Category Archives: Self Preservation

No Net

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No Net

I haven’t wanted to write for months. I’m having a difficult time coming to terms with the enormity of this situation. I force myself to do the self care things that have helped  me to remain sober for more than 36 years…I eat well, exercise, start my day with gratitude, pray…yet, I find myself fighting that gravitational pull. That invisible, powerful force that wants to take me down. I don’t want to die, I just don’t want to do anything.

Early on I acknowledged to myself that I wasn’t going to Marie Kondo my way through this mess. I may get around to tidying up my desk of shame in the kitchen if the urge hits. I will not be learning a new language, sewing masks (they would suck), or (sigh) writing the great American novel (or the mediocre pandemic novel).

I’m shadowboxing depression and my usual moves are tired, weak.

I go through the motions anyway, a weird automatic setting that kicks in like a worn out, haggard looking Stepford Wife. I feed my family (a seemingly endless loop of meals), I do the laundry, I get my ass outside to walk, I check in on my elderly clients and my mom, try to find the humor…I’m struggling, I mean, aren’t we all?

Mind you, I have no reason to complain. I live in a spacious house with people that are not abusive or threatening. Sure we get on each other’s nerves but I’m not in danger here. My awareness that other people do not have a safe space haunts me. Women are getting beaten by abusive partners, children live in fear of their parents, many people are hungry, cold and without adequate shelter and I feel powerless.

I worry about marginalized people, the ones that were barely making it before the virus. Minorities afraid to wear masks in public because that may be more dangerous then not wearing one…people living on the street, those scraping by paycheck to paycheck, the uninsured, the ones with no safety net whatsoever…I used to be a member of that club.

It sounds great to call grocery store workers heroes. The truth is most of them work to survive, they don’t want to stock shelves, run the register or listen to you bitch about a lack of mangoes, they don’t have a viable alternative. They prefer to live indoors with electricity and running water.

Prior to this sh*t storm it was not unusual for me to be at several grocery/specialty stores in a week, sometimes several in a day. I would take my elderly clients out food shopping, to the butcher, etc, then I would go shopping for my family. If someone wanted the Brooklyn Bread, I would drive 15 minutes to that store….croissants, no problem, 12 minutes in the opposite direction. Need Italian cookies (the real ones with an almond base and pignoli nuts), I know a place (stated in a NY accent with exaggerated hand gestures). Back in the carefree days of early March, I was the step & fetch it gal for my family for each whim and craving. That horse has left the barn and in the immortal words of Ke$ha, I ain’t coming back.

Tik Tok Bitches

By the second week of March I realized that exposing myself to multiple stores in different geographic areas was high risk. So I hunkered down to one local store, once a week (or less) and made due with what I could get. I also shop for my mother and my elderly clients, I look like a hoarder whenever I go. I tried the online shopping with dismal results so this is my new normal.

I happen to know one of the workers at my store. Lindsay (not her real name) is a friend of a friend. Sadly our mutual friend passed away a few years ago and I was the one that broke the news to her. We have bonded over our grief and are on friendly terms. I always look for her when I shop, let’s face it, that’s pretty much the only real life social interaction I get outside of my home.

I was shopping two Fridays before Easter, April 3rd. My intention was to get enough for three households to make it past Easter. It was a monster order. My large cart was overflowing and I required two carts to get everything to my car. Lindsay bagged my groceries and helped me take groceries to my car that day. I was careful, I had a mask on even though it wasn’t required yet. I have a habit of bringing hand sanitizer in my pocket when I go into the store so I can put it on before I touch my door handles. I took those precautions.

As we were loading my car, Lindsay talked about wanting a mask. I happened to have an extra one in my car. Nothing exotic, just a basic dust mask. A different friend of a friend gifted me with a 4 pack of them about a month ago. I offered one to Lindsay and she accepted with gratitude. That was the last time I saw Lindsay face to face.

On April 15th I got a Facebook message from Lindsay. I commented that I missed her in the store when I went on April 14th. Turns out Lindsay and her partner both tested positive for COVID 19, they were 8 days into isolation. She didn’t go into too many details just that it was awful and scary. I offered to shop for them, cook, anything…she declined said they were covered for now.

I haven’t heard from her in a week.

 

 

If you have the means and feel inclined, I urge you to donate to the charity of your choice during this time. Here are links to two charities that are dear to me –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fed Up!

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Fed Up!

Everyone is in full on crazy mode right now. Hanukkah and Christmas are just around the corner, weather has been a complete mess for a large swath of the population and I still need to figure what to get my Brother In-law.  Since my surgery last month I have become pretty good at saying – “nope, not doing it” and Christmas is no exception.

I have gotten gifts for my kids, the hubs and my nieces and nephew…I’m just not stretching much beyond that this year. I may attempt to make biscotti, maybe not. I tried to bake something last week and it made me awful to be around. I go into a weird rage when I attempt to bake, it isn’t pretty.

Clearly I’m not the only one feeling the pressure, a local mom posted this picture in a Facebook Group –

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Sure, it’s all fun and games until little Timmy goes to school and starts discussing how Snowball landed on his dinner plate and it takes a few beats for his first grade teacher to realize that mom has probably been hitting the eggnog a little too hard this year. Or perhaps the offspring of this stressed out parent is observant and wonders why Snowball’s right leg is longer than his left (inquisitive little monster). Then dad has to come up with some convincing backstory on the fly about a sledding accident in 2004. I tend not to lie simply because it’s too exhausting.

It’s not just the holidays making me nuts, it’s the recovery from my ACDF. The other night I went to a women’s networking holiday party. It was great to get out and feel human again. Bonus I ate a meal that I didn’t shop for, cook, serve or clean up – that is always a plus. I got a bit panicked when it was time to leave because a snow squall had come through and I was afraid of slipping on ice and snow. My friend graciously walked me to my car as I held on to her arm (just in case). Then I had a white-knuckle ride home on black ice. I am usually excellent about driving in the snow – since the surgery I’m afraid of getting into a fender bender or skidding off the road. I’m sure this will calm down as I get further into recovery but right now I’m feeling fragile and it effects me in ways that never have before. I don’t like this new version of chicken-shit me, not one bit.

I went back to a modified work schedule a couple of weeks ago. The modifications mean I do not drive Rob and Laura around anymore, not for the foreseeable future. Instead I visit them at home, run solo errands and do some cooking for them. This has been working out except one day last week when Laura forgot I wasn’t driving them anymore. You haven’t lived until a 93 year old woman is pissed off because you won’t take her to the laundromat. Luckily a driver was coming the next day to tackle that task.

One of the new chores is to assist Rob with the spraying of the fruitcakes. I didn’t know this was a thing until about a month ago. Rob made 22 fruitcake loaves and one wreath back in November. Since then, he sprays the bounty every Wednesday. The loaves each get 5 sprays of brandy and then they are sealed in a Ziploc bag and placed in an airtight container. The wreath gets about a dozen sprays. I’m fairly certain the wreath is an alcoholic, it’s a broken mess. I didn’t get the specifics but I did see the results and I explained what a smash cake is to my friends. We have deemed the boozy treat a smash wreath and that should totally be a thing.

This week was special because it was time to remove the cheesecloth. Pieces of liquored up fruit were falling off like a drunken avalanche. Rob (a non-drinker) was scooping up the bits like a kid who just busted up a Pinata. I’ve never seen a 95 year old move with such cat like reflexes. After a few fistfuls his aim was off on the spraying and the right side of my body smelled like a bar at 11:59pm on New Year’s Eve. Luckily I made it home without getting pulled over. I may need to change my sobriety date.

On the plus side, I still have my sense of humor and luckily I’m not the only one….this gem popped up on Facebook the other day. I like this an unreasonable amount. Happy-whatever-you-celebrate! 80406706_1768755406589367_978716565929197568_n.jpg

 

A Tale of Two Turkeys

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A Tale of Two Turkeys

Happy almost American Turkey Day. I guess we can still call it Thanksgiving though my childhood version of Pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a farm to table style of meal has been destroyed by, I supposed some level of…what’s the word, awareness. Yes we are colonizers, land grabbers, murderers, rapists and pillagers or at least most of our ancestors were to some degree. If you can put that in a dark corner, lock the door, anoint your feet and pray for forgiveness….then follow me toward a new version of Thanksgiving.

We typically host Thanksgiving dinner because we have the big dinning room table (seats 10). My husband helps to clean the house but most of the cooking, shopping, cleaning and planning falls on my shoulders. NBD I’ve cooked at least 30 Thanksgiving birds in my tenure – I’ve tried them all from Butterball to heirloom organic and all the Tom’s in-between. I’m a tad tired of it at this point. The idea of having my hand up inside some still ice coated underbelly of a 16 pound bird mid morning the last Thursday of November is no longer appealing. You guys, I get a pass this year!

I’m just shy of three weeks post OP from my ACDF surgery and therefore I still have activity restrictions (THANK YOU sweet Geezus, thank you) – translation – I can’t handle the bird duties this year. Whoot! Whoot! and hells yes! We are still hosting (big table) but my hubs is making the bird. I will make a vegetable, soup and cranberry sauce – everything else will be purchased pre-made or brought by guests. What’s that smell – pumpkin pie??? No friends that is the smell of kitchen liberation!

Now you may recall that the hubs is an Engineer…that basically means he has an innate need to over analyze, speculate, theorize and generally drive himself crazy trying to determine the best course of action in any given situation. Don’t get me wrong, these traits have made him a very successful business man (hence the big table) and have provided us with a really nice lifestyle…it’s also a tad amusing.

The hubs has been studying everything turkey related – brine, dry rub, defrosting, infusion, best cooking methods, pans, racks, twine, spatchcock, voodoo and Reiki. I’m kidding about the spatchcock – I’m afraid to send him down that rabbit hole. OK I just whispered spatchcock with no explanation and now we wait…

He purchased the first turkey last Friday. It was frozen from the upscale market that we prefer to go to for meats and Brooklyn bread. Here’s a bio –

Chad – 1st Turkey

Born May 2, 2019, Lancaster, PA

Parents – Fred & Ethel

Siblings – Chelsea, Carlie, Christopher, Chet, Charlie, Chickie, Charlotte, Chuck & Zoe

Hobbies – Clucking, chasing breezes, looking for Da Vinci code clues under pebbles, Scrabble

Weight: 14.46 pounds

We have 13 people expected for Thanksgiving Dinner so it’s a little small but we can make it work. Chad was the largest organic bird in the bin.

Three days and 17 hours of additional turkey studies later….

The hubs decided yesterday that there needed to be another turkey option and he went to the even more upscale Italian market. Second turkey bio –

Antonio – 2nd Turkey

Born – June 1, 2019, Brooklyn, NY

Parents – Tony & Maria

Siblings – Little Tony, Anthony, Ant, Tina, Marie, Guido, Giovanni (Gio), Angela & Joey

Hobbies: Stick ball, poker, making pasta with Nonna and frequenting the Bada Bing Club!

Weight: 12.67 pounds

I’m going to be honest and say I have no idea why a second turkey was required. Antonio is currently in the freezer and he’s not talking. For the record I have my own idea of the ideal turkey (one that comes prepared). Ideal turkey bio –

Nick – Ideal Bird

Born – January 20, 2019

Parents – Tom & Sheila, Backyard in Philly

Siblings – Carson, Donovan, Randall, Michael, Vick & Jim

Hobbies: Cheese steak connoisseur, E-A-G-L-E-S!!! fan, fly fishing, snorts butter by the pound and deals hardcore whoop ass in bar brawls on South Street.

Weight: 16.43 pounds

Whatever you celebrate may it be happy, with plenty of reasons to be thankful.

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.

 

 

White Tower View

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White Tower View

When I was a teenager I spent several months living in an all female group home. The ages ranged from 15 to 65 and anyone that was within childbearing age was taken to the gynecologist and put on birth control. It was explained as a way to keep everyone on a regular cycle and minimize mood swings. I didn’t fight it and went on the pill like most of the other residents.

For the next fifteen years I took birth control pills, the lowest dose at the time (ON777). My menstrual cycle was consistent, nothing more than a minor inconvenience. Not painful like some of my friends and the pills didn’t seem to cause any side effects. When I became sexually active, I was grateful for their effectiveness. I went to Planned Parenthood for my annual exam and purchased my birth control pills through them at a discount until my late 20s.

I never had a bad experience. The place was clean, staff was professional and no one shouted “whore” as I made my way into the clinic. Never once did anyone try to sell me on an abortion, I never needed one thanks to those little pills. I had access to effective healthcare, physical and financial accessibility, without which, I could have had a different outcome.

When I got to my early 30s I was starting to get concerned about the long term effects of birth control pills. I decided to give my body a break and go off of them. I discussed this with my long term boyfriend. By this time I had a good job and I owned my own home. My guy was doing well and we were in love, 5 years into our relationship. We were pretty relaxed about the possibility of becoming pregnant and let the universe guide us. We eventually got pregnant….I say we because I don’t know any female that has gotten pregnant on her own (an immaculate conception is pretty rare). We decided it would be a good time to get married and have a kid.

We got married and the pregnancy was going well until 39 weeks in. I felt a dull ache behind my left knee. Turns out I had a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which can become fatal if a blood clot breaks away and goes to your heart/lungs/brain, scary stuff. I was fortunate to be within 3 miles of a trauma center hospital. A retractable filter was inserted through my jugular vein and was placed below my heart and lungs to break up any potential killer clots. The fact that I’m typing this lets you know it worked.

It turned into a fairly dramatic birth including me being induced, 5 hours of pushing and a sideways baby that wasn’t budging (I’m happy to say he’s become much more compliant since then). Eventually it was determined that I needed to have a cesarean section. Two weeks later, the retractable filter was removed and I was put on blood thinners for 6 months. I had all kinds of terrible reactions to the medication which caused me to have numerous tests for Lupus, MS and enough blood draws to satiate an army of vampires. It was rough and we didn’t plan to have another child.

Because of the blood clot issue I could not go on BC pills or have any kind of hormone based birth control. IUDs freaked me out, I heard too many horror stories. So our options were a diaphragm, condoms or pull out. We failed at those options and I got pregnant soon after our son’s first birthday. When I told my husband I was pregnant he said – “congratulations, are you sure you want to go through with this?”

It was a fair question given the unexpected complications of my first pregnancy. My husband was traveling internationally on a frequent basis. Most of my pregnancy would be spent with a toddler and no local family, just a handful of friends that I made in the 6 months since we moved. I didn’t hesitate though, I wanted to go through with the pregnancy.

My gyno had become very close with me since the birth of my son. The kind of closeness that comes from a near death experience. I could see the concern on her sweet face when I went in to see her to have the pregnancy confirmed. She contacted the hematologist and gave me the name of a good perinatologist, I was going to be closely monitored.

I did the best I could to not focus on what could happen. My biggest fear was driving or being alone in the house with my son and having a pulmonary embolism or a brain aneurysm, these were not far fetched concerns. I kept thinking of Steel Magnolias when  Shelby dies while making dinner with her young son crying next to her body. The possibility was a shadow throughout my pregnancy.

Six and a half months into the pregnancy I felt that familiar dull ache behind my knee again. I called my gyno she asked me to meet her at the hospital.  Sure enough I had a clot, not a monster DVT like the first time, but a clot which could have been fatal to me or my baby girl. I was put on a heparin drip and remained inpatient for a week. When I was sent home I was given medicine that I needed to inject into my pregnant belly twice a day for the remainder of my pregnancy.

My gyno and my hematologist were getting twitchy. I could see fear in their eyes with every interaction, I was a ticking time bomb. I told my gyno that I wanted a tubal ligation after the baby was born and I could hear her exhale as she expressed gratitude over my choice. To be clear, my husband was also onboard with that and he respected the fact that ultimately it was my decision.

This time I had a planned cesarean and the now familiar retractable filter was inserted just prior to that. They decided to do a c-section at 35w6d and I got my tubal ligation immediately after. Two weeks later the retractable filter was removed followed by a year of blood thinners and more blood draws, so many blood draws. I went to a blood clinic at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Jersey to see if there was a genetic reason for my issue. After more tests and many more blood samples it was determined to be pregnancy related and having no plans for further pregnancies, I was released from care.

I was fortunate to have two healthy babies, now teenagers. I had a caring partner with both pregnancies. I had assistance with child care when I had to go to the hospital. I had good health insurance. I had a vehicle to get myself to the necessary appointments. I had money to pay for gas, pay for a sitter, pay co-payments, I had a network of support. I also lived within reasonable proximity to excellent reproductive healthcare.

What if I couldn’t get birth control as a young woman? What if there was no clinic, no sliding-scale fee, no access? What if I was a woman of color? Would my seemingly minor medical complaints have been taken seriously? Would that dull ache get the attention it deserved? Or would I just be another sad anonymous number in a case study?

I understand how the pro-life movement can seem like the high moral ground when you are looking down from an ivory tower. You can’t see deep enough into the brush to see what is happening there so it simply blends into the background, it’s just scenery. I would ask you to take those long steps down and see what is happening outside of your limited view.

Have you ever gone with a 15 year old girl who was getting an abortion? I have, it was devastating. She made a mistake, she was so scared, just 15. I held her and cared for her and listened to her when she told me about the recurring nightmares of her unborn child. This was not an easy decision, she was gutted.

Have you ever seen the bruises of domestic violence on a pregnant woman? I have and I wanted to kill the guy. I threw a baby shower for a dear friend when we were both 20. She married her long term asshole of a boyfriend when she got pregnant. Fun fact – domestic violence often escalates during pregnancy. She got changed in front of me and her chest was covered in bruises. She and her baby eventually got out of that situation, it took a long time.

Have you known anyone who had a late term abortion? I knew someone who had a late term abortion. It was heartbreaking. A co-worker of mine found out that her fetus died in utero in her third trimester. She was given the choice to abort or wait for her body to naturally go into labor and deliver a stillborn baby. Can you imagine living with that trauma?

Do you know any females that have been raped in a manner which could have resulted in an unwanted pregnancy? I expect every hand to be raised at this one. Has the #MeToo movement taught us anything? Sexual violence and molestation is rampant – at work, in the military, college campuses, church, school, pretty much everywhere including home for some unfortunate victims. These women should go to jail if they abort an unwanted zygote? Should they be denied a morning after pill? What if the trauma has them so horrified that it takes them a few weeks to come to terms with the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy? What if the victim is also beaten badly during the rape and is in a coma – does she get a f*cking pass then?

We all have strong feelings about this topic and I’m not trying to isolate anyone, truly I am not. I’ve seen some horrible stuff up close and in person. My own personal experiences and those of people close to me have helped to form my opinions and I’m sure the same is true for you. There is a lot of gray area for me and in the end I always circle back to individual choice. I can’t know the fine print details of each individual situation. I’m not a medical professional, psychologist or social worker. I’m not pro-abortion, I’m pro-choice.

 

 

 

On the Path…

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On the Path…

Sometimes you find yourself on a path and you have no idea how you got there. Is this the beginning, the middle or the end? There’s no map. It isn’t a path you chose, it was chosen for you. You don’t know the length, topography, the fitness required to complete it…hell you don’t know the destination and yet, here you are.

There are no trail markers to assist, no consistent guide. You observe, look for tripping hazards, avoid the pitfalls when you see them. You try to adapt to the ever changing conditions, not knowing how long you will be here or where it ends. You have to adapt, try and enjoy the path when you can, take deep breaths, look around, it feels lonely. You are isolated, afraid, desperate. Every so often you hear a friendly voice nudging you along…mostly though, you are on your own and you need to make peace with that.