Things to Do While You Are Sick

I’m now at almost two full weeks of being primarily bed bound, which is far longer than I expected to be when I felt my first twinges of back pain. I’ll admit that there have been times in my life where the thought of spending two weeks in bed without even checking my work email once would have sounded deeply appealing. But the truth is that between being either in pain or totally doped up, it hasn’t actually been all that fun.

(News flash: Kidney stones- Not fun! Report at 11)

Now that I am starting to feel better, I’m actually looking forward to spending the majority of my days being vertical and trying to play catch up on the many, many things I have fallen behind on in my time of infirmity. I’ve missed some freelance deadlines, something I NEVER do, I have a stack of bills to pay, and I can only imagine the horrors that await me when I finally do check my work email. My time is going to be spent quite differently than it has been the last two weeks as this is how I’ve been spending my time lately:

  • Taking pain medicine and online shopping. Since I don’t remember doing the shopping, the packages that arrive are a fun surprise! I suspect my husband probably doesn’t feel the same way about this one.
  • Watching The West Wing. Watching ALL of the West Wing. I’m in the middle of the final season right now and let me tell you, does watching this show make it very, very clear that the current field of Presidential hopefuls is utterly lacking in hunky Jimmy Smits type candidates.
  • Taking pain medicine and making nonsensical comments on Facebook. Like so:Capture
  • Eating lasagna and baked ziti and chili and cookies because I have kind and good Midwestern friends who respond to illness or childbirth or any sort of need with carbohydrates. I love them.
  • Sleeping in my son’s twin bed (so I don’t have to navigate the steep stairs when I am dizzy from the pain meds) and growing increasingly comfortable with falling asleep while spooning his giant stuffed sloth. My daughter has named him English Muffin and I assume we will be announcing our engagement sometime in the spring.

Tomorrow I go in for another procedure, that will hopefully make the pain from the surgery go away. I have high hopes for a speedy recovery, though I have 7 more episodes of The West Wing to go. So, maybe one more day of bed rest wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world…

(Kidney) Stoned

Well. My life has been a bit of a hot mess the last two weeks. How are you?

It all started when I felt some pain in my lower back two Sundays ago. I was on my way to my writing group and felt a twinging kind of pain that reminded me of the start of cramps or even childbirth. Given that I am SO not pregnant and that I basically never have a period, I puzzled over this for a moment and then the twinge stopped and I went about my business.

The next night my back was hurting again and a trip to the bathroom revealed there was most definitely blood in my urine. And then I knew- I’d be hearing the words “kidney stone” sooner rather than later. I’ve been down this path a few times before, though the last few times were relatively easy stones to pass.

I went to the Urgent Care that night, got the diagnosis and the good pain meds along with a referral to the urologist. At this point I emailed my boss to say that I might not be in the next day, but probably by Wednesday.

Haaaa. Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. Oh, self of last week, how wrong you turned out to be.

Since then I’ve had x-rays, a CT scan, a surgery, a 25 centimeter stent put in between my kidney and bladder, three very large stones removed, and a bonus night in the hospital because they couldn’t get my pain under control at the hospital. I right this now from my son’s twin bed as I’ve kicked him out of his room so I can be in the room closest to the bathroom and not have to climb any stairs. I barfed twice today and going to the bathroom makes me either swear or cry, depending on the time of day.

If I may throw myself a little pity party, let me just say that this sucks ass. I don’t feel great but I am also growing increasingly stressed out about the fact that I’m missing deadlines left and right and have blown through all of my paid sick leave. I’m not great at being idle and I can’t help but do the math on what all of this illness will cost us, even with insurance.

Once I get better I also have to follow up on the fact that my credit card numbers got stolen somehow and used to buy someone a pizza, a phone, and a very expensive watch. On the plus side, it has been brutally cold the last few days and I’ve been living under a blanket and watching the West Wing instead of braving the elements, so I’ve got that going for me at least.

 

An Incomplete List

I’ve been trying to get myself into a daily writing practice where my dissertation is concerned. The current deal with myself is just 15 minutes everyday. When I hold up my end, this works like a charm. I do 15 minutes and then I am usually raring to keep going.

But, oh, the things I’ll do to avoid starting my 15 minute timer would be impressive if it wasn’t so completely stupid and against my own self-interest. Like last night, for example, I did the following instead of my dissertation:

  • Read a 13 month old magazine that has been sitting in my living room for over a year.
  • Played MANY rounds of Bubble Cloud Planet on my phone
  • Watched four episodes of Parks and Rec
  • Had a bowl of Frosted Flakes, like the damn grown up I am.
  • Looked up pictures of plastic surgery before-and-afters, specifically for breast reductions.
  • Plucked a stray chin hair or two
  • Tried not to peak under the bandage on my face where I just got three stitches after having a questionable spot on my face removed. Failed. Grossed myself out a bit.
  • Checked Facebook
  • Checked Twitter
  • Checked Instagram
  • Deleted some photos off  my phone
  • Checked Facebook again
  • Checked my email
  • Checked Twitter again

I almost started to work on it and then I realized it was 11:30pm and I needed to go to bed.

This morning I had a break in my work day where I could do it but instead I wrote a blog post about how I procrastinate on writing my dissertation.

It is SO WEIRD how I’m not done yet.

Strawberry Nose

When I was a child, I remember thinking that my mother’s nose looked like a strawberry. It wasn’t that her nose was especially red, but her pores reminded me of the tiny black seeds on the flesh of a strawberry.

I look in the mirror now and see that I have inherited the strawberry nose. Occasionally I’ll give into the magical thinking that almost always accompanies my cosmetic buying and will purchase something that promises to minimize or eliminate the appearance of my pores. They never work and I usually forget to apply whatever potion I buy after a few days. I don’t love my skin but I’m cosmetically lazy. So I go about my business, showing my pores to the world.

I usually don’t think I look particularly like anyone in my family. My twin sister and I are fraternal. I don’t see my face when I look at my brothers or my father. But as I get older, I find that there are more and more moments where I catch a glimpse of myself and some feature reminds me of my mother. My large flat feet (feet is a charitable description. They are really more like size 11 flippers), my broad back and less than perfect posture, the first signs of gray hair I see beginning at my temples: here is the genetic evidence that ties me to my family, even as I’ve spent much of my adulthood creating a life that would not feel familiar to my mother.

When I look at my girl, I see her brother’s face. Two curly heads, big brown eyes, golden skin and, maybe, my nose. Before they were born, I used to worry about having an ugly baby, one that got my worst features. Then they were born and it seemed to me that they were both objectively gorgeous, not just beautiful because I am their mother, but like clinically beautiful (perhaps every mother thinks this). And I felt like I could say that because they don’t look like me, so I wasn’t bragging.

But now I wonder if there will be a day when Evelyn searches her face in the mirror and will start to see me there. Maybe we all really do turn into our mothers.

 

2015 Year in Review

Time for the annual year-in-review post. Last year is here and, as always, I’d love to read yours if you do one (so leave me a link in the comments!).

1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?

I got through the year without making any big life changes! I didn’t move, didn’t switch jobs, didn’t have any babies. I feel like I was a lot less restless this year than I have been in the past. I’ll take that.

We also started camping as a family, which was a lot of fun.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I didn’t make any formal resolutions last year, other than wanting to have the kind of stability I mentioned in the first question. I had hoped to finish my dissertation this year and that didn’t happen, which I am mostly okay about.

In terms of 2016, I’d like to see us make some progress towards a big financial goal we have and I want to be done with the dissertation. I’d also like to buy my last box of diapers ever (so get on it, darling daughter).

3. How will you be spending New Year’s Eve?

I think we’ll be home and cozy. I’m not a going out person for NYE. I’m happy to be watching a movie and having some snacks with my family.

4. Did anyone close to you die? Did anyone give birth?

I feel like my 20s were the decade of weddings and my 30s are the decade of babies (both mine and my friends) so I got to meet several new babies this year. Thankfully nobody close to me died this year but I had several friends lose parents this year, which still feels shocking to me even though the parents of my friends are now starting to edge into their 70s.

5. What countries did you visit ? Did I travel this year?

Given that I have young children, a husband who hates to fly and a lack of excess cash (see: young children), I am unlikely to visit any other countries anytime soon. But, I did get to take some fun trips this year. Miles and I did a quick Florida trip, which confirmed for me that I like DisneyWorld well enough but I am not a DISNEY! person. The Harry Potter sections of Universal Studios were amazing though.

We did a family trip to Wisconsin again, which I always love. I have determined that I need to have days sitting next to water in order to maintain my mental health.

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?

And this was my answer last year: I’m really hoping to finish my PhD in 2015, so I am hoping to have more free time in 2015 after I am done with school stuff.

I will say that answer still holds plus I would like to push myself further in terms of my non-academic  writing life in 2016.

7. What date from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

I realized on November 14th that I have quadrupled my freelance work from last year to this year.  I still get excited that I can make money from my words and that, as a lifelong affirmation hog, that the fact that I keep getting work means that my editors keep liking my stuff. I had an article that got over 1,200 comments on it and that blows my mind.

I didn’t read all of them though, because I’ve learned something along the way and that something is that I don’t love it when people call me a ” stupid bimbo” online when I’ve written something clearly intended to be tongue-in-cheek.

Also the day I found out that one of my dearest friends was going to visit from Arizona was pretty great.

8. What was your biggest achievement(s) of the year?

Finishing a 2.1 mile open water swim race in very choppy conditions. Passing my oral exam and making progress on my dissertation. Staying married. Keeping all the plates spinning of having two jobs, two kids, and being in grad school.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Pass. I worked hard this year and I don’t feel like I want to dwell on the stuff that didn’t go well.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nothing major, the usual viruses and bugs. I did have a sleep test done though and discovered I have severe sleep apnea. I’m using a CPAP machine and- whoa- the difference it has made is pretty amazing. Who knew that breathing while you sleep is so important?

11. What was the best thing you bought?

A plane ticket from my oldest stepson to spend Christmas with us. It was lovely, through and through. He is such a great guy and the little kids were thrilled to have their 24 year old brother to snuggle and play with.

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12. Where did most of your money go?

The usual list of grown-up things: a mortgage, pre-school for Evelyn, groceries. Our biggest ticket item this year was a new computer for me.

13. What song will always remind you of 2015?

This is the year I discovered Hamilton and I may never recover. My life’s dream right now is to see Hamilton live.

14. What do you wish you’d done more of?

I did a lot of reading for fun in the last month and it has made me realize that I miss reading novels. I’ve gotten somewhat out of the habit of using down time for reading versus wasting time on the internet and I think reading is ultimately more satisfying.

15. What do you wish you’d done less of?

I went through a very spendy phase this fall and I have some regrets about the amount of money I spent buying things online that I didn’t actually need.

16. What was your favorite new TV program?

I enjoyed the new season of Project Greenlight. Catastophe was 95% good and 5% contrived ending to the last episode, but I’ll still watch the next season.

17. Do you love anyone now that you didn’t love this time last year?

Actually, lots of people. I had a very good friend year this year thanks to a Facebook group that turned out to be filled with lovely women who’ve made my life markedly better. I feel like I have my tribe.

18. What was the best book you read?

The Royal We was charming and I liked FanGirl a lot as well.

19. What was your greatest musical discovery? Let’s change this question to something that doesn’t assume I am trying to stay abreast of the latest in pop culture. How about what item of clothing did I wear the most.

Black leggings. I have several pairs and a day that I can wear a tunic and leggings is a very good day indeed. Long live the legging!

20. What was your favorite film of this year?

Hmm, no clear winner here. I liked Age of Adaline a lot, Mr. Holmes was very well acted, and I thought Spy was funny and silly.

21. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 37 and was delightfully surprised by the fact that a number of friends had arranged to each bring over small gifts during the day. It was fun to have little surprises during the day and made me feel bashfully happy.

22. What kept you sane?

The RHOSP, hand down. Friends, both old and new. Having a job that doesn’t make me feel annoyed on a daily basis. Having money in savings.

23. Who did you miss?

My step-sons, always, and several friends.

24. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned.

Almost nothing fixes things as well as time.

25. What pictures best represent 2015?

Miles book CM-hFzEUsAAKv8U Eber beachDSCN0643

Best of 2015

On the whole, I have some mixed feelings about 2015. It feels like a year in which the high moments were very high, but some of the low moments were among the lowest of my life. But it is Friday night and I am eating a large bowl of pasta and I think I shall swim in the shallow side for a while and talk about the best of 2015 in terms of stuff.

Best Book:

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The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. This was charming and a pleasure to read from cover to cover. I read it in two days and when it was done, I wished instantly for a sequel. If said sequel existed, I would buy it tonight. In hardcover. At full price. High praise, I know.

Best Music:

1

Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda. I have listened to this CD nearly every day for months. It is perfection. It is going to win all of the awards, I am certain of it.

For my money, Wait for It is the very best song. It makes me feel ready to take on the whole entire world.

 

Best culinary discovery: My writing group met once at a cozy, slightly hipster-ish cafe and I had an organic salted caramel hot cider. It was a ridiculous $6 but was so good I was tempted to lick my mug when I was done. I’ve only had it once, but I have thought back on it a rather embarrassing number of times.

Best television discovery: Mr. Monkey and I were VERY late to this particular party, but watching the original and then the new season of Project Greenlight was quite fun. I’m a sucker for behind the scenes type shows and it was fascinating to see how much work goes it to making even terrible movies.

Best Movie:  I saw two and a half movies in the theatre this year (I left halfway through Rickie and the Flash because I was tired and bored. I love you, Meryl, but this one was a stinker) so this category includes movie seen at home as well. I didn’t have high expectations, but I really love Age of Adaline.

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It was elegant and well acted and emotionally satisfying. It was also very well cast. The actor who played the younger version of Harrison Ford? https://www.youtube.com/embed/ReTP6x_sDiM“>Wow.

Favorite websites of the year:

Blog: Swistle, now and forever. But I also love my IRL friend Alice’s blog Dining With Alice even though every time I click it open I am filled with jealous longing for her amazing glossy hair.

Entertainment: Pleated Jeans updates a lot with funny pictures and assorted silliness. Go Fug Yourself is perfectly written. Celebitchy satisfies my base desire for celebrity gossip.

Biggest Time Waster: Facebook made a major comeback for me this year, 100% due a group I joined of women in my area. The posts run the gamut from funny to profane to sincere and helpful discussion about marriage and parenting and money. The most miraculous thing? It is a 100% politics free zone and is blissfully free of drama.

Best new family tradition: Snack Dinner Movie Night on Friday nights. We watch a movie and eat in the basement and it is a small but joyful tradition and I love that my kids look forward with it with such sincere enthusiasm. I do end up seeing some TERRIBLE movies as a result, given that the children have a fairly large vote in the selection process, but it is worth it in the end.

 

 

My Favorite Tweets of 2015

Let’s review the year in Wendy’s favorite Tweets. Please note that I opted not to just feature the entire Parks and Ham hashtag as I realize that not everyone is as obsessed with the BEST MUSICAL EVER as I am.

Looking at this list makes me realize that I’m very likely to favorite anything involving children putting things up their noses or doing things that embarrass their parents. I am a simple person.

Millennials and Money

I’ve been working on a piece of freelance writing this week about millennials and money, specifically about the fact that, based on some survey data, many millennials are still regularly getting money from their parents, even well into their 30s and even after they are married.

Huh.

It was interesting working on this piece and trying to keep myself from being, well, overtly judgey about that. Perhaps it is because I am just shy of being a millennial myself (missed it by two years) or perhaps it is because my own family’s financial dynamics were such that I never had any illusions that I’d be getting financial support once I hit adulthood, but it is so odd for me to think about being like 33 and married and still having my parents pay my car insurance or cell phone bills. I think I’ve always felt like my financial independence was a source of pride and that even when I made money mistakes (which, hoo boy, I did) I fixed them on my own, no bailouts.

But then I talked to one of co-workers, who has two kids in college, and she mentioned that among her friends, the expectation is that you send your kids away to college and then expect them to move back in with you after graduation and that financial adulthood doesn’t start until 26.

(26 being the last year you can carry them on parental health insurance)

I was then reminded that one of our other coworkers currently has all three of his adult children living at home and the oldest on is mid-30s in age and another co-worker’s 27 year old daughter just moved out of the house…into the townhouse her parents bought for her.

Perhaps it is the lingering remnants of early years as a Republican or perhaps it is proof that I can’t escape my genetic disposition toward a rather militant form of Protestant work-ethic, but I can’t help but feel that if my beloved children are still living with me in thirty years that I have done something wrong as a parent*.

I mean, really. I love you kids, but let’s not go crazy with it, okay?

*caveat: Sometimes shit happens, so like in the event of an illness or job loss or something like that, that is a different story.

**You know who I really judge about this? Kim Kardashian. Why on earth she still lives with her mother is beyond me. WOMAN- you have more money than God, go rent a house.

***Yes. I watch KUWTK. Judge away.

Under the Tree

I’m listening to Christmas music in my office now and checking the weather forecast with a hopeful heart, yearning for some snow. I don’t mind our recent 40 degree temperatures but I’d love for some white stuff for the Christmas break. I am having some very specific fantasies involving falling snow, my children playing outside in said falling snow, and me under the covers on our enclosed porch, reading a book.

Doesn’t that sound like heaven? A very small, achievable heaven?

We still need to put our tree up and wrap presents but I am essentially all done with holiday shopping. I’m waiting for a few things to arrive via mail, including from Zulily, which is always a nerve-wracking prospect even when they promise delivery in time for the holidays. One of those presents is a two pack of owl puke for my son’s stocking. It may be the weirdest thing I’ve ever put in a stocking but I think he is going to LOVE dissecting it.

In just under two weeks, my oldest step-son will fly in from California to spend Christmas with us. We’ve never had his company on Christmas morning before and I am so very excited about it. The little kids don’t know their big brother is coming, so that is another fun surprise to look forward to. He is 24 now and is so NOT a kid anymore but it is all I can do to not try to find him jammies to match M. and E.

pj

I suspect he wouldn’t go for it though.

Yes, I think I am officially feeling holiday cozy. How about you?

 

Everything Happens For a Reason

Everything happens for a reason.

Everything will work out in the end.

God has a plan.

I want to be on record as saying that, if something terrible befalls me or my family, please don’t say these things to me.

I understand that people say these things in order to be encouraging and out of the hope that what ever hard thing someone is facing will somehow be “worth it” in the end. I understand that there is a human desire to feel like there is a narrative to our lives and that bad things must be serving to advance a plot that leads relentlessly to a happy ending.

The problem with those cliches though is that they feel to me to put pressure on the person who is struggling. Like, c’mon, get past your suffering to the point where you can tell me who this was really a good thing in your life. Which then has the whole implication that if you can’t get to the point where your sad thing is valuable lesson that you are glad you had, well, then- – maybe you, suffering person, are doing it wrong.

But I’ve been spending some time lately with someone who wanted to be a parent (and who was, actually, a parent for too short a time) and who was/would have been an amazing parent. Their life is still a good and full one, but that unfilled hope is a hole that I don’t know will ever be filled. And when I think about them, my first crazy thought is “I’ll tell them I’ll be a surrogate!” but then I remember I kind of can’t actually get pregnant. So then I think about how it just sucks that they don’t get to be a parent and that I just don’t think there is some divine reason for them to have been denied the chance to share their love with a kid. It was just timing and external factors that worked against them.

I read a quote once that said “somethings in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.”

Yes.