Tough Right Now

Life is really tough right now.

I knew it would be, but this doesn’t make it any easier.

People ask how I am doing, and what am I supposed to say?  I tell them the truth – that it’s hard and that I am doing the best that I can – but if I truly stop and express to them just how hard and just how much I struggle, then I fear I’ll just fall apart.

I need more human contact.  My son needs more human contact.  It’s good for us.  But getting there, getting OUT, is SO. FREAKING. HARD.

Today we got up and tried to get to playgroup.  I got up around 7:45.  The playgroup started at 10:30.  By 11:45 I was still feeding my youngest a bottle.  I texted to cancel.  We ended up taking a walk, by ourselves, in the freezing cold because it was the easiest and quickest way to get outside.  Yes, it was better than nothing, but man, it sucked.

And that’s the thing – I don’t expect perfection, but I feel like I am trying my hardest and that I’m still failing.  At some point in the day, I’m always failing SOMEbody.  Sometimes it’s me (because I can’t make social contact with friends), or the baby (because she’s screaming hungry and has to wait), or my toddler (because he’s screaming that he wants to go outside but has to wait), or my husband (because he listens to me complain and cry and fall apart).

I usually start the day off trying my best to cope, like today.  But the time ticks by and more and more gets in the way of reaching our meager goals (getting to playgroup), when it finally comes crashing down because my toddler kicks me in the jaw and I burst into tears, or my baby won’t nurse even though I know she’s hungry and I burst into tears.  These days, it’s rare to get through the day without feeling like the walls are crashing down on me.

I have glimpses of hope and reminders that life gets better.  I try and hold onto those.  But living in the moment requires breaking down, because the here and now is often unbearable.  That’s why I am always on my damn phone – if I can just check out for a minute, maybe I can regroup and reenter my life.  Or just pass the time; maybe when I lift my head, things will be different.  Better.

So I’m coping.  At least I am getting more sleep these days, but I am still choosing sleep over most other things.  I choose sleep over chores, over human interaction, over getting out of the house.  Because if I am not moderately rested, nothing else matters.  That may sound dramatic, but it’s true.  Here’s the catch, though: if I’m not a zombie physically (sleep deprived), then I’m a zombie emotionally (isolated).  It’s like I can’t win.

Not to mention that this winter, everyone and their mom is sick.  Everyone in my family was sick a month ago, including my newborn, and that was pure hell.  Less sleep and meeting with other people all mean a higher chance of getting sick again…so perhaps hunkering down is what we just need to do right now, even though I don’t have a whole lot of choice in the matter at the moment.  I suppose all these circumstances just mean I super prioritize what get togethers we try and attend.

Lest I begin rambling, I will simply repeat my point in closing.

Life is really tough right now.


Down with the Sickness

The hubs and I are sick.

And, man, it sucks.

Being sick on a regular day sucks, but it sucks harder when you’re a parent.  And even harder when both parents are sick at the same time.  It’s the suckiest.

Both of us have been coughing and sneezing and hacking and gagging that my toddler thinks this is a new game.  Even though he’s still healthy (I have no idea how he hasn’t gotten our viral plague as of yet), he’s started fake coughing because he thinks it’s now the cool thing to do.  If this goes on much longer, we’ll have given our son some sort of complex.

We’ve been cooped up for several days now, and I’m not sure how much longer we can hold out.  Our produce is almost gone, we’ve dipped into my NyQuil reserves (this is not a joke), and we might be sick of each other.

As a SAHM and an introvert who is prone to self-isolation, the social commitments I make for my son and I each week are crucial to my sanity, and when one of us is sick, we can’t go talk to the other humans.  And that makes mommy something-something.  So the only silver lining is that, this week, my husband is home sick too.  WOO!  PLAGUE PARTY!!  We can sneeze the Overture of 1812 better than Ferris Bueller’s keyboard.  Seriously, it has been nice to have him home with us, because at least I don’t have to sick-parent a well-kid all by me onesie.

However, this situation has also given way to arguments over who is sicker, and thus who gets a free pass from parenting the not-sick, full-energy child.  My partner may or may not have said that he’s so sick that he’s not at work and deserves a break.  And I may or may not have said that I AM STILL AT WORK EVEN THOUGH I AM SICK AND I DESERVE TO POOP ALONE.  And then we agreed to disagree after the argument devolved into a mutual coughing fit.

In related illness news: I discovered that I can now hit Adele’s sexy, sexy low notes. I’d better get this down in the studio before my immune system decides to wake the fuck up.  Also, after visually confirming that my voice wasn’t coming from a would-be creepy male kidnapper, the hubs told me that I should start a late night sexy-talk line (that’s what they’re called, right?) and use the alias Bernice in order to earn a little extra cash.  You know, for our kid’s college fund.  Or so I can buy some more NyQuil.

Birthday and First Trimester Recap

Today is my birthday, and it’s right around what will be my baby’s half birthday (WHAT?!).

I am 14 weeks today!

What a difference a year makes.  Last year, if you recall, I had some fun drinking adult beverages and then attempting to throw a very heavy ball down a hallway, all whilst dressed up in the clothes of the time of my origin.

A lot has changed since then, and I imagine a whole lot will also change in the coming year.  I’ll look back on this time and wonder where all my freedom went, where all my time went, where all my sleep went.  But I imagine I’ll also wonder how I ever got by without a drooling, pooping, screaming angel strapped to me.  Weird.

I’d like to take this opportunity and do a little recap of my first trimester, since it came and went in a whirlwind of leaving jobs, packing, the holidays, the flu, and moving.

I think it’s interesting that nausea and vomiting are the only acceptable pregnancy symptoms that people seem to be allowed to ask about.  Or interested in.  And that those symptoms really weren’t a major issue for me, so conversations beginning with those kinds of questions are pretty much nonstarters.

I remember sneaking a copy of What To Expect at the shelter where I used to work before we started to try to get pregnant, and it was horrifying.  While I knew on some level that pregnancy affected the whole body, I had no idea about the sheer range of potential side effects.  Face skin turning colors?!  Anal bleeding?!  Eyes frickin changing shape?!

How come nobody asks me about my eyes and how they are doing, hmm?

I feel like my pregnancy symptoms started happening before the pregnancy.  As soon as I went off birth control (that I had been on for the entirety of my adult life), I felt like a 13 year old kid all over again.  My skin became greasy and broke out everywhere.  Like, all the places.  I usually shower every other day, but I quickly started having to shower every day to keep from feeling so hormonally gross.

Which reminds me – I watched the movie of What To Expect because it was on netflix instant view and I was bored and full of pregnancy hormones, and thank goodness for Elizabeth Banks’ character’s storyline.  She struggled to get pregnant, felt horrible during pregnancy, and actually uttered the wonderfully descriptive term ‘bac-ne.’ (How does one spell that?  It’s like ‘acne’ and ‘back’ had a baby, only this baby aint cute.)  It felt validating to see a pregnancy experience that wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows and that I could partially relate to.

Once my pregnancy train left the station, I started feeling heartburn for the first time.  It prevented me from eating a donut at work for about an hour, but I eventually prevailed.  Soon after, I became so exhausted that I couldn’t make it through some days without taking a nap.  I remember the first day the movers were packing up our stuff, all I did was stand there and watch, and at 3pm when they left, I felt like I had done all the work.  An hour nap, and I still had no problem getting to sleep at night.

At that point, the flu struck and I couldn’t tell what was flu and what was pregnantness – I just felt like a zombie in pajamas.  I only wanted comfort foods like ramen and PB&J.  I slept all the time.  Interestingly enough, still no vomit.

Once I was feeling fairly normal again, the completely random food aversions hit.  Our first night in Portland, we were exhausted from driving all day (and being pregnant) and so we ordered pizza.  I demanded no meat because that sounded pukey.  Nevertheless, the veggie pizza arrived and, while it looked amazing, it smelled and tasted like barf.  I forced a slice down and then passed out.  A few days later, Brian cooked us up some veggie burgers and I thought I’d have to run outside to escape the stench.  For the first time, their look matched their smell.  Ralph.

What confused me through all these food aversions (that only happened at dinnertime) was that I couldn’t tell – was I hungry or was I pukey?  The answer was yes, all of the above.  I hated that this babe was ruining mealtime for me, and I am thankful that the phase didn’t last very long.

Heartburn continued, although it hasn’t been predictable or consistent like the bloating and constipation.  Funny that people love to talk about food coming back up and out, but in the absence of an exit, it’s suddenly gross.  I am no stranger to GI issues, as some of you know, but this was/is by far the worst batch of symptoms for me.

It was also weirding me out.  Am I full even though I only took two bites of my cheesey blasters?  Nope, it’s just gas.  Am I starting to show?  Uh-uh, it’s just gas.  Did I just feel the baby?!  Nope – gas.

I think the only other major symptom left is the constant peeing.  Twice, sometimes three times a night.  Like clockwork, too.  And forget trying to laugh or sneeze and stay dry.  My belly had better grow bigger faster, because now that I actually want to eat a horse, there’s no room for it with all that pee, poop, gas, and the reason we’re having this party in the first place.

I forgot to mention the one good side effect of all this – since getting knocked up, my migraines have all but disappeared.  Thank you, first trimester gods, there is a silver lining.

As I already alluded to, the second trimester is treating me well so far.  I’m told I need to enjoy it before the third, and I definitely plan to – starting by stuffing my face with a huge birthday dinner in a few hours and demanding that the bartender mix me up a mocktail so good that I am convinced it’s the real deal.

Drifting in Portlandia

So we’ve been here about a week now.

Here means just outside of Portland, Oregon.

It’s been a little rough, as I expected it would be.  I also suppose it hasn’t been as bad as my worst fears, so that’s something.

Brian and I both came down with the flu over Christmas (given to us by the movers who packed up our stuff), and that made for a pretty rotten holiday.  We made the most of it, but we were not able to do everything we had planned, and we were forced to skip seeing loved ones for fear of getting them sick, which really sucked.

We returned to our mostly bare apartment for one night in sleeping bags so that we could rise early, grab the cat, and make the 10 hour drive to Portland all in one day.

I have a love-hate relationship with this cat, and that morning it was definitely hate.  And pity, I suppose.  She refused to eat any of the sedative-infused food we offered her.  We had given her some a few weeks prior as a trial run, just to make sure she wasn’t allergic and to see how she would do.  I can only imagine that she remembered that experience and was like, “No effing way I am doing that again, you guys.”  We tried putting it in dry food.  We tried hiding it in chicken.  And then we tried just forcing it into her mouth and down her throat.  To no avail.  At this point we were behind schedule, so she got shoved into the cat carrier, hungry and unmedicated, and off we went.

Despite the struggles of the morning, Sadie (the cat) did pretty well.  She howled solidly for the first 45 minutes and then would pass out for 20 minutes at a time, only to wake up and howl some more.  I had to just emotionally detach myself from her in order to cope.  I kept telling her, “I love you, and you are safe,” which I think was more for my benefit than for hers.

The drive up was pretty damn gorgeous, and wonderfully uneventful (the cat howling aside).  We passed Shasta and saw a bit of snow in the shade in the mountains.  We stopped for lunch in Ashland, which was good to check out again.

We arrived at our new place after dark and I was just exhausted.  The cat was freaking out and had no bed to hide under.  We unloaded most of our two cars, ordered pizza, and then passed out on an air mattress.

This is the first time I’ve ever moved somewhere and not had something waiting for me on the other side.  We moved because my husband found an amazing job, which is awesome, and we are both thankful for that.  As for me, I am now left with the daunting task of trying to figure out how to get relicensed in this new state and how to find a job.  I know zero clinicians in Oregon, and so I am left to email perfect strangers to answer my questions.  We left the warmth and sunshine of California, and I can definitely feel that tugging at my wellbeing.  I wonder to myself if Oregon will ever really feel like home.

To sum up, I feel scared and sad, and somewhat stuck.  I am fighting it, but the energy only comes in spurts.  I am very, very thankful to have one good friend in the area I know from California, and of course my husband is there for me, as I am for him.

I don’t like moving and I don’t like change and I hate the unknown.  In my moodier states, I feel like I am on a raft, just drifting aimlessly in an endless foggy sea.  That just makes me want to curl up in a ball and wait until the raft bumps into something.

I guess I’d better fashion myself a friggin paddle.

Fill Your Bucket

The other day, one of my clients started to ask me a personal question in the domestic violence support group I run.  I could feel it coming.

“Hey Melissa, I don’t mean to pry into your business, but I was just curious…”

My blood pressure started to rise.  I could feel my armpits start producing more sweat than usual, which meant that I’d soon soak through my shirt and be stuck to my cheap office chair until lunch.  My face started to get hot, and I knew, I just knew, that my face was starting to turn red.  I hate that.

So which question was it going to be?  Was I married?  Did I have kids?  How long had I been doing this work?  Do I know what it’s like to be a victim of violence?  Did I have to use a prescription strength deodorant?

“…how is it that you hear stories like ours day after day and you don’t fall apart when you go home?  How do you do this work?”

Ah, this was an easier question to answer than most.  A lot of people- clients and non-clients -ask me why I do this work, and the answer is simple: because I love it, I am actually good at it, and I feel like I am making a difference just by connecting with people.  How freaking cool is that?!

But my client’s question was a twinge different than that.  She was asking me, in so many words, how do I take care of myself?  How do I keep myself from going crazy, from getting depressed, from losing hope?

My honest answer to her was that some days, some weeks, I fail.  Sometimes I fail to take care of myself and sometimes I do hit a wall and just start sobbing because Will Smith’s character in Pursuit of Happyness has to get into a line for a homeless shelter and he reminds me of one of my clients and the world fucking sucks.

I know this is a cliche thing to say, but hey, cliche things are such for a reason: my clients teach me so much.  They teach me how to be a better therapist and how to be a better person.  For instance, a former client of mine once told me how she reminds herself to put herself first and to take care of herself before trying to help others.  She said, with her wicked awesome Boston accent, “See here.  We all carry around a bucket with us, right.  And you can’t fill your kids’ buckets if your bucket is empty.  You gotta fill your bucket up first before you can fill anyone else’s, and that’s how it is.”

That is how it is.  I can’t possibly expect to help all the clients I see each week and hear all of their horror stories and sit with them while they cry unless I fill up my bucket.

I fill my bucket with yoga.  I found a cheap yoga class that I go to every Tuesday night.

I fill my bucket with cardio, usually on Thursdays, even though I loathe it with the fire of a thousand suns.

I fill my bucket by making sure I shower regularly.  For me being borderline OCD, showering is a real time-consuming production, and it’s like exercise to me in that it feels like a chore, but it makes me feel so much better when I am done.

I fill my bucket with some Kardashians, washed down by a bucketfull of mocha chip.  Their lives are so fucked up that one can’t help but feel better while yelling at giant ass cheeks on the TV screen.

I fill my bucket by getting enough sleep and eating regularly and as healthily as I can.  I can’t stress just how important these things are.  If I haven’t slept or eaten, I become a monster even when I’m not working.

I fill my bucket by owning a vibrator.  I never thought I would ever write that sentence, but there it is.

Lastly, I fill my bucket by hanging out with healthy people.  I spend so much of my time with my clients, who come to me at their lowest, when their own buckets are empty.  If you’ve ever spent time with a person who is profoundly depressed, then you know just how emotionally and physically draining that is, especially when you’re tuned into that person’s needs.  Feelings are contagious- both the good and the bad.  If they weren’t, it would mean that we didn’t care, and that we weren’t connected.  Sometimes I just need to be reminded that not everyone is suffering, and there aren’t child molesters around every corner.

I’ve learned by trial and error what I need to fill my bucket, and how to listen to my mind and my body to notice when my bucket is getting a bit too empty and I am heading for Hot Mess, CA population: one.

When I find myself sobbing on a Friday night because Bella broke Jacob’s heart and he prefers to ruin yet another pair a pants by transforming into a wolf before getting naked first, then I start to take stock of my week.  Did I have any really tough sessions with clients this week, particularly with kids?  Did I miss yoga this week?  Did I eat the entire shelf of Hostess cupcakes just to spite my fellow shopper who was too damn slow?

Usually, if my waterworks are triggered by the smallest thing at the end of the week, chances are I had really tough therapy sessions, I’ve chosen a trauma-related book to read for fun, I’m watching a documentary about Holocaust survivors because it’s interesting, and I didn’t properly fill up my bucket.  This has actually happened before.

At any rate, I gave my client a much abbreviated answer to her question, but I did answer her honestly- that I am human and I do my best.  I also wanted to let her know that I practice what I preach, in that I don’t spout all this bucket crap to my clients and then ignore it when it comes to taking care of myself.

So, my dear Psychos, how do you all fill your buckets? 

The Price of Wisdom

I’ve been a little under the weather lately.

And by under the weather, I mean had a wisdom tooth pulled with only local anesthesia.  I’m kindof a badass like that.

It went fairly well, and I am happy with my decision, because if I had really wanted to be put under, I would have had to wait several more days, and I couldn’t endure any more anticipatory anxiety coupled with increasingly crippling wisdom-tooth-induced headaches.  That, and general anesthesia reminds me of my cancer surgery, and that’s a very bad thing.

So now I just settle for post-wisdom-tooth-being-ripped-out-of-my-head headaches.

Seriously, who thought up an 8 hour dosage painkiller?  I was prescribed Motrin that can be taken once every 8 hours (well, to be honest, I was actually given a choice between Vicodin, Tylenol with codeine, or juiced-up Motrin.  I actually had to think about this one, cuz hey – street value, peeps – but I decided I’d like to be able to drive myself to work and not slur my words in front of my clients.  And I actually made this choice post-extraction.  I know- I should be given a medal or something.).  I also have to take these meds after eating something, and I descend from mid-western folk.  Allow me to translate: we eat our three squares with minimal snacking or else we get the hose.  Or get locked out of the house in the snow with no shoes, but that’s tough in some parts of Northern California, so the hose it is.

So let’s think about this for a second.  My workday is 8 hours long, so I guess I’ll take a pill right after breakfast but before I get to work so that it’ll kick in once I get there and have to deal with crises related to violence and suffering.  Good start.  Unfortunately, the label lies (said in Voldemort’s voice) and the magic wears off around hour 7 and 14.3 minutes, so in the middle of my last session of the day, the gaping hole in my gums starts throbbing and spreads through my occipital lobe and ravages the [small] part of my brain that houses sanity.  Sorry, client, but I can no longer hear you over the din of a box of live kittens being seared by turbo jet exhaust.  Fast forward to 5pm-quitting time.  By this time it’s too close to dinner to snack (my mother’s voice reverberates in my already pulsating head…something something spoil your dinner…) and I can’t take my next goddamn pill until I eat something.   So here I am, speeding home, trying to see the road through my blinding pain.

Once I get home and eat and take my pill, I start to feel better.  More like a human.  I think my horns and red eyes actually shrink and fade, respectively.  I go to sleep after rinsing my mouth with salt water for what feels like the zillionth time that day (more on that later), and I hope to she-sus that I don’t wake up when my pill wears off in the middle of the night because it only lasts for 8 fucking hours and I took it right after dinner because I couldn’t wait and because I don’t fucking eat right before fucking bedtime.

Wake up, repeat, and feel my pain.  FEEL IT NOW.

Also take into account that I must rinse my mouth with warm salt water every time I eat.  Makes me feel like a fish, but not the drunk kind.

The icing on the cake is that, while I have a bit of swelling and that is to be expected, I also have some bruising on my cheek where the dentist very roughly wrenched my drooling, completely numb mouth open and braced with crazy force to basically pull bone from bone.  So I’ve been going to work, seeing clients who are survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and one side of my face is bruised and swollen.  This is going to be great for business.

I feel like I should wear a sign around my neck.  Maybe I’ll attach a doctor’s note for further proof.  FML.

50/50, Cancer, and an Ovary

When I started this blog, in the back of my mind I knew the time would come when I would be blogging about cancer.  It was only a matter of time, as I think about this every year, and every year I get one year farther away from it.  The memories get fuzzier and fuzzier, but sometimes something will bring the memories back with driving force.

taken from

That something was the movie 50/50, which I saw for the first time last Friday night.  A warning for those of you who haven’t seen it – I’ll be revealing a few details of the plot (but not the ending).

50/50 is the story of a 27 year old man who is suddenly diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer and is given a 50% chance of survival.  The movie is loosely based on the experiences of Will Reiser, one of the screenwriters.

This movie hit extremely close to home for me because almost exactly 9 years ago I underwent exploratory abdominal surgery to remove a low malignancy tumor that had fully engulfed my left ovary.  This time of year for me has ever since been fairly sensitive and a time of reflection and self care.  This coming Friday, I’ll be turning 29 years old (for the first time) and Saturday the 11th will mark my 9 year cancer-free mark.

I struggle a lot with my identity around this whole cancer thing.  My cancer was in this gray area in many ways.  It was borderline malignant, which means it was a slow-growing, noninvasive tumor that was not life-threatening.  Some professionals call this cancer, others call it precancerous  (I call it shitty).  I also never knew that I had cancer until I didn’t have cancer, which makes it hard for me to own the experience of ever being a cancer patient per se.   For these reasons, I don’t identify as being a cancer survivor necessarily.

My house looked like a flower shop! So much love!

The short version of the story is that I had symptoms of bloating, pain, firmness, and constipation that grew increasingly worse for about 4 months before I was incorrectly diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).  A month later, I went to see my doctor for what I thought was an unrelated issue – an itchy skin rash -but soon after my treatment I was (and still am) convinced my body was just manifesting its cancer-related panic through my skin.  Once my doctor finally felt my unnaturally firm abdomen during this visit, the IBS diagnosis flew out the window and the whirlwind of specialists and testing began and ended with a surgery date set for one day after my 20th birthday.

Going into the surgery, my doctors believed that I had a fluid-filled ovarian cyst that could possibly be a teratoma since it had calcium deposits (After looking up exactly what a teratoma was, I was more than freaked out. Get this alien spawn out of me asap!)  I was given a surgery date with an oncologist, just in case the cyst turned out to be cancerous, but they said that wasn’t likely.  I was both devastated and relieved at the same time.

They performed the surgery and told me the bad and good news the following day: that the cyst had been borderline malignant and had spread to two other places in my abdominal cavity, but they were confident they had gotten it all.  They had removed my left ovary and scraped cancer growths off my right one.  There was no promise that I would be able to have kids.  The only further treatment I was to have was frequent screenings to make sure nothing had grown back.  In the case something did grow back, the only treatment was more surgery.  I was scared shitless.

The effing cancer hasn’t come back and it’s been (almost) 9 years, knock on wood.

So, back to 50/50.  Cancer is both hilarious and devastating – thank you 50/50 for capturing that!  The movie was so validating; I had never seen a cancer story about a young person that was humorous and just spoke to (parts of) my experience.  [Disclaimer: I am in no way trying to make light of other people’s experiences with cancer that were far more serious and devastating than mine.  I fully realize that I was amazingly lucky and I am very, very thankful for that.]

Neighbor girls I babysat for made this for me...I'll forgive the name misspelling

Ways 50/50 was right up my alley:

Cancer is hella sexy.  Adam’s (the main character played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) best friend Kyle (played by Seth Rogen) was like my best friend Nicole.  I remember her asking me if she could make fun of my cyst, and my answer was: “only if it’s benign.”  Well, it turned out not to be, and it took me a little time, but I still let her make fun of it and we had fun because of it.  When I came back to school after taking a semester off to heal, she introduced me to strangers (read: used me to pick up hot guys) at the campus bar as “her friend who had cancer.”  We got such a kick out of watching people not knowing how to react.  Nothing like an existential crisis involving cancer to get your life-affirming libido all revved up.  Rawr.

“I’m peeing right now.”  I don’t care what anyone says – catheters are freaking amazing.  No freer feeling in the world than allowing urine to trickle on out as soon as it’s finished brewing.  And like hell I am getting outta this hospital bed feeling like my body got run over by a truck.

[A side note on medical equipment – You know those thingies that squeeze your legs every so often so you don’t get a blood clot?  Feels like heaven was plugged in and then wrapped around my legs.  I told my dad to make the nurse an offer for them – I wasn’t leaving the hospital without those bad boys.]

Worst moment ever – Having to sign all the paperwork before surgery saying that the doctors can take out as many organs as they need in order to save my life, if necessary.  One of the shittiest things I’ve ever had to sign.  I woke up not knowing how much of me was still inside.  This moment in the movie was the most difficult for me to watch.

Families sink or swim – Like screenwriter Will said in the special features, he handled his cancer and treatment quite well while family and friends didn’t know what to say or how to act.  For me, this crappy situation brought out both the best and worst in the interpersonal dynamics of my loved ones, sometimes leaving me to figure out how to cope on my own (and cope I did!).

The movie included therapy!  With a young, female therapist!  This thing was practically written for me.  Suddenly I could see myself in both roles.  I was the patient in the recovery room who got passed a business card for a hospital social worker (whom I never went to see, but looking back, I wish I had).  A few years later, I was also the young, extremely nervous therapist just starting out and desperately wanting to say the right magic words to make people feel better.  I loved getting to watch just how obviously terrified the therapist (played by Anna Kendrick) was as the brand new shrink.  I once heard a fellow therapist say that she’d like to go back and apologize to all her clients she saw in her first two years as a therapist; some days I most definitely agree.

Tumor is spelled J-E-L-L-O

Like Adam and Kyle in 50/50, I looked for humor anywhere I could find it:

  • My stomach muscles were sliced straight through during surgery, so I couldn’t do anything that required that muscle group – standing up straight, sneezing, yelling, blowing my nose, laughing, etc.  It’s pretty hard not to laugh when you’re filled with the joy of being alive; my tummy muscles actually began to regain strength through involuntary laughter.  Word to Patch Adams!
  • If Adam looked like Voldemort, all bald and ghostly pale, then I looked like Gollum, all hunched over and skinny as fuck.  I went in search of brownies and pizza (the Preciousssss) as soon as my appetite came back.
  • I would have liked to have taken my tumorized ovary home to display on the mantel, but my surgeon wouldn’t allow it (he didn’t give me a satisfactory explanation, either…dumbass hospital rules).  Instead, I attempted to make my own artistic interpretation out of jello leftover from surgery prep.  I think I succeeded in grossing out a few people.  Score!
  • To this day, my light beige vertical 12 inch scar turns bright pink when I am drunk.  It’s my drunk-o-meter, bitches!

In closing – thank you, people who made 50/50.  It really, really touched me and reminded me that cancer isn’t a joke, except when it is.

Highway to the Danger Zone

On Sunday, my partner flew us to Chico, CA and back.  He’s been a private pilot for almost 2 years now, and it had been his dream to be a pilot ever since he could remember.  When he wants to fly, he rents a plane from the flight school where he earned his license, and it’s not unlike renting a car, actually.  Sometimes I like to go with him, and this time I did.

Maverick and Goose

[Edit: by the time I was done writing this post, it had grown two heads and sprouted a tail, so this post will be about our adventures flying together overall, in general, the background, and the next post will be specifically about our trip to Chico.]

Brian usually flies Cessna 152s (a little two-seater plane made in 1979), and these are the same planes used by the pilots-in-training.  Most of the instructors and pupils are men, and the interiors of these planes are quite small, with little legroom and very narrow seats.  If the other pilots-in-training are anything like Brian was when he was in training, they are very nervous and excited to be in these planes (translation: they sweat a lot).   Somehow I doubt that these planes get cleaned very often or very well, so I think it’s safe to assume that over three decades worth of scared man sweat has been marinating the tattered upholstery.  It’s like wedging myself into a flying men’s gym sock.  Lovely.

minimal legroom

Just like with commercial flights, when I fly with Brian, I always bring a book.  It takes him ~30 minutes to go get the keys and preflight the plane, and I spend that time jammed into my little seat, reading. Preflighting involves checking the oil, fuel, climbing up on the plane and walking around the plane to make sure it’s all safe and stuff.  I’m sure there’s more to it than that.  I just know that I have to keep my feet and knees away from the yolk (steering “wheel”) and foot pedals so they don’t jam into me when Brian is making sure the flaps and shit are in working order.  Learned this the hard way.


Brian is required to give a safety briefing every single time he takes a passenger, which means I have heard it a lot.  It’s similar to the one you get on commercial flights, in that most people have it memorized (although I just learned that my sweat receptacle seat cushion does not double as a floatation device, so in the event of a water “landing,” we’re screwed), but it includes some fun extras.  He explains how to buckle and unbuckle the seatbelt, and these seatbelts actually have a shoulder strap (yay! more safety!), but it seems to be designed for a much bigger person, since there is no way to make it tight enough to fit to my body. (boo! doesn’t feel very safe at all!  feels like a useless prop.) 

Side note: this combination of cramped legroom and overly long shoulder strap leads me to believe that the ideal pilot/co-pilot would be a short, fat man. Yet another way society is telling me I have the wrong body type.

Brian goes on to explain that there are three emergency exits in this plane.  I look around…there are?!  Where?!  Sure, he says.  Two doors, and…the windshield.  Yup.  He claims this can and should be kicked out if we ever need to get out and can’t do it via the doors.  My first impression: that would be so kickass to kick out the windshield!  Second thought: how the hell am I supposed to get my legs up over the yolk in this tiny thing to be able to even try to kick it out?  How is a fat man supposed to be able to accomplish this?  I want to see training videos!  Third thought:  sigh, if anything goes wrong, I’m a goner.

The last part of the briefing is basically Brian warning me to shut the hell up when he needs to make a radio call.  Because of the headsets we have to wear, anything either of us says while his finger is depressing the radio button thingy will be heard by whoever is listening to that frequency.  Brian also needs to be listening for other pilots making radio calls, too, and if I am yapping, he can’t hear those.  This means that our in-the-air communication is reduced to me acting like a kindergartener tapping on his shoulder for permission to speak.  Either that or I forget the rules completely and Brian has to hold out his hand abruptly to get me to stop.  Yay safety!

I do great, even have awesome fun, when I fly with Brian as long as there is minimal to no turbulence.  We can be cruisin’ along, having a grand ole time, and the second we hit bumps I am freaking out like…like a kid who loves cake and has run out of cake.  Just kidding.  More like a person who really loves life and has run out of life…or at least someone who doesn’t want to throw up in the very intimate cockpit.  The movement that makes me fear for my dear life is when the plane suddenly drops what feels like 100s of feet but is probably only 10s of feet.  It is during those times when I involuntarily gasp very loudly.  At first, the gasping noise would scare Brian and he’d ask what was wrong, and I would look at him like are you in this same fucking plane with me or what?!  But now he’s used to it and he ignores my panic.  During those times, I also involuntarily grope for something to hang onto that isn’t 1) Brian, or 2) part of the plane’s controls.  This is very hard to do, because there is freaking nothing to hang on to!  Cars come with an ‘Oh Shit’ handle and all I get is this flimsy little strap that is right next to the release that opens the door to the plane??!  Somebody didn’t think this through.  I blame the fat, sweaty, short-legged men.

flimsy handle of death

In the interest of lowering my risk of an early heart attack, I have learned to do things that help to ensure (or try to ensure) that I can maintain my calmness and not panic in the case turbulence does arise.  First, I chew gum.  The minty-ness of the gum helps to calm any tummy upset-ness, and having gum just gives me something to chomp down on beside my own tongue.  I also am able to plug my ipod directly into my headset (but not Brian’s), so I use music as a calming force, and this really does work wonders.  The only problem with this is that I can’t sing along with the music…which I tend to do…loudly…without even noticing it…because of reasons mentioned above in the blessed safety briefing.  Since when did safety override the joy of music?  Sheesh.

Because Brian gets his bloody safety briefing, I get to have one rule, too.  My rule is that Brian is not allowed to say “oh shit!” or any equivalently negative exclamation while we are in flight.  He did this once, and I nearly perished from panic right on the spot.  As my pilot, I need to be able to depend on him to keep me alive and as vomit-free as possible.  Neither of us would appreciate it if, in my panic, I accidentally yanked on the door latch instead of the “stay calm and carry on” handle, and then fell out of the plane to my death due to the shoulder strap that is too fucking long.  Too morbid?  My apologies.  Nothing like being in a small plane to put everything into perspective right quick.

One cool thing that I can do and that Brian appreciates is when I scan the sky for other aircraft and then calmly, precisely point them out to him using the clock system and high/low position words.  For instance, I see a plane straight in front of us but at a higher altitude, then Brian appreciates a good, hearty “Twelve o’clock high!” from me.  Let’s just say he would appreciate that if I was able to overcome my excitement at actually spotting another bird aircraft before it has a chance to plow right into us.  “Ooh, ooh, there’s one!” is usually what he gets from me, complete with excited pointing.  And I usually get the abrupt hand-to-the-face.  My duty is done!  I am such an awesome co-pilot, both in the air and in life.

this is Ghostrider requesting a flyby

Stay tuned for next time when we’ll visit the wondrous land of Chico and I’ll share the there-and-back adventures, which essentially amount to an epic tale not unlike our dear friends Mister Frodo and Samwise The Brave, only we have the foresight to take the [mechanical] giant eagle both ways.

Fade to black.

Fade to white.


Two weeks ago I fell ill…it was bound to happen sooner or later what with all the thesis stress going on up in here (see last post), and so I was very very thankful for this past long holiday weekend.  My goals were to sleep and eat and interact with people who are related to me and, in between all that, sit around and do nothing.  And guess what?  SUCCESS!  It was a glorious weekend!  So glorious, in fact, that I neglected to write this blog post during the weekend (hence the doing nothing), and it also included me having contact with a baby.  With its parents’ permission this time! Excellent.

But I wish to back up and first summarize the notable events from before the weekend.  Ahem.

On Monday, November 14th, Brian presented/defended his thesis and it went swimmingly!  I was/am very proud of him!

On Wednesday, November 16th I had a migraine but went to work anyway.  Bad idea.  By Thursday morning, I was full-blown sick from all that stress, so I took a half day and went straight back to bed.  Good idea!  Unfortunate timing for my immune system, Brian and I woke up at 4am on Friday (bad idea, in hindsight) to catch a plane to Seattle for Brian’s friends’ wedding filled with aero-nerds.  Sac airport just recently built and opened a new terminal (good idea!) but neglected to add proper signage so that people could actually get to where they desired to go (baaaad idea).  As we were walking, in the dark, in the cold, through construction to get from one terminal to the next, we came across a nice (read: not nice) man with a large camera.  He turned on the blindingly bright batman camera spotlight, shined it in our eyes, and began firing questions asking if we were lost due to the new terminal and lack of signage.

camera guy: “Are you two lost?  Is that why you’re having to walk to this terminal?”

brian: “yup, we are.”

me: “GO AWAY! HISS!”

camera guy: “So, you didn’t see any signs to get you to the right terminal?”

brian: “nope, we didn’t.”


and then I sprayed plague-filled snot all over him (the camera man, not Brian).  Later on Brian’s coworkers said we made the evening news.

We would have been late for our flight due to lack of signage, but the flight ended up being canceled. Sooooooo, Brian waited while I tried to sleep with the incessant blinging and dinging and announcing of flights over the PA system for 5 hours in the airport while I was a seething pile of viral plague.  Yummy.

Summary:  Seattle was way too cold, I was way too sick and tired, but we managed to have fun at the wedding, which was 20s themed (as well as nerd themed!).  Observe:

We do the 20s in style

Also, I figured I’d use this blog to help out some poor kid or teenage boy or seriously mentally repressed adult male find what he had lost:

Here is Brian doing a very great job of displaying fake empathy.  Or maybe it’s real empathy.  I suppose if I had a dinos- nope, fake empathy.

Thank goodness that following week was short, because I was slowly dying and turning into a walker from The Walking Dead. Moaning, slow walking and all.  The Thanksgiving break was just what I needed to recover and relax and get an added boost of baby-crazy.  We spent Thursday with Brian’s fam and had amazing food.  The Packers won handily against the Lions, which means that my Detroit-born supervisor at work must wear my cheesehead and have his picture taken.  Friendly bets=future leverage.  We spent Friday with my family and my brother almost killed my elderly childhood cat.  Good times.

One of my good friends from high school politely managed to have her baby on Friday as well so that I could visit the following day while I was still in town.  Talk about cuteness!  This was more exciting than reading about unmedicated Bipolar Disorder!  I got to hold the youngest baby I have ever held – 21 hours old.  Beat my last record by over 5 days!  Pretty soon I’ll have to hang out in delivery rooms to keep breaking my record.  Special thanks to my friend for letting me visit!  I think I have enough oxytocin running through me to last a while now…at least til Christmas.