

Anyway back to the hospital stay. People joke all the time that hospitals are no place to rest and damn that is so true. I had a roommate Joan, 83 years old. She was in so much pain they had to take her for an MRI to see what was going on. Her surgery was way more complicated than mine and I felt guilty for feeling so good. We chatted a good chunk of the night because neither one of us could sleep, too much beeping, plugs coming undone, the compression sock alarm that nearly gave me a heart attack. Every time I needed to pee I had to be untethered by a nurse, it was an ordeal.

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Rare pic of me wasted.

The lab lady came in at 4am to take blood as if that’s a normal thing…we can’t wait until 8am for this? My surgeon came by for a visit at 5:57am, he must sleep 4 hours a night, max. I was glad to see him though he said the surgery went “perfect” and I believed him because my arm was feeling awesome. I got to shake his hand and thank him and ask weird questions about bone grafts. I won’t bore you with those details let’s just say I have some cadaver parts and I’m totally cool with that. I plan to donate my body to science when I die so perhaps I will be able to return the favor.

So in-between the chats with Joan, vitals being checked, alarms going off and the 4am Vampire – the man across the hall from my room threw several tantrums throughout the night. I heard him being abusive to staff, screaming without regard for any of the other patients and just all out acting like an enraged toddler, it was ridiculous. He was at least 20 years younger than Joan who was in extreme pain and was pleasant with everyone she came in contact with – this guy was the opposite. Needless to say I didn’t sleep much.

I got discharged at 11am and I walked out the door, no wheelchair. First stop was a Starbucks to supplement the tepid weak coffee I got with breakfast. There was a lot of food for breakfast, I only ate the grits (Paul I’m sure you would make better grits). Got a Chai and walked the three blocks to the car, it felt good to be outside. Things were going pretty good, until they weren’t.

About 20 minutes into a 45 minute drive I had to vomit. Told the hubs to pull over, he didn’t. Instead he handed me a Mutt Mit (dog poop bag) and I used that, tied the bag to avoid spills and repeated the process two more times. The fact that he had the foresight to think of this raised his stock considerably. We handled that like champs all the while doing 60MPH headed home like we practiced it. Now I’m waiting for my neck to be sore from that mess so tomorrow may be a rough day.

Anyway, it’s been smooth sailing since then. Fingers crossed we stay the course.

 

 

Confession

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Confession

I’m terrified. There I typed it, now maybe that useless-hell-bent-on-turning-me-into-a-raging-asshole emotion will take a respite now. I’m not terrified all the time, just when I try to sleep or allow the distractions of daily life to melt away so I can concentrate exclusively on all the shit that could possibly go wrong during my surgery. Actually it’s the post surgery chance of blood clots that gives me the willies. Blood clots are sneaky MFers and they do not discriminate. I’ve had some close calls with the bastards before so unlike the Boogeyman, I know they exist.

Obviously I haven’t shared this particular scenario with my kids because I suspect they have their own fears and I don’t need to add to that. So this is my safe space for venting the truth. My husband and I discussed it briefly, it’s amazing how much that man pretends to forget. Whenever you are asked to gather your Advanced Medical Directive, it’s a stone cold reminder of how temporary this life is for all of us. Having those reminders in my face is jarring.

It’s weird how we beat ourselves up, at least I do. I’d like to be some stoic champion that flows through life chakras all aligned and shit no matter what curve balls smack me in the face. Spoiler: I’m not that person. And while I’d like to pat myself on the back for not deep diving into a pity party about my “situation”….I know how ridiculous that is given how fortunate my life has turned out.

I do miss exercise though. I’ve been a gym rat for 30 years. My husband joked about that the other day, the monthly gym fees that have been paid – the very gym which likely exacerbated this condition. I’d still do it all over again. Exercise has been my mental health regime my entire adult life. I don’t drink alcohol or do drugs (though I am dipping into the Xanax this week so I can sleep) and I haven’t gone on a killing spree so clearly the gym was working for me. I haven’t had that since August and I can feel the depression nipping at my toes.

So I’ll walk because I can still do that. And I’ll walk after the surgery because moving is the best way to prevent blood clots. I’ll remind myself that this is temporary. An expensive (really f*cking expensive) and painful inconvenience. I’m actually grateful for the pain in my arm because it reminds me why I’m letting someone cut into my neck and replace some parts. Otherwise this whole situation would seem insane. The near constant pain in my dominate arm coupled with the knowledge that doing nothing could send me into Depends a few decades earlier than anticipated is my motivation.

I’ll remind myself to not worry about the things that will be out of my control like driving, getting kids out the door for school, my clients, my mother, the dog, feeding my family, weight gain, the 2020 election, the fact that my daughter has blue hair now (it’s really cute), do we have enough toilet paper… All that shit will be out of my hands starting Wednesday until I’m well enough to pick them all up again.

I did order myself some socks for the recovery…

Screenshot_2019-11-03 Amazon com Mom off Duty, Ask your Dad Funny Socks - Cool Pink Fuzzy Novelty Cupcake Packaging for Her[...]Screenshot_2019-11-03 Amazon com If You Can Read This Bring Me Coffee Socks (Coffee Black) - luxury socks for Mom, Dad, fam[...]

 

 

The Oh Sh*t List!

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The Oh Sh*t List!

Hello friends, I haven’t posted because things have been kind of icky and who wants to read that mess. For those that have been following along my neck surgery is next week. I went for all the pre-op tests yesterday so it feels real at this point. I haven’t been stoic about this situation but I’ve tried to keep the public bitching to a minimum. I’m struggling a bit, I suspect some of my emotions are to be expected. I don’t know if I’ve learned anything through this process but I have made some observations along the way…

I have really good friends. I’m putting together an “Oh Sh*t List” – this will house the names and phone numbers of people that have offered to drive, feed and/or shelter my kids while I’m in the hospital and during recovery. These are people that mean what they say and say what they mean…they will show up if needed. Some of them will show up even if they don’t get a call. I hope you all have friends like this in your lives, I am profoundly grateful for mine.

It isn’t just about meal prep and Muber (Moms that Uber for free) some friends are just there when you need them. Last Saturday I texted a friend around 5pm and asked her if she wanted to go see a local production of Rocky Horror at 9pm. My daughter bailed and I didn’t push it because I thought it might be inappropriate (spoiler: it was COMPLETELY inappropriate).

Me: Any chance you want to go to Rocky Horror tonight?

Lisa: Daughter Bail?

Me: Yup

Lisa: Sure. What are we wearing? Sedate Janets or wild Rockys?

Me: I don’t think I have the wardrobe for either. I can probably put together a party goer outfit…black pants/jacket, shiny shirt (maybe) and an obscene amount of makeup. What have you got?

Lisa: Corset, high heel boots, red wig?

Me: Of course! I need a wig.

An hour goes by as I frantically search through the Halloween boxes looking for anything that will pass for Rocky Horror fabulous. What I find is Thing 1 & Thing 2 toddler costumes which makes me want to smile-cry and sends me to my bedroom closet which leads to…wardrobe disappointment. I did manage to find a cool jacket I purchased in Turino, Italy in 1996 and a hat I wore last year when I went to a party as Captain Obvious.

Me: I look more steampunk middle-aged hooker than Rocky Horror party-goer.

Lisa: Sends me a picture of herself looking fabulous in a zebra inspired pimp hat, gorgeous long deep purple velvet jacket, red wig, corset and boots for days. Too much?

Me: Hells no you look awesome! I put eye shadow on with a Q-tip. I’m not fit to be in your presence.

We had a great time at the show!

 

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Another observation…your family will squeeze every drop out of you until you make them stop.

Yesterday I had to drive to Philly for my pre-admission testing. The drive wasn’t bad and I managed to score street parking which is a bargain. I walked 4 blocks to the first appointment (Cardiologist) then had to get to the remainder of my appointments another 4 blocks away. Naturally it was raining and did I mention I woke up at 2:30 that morning just for giggles. So I was tired, cranky and in considerable pain. I find it ridiculous that people need to jump through these physical hoops for medical procedures to fix an orthopedic issue. The other patients I encountered yesterday were in tremendous pain and having to navigate city blocks and multiple buildings was a lot for their worn out broken bodies. Seemed like an unnecessary obstacle course – put it all in one building preferably on the same floor, oh and GET OFF MY LAWN (just threw that in because I sound like a grumpy old lady).

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Any way after 5 hours of that nonsense I was looking forward to a nap cuddled up with my heating pad. I just got my self nestled in when I hear footsteps approaching my bedroom door…next thing I know my mother is barging into my bedroom.

Mom: Your husband told me you were resting. How are you, are you OK?

Me: I’m in agony mom, I just want to nap. I’ve been up since 2:30 this morning, long day.

Mom: Oh so it hurts, huh.

Me: Yes, yes it does. Is there something you need?

She then rattles off two things that she needs which causes me to get out of bed and go downstairs. I gave my husband strict instructions to lock all the doors from now on and set the alarm.

Naturally Rob and Laura are concerned about me and wondered how they would manage while I’m out. Super woman friend, Vickie, saved the day. She met the family and shadowed me one day this week on outings. Rob & Laura will be well cared for in my absence.

So my – Oh Shit List – is filling me with gratitude. The people I encounter in real life and my cyber friends have been very supportive. Seriously, you need these types of friends in your life.

Pain in the Neck…

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Pain in the Neck…

What’s new my friends, lots happening here. I’ll give it to you in bite size pieces, it’s a lot to chew on.

Rob & Laura Update

My nonagenarian friends are still on this side of the dirt which is a good thing. Dear Rob has had two TIAs (min-strokes) in the past 7 weeks and he is starting to slip cognitively. Laura lost her hearing aid which caused her great frustration until she finally relented and posted bail to get a new one (just under a thousand dollars and that was with the discount, YIKES). There was a lot of shoulder shrugging, exasperated sighs and general annoyance until that got resolved.

Rob’s family is originally from Virginia, last week he told me that when his grandfather was about 8 years old his family had a special guest over for tea, Robert E Lee (yes that one). Then we had an interesting discussion about the confederate flag, Civil War statues and reparations. Oddly enough that afternoon he got a call from a member of his Quaker Community that was eager to change the name of one of their member organizations currently known as the “Overseers”. Rob was hesitant to change the name and he referred to himself as a curmudgeon which is not how I see him at all. He was brought up in a different era, in a geographic area which has a complicated history. A lot of things have changed in his 95 years on the planet and it is refreshing to see someone remain adaptable this late in life.

Caring for them when I’m in physical pain myself is getting exhausting. I know that if I saw one of them about to fall, I would hurl my body in their direction to mitigate the damage likely to my own demise. It would be a visceral reaction and I doubt I could control it. So I have to find them some additional help while I recover, it’s hard to find another me.

Medical Update

I saw a surgeon this past Monday to review my MRI and discuss the options. My options are do nothing and put myself at risk of falling off a metaphorical cliff at some point…potentially losing balance and control of (coughs) bowels and micturition (new Scrabble word). My issue is progressive and will not improve with physical therapy, vitamins, a Chiropractor, voodoo, acupuncture, lavender oil, your cousin Stephanie’s smoothie blend or CBD oil. So surgery it is folks, Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion in case you’re bored and want to Google that mess.  I “get her done” in early November.

I texted my twin brother to discuss it –

Me: Guess who has two thumbs and a new neck in her future – THIS gal.

Him: New neck???

Him: Get a giraffe one and freak people out

And this is one of a thousand reasons that I adore my brother. Then he immediately offered to drive twelve hours and care for me post op. Heart of gold that one.

Marital Bliss

The other night my husband hydroplaned on the way home from Newark, New Jersey Airport. He called me from a sketchy neighborhood to report the news. Bear in mind his car is a Tesla Model S with a Pennsylvania plate, he did not blend in. I told him I would get him so he could take all of his personal effects out of the car and wait to get it towed. It was an hour and a half for me to get there in windy conditions which caused me to have a death grip on the steering wheel for about 3 hours in the middle of the night.

Physically my husband was fine and I am incredibly grateful for that. That said, I’m going to blame his brazen stupidity on the way home on the the two 360’s he did on Route 78 which landed him facing the wrong way on a typically busy highway. He bitched about my driving on the way home at least three times. I was so pissed and in so much physical pain at the time all I could do was grunt, like a bull. Yes, I was in the left lane traveling at a safe speed. It was 1am with little traffic and a wind ban on the turnpike at the time.

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The next day I bitched to my brother about the situation, via text.

Me: Something off about fetching your man from a sketch neighborhood in the middle of the night because he had a car accident AND then listening to him bitch about your driving all the way home while you are in INTENSE pain.

Him: Yikes. How many cars has he messed up and how many have you?

Me: 3 him, me 0

Him: That’s a pretty solid data set to support your argument.

Did I mention that I adore my brother?

 

Kids

Told the kids about my surgery and downplayed it as to not panic them. One kid asks how I am the other takes a different approach…

Kid 2: UGH, my foot fell asleep! (hobbles into kitchen)

Me: Bummer, that’s how my arm feels all the time now.

Kid 2: We get it mom, your arm hurts.

Me: Went to bed so I wouldn’t do anything rash it was 8pm.

For some reason that little exchange reminded me of Erma Bombeck’s tombstone which has “I Told You I Was Sick” on it.

 

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Not sure whose tombstone this is but you get the point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fingers Crossed…

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Fingers Crossed…

Muthafuckah. Got some not great news today…for my regulars you may recall a post from last week when I waxed poetic about my crappy health insurance. I begged my doctor’s office for a script for an MRI but they declined because my insurance (sucks) needed me to go through more hoops first because they’re assholes.

I figured an x-ray would be useless because the pain I have seems nerve related. Pins and needles, like when your foot falls asleep. The foot thing usually passes after a few minutes, the situation I’m dealing with is 24/7.  The pain ranges from a 3 to an 8, it’s never gone completely. I’ve had about six weeks of this now and I’m starting to get cranky. However, the insurance company needs a checklist ticked off before it will pay for an MRI so basically we ALL work for the insurance company now – the doctors, medical billers, patients, hospitals, labs – they own us.

Anyway the planets aligned and I got the referrals, made the appointment, and saw the doctor. The appointment was with a non-surgical Orthopedic at the Rothman Institute. The office ran like a well-oiled machine. They even took an x-ray of my neck for $20. which is the best deal I’ve gotten since well, ever. My PCP wouldn’t send me for an X-Ray because she’s scared of my insurance.

The x-ray didn’t show much (shocking) so I got my script for the MRI. The RI office staff managed to get an authorization code from my cheap ass (yet freakishly expensive) insurance company so I got my MRI a few days ago. This morning I got a call around 9:15am from an unknown number so I let it go to voicemail. It was the Orthopedic doctor. Well, that was unexpected. I called the office told them I would be available after 12:30. I got another call from the doctor at 12:32, this is highly unusual. Doctors calling as soon as they get the results to discuss it with you…

Doc: Hello, I wanted to let you know I got the MRI and it isn’t terrible.

Me: (nervous laughter) Great, not terrible is good, maybe.

Doc: We compared this MRI to the one you had in 2010 and the same area is involved (cervical).

Me: I’m glad you were able to hunt that down.

Doc: I’m recommending that you see a surgeon.

Me: Oh.

Doc: There’s some compression around the spine and some fluid. (barely audible) Myelomalacia

Me: Mya-what?

Doc: Myelomalacia, don’t Google it.

Me: Of course I’m going to Google it, you just told me not to.

He then proceeded to name some doctors that are spinal surgeons. I got off the phone and promptly cried for 45 seconds. Then I started Googling, then I took a walk because I can’t do anything else. He told me to hold off on physical therapy until I see the surgeon. Oddly enough I had a physical therapy consult scheduled for this afternoon.

I talked to my husband, I talked to a friend, I talked to God and my dog. I made the appointment for Monday which is a miracle in itself. Hopefully, I’ll have more information and the start of a game plan this time next week.

I put my gym membership on hold. That was when it hit me, shit got real. Exercise has been a physical and mental release for me for 30 years. Now I have restricted exercise (walking) and constant pain, it’s not an ideal combination. I’m trying to not think about it too much until my next appointment, easier said than done. Fingers crossed…

 

Red, White & Blue (privilege)

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Red, White & Blue (privilege)

Red, White and Blue, the colors of Old Glory. America is such a mess right now. It takes determined concentration to not get sucked into the propaganda on either side. My country has turned into a dysfunctional family gathering where some guests have clearly been over-served and the quiet relations are hiding in the corner trying to remain invisible. Meanwhile the host is getting dinner on the table three hours late lamenting about the state of the world and how things would be so much better if we turned back the clock to 1957. Better for whom?

Precious few are willing to listen to people with a different political view because they believe their side is morally superior. There are sides now, definitive lines in the sand, us versus them, red against blue. We need to be one country again. Country before party and all that. What scares me the most though, is that this type of divisive ideology is simultaneously happening all over the world.

The colors of America’s flag represent different ideas to me now. Please know this is my version of stereotypes of extremists on each end. I know that there are rational, compassionate Republicans and Democrats. I still believe we have a lot of overlapping common ground we just need to commit to finding it.

Red (privilege) – The ability to actively and passionately care for an unborn fetus while simultaneously being OK with brown kids getting separated from their families for an undefined amount of time at border crossings. God-loving Christians who would rather spend money beefing up the military then covering entitlement programs like WIC, Welfare or Food Stamps. Who will financially support those fetuses that grow into children that need food, clothing, shelter and a stable home? While hand-wringing over the unborn, the reds turn a callous eye away from the epidemic of gun violence that claim thousands of lives each year (approximately 11,000 in 2017 according to the BBC). WWJD indeed?

White (privilege) – Imagine if President Obama made public statements encouraging Russia, Ukraine and China to dig up dirt on a political rival during a campaign. Oh what’s that, you can’t imagine a world where that’s possible. OK then, imagine if Obama was accused of a dozen or so variations of sexual assault. Better yet, switch out Obama for Trump in the infamous Access Hollywood tape and then imagine him getting elected after that…would never happen. Yes my friends that is (rich) white privilege.

Blue (privilege) – You claim to be the party of compassion, pro choice and ultimate Democracy yet you stop talking to people if they disagree with your political views. You want to rid the world of bullies and tyrants yet you go full on beast mode if someone questions your vaccination choices. Live and let live unless someone is living in a way that you find offensive. You need to give people a chance to catch up with each new iteration of socially acceptable behavior – the rules change daily. Better yet, allow space for people to have a different belief. Some religions don’t support homosexual life styles. Yeah, it’s sad. I’m here to tell you that I can eat some Chick-fil-A without being a LGBTQ hater. As Freud once said, sometimes a nugget is just a nugget, not a political statement. I can’t pull up a manifesto for each corporate conglomerate before I order lunch. Everyone is a bully if they aren’t your brand of “woke”. Full stop.

The point is there are extremists on both sides – two wings on the same bird. The bird flies better if the wings are working together. If the wings are constantly flapping in opposite directions it’s a death spiral. I’m dizzy from the constant, chaotic circling and that hard crash landing is getting closer.

I hope we can get back to a place where we place country over party. Where morals matter all the time, not just when it fits a specific narrative. I want decent, compassionate, intelligent leadership. I want well thought out policies, not impulse driven, reactionary decisions via Twitter promulgated by a constant stream of political pundits shouting over each other on red and blue networks. The people, you and me, we are the only ones that can fix this mess. The politicians sold us out decades ago, it’s all on us now.

It’s All About the Money Honey

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It’s All About the Money Honey

This week has been a painful reminder of how incredibly messed up healthcare is in America. I’ve had an annoying issue that’s been shadowing me for about a month – near constant tingling/numbness in my right arm. I waited a couple of weeks to see a doctor because I thought it might resolve on it’s own, it hasn’t. So I made an appointment and saw my doc – she put me on steroids to see if inflammation was the cause.

I was a little freaked out to take the steroids because I’ve heard some rough stuff but it was a low dose for six days so I tried it. Nothing miraculous happened, the pain and numbness were dulled a bit but not gone. A day after my last dose I had extreme pain so I called the doctors office asking for next steps. No one called me back. I called the next day and got Honied and Sweetied by the nurse.

Nurse: Hold on hon, let me check….(hears keyboard clicking…)

Me: The pain is fairly significant and it’s constant, can we possibly streamline this process?

Nurse: Well Sweetie your doctor is giving you a referral to the Rothman Institute.

Me: OK, will I have a diagnostic test done before then to pin point the problem?

Nurse: No Honey. Go to the Orthopedic doctor first.

So I call the Orthopedic doctor. I’m fortunate they have a cancellation so I don’t have to wait a month or more to get in. The intake person tells me I will see a non-surgical doctor and asks me if I have had any x-rays or an MRI. I call back my doctor’s office…

Me: Can I get an MRI or some other diagnostic testing prior to the Orthopedic appointment so it is a more productive appointment?

Nurse: Pffffft. I doubt it.

Me: Can you ask?

Nurse: (Clearly annoyed) This is what your doctor has suggested.

Me: Yes, I understand that. I’m just in a lot of discomfort and I want to streamline the process if at all possible.

Nurse: (sighs loudly) I’ll put a note in for the doctor.

Next day…nurse calls we play phone tag 4 times before we connect then the call gets disconnected….

Nurse: Doctor says your other option is 4 to 8 weeks of physical therapy, then reconsider MRI, otherwise, insurance likely won’t cover.

Me: So physical therapy for a problem that hasn’t been properly diagnosed yet because an accurate diagnostic test hasn’t been done because the insurance won’t pay….I’ll stick with the Orthopedic referral, thanks.

Once again the death of common sense has been verified. I am nothing but a walking widget to these people…another name in the computer that stumbled off the factory floor and had the nerve to ask relevant questions. I’m sure this nurse started her career with the sincere desire to help people, now she is relegated to towing the corporate line for a variety of insurance companies. The doctor may sign her paychecks but they all work for the insurers now and it’s been that way a long time. This is the insurance we pay $20K in premiums for each year because my husband and I are both self-employed.

In other news, I went for a consultation for a cosmetic procedure today – blepharoplasty (under eye bags). Met with the doctor, scheduled the procedure and poof have an appointment for early November. Easy Peasy!

What’s the difference here folks, cash. The almighty dollar y’all so if you are willing to pay cash you can get your tummy tucked, boobs/eyes/ass lifted, nipped, tucked and fat sucked with barely any questions asked.  GAWD forbid you have a real problem then you will jump through hoops of fire to get the coverage you actually paid for, healthcare in America, it’s just swell.

 

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Actual photo of me trying to get the healthcare coverage I already bought. (Pssst, not really I got the image form Pinterest)

 

 

Berlin

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Berlin

Berlin, Germany is an odd place to visit for a few hours. It’s not nearly enough time to get past the painful palpable past and reconcile that with the vibrant metropolis it is now. It was an ambitious excursion from our Baltic Sea Cruise. Once again I went with Alla Tours to be our guide.

The trip required us to be on a bus just past 7am to embark on a 3 hour ride. We stopped once for a bathroom/snack run as we made our way on the autobahn toward Germany’s capitol. Our tour guide was named – wow, I can’t remember his name. If I’m honest, I wasn’t a huge fan. He tried to be witty but the sarcasm was too heavy (even for me) and it didn’t play out well with the devastating history we were unfolding.

Our guide let’s call him, Hans, pointed out various buildings and the shopping district. There was some disappointment that most stores were closed because it was a Sunday. I didn’t mind since we wouldn’t have time to shop, plus it lightened the traffic a bit. One fun fact that Hans mentioned is that the public trees in Berlin are numbered, that way if there is an issue the person in charge of trees knows which tree to attend to. I would’ve thought Hans was joking if I didn’t see numbered placards on trees throughout the day.

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Our first stop in Berlin was to see the Berlin Wall Monument which included a Topography of Terror Exhibit. So much for getting your feet wet, dive right into the genocide of millions of innocent people. We only had 20 minutes here, 20 minutes to read how more than ten million people were exterminated and killed at war (spoiler: lots of people died in horrific ways). Twenty minutes to get a glimpse into the horrors that Poland went through and the bravery with which her citizens resisted the Nazis and the Soviet invasion. It’s a somber place.

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About five years ago I visited a woman on hospice. I was there as a volunteer, we sat for a few hours and she told me about herself, I just listened. Jadwiga was born in Poland in the 1930’s and she had a sister. She and her sister lived with their parents until they were all relocated to a camp when she was nine years old. They spent at least two years in that camp, only she and her mother survived. Her father and sister died of starvation which was sadly not uncommon in the camps. Here’s the twist that I didn’t expect, her family was Catholic. The people of Poland had Germany attacking from the east and Soviets invading from the west. Many civilians were killed immediately, many more were sent to camps or relocated to remote locations including Siberia.

Sometimes I’m stunned by how much I didn’t learn in school. Hitler viewed Polish people as inferior. His plan for Poland was to colonize it leaving some Poles to do manual labor and assist with the war effort. In an attempt to reduce the chances of a rebellion, Polish people that were seen as intellectuals or having the ability to persuade an uprising were killed – teachers, priests and members of the “leadership” class. Oops, our twenty minutes are up, time to get back on the bus. I bought a pretzel from a street vendor and we moved along. If you want to learn more here’s a link – Polish Victims of Nazi Germany

The next stop was Checkpoint Charlie. Checkpoint Charlie was the most famous border crossing along the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall was constructed in 1961 to slow the defection of Eastern Germans to Western Germany. At the time, Eastern Germany was struggling under communist rule and Western Germany had much more robust economy.

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The separation of Berlin began after the collapse of Germany in 1945 when the country was divided into four zones. Each zone was headed by a superpower – American, British, French and Soviet. In 1946 the allies of the Western Zones (American, British & French) came together during a break down in reparation agreements, leaving the Soviets in the Eastern Zone. The allies wanted to build a new economy in Western Berlin, Eastern Berlin was under communism. This all played out during the Cold War (1947 – 1991).

So we basically got let out of the bus near Checkpoint Charlie and were told to be back on the bus in half an hour. It was lunchtime so we went to a cafe to find some food, we wound up at Coffee Fellows. I’m just going to out myself as someone who previously believed the stereotype that German workers are efficient, this place cured me of that. We spend 22 of our 30 minutes waiting for a smoothie and a sandwich, that left us 8 minutes to explore.

In that 8 minutes we browsed souvenir shops and street vendors who were all selling gas masks in various shapes and sizes. There was also the image of two men kissing, that image was everywhere – mugs, bags, posters, pins, magnets, t-shirts, any standard souvenir item you can conjure. Naturally I had to find out who these two men were and what the significance was…

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In October of 1979 Regis Bossu took the famous photo of Leonid Brehzhnev and Erich Honecker. Apparently the men got excited over a ten year agreement of mutual support which involved ships, machinery, fuel, along with chemical and nuclear equipment. Explosive stuff no doubt. The “Fraternal Kiss” photo inspired a painting titled – My God, Help Me to Survive this Deadly Love – by Dmitri Vrubel (1990). His painting remained on a section of the Berlin Wall until it deteriorated and was repainted in 2009.

Time’s up back on the bus. Hans kept pointing out buildings and making snide remarks about Angela Merkel. I was getting tired of the bus and my daughter was sick. We got out a few more times, once in what used to be East Berlin and then back to the western side to wander near the museums and visit a street market. Did I mention that it was a thousand degrees that day?

About 6 hours in we went to the Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe. Hans explained that Hitler’s bunker was in that general area, he was not keen on pointing it out or directing foot traffic in that direction. The prevailing thought is that Germans did not want to commemorate or lend public space to Hitler so the bunker is inaccessible. I opted to spend my time at the Memorial and as was the case all day, there was not enough time for this sacred place.

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Back on the bus this time we were let out near the Brandenburg Gate where Ronald Reagan made his famous “Berlin Wall” speech. The gate was under significant repair so I didn’t get a decent photo. There is a placard where President Reagan stood for that famous speech. It’s also close to the German Parliament building which features a glass dome. Hans also pointed out the Victory Column, affectionately called – Chick on a Stick.

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We started making our way back to the autobahn which would lead us back to port in a mere three hours. It was an exhausting day. Berlin deserves at least a week to explore, I would have liked to get to know her better. Her history is so heavy yet I saw glimpses of whimsy and chic within the city, I hope to visit again.

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Bananas

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Bananas

Sweet Geezus the bananas are out of control…AGAIN. Those pesky peels are showing up everywhere. Real damage is being done, people are dying slipping on those damn peels. Even the schools are not safe. Teachers who went into their chosen field to educate and enrich the lives of their students have to carve out time to teach students what to do in the event of a banana peel emergency. And an emergency is bound to happen, they always do. We’ve already had a handful of banana peel incidents this year and it’s only February.

Great minds have been debating this banana peel issue for decades and still no solution for the problem. Some people say that all bananas should be removed from circulation. Others argue for more restrictive banana rights. Others say “hey leave my bananas alone, our founding fathers fought so I could have a right to my bananas.” Maybe some people can’t handle the power of the banana, maybe not everyone needs one. Perhaps there should be a consistent test to determine if someone is within the right frame of mind to carry a banana?

We could make public places safer to avoid unwanted banana entry. Schools should probably be built more like prisons to keep the bad bananas out. That makes sense right? Really high fences – 20 feet high with barbed wire, a few guards at the entrance a banana pat down on the way in, maybe a retinal scan, we have the technology. Sure schools are going bankrupt paying for pension funds and a push to redistribute property taxes. Put all that aside for a moment…I’m sure Congress will loosen up the purse strings so we can keep our bananas AND make schools safer. We do after all value the safety and well being of our children as well as a free and accessible public school system.

There is a lot of speculation as to why the banana problem exists: poor family values, antidepressants, a lack of love & God, mental illness, video games, the pro-banana board which spends gobs of money keeping bananas accessible. At one point Australia had a banana problem and they just said “turn in your f*cking bananas.” Apparently that’s working for them. That couldn’t possibly work here. The UK, Japan and Germany also have a low tolerance for bananas. Shocking as that is, those countries have fewer banana fatalities than we experience in the USA. What could it be? We need our bananas we aren’t like those other countries.

I don’t know what the answer is…I mean I guess you just have to say a prayer and hope your kids don’t slip on any peels when you send them to school. That seems to be working out just swell…as long as it isn’t your kid slipping on the peel.

 

This was originally posted on a sister site in February of 2018 after the Parkland mass shooting. It’s September now, that time of year when parents wonder if the bullet resistant backpacks will hold up, teachers try to anticipate which kids will have panic attacks during the “active shooter drills” (the new fire drill except this “fire” mimics when a maniac comes into your kid’s school with an assault rifle) and teachers mentally calculate how many more months they have to deal with this insanity before they can retire.

Sadly, the post is still relevant. Thank you teachers everywhere for still showing up under these obscene conditions. Kids I don’t know what to tell you, I’m so sorry we haven’t collectively done better. You deserve a safe place to learn, all of you.

Fellow Americans do you remember when drunk driving was a HUGE issue in this country? In the 80’s grass roots organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) got fed up and pressured the government to do something…the legal drinking age was changed to 21 across the nation. Drunk driving laws were tightened and strictly enforced and the public’s behavior changed. People still have a cocktail with dinner, they just plan for the drive home with more caution now.

Why can’t we use a similar common sense approach to guns? Thorough, consistent background checks, close the purchasing loopholes, be a little more selective about who can purchase a weapon. I have to show ID to purchase allergy medicine can’t we have at least that much scrutiny for a military grade weapon? Or shall we just continue to traumatize the generation we’re supposed to protect? Is that better because that sounds bananas to me.