After

Today is day 9. There’s a boa constrictor wrapped around my neck, and the muscles are tight around my cervical spine. Do I feel better than last Saturday? I’m going to say yes. Todd said I’d forget the pain at some point, and I do think he’s right. Last Saturday I was 24 hours into recovery and I remember thinking I f**king hate this. Never again.

I went in for surgery on Friday the 22nd at 6:30 a.m. I was back in pre-op in no time and my nurse, Stephanie, was kind and patient and introduced me to Buffy, the venipuncture slayer. Seriously, Buffy made me nervous at first, the way she kept slapping at the veins on my wrist while Stephanie collected the exact same data I’d given three different people by phone in the last seven days. This was probably a lame attempt to distract me from Buffy’s overtures, but Buffy’s tapping and slapping left me feeling quite unconfident in her abilities.

I have big veins. I mean big, juicy veins that aren’t difficult to tap. Was she blind? Unsure? A trainee? OMG. Anyway, she popped that IV in like a mosquito and Stephanie turned around and said, wow, you didn’t even flinch. And Let Me Tell You. A week later and you still can’t see where that IV was. Buffy IS the Boss.

A minute later this man who appeared to be in his late 50s popped into my room and said, “boo!” And of course, I’m like, WTF? Who is this dude? He warmly introduced himself as my anesthesiologist, and assured me he’s done so many of these, for 500- er- he’s even put dinosaurs to sleep. He also remarked that I looked like a deer in the headlights. My neuroses clearly is not easy to conceal. Buffy started cleansing my neck until it turned beet red and apparently a reaction ensued, so the two of them decided I’d had enough. He told me he could give me something to relax me, but only after I’d spoken with the PA or the surgeon or both.

Documents to sign, giving them permission to cut me open, put me to sleep, do whatever they do to save your life, etc. And then Todd was brought back, who is always full of funny anecdotes that AREN’T funny when your nerves are as bad as mine.

I laid in the bed with a pillow behind my head for support, because the position itself was painful as always. I was ready a full hour before my surgery was scheduled and trying not to flip out. I remembered this pain I was feeling, and considered that it would be gone when I woke up again. Todd snapped a photo of me in the bed for my mom, so I gave my best bitch face that I knew would get a giggle from her (she knows me well). I’m so NOT a good patient. I’m better than I used to be, but some things go like teaching an old dog new tricks.

The neuro-technologist (because I don’t remember her exact title) came in to discuss the surgery with me, starting with the standard questions. I told her my name, and the surgery I’m having – breast implants. She stopped reading my chart and stared at me momentarily, and then back to the chart. I gave it a beat or two more and said, I’m just kidding. I’m having two discs replaced in my cervical spine. I needed the break more than she did obviously, but she took it in stride and said that’s never happened before, laughed a little while I clarified the REAL surgery and then I secretly prayed she wouldn’t hurt me while I was knocked out. Her job is to test my nerve conduction during the surgery to make sure all is well. And I have the bruises on both arms and one shoulder to show for it. But they don’t hurt.

The PA came in and explained the surgery, went over recovery procedures and medications, etc. and then Dr. Dinosaur returned with his vial of nirvana and that hit me so fast I said, whooooaaaa. And then it was time to go.

Second time for me in an OR, and it’s always surreal. Lots of movement and faceless people, and then there’s the mask over your face and then suddenly I’m coughing like a drowning victim. I’m assuming that was the moment I was extubated. Dr. Dinosaur placed a hand on my shoulder and told me to relax.

Todd said the surgery lasted 2 and a half hours, during which he got a very important call I will share in a later post. I started the waking process in the PACU, where my right arm felt like Grendel was pulling it out of its socket and my legs felt like they were disconnecting from my body. My new nurse, Sharon, asked me my pain level. NINE. Dilaudid to the rescue. I have no idea of time passing, but I felt more lucid by the time we hit a five. She refused to give me more because she thought I stopped breathing several times (an alarm would sound), until I assured her I am NOT sleeping and that it’s my MO to hold my breath when pain is really intense. So, we spent the next several hours with her reminding me to breathe through it or else. (No more pain meds.)

I can’t say enough about my experience at this hospital*. Everyone was very caring, gentle, and they didn’t push me out like we had experienced with Todd’s surgery last summer at an affiliated hospital. They did encourage me to move to a “chair” and out of the bed, where I turned white and felt a violent wave of nausea that turned out to be gas. I guess burping is a side effect of anesthesia? Sharon mentioned I hadn’t been to the bathroom since awakening, and I told her that I’ve actually had to go since I woke up, but was afraid to ask. (Bad patients don’t like bed pans.) So Tara assisted me to the bathroom – I chose to walk – and informed me she had to come in with me. I didn’t give a rat’s ass who was in there with me.

Funny how life and maturity changes you, and your views on modesty. I was ready to go afterward, and the two nurses helped me dress (but kept Todd outside the curtain AS IF he’d never seen his wife naked before) and I was soon being wheeled to the curb by a nice man who said he was getting over pneumonia, which seemed wrong on some level but I was in no position to argue with anyone.

The ride home was uneventful and not painful. And the rest of Friday was lost to fits of sleep and well wishes, one son who announced that I looked like shit, and a phone call from Veruca who had been terribly worried. I took one Oxycontin that night, and continued to feel awful until the next morning, when I threw up. I DO NOT do narcotics. So, my recovery this week has been punctuated by frequent walks around the house, belching, muscle relaxers, a steroid for alleviating swallowing issues, and extra strength Tylenol.

I’ve been out twice – once with mom driving me to the pharmacy and grocery store in my collar of shame that scared small children; and yesterday to the bank where one of the tellers exclaimed, “holy shit!” which made my day and I burst out laughing.

It’s day 9. I’m still waking in some significant neck pain, but the pain my upper back and shoulders and right arm is all but gone. I understand that some pain will linger as the nerves reassert themselves under these new conditions. I had this pain in my right elbow (painful even to the touch) that was terrible for months that I was treating as tennis elbow, though nothing helped. I woke up last Friday and it WAS GONE.

I still feel like someone has their hands wrapped around my throat. I try to be patient, but it’s annoying and uncomfortable, and causes me nausea. I can’t bend over, as it puts pressure against my throat. I can’t look directly down. I’m still getting tired easily.

But, I did it. This is the After. And every day the After is getting better. I can swim after my 6-week post-op, when summer will be more than half over, but I’m doing it. And I made Todd measure me, because the neurosurgeon said the discs he implanted are going to stretch my neck a bit, which is causing the muscles around it to stretch and strain. I gained an INCH. I am an INCH taller than I was last Friday. How about that?

 

*University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center

**I cannot take full credit for the breast implant joke. Todd made a remark while we were waiting in pre-op that “at least you’re not getting breast implants.” Which I still don’t know why he thought was funny, but when the neuro person came in, the procedure just flew out of my mouth. And Todd looked at me appalled, that I’d stolen his joke that not 10 minutes before I refused to laugh at.

 

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Destination Syracuse : Bowling, Irish Cannonballs, and Flying Monkeys

Presently in surgery. Please enjoy this ramshackle post in my absence.

Another road trip. Another bowling tournament. We stayed at the Genesee Grand Hotel. It was lovely: a beautiful lobby, Koi pond, and revolving doors, which I always use whenever they present themselves.  Except when I tried to drag my suitcase in with me. That made things a little tight, if not awkward, but thankfully no one was looking. Except Todd, who is well used to my shenanigans.

Our room was small but comfortable, and the bathroom was beautifully tiled in sparkling marble. We dropped our bags and changed clothes, and headed over to the convention center (where the National Bowling Tournament was) to check in. Apparently there was an issue about Todd – either whose membership number was in question and/or he wasn’t on the team roster. This looked to me like another one of those clusterfuck-type situations, and so I looked at my loving husband and asked him why he failed to mention this snafu to me.

(I was only mildly pissed that we might have yet another problem with something, because it’s always something, and I was still seething over the fact that he had no idea what times he was bowling until I asked him to find out. And it turned out that the expected usual 8 a.m. bowling times were instead 11 a.m. Tuesday and 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, putting us on the road quite well after dinner that night.)

We got it all straightened out, but not before the team captain came to rectify the situation and then Kathy wiped out on the escalator as we were leaving and thank God there were two men behind her to help her back up and she didn’t die. Seriously scared the bejesus out of me.

Todd and I ended up at The Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub for a late snack and beer. It’s the quintessential Irish Pub, all wood bar and carved back bar – the whole thing square-shaped with ample seating but two walls come into the center, lending it a very intimate arrangement. There is seating in the back of the restaurant, and a banquette with little cocktail tables and little stools for seating. Todd ordered a pint of Smithwick and I had Threes Brewing Logical Conclusion, which was a divinely citrusy IPA without the bitter back end. Ordered the Irish Charcuterie and Reuben Fritters (aka Irish Cannonballs); both were delicious and just the right amount of food for a late night bite.

Like any trip where we rush out the door, we forgot deodorant, my Tylenol Extra Strength tablets that are worth shit anyway, a jacket/hoodie/anything long-sleeved for the meat locker at the tournament and, most importantly, my meds. And this was so not the time to be without them for THREE days. I planned to be alcohol-free, but this horrific oversight was going to have to be remedied the only other way I know how. But – ya’ll’d be proud of me. I drank modestly, only at dinner, and only with food.

Day 2

The tournament. Teams. After a half hour or so of coffee in the cozy lobby, we get to the tournament and meet the crew. Everybody has to have their balls weighed. (Bowling balls, you fools.) Todd bought me a bright pink hoodie, and it was soon time to go find a seat in the stands and he went back to the waiting area. The oiling machines are like giant Roombas, except that instead of picking up dirt they oil the lanes. And then… the music started.

Imagine Dragons, Whatever It Takes… and the bowling teams start strutting out onto the floor in front of the lanes in a single file, and it was like we were at the fucking World Cup and these athletes were rock stars. Some of them were mouthing the words of the song, some were wearing sunglasses, some were waving their fist, … one guy was waving his bowling ball (in the sack) over his head, which seemed a little dangerous to me. Man down! Before the tournament would even start.

After the tournament everybody decided they wanted to go to Dinosaur BBQ, though all I really wanted was a salad. There were 9 of us and parking was a bear. We sat at three separate tables and, it turned out, one check.  The waitress sat my glass down on the table with her fingers inside it. When we ordered, I suggested Betty go first, and the waitress told me to go first. Mildly shocked at the Rude.

We all parted ways afterward, heading back to our hotels for a nap. I put on my collar of shame (as instructed to relieve pain I’m currently having) and left it on to enter the hotel and noticed how quickly the bellman jumped to open the door for me. Which made me feel alternately guilty and ridiculous.

Todd and I decided to go to the Yellow Brick Road Casino, in a little town called Chittenango where – it so happens – the author of the Wizard of Oz was born. It was small but whimsically fun… the Flying Monkey Bar had flying monkeys dangling from the ceiling. And the slots were paying out for Todd. I was being obstinently patient while he moved from one machine to another, until I hit a wall after 10 with no food in my stomach and barely a sip of water all day.

We returned to Kitty Hoynes but were late to dinner – so that there was a limited bar menu and even more limited IPA selection. They were sold out of Logical Conclusion (so upset!) and then two more I ordered they were also out of. Asked the bartender, so what DO you have? And he disappeared to attend to other guests while I perused the draft menu, and … didn’t come back for a good 20 minutes. If not for the late hour, we very nearly walked out. Eventually we got him to warm up and he was ever so friendly and somewhat more attentive… which, by the way, is NOT the way it’s supposed to work with bartenders.

Day 3

In retrospect, I’m beginning to wonder if the New York attitude creeps this far north of the city. It was bizarre, how standoffish the service was, everywhere we went. Except for Mom’s Diner, where we went for breakfast Wednesday morning. A small little spot on the corner of a well-worn street, where you order at the counter and they bring your food to the table when it’s ready. The four folks there were warm and friendly and the food was great.

We killed time at Destiny USA – which does not sound like a monstrous shopping mall with 3 floors of shopping, dining, and play. With the trend of malls going down over time, this one seems to be holding its own.

Back to the convention center for singles and doubles. Another freezing cold event and this time I carried my blanket in with me. And I wasn’t the only one. We were scheduled to start at 2:30 but by 2:35 there were still bowlers from the morning roster still finishing up. Our group didn’t start until after 3, and all I could think of was how late we were going to get home.

This day’s fight song was The Champion by Carrie Underwood ft. Ludacris. It’s funny how they all walk in like these great badasses of bowling. I watched a little, got up a few times to stretch (the pain is intense at times and the only relief is movement), dove into my journal and wrote 5 pages, and then cracked open my newest book.*

We were finally on the road by 7. I was beyond stressed and fighting back a complete mental breakdown from lack of meds and off-the-charts anxiety that kept me awake every night, and pain that returned with a vengeance just in time for the five-hour ride home. But we did it. We made it home in FOUR hours and for the first time in my life I was never happier to see our old hometown’s name on a highway sign, even though it meant we were still an hour from home.

*My latest book: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry.  National Bestseller. Although I’m only 65 pages in, highly recommend.

Before

T-minus 18 hours and 55 minutes, as of this writing. I’ve had multiple phone calls from the hospital to update my information, my medications, my instructions, my expectations…. All of which are designed to help everyone else do their job while my anxiety tops charts unseen since the summer of ’13.

ICYMI: I’m having artificial cervical disc replacement of C5/6 and 6/7 tomorrow morning. I have inconsolable (I like this analogy) pain in my neck, shoulders, upper back, wrapping around my rotator cuffs, and radiating down both arms and hands from time to time. It has been previously thought I had carpal tunnel syndrome. I would like to suggest at this time that this is perhaps NOT the case at all. I am currently feeling a radiating ache down my right leg that affects the back of my knee and the entire calf muscle. Pain right now: Five. Anxiety: Seven.

But enough about that! Surgery is tomorrow, where they cut a one-to-two inch incision in the front of my neck and remove the damaged discs and pop in two new ones. Easy-peasy, right? I’d like to think so, but my anxiety is a demon sitting on my shoulder whispering all the thoughts I should not think. It didn’t help that the PA played me an animated video of the surgery while we waited for the surgeon, so that is an image that I go to bed with every night. It’s affecting my sleep. I think they should ask the patient if they want to see it, rather than just assume we do. Some of us don’t want to know. Just fix it.

In calmer moments, I remember the signs I’ve received that are meant to comfort me. I believe in a God who knows I have so much more to do and two children and a husband (who we all know is very independent but I know he can’t or won’t do it without me) who need me to be here. I have the most wonderful angels I know will be there to comfort and watch over me. Yeah, I’m not a little spiritual and maybe a bit nuts. But ya’ll love me that way, or you wouldn’t still be reading.

My aunt is, at this very moment, in her own surgery, on her back. She was not doing well yesterday, and mom suggested I call her and I said, what the hell do you think I’M going to be able to say to her? But call her I did, and she and I commiserated about our shared anxieties and physiological problems with pain meds stronger than ibuprofen, and realized we both had the same plan for the-day-before of ironing clothes that are piling up.

So, per my previous post:

We had last days of school. The Last Day was optional/an excused absence for those who didn’t go. Opac stayed home and slept until sometime after 12:30. Veruca went to school to see her bestie and they walked to McDonald’s after to have lunch together. This was huge, as she fully expected me to say no as I have in the past. It was even huge-r that her bestie was allowed to go. She is Mexican, and culturally speaking, her parents are very protective of her. She hasn’t been to our house in the 5 years that our girls have been best friends, and isn’t allowed to birthday parties. One of my coworkers, who is also Mexican, has told me of similar experiences with her mom and her personal freedom.

V missed her endo appointment thanks to traffic on a major route that left us sitting still for almost 20 minutes. Had to reschedule and went shopping instead (it was right there). I have to say that I enjoy a good trip to TJMaxx, but this day was absolutely the worst selection I have seen in years. The clothes looked like a bad cross-dresser’s delight, or maybe a Good Will store in Florida.

We went to Ulta and spent way too much on makeup for her, but I’m not sorry. She has vitiligo on her face, and we were shopping for a quality product that offered good blending coverage without an all-over foundation.

Pre-op appointment was uneventful. I’m assuming my CBC is good and I’m not pregnant since the surgery is proceeding as planned. I picked up my collar of shame on Monday morning before our road trip because they wanted me to have it before surgery. This is NOT the soft collar I thought I’d be wearing. It looks more like an instrument of torture, and it is not flattering to my face. My face looks like one of those bloated fish you see hanging from the ceiling of seafood restaurants. Can’t wait to selfie that look tomorrow.

Bestie and I went on a girls’ day out adventure with plenty of laughs and some shopping. We made verbal non-disclosure agreements, so I cannot say anything more than … we had so much fun. Sorry. What happens in Spencer’s, stays in Spencer’s.

Todd and I had a quiet 6-year anniversary. We bought the edging stones I wanted for our front gardens, almost all of which he placed for me and it looks great. I weeded a bit. We went out for a quick dinner at the local Mexican restaurant and sat outside on the deck in the beautiful weather with a margarita. Saw our lovely neighbors at the next table, because we’re a small town and everybody goes there. Came home and sat outside, burning citronella, had one more margarita, and decided to relieve my pain in the hot tub.

Todd and I went to Syracuse, New York for the National Bowling Tournament Monday and returned last night around 11 p.m. Working on a post for that – which I’ll schedule for release tomorrow.

See ya’ll After. Peace out.

 

 

 

What’s Happening Now

Sitting down at my laptop after a rather uneventful weekend. I removed someone’s used dental flosser from my keyboard (I know – WTF???) and cracked open a rather innocuous Corona.

Today’s pain scale: a definite 4. For now. And that’s what the beer is for. Pain meds don’t help, and nobody is prescribing anything stronger than Tylenol Extra Strength from here on out as we are now t-minus 2 weeks to open neck surgery. After I shared a pic of my MRI, one friend said something like, “wow. No wonder you drink.” And my first thought was, WTF? Really? Do I really sound like I drink a lot? Cause I really don’t drink as much as ya’ll think. I don’t have the stamina for all that alcohol anymore, which should have become quite clear after last summer’s soiree with the Amish Outlaws and Todd and my much younger, two-wooden-legs brother.

Anyway. I haven’t been drinking much. I decided to lay off the alcohol after the definitive, diagnostic pictures of my cervical spine, and focus on just healthy eating and 30 minutes a day on the treadmill. However, the Neph laundry debacle on Veruca’s birthday led my mom to mixing Metropolitans for the two of us and my martini glass was never empty for the better part of three hours. At that point I think the pain was either gone, or completely intoxicated itself.

So, surgery. Got all the informational papers yesterday. Pre-op PE and bloodwork. MRSA swab. I have to shower with this special soap the day and night before, and then again in the morning BEFORE DAWN since I have to be at the hospital at 6:30 a.m. This whole thing is creating intense anxiety. The pain I’m having is reason enough to go through with it, but it’s also giving me other worries I won’t verbalize with anyone.

Todd and I had dinner plans with friends last weekend and chatted the whole way there … we both have a lot of potential changes ahead of us… until we dove into surgery conversation and he expressed the anxiety it causes him. And I’m in tears, because I’m remembering my last trip to the hospital and I’m afraid this experience is going to rip that wound wide open. And I couldn’t articulate that in our conversation with less than 30 minutes before our arrival at our friends’ house. And this is the first time in nearly 5 years that I’m feeling any emotion at all about that.

So anyway. The next week and a half are filled with the last days of school, summer workouts, an endocrinologist appointment, haircuts, a pre-op appointment, an out of town trip, my last two work days, and one raucous girls’ day out with my bestie. These are the days BEFORE.

We are now here. The Before Surgery. A long list of stuff I have to get done Before. Before my neck is cut open, Before I am knocked out for 2 or 3 hours, Before I go through the recovery. I want to clean the house. I want clean floors, clean pets, clean bathrooms, clean clothes, and a clean bed. I want to edge and weed my gardens, maybe plant some new things, mulch. I want to paint the shutters on the house. I want to clean out drawers and closets. It’s like nesting, only I come home with new discs instead of a new baby.

***********

Meanwhile, everything and anything has decided that Mercury is in retrograde – or, for all you not-into-astrology folks – the period of time every so often when shit either breaks or stops working. LIKE my car.

You know the one – that was brand new a year ago. That has already had – count them – FOUR vacations at the dealership in 12 months. This time, while we were safely inside our friends’ house having a lovely dinner during the rain showers, the car decided it wanted its windows down. We come outside and there’s the windows. Down. And the inside of the doors saturated. And the driver’s seat.

The next day the touch screen was completely black. No GPS, no Sync, nothing. This happened twice before, but it magically fixed itself before we were able to take it in.

On Thursday the toilet in the staff bathroom was bubbling and stopped flushing. And then the other two bathrooms had the same thing happen, and THEN someone from one of the offices downstairs said there was water coming through the ceiling, through the light panels. And apparently a bucket or two wasn’t going to do the job.

That was almost as exciting as the day the fire alarm went off at the other office I work in occasionally, which turned out to be a false alarm. Regardless, it was an entirely new experience for me.

***********

Work is going well. Some days are stressful. Those are the busy days where it’s suddenly 6 o’clock and you have no idea what happened to the last 5 hours. Some days are quiet enough until just after 5. Same thing happens on Fridays about an hour before we close. It’s like people panic when the night/weekend comes. Which is crazy to me, because there’s always somewhere you can take your sick child on any day of the week at any time. When my 17-year-old was a baby, we had two choices… call the doctor, or go to the ER. Urgent care wasn’t an option then.

In one week, I got hollered at by some woman who insisted she’d been on hold for 45 minutes with the nurses’ line; hollered at by a mother whose 4-week-old had a stuffy nose who wouldn’t accept any answer without the word “appointment” in it; and screamed at by another mom who needed physicals for her 3 kids in less than a month so they wouldn’t miss out on playing sports. Word to the wise: You can’t get a well visit in under 3 months in MOST practices. The latter two graced the start of two different days.

**********

Out of recent experiences, I have these words of wisdom: DO NOT, under any circumstances, blame the scheduler for lack of immediate appointments. Your 10-minute tirade is not going to change the reality that There Are No Appointments.

Do NOT under any circumstances, ream out the person on the other end of the phone. We are here to help, we’re not here to say no, but we also can’t break standard protocol.

The first appointments to go are always the ones after 3:30 p.m.  If that’s what you want, you have to schedule at least 3 months in advance.

Again, please do not holler at the scheduler that you cannot take off work and/or will not pull your child out of school “just” for a well visit. You are not the first parent to ever have to work it out, and you won’t be the last. As for the 10-minute tirade, see above.

Above all, remember that we are here to do a job and to help. We aren’t here to make your life more difficult. But you have to do your part too.

The End

 

Where I’ve Been: The Good, the Bad, The Ugly

I’ve been in a terrible way for several weeks. I think my tolerance meter is broken. This is a very strange condition – I have two discs pressing against my spinal cord – it’s not a condition with the same symptoms every day, or pain in the same places every day. Some days I feel almost normal, for a little while, and then I take a long-enough ride in the car and suddenly I want to rip all four of my limbs off. Some days pain level is a 2, and then others we toy around with a 5 and then there’s the really fun 8.

So I’m pretty good about managing this at work. I had a day last week where the pain was really minimal. Then Friday was a bear. I’d like to think no one knew. Well, except for one of my coworkers who asked me twice how I was. So maybe not so convincing??

I’d say, outside of work my tolerance for people is at an all-time low. I went to the grocery store on Memorial Day, and YES I know that’s a bad idea under any circumstances, but someone had to go and Todd took the drive to pick up Veruca for me. I was so stabby by the time I left, it’s a miracle no one got hurt.

I’ve done a “cleanse” on Facebook – eliminating those I either don’t really know, have never met in person, have zero exchanges with, or whose point of view is raising my blood pressure. I gave it a modicum of thought. I eliminated about 25 people.

The nail in the coffin: one of them posting the Obama making out with another man meme. And this is not because I love Obama. It’s because there is absolutely no place for photoshopped BS like this anywhere, of anyone. What purpose does it serve? And especially coming from someone who regularly expresses Christian values on FB, someone who is my elder, who I’ve always had respect for. I was so very, VERY disappointed.

I’m feeling oversensitive too. Two different people made comments that sounded like flat out Judgements, and it pissed me off. They’re still friends, because I can’t overlook the fact that it might be me being silly.

Meanwhile, tolerance meter broke I think sometime after Neph returned a couple of weekends in a row. He does his laundry here. Except that he “forgets” to use “quick wash” and does his laundry on the longest setting he can find – the timer on the washer was an hour and 38 minutes. FOR ONE LOAD. He was here all day while my mom and I took V shopping on her birthday and when we got home nearly 7 hours later he had only started one load. Like a true mother, I looked at him and said, what the HELL have you been doing here all day??

Seriously, in two days he managed to drop the jug of iced tea on the counter where it exploded everywhere, stepped on a Tide Pod that fell out of his hoodie onto the kitchen floor (the floor was then slick with soapy film), clogged the downstairs toilet, and left his dirty laundry scattered from white trash bags next to his car in the driveway on the side facing the street.

Anyway, V turned 13 and promptly launched into a hormonal torrent that felt like a drive-by shooting. One, because she was literally loving on me one minute and snapping at me the next, and as you can see from above… I’m already hanging by a thread. Although I keep having flashbacks to my own teen years when my mom would just laugh at me… and wondering if that was the coping method she chose or if she was just high. Either way, I’m kind of keeping my distance when that look enters her eyes.

So mom and I took her birthday shopping, which was great fun and even I got some new stuff and we had lunch in the food court so that all three of us could have different things. We stopped at Wegmans for the cakes. (Yes, cakeS. Because one isn’t enough for the big 13.)

Oliver got his teeth cleaned and the vet kept him overnight. I was worried sick over him the entire time. He had one extraction and was on those liquid antibiotics that smell like lighter fluid and taste even worse (though I really have no idea what lighter fluid tastes like but one can only guess from the smell) and it was ugly every time I had to give it to him. There’d be this great dramatic gagging performance afterward.

So I turned 49. Todd and I went out to dinner to a lovely place on the water, where the food was good but the patio was infested with tiny spiders that were shooting webs from umbrella to umbrella and generally freaking all the ladies out. The music flowing from the bar was nice and I had two glasses of Evolution, an Oregon white blend that was lovely (highly recommended). We stopped at the casino for an hour or so and I lost 20 bucks. I’m not meant to gamble, so instead I went to the bar for a beer or two and sent a girlfriend a pic of one of my bad decisions.

Let’s see… what else? Both V and I had our annual routine blood work done, I scheduled my surgery for later this month, and turned down a full time job offer. Unfortunately for me, the job thing was an emotionally driven decision with some notes of practicality thrown in. It was, and continues to be thanks to the folks who want me there, a difficult thing to say no to.

My mom, God love her, asked me twice about getting a second opinion on my C5/6 and C6/7 discs impinging on my spinal cord and I curtly told her this last time that my condition has one of three options and offered to show her my MRI pics and that any other professional who sees them is not going to offer some other miracle because THERE ISN’T ONE. 1) Leave it alone and watch it progress until I’ve lost complete feeling in my arms and hands (and legs), translation: permanent nerve damage 2) anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) or 3) artificial disc replacement. I don’t post on Facebook about it because I don’t need any more well-meaning input. I’m already having borderline anxiety about surgery and everybody’s concern is NOT helping.

Todd has finished the semester and sweat his balls off at the college graduation, sending me selfies with sweat drops doodled on his face. We had a lovely dinner with friends last night where we were in the minority on politics but it was still a lively discussion and the food was delicious. Until I got a scallop lodged between my two back teeth (where I’m due to have a crown) and I’m sitting there at the table trying to discreetly pick it out until I finally gave up and asked the host if he had a toothpick. I disappeared into the bathroom and tried not to panic thinking what if it’s still stuck there tomorrow morning at the dentist and my mouth smells like low tide? Thankfully the toothpick did the job and I won’t have to be forever remembered for scallop mouth at the dentist. No one ever want to be “that” patient.

Miscellaneous:

I did write a post about April 21st, but I’m not happy with it so I will summarize by saying that April 21st is my mother-in-law’s birthday. She shares the day with Queen Elizabeth II, Tony Danza, Iggy Pop, and Robert Smith. It’s also the day Prince died, and – thanks to Facebook memories to remind me – the day Todd and I “became friends” on Facebook.

The other post I aspired to write was to be entitled Middle Schoolers Are Assholes, brought to you in part by conversations with Veruca. Because I do remember middle school, and the stupid crap we did and said, and we were no better than the kids she describes today that piss her off. Oy, she is her mother’s daughter, as you will now see:

She made me a birthday card with the most heartfelt words … Happy Birthday Mom. I love you very much even if I can be a bitch sometimes. You are 49 which is not old. I hope you have a great day. With so much love, V.

My heart swells with pride and love.