Cupcakes, percocet and Wanda Sykes


My days have blurred together. I know it’s Monday, but have no idea what the date is. I’ve been in a percocet haze for the last six days. It makes my head feel swimmy. Six days ago I had minor back surgery due to a fall on black ice earlier this year in January. After months of going to the chiropractor, doing physical therapy, acupuncture and massage, I finally got an MRI done, which revealed I had chipped a disc between my L5 and S1, and the piece that broke off was lodged somewhere it’s not supposed to be and crushing my sciatic nerve. I had no choice but to have surgery to fix the problem if I ever wanted to be pain free again and return to my normal life of yoga, running, and cardio. All my surgeon had to do was make a 1 ½ inch incision, pull back my muscle, remove the broken chip and cleanup my disc where it broke off. Piece. Of. Cake.

Back surgery. I was terrified. There are so many nerves. So many risks. I was afraid I’d wake up from the surgery and be a paraplegic. This is a place my mind often goes to automatically: worst case scenario. But my neurosurgeon assured me “I’m going to take very good care of you,” and held my hand before I went into surgery, and when I came out. And he was right, he did.

Sporting my sexy scrubs before surgery.

My days since my surgery have been filled with percoset induced naps, marathons of the Golden Girls and Gilmore Girls, books and magazines. Each day, I try to walk a little farther than the day before. I have a plastic pedometer from Walgreens that I’ve strapped to the waistband of my pants to track my steps. I’m so glad I have this to feed my competitive nature. Early on, I had one day where I only took 100 steps. Yesterday, I walked 1,460 steps. Today, I’m up to 1,064 and I’ve only been awake four hours. Progress!

My first venture outside post-op

I’m looking at this down time as a gift to rest, something I haven’t been able to do much of lately. I have no schedule, no agenda, no appointments, no meetings to attend, or projects to work on. I’m learning to be happy doing nothing. However, I hit a bit of a low point yesterday when I took a selfie of my bun, yes my bun, and posted it on Instagram. I got a little bored, so I put my hair up in a bun for the first time and wanted to share my achievement during this growing out phase of my hair. After that, I watched Wanda Sykes’ standup comedy routine and ate ice cream out of the jar in bed. It was pretty fantastic. Even though I’m a Type A personality and have a hard time doing nothing, I’m pretty good at being a patient. I’ve had a lot of practice with it.

Bun selfie.

I got sick a lot as a kid. Flu, viruses, colds, even pneumonia. I was in kindergarten or first grade when I got hit with pneumonia. I remember feeling like I was walking through a swimming pool of water every day, my body weak and heavy. I remember getting x-rays taken and putting on a heavy, gray apron over my clothing. I was wearing a royal blue short-sleeve blouse with white elephants. The vest felt heavy like lead. I liked the feeling of this extra weight against my body, like I was wearing a suit of armor to protect me. I think I was sick for a week.

I never minded being home sick from school. I watched Scooby Doo and colored in the new coloring books my mom stopped to get me at the drugstore on the way home from the doctor. I usually got a fresh pack of crayons to go with it. I looked forward to taking my medicine, swallowing spoonfuls of thick pink liquid that smelled, looked, and tasted like bubble gum. My mom made me hot chocolate from the Swiss Miss packets and added a fluffy cloud of whipped cream. She served it in my favorite Garfield mug. Every morning she made me cinnamon toast with the perfect ratio of sugar to butter. I still make that for myself whenever I’m sick.

I’ve always been a good patient. I didn’t complain, sulk or wish I were in school. I liked being home watching cartoons, coloring, eating lunch with my mom. I remember when I got the flu in 4th grade, I missed a week of school. I watched Benji movies and felt a tightness in my throat whenever he encountered danger as he struggled to find his way back home. My mom brought our black and white TV from the kitchen to my bedroom and set it up on a TV dinner table so I could watch TV in bed. I felt like a princess. She checked on me throughout the day bringing me something yummy to eat each time: red Jell-O, a can of ginger ale with a straw, and cupcakes—always cupcakes. They were the kind you get from the grocery store that come in packs of six. Vanilla with whipped frosting that made your teeth turn colors.

I ignored all homework. My best friend Kimmy brought my homework assignments to me. I didn’t do all of them because I was too tired, but also because I had better things to do like watch Benji movies and eat cupcakes. That Monday when I finally returned to school, my teacher, Mrs. Perrault, made me take all the quizzes I missed all at once. I still joke today that she was the toughest teacher I had. She loaded us up with homework every night in every subject. I got in trouble once for rolling my eyes and sighing audibly when she added yet another assignment to our homework. She seemed to take turns embarrassing her students in front of the class. I think she enjoyed it. Anyway, I got an F on my quiz on the 13 colonies. (I was never one for history.) My score was somewhere in the 40s I think. I just remember her red pen marks slashing through my answers—and non-answers—on the paper. She also gave me a quiz on the book we were supposed to be reading: “Dear Mr. Henry.” I hated that book and of course didn’t keep up with my reading while I was out sick because, you know, Benji. I made up answers to most of the questions.

Even as a kid I noticed that I got sick a lot more than the other kids at school. I was always fascinated by my classmates who finished the school year with perfect attendance. I should have gotten an award for most days missed from school.

I’ve always been the type of person who gets diagnosed with rare things. I once had a rheumatologist send me down the hallway to her colleague’s office, a dermatologist, so he could take a picture of my hands. She had just diagnosed me with aquagenic wrinkling of the palms, a rare condition that causes the skin on palms to wrinkle more than normal after being submerged in water. She also telephoned her daughter, a med student, to swing by her office so she could witness this rare occurrence. I wonder if my hands are in some medical journal I don’t know about.

Even this thing with my back. So random. I fell stepping out of my husband’s 4Runner. My foot hit black ice and I fell forward. Hard. I couldn’t just walk away with bruised knees and an aching back. Nope. I had to have surgery. I’m complex like that.

We like to think of our bodies as indestructible, at least I do. But we’re actually very fragile beings. Our bodies are kind of like cars. Every once and a while, something breaks, and we need to go in for a tune up. And sometimes that tune up is longer and more complex than we had expected. So I’m going to sink in to what is, fluff my pillows, take as many naps as I need, eat as many cupcakes as I want, and trust that my body will let me know when it’s time to do more. Now excuse me, the Young & the Restless is coming on in five minutes. …

Cupcakes + Gilmore Girls = best medicine

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False alarm

Not pregnant.

It sounds so harsh, cold, direct, without feeling.

Can’t the makers of pregnancy tests come up with better language—something less clinical? Instead of a plus or minus sign or one pink line or two, there should be a happy face or sad face, like an emoji, a symbol that better captures the mood of the occasion. Instead, we’re given: pregnant or not pregnant.

I remember a friend telling me last year how trying to get pregnant is like a roller coaster. Now I get it.

I was so sure I was pregnant this time. I had the classic symptoms, all of which mimicked the same symptoms I had the first time I was pregnant. It’s amazing how the body can trick the mind, the heart.

I had everything planned out. I’d announce the results to my husband on his birthday. What a gift. I’d share the news with my parents at Thanksgiving, maybe at the dinner table after my dad says grace and we’re all still holding hands.

Monday morning, as I was taking the pregnancy test out of its pink foil wrapper, my heart was pounding. It was 4:30 a.m. I could not sleep. When I saw a streak of red blood on the toilet paper, my heart sank. I had already set the timer on my iPhone. Three minutes. I brushed my teeth while standing over the test, sitting on the edge of the bathtub, and wishing that the pink double lines would appear in the window. Within seconds, a single line popped up. First Response wasted no time delivering the news to me. False alarm.

I slipped the test back in its wrapper and shoved it in the garbage under last night’s dinner scraps and half-torn junk mail. No tears came. I was just angry. Suddenly, I felt heavy. Before this morning, I felt lighter.

Life felt different the last few days as I carried around this hope, trying to stay positive. Andrew and I were both hopeful and certain. We laughed more. Something good awaited us.

The night before I was ironing clothes in our living room while Andrew was watching a marathon of “The Empire Strikes Back.” What if everything starts falling into place? I asked him. Smiling, he glanced over at me. I saw hope and excitement in his face.

I thought this was our something good.

That Monday morning I grabbed my notebook and laid down on the couch with my favorite gray blanket, soft like a lamb’s ear. In that moment, I just needed comfort. The only sound was our wooden chimes on the balcony rhythmically clinking together. I laid on the couch, emptying my mind into my notebook. It was 5:20 a.m. and still dark outside. The street light cast its amber glow on the parking lot, and I sat there contemplating my future, trying to make sense of it all, hoping I wasn’t going to break today.

I decided to go for a run. The moment my feet hit the sidewalk tears streamed down my face as I ran into the darkness and the quiet of the early morning. I didn’t feel like I was running to anything; instead, I was running away.

It takes an ocean not to break. – The National

Instead of a single line, or minus, or “not pregnant” pregnancy tests should say something like “I’m sorry” or “It’ll be OK.” And for those who don’t want to get pregnant, they can buy a different line of pregnancy tests that says: “Congrats, you’re not pregnant!”

Even my dog Molly was convinced I was pregnant. She was very clingy this past week, snuggling next to me on the couch, which she hasn’t done in months. When I was pregnant the first time, she constantly laid her head in my lap. Then I read that animals sense when you’re pregnant, and they like to snuggle up to you because your body temperature rises. Looking back, maybe it was just the cooler temps that drew her back to snuggling on the couch with me.

Held on to hope like a noose, like a rope. – The Lumineers

I told Andrew the other night that I cannot take anymore disappointments this year. That if one more bad thing happens, it’s going to crush me. My heart won’t survive it. I wondered how I was going to get through the rest of the week. But then, your best friend writes a post that speaks directly to what you’ve been feeling; a coworker sits with you as you cry at your desk with tissues bawled up in your fist because you just can’t hold it in anymore; your husband brings home Chinese takeout, you hold hands at the table and then curl up on the couch together and watch “Say Anything,” holding onto each other tight; you make cupcakes for your husband’s birthday, share a delicious meal and watch him make a wish; over a four-hour brunch your best friend splits with you a warm cinnamon roll drizzled in caramel and you laugh and cry and lift each other up. Tuesday bleeds into Wednesday, into Thursday, into Friday and you got through it somehow. All of these things, Addison says, are carrying you to the healing.
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In the last couple of weeks, I felt like I had finally made peace with our loss. I surrendered and accepted that this was where I was at. And I was honestly OK with it, whatever the future held.

Every single day last week, people kept telling me how beautiful I looked. Friends, colleagues, even complete strangers. I thought maybe I had pregnancy glow and people could see it. Now I realize what people saw in me was contentment.

I woke up today to cooler morning temperatures. I pulled back the curtains in our bedroom and let the light shine in. I walked throughout our house and threw open every window and breathed in fall. It’s a new week, a new month, a new season, and I’m coming home to peace.

One day you’ll awaken to discover your life is all you wanted and hoped it would be. … You’ll wake up and notice that your past is just as it needed to be. You’ll see where you are today is good. You’ll notice that you laugh a lot, cry a lot, smile a lot.

You’ll look at tomorrow with peace, faith, and hope—knowing that while you cannot control some of what life does, you have possibilities and powers in any circumstance life might bring. The struggle you have lived with for so many years, the struggle in your heart, has disappeared. 

— Melody Beattie, from “Journey to the Heart”