A-b-i-l-i-t-y, Ability

In the fifth grade I represented my classroom in Anthony Elementary’s all-school spelling bee. It was a tense couple of weeks leading up to the contest. It started out with the whole class lining up in groups of five, our teacher Mrs. Coughran, very prideful in her running of a mock spelling bee, tried her best to pit us against others who were at our own spelling level. I was one of the last kids picked to go up, and I soared through my words, until I ultimately had to face-off against my then boyfriend, Todd. Todd was a sweet kid, with a giant forehead, and Jason Priestly hair. I wish I could remember more about him. I do know we were married. We had a fall playground wedding adorned with dandelion chain necklaces, and our reception involved my friends following us around with a Wilson Phillips tape playing in a little boombox. “I know there’s pain. Why do you lock yourself up in these chains? These chains.” It was all very romantic.

As Todd and I stood at the center of the brightly colored classroom, we found ourselves in a sudden death match. We had tied too many times, so Mrs. Coughran told us the first one to spell the next word would win. The word was “Catastrophe”. It was Todd’s chance first. His voice got really low and cracked a little as he spelled, “C-a-t-a-s-s-t-r-o-p-h-e, catastrophe.” Mrs. Coughran winced. He’d spelled it like it sounded, cat ass and all. I was sad for him, but suddenly exhilarated. “Missy, if you can spell the word you get to go to the school spelling bee.” You bet your cat ass I spelled it correctly, then the whole class cheered, Todd and I shook hands, and Mrs. Coughran gave me a big congratulatory hug. The next day Todd broke up with me. He couldn’t deal with my success. I was shocked and very sad, but I pressed on.

Three weeks later I was sitting in a cold, plastic chair, my hair pulled so tight back that it was giving me a headache. “You have to keep your hair out of your face,” my mom said earlier that morning, as she was pulling the comb through my long locks and holding it tight in a pony tail behind my head. I watched in the bathroom mirror as my eyes involuntarily moved up with my stretching skin. “Ow,” I’d protest occasionally. “Hush!” She’d yell. “It has to be tight.” Now here I was, sitting behind a closed curtain on the stage, listening as the whole school filled into the seats on the gym floor, which also doubled as our auditorium and our lunchroom.

Some of the younger kids were messing around. Kicking each other and spelling bad words. “Shit. S-h-i-t” one of the third graders said, and everyone laughed. I rolled my eyes. I had to get focused. I was thinking of words that had been on my practice lists. Trouble, captain, antique. Harder, Missy, harder. Obnoxious. Cologne. Literature. I knew I had to win. If nothing else so Todd would take me back. Who wouldn’t want a famous spelling bee champion for a wife?

Our librarian, Mrs. Simmons, opened the curtain for a peek. She asked if we were ready. She made eye contact with me. I smiled a nervous smile. I was ready, I had practiced for weeks now. She smiled and walked out onto the stage to introduce the spelling bee. One kid whispered to another that she might be sick. “Don’t vomit on me,” replied her supportive friend. I smiled to myself. Kids.

Then the curtains opened, and I looked over the sea of eager faces. I saw Mrs. Coughran, I saw my mom, I saw my friends and Todd, and the principal, Mr. Parks. I saw the lunch ladies, the secretary, I saw my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Nixon, with her hair all the way up to God and her familiar back, arched from childhood scoliosis, bumping up against the hard wall. I saw her smile brightly at us, so excited to cheer her kiddos on. Then I vomited in a little my mouth, swallowed it down, and tried not to cry.

The first round went by in a blur. It was by grade level, so I was one of the last kids to go up and my first word was “e-g-g, egg”. At first I was confused as to why I had such an easy word, but then I noticed some of the first graders had been knocked out in that first round. They were all granted a gentle applause as they were forced to do a walk of shame, down the stairs, through the stage door to join the rest of their dumb, non-spelling classmates. It was dreadful to watch. My stomach churned.

The second round amped up fast. My word was “c-h-o-c-o-l-a-t-e, chocolate”. Used in a sentence as, “Mrs. Nixon loves when her kids bring her chocolate candy bars.” I smiled, remembering Mrs. Nixon’s penchant for Milky Ways and spelled the word correctly. I quickly turned around to walk back to my seat without a nod of approval from the judges. I couldn’t make eye contact with anyone at that point. My nerves were shot.

More kids were knocked out. This time third graders, and one fifth grade girl from another class. I started to feel sweat pooling at the dip in my back. I wondered if it were possible to sweat so much that I would stick to the chair. My mind drifted off then. Unraveling at a unnerving pace. What if, when I was called up next, my chair stuck to my butt when I stood up, then dropped down making a loud noise? What if, when I stood up the kid next to me looked at my chair and there were sweat marks shaped like my butt in the seat? What if I tripped? What if I sneezed into the microphone?

Three more kids fell out of the spelling God’s favor.

“C-h-a-i-r-i-t-y, charity?”

“R-a-r-l-y, rarely?”

“P-u-z-l-e, puzzle?”

“Next.”

I walked up to the microphone very slowly. I had memorized where the cord was on the wooden floor, so I stepped carefully over it. I moved my hands behind my back and looked down at the floor.

“Ability. You have the ability to spell this word.”

I didn’t look up. “Ability. A-b-i-l-t-y. Ability.” I turned to walk back to my chair.

“Oh, I’m sorry Melissa. That is incorrect.”

I froze. My chin hit the floor.

Incorrect. I-n-c-o-r-r-e-c-t.

Mrs. Coughran rushed to the side of the stage to usher me off. I blindly followed her, down the stage stairs, through the door, her soft, manicured hands guiding me quietly back to a seat with my dumb, non-spelling classmates. I sank into my chair, my eyes on the linoleum lunchroom floor. My face burned hot with e-m-b-a-r-r-a-s-s-m-e-n-t. Ms. Coughran lingered over me. Her hands occasionally touching my shoulders in an attempt to comfort me. But it was too late. I was a spelling bee loser. I had let her down. I had let the class down. Todd would have won. He would have went all the way. I didn’t deserve Todd. I was never the same after that day.

Years later I still feel that particular pang of embarrassment sometimes. When I say the wrong thing to the right person. When I think I am helping, but I am just making it worse. When I share any part of myself. I want to look down at my sweaty hands and never look back up.

Today I realized that I’ve let that memory linger for too long now. That memory has stopped me from doing things I want to do. It has prevented me from taking that first step to a new goal. It has prevented me from believing in myself. In taking myself seriously. It has prevented me from letting others take me seriously. I guess I think writing it out now will help in some way. Maybe I will get my ability back. My confidence back.

Hopefully I will.

As for Todd, well, I won’t ever get him back. But that’s okay. I don’t need him anymore. Or his cat ass.

M.

August 25, 2011

I’ve been keeping myself extra busy the last few weeks. Right after surgery up until yesterday I was waking up early, starting on projects, going all day. I’d have music or a podcast on while I worked, which is unusual for me, I enjoy quiet when I work. I had about 15 tabs open on my laptop at one point working on the middle school band’s spring trip, planning a veggie garden for the spring, ordering birthday presents for friends, planning a fall trip for us, getting a jump start on all Jackson’s travels for TSA this school year, planning spirit wear, writing cards to friends, charting my pain levels, and basically saying yes to anything that was thrown my way. At first I thought maybe I’m just spinning to keep myself mentally busy to combat my lack of physical ability during this time of healing, then yesterday I saw the date: August 24th and I realized why I was doing what I was doing.

Today would be my daughter’s 11th birthday. She’d be in fifth grade, maybe sixth grade, depending on when she was allowed to start kindergarten. She’d probably be a dirty blond with a penchant for video games like her brother, or maybe she’d hate video games because that is his thing. Maybe she’d be into science and math, or more likely she’d be like me, writing little stories, doing art, reading late into the night with a flashlight under her blankets thinking we wouldn’t know. I know she’d be smart, and early reader like her big brother. Kind, compassionate, maybe a little shy, letting Jackson be the leader he was born to be.

Those are the thoughts that seep into my concious every year around this time. The idea of who my daughter would be if she were here with me. And every year I try desperately to combat those thoughts, but I am never successful.

My best friend sent us the text she sends every year. The one to say she is thinking of us and of Lydia. Her son’s birthday is tomorrow and so in her head our two children are intrinsically linked. Late August babies. Wanted children. Loved always.

God, it’s a tough day for me. I try each year to spread a little light today, but this year is hard. I’m still on crutches and I’m still in a headspace that makes finding the hope harder. It feels all at once like the only day I can publicly remember her and the hardest day of the year to get through the memory of her. It’s a bad kind of feeling. A stuck kind of feeling.

I’ll choose kindness toward myself today to combat it. I’ll stay in bed longer. I’ll watch “I Love Lucy” and take my time. I’ll turn off the to-do list and the music and the ringer on my phone and I’ll sit in silence for a little bit. Then tonight I’ll hug my baby, I’ll send a gift to my best friend’s son celebrating another year around this wild world. I’ll call my Momma. I’ll make my donations to Trisomy 18 and Planned Parenthood. Slowly I’ll feel better. Slowly I’ll figure this out. Eleven years doesn’t feel so long and it never gets easier. I think we just learn to live with the grief, because what else can you do.

I hope you are learning to live with your grief today. I hope the memories you have suffice, and if not, if the memories are all tough for you like they are for me, I hope you can make sense of the nonsensical in a way that helps others, shines some light, and makes hope float.

I hope Lydia Elizabeth knows I love her, wherever she is, and I hope she knows I made the best decision I could with the information that I had. And I hope she forgives me. And I hope one day I can forgive myself.

Be nice to people, y’all. You just never know.

M.

Dopey, Sleepy, and Doc

In the midst of all my other medical issues since turning 40 years old, I’d like to officially add one more diagnosis to the mix: Obstructive Sleep Apnea. That’s right, I have that disorder that is characterized by large people snoring loudly with full face masks chugging along as they sleep. Maybe you have a different idea of it, but that was mine. Remember that show “Mike and Molly” with Melissa McCarthy? I loved that show, but Mike had sleep apnea and he slept with those tubes and machines and I always thought, “Oh wow, how can anyone deal with that?” Hmpf. Let me back up.

All of my life, or at least as far back as I can remember, I have woke up in the middle of the night coughing and gasping for breath. When I was a kid my mom used to say I must have been having a bad dream, and I believed her. That made sense. Why else would I be crying saying I can’t breath as a child? As I got older and started to experience panic attacks on the reg, I decided that was what was happening when I would wake up shaking, coughing, crying, gasping for breath. I must be having panic attacks. This doesn’t happen all the time, I should add. It’s like once or twice a month on average, but over the last year it has ramped up to a couple times a week. It got to the point where I was afraid to fall asleep some nights because I thought it was night I would have a panic attack.

Fast forward to a month ago, I asked my doc for some sleep meds. I didn’t really elaborate, I just said I can’t sleep. She prescribed me Trazodone and we went on with our life. A month later I had to go back to see her and check in with the sleeping pills and that’s when I was like, “Oh sure it’s working, but I’m still waking up in a panic attack.” She looked at me funny then and told me to explain. I told her all about what I thought was a panic attack or maybe a nightmare? Then she looked at me a little bit like I was dumb and she was all, “That’s not how panic attacks work. It sounds like sleep apnea.” Then she sent me to Dr. Sharma, the sleep doctor at Emory’s Sleep Center.

Dr. Sharma’s office was able to get me right in (there was a cancellation the day I called, which is a lucky thing if you know Emory) and I went to see her the next day. I should say here that all those ideas of sleep apnea were sneaking into my head at this point. I legit wondered if I was “big enough” to suffer from this. I always just assumed this was people who were like hundreds of pounds, and while I am over 200 pounds, I’m not too far over and I’ve been actively working on losing weight the slow and steady method. That’s how dumb I was. (Face palm)

In Dr. Sharma’s office I saw the regular suspects. I saw elderly people, people who were maybe two hundred pounds bigger than me, but then I saw this really slim guy with a t-shirt on that read something about some marathon he’d run, and he was holding his mask, waiting to see his doctor. I was utterly confused. That’s when I got called back and schooled on obstructive sleep apnea by Dr. Sharma.

Turns out obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can happen to anyone, even kids. That’s when I told her that this had been happening to me since I was a kid. OSA is about the way your airways react when your are sleeping. For some people it is the weight that lays against their chests, for others it is about the way your airways are made. When we sleep our body relaxes and if we have small or abnormally-shaped airways (or both, which is likely my case) they get too relaxed and they start to collapse onto each other restricting your airways and plummeting your oxygen levels. Then, because we aren’t getting enough oxygen, our brain alerts our body to wake us up and it does so in a panic gasping for the air we need to fill up our lungs. I was shaking along with her as she was telling me this because this all made sense to me. She told me it sounded like I have OSA, but that we’d have to do a sleep study to have an official diagnosis.

This was days before I was scheduled to go into surgery for my hip, so she suggested an at-home study because we could get that done that evening. She could send me home with all that I needed, though she said that sometimes an in-lab study is still needed if the results are inconclusive. I agreed to the in-home study and I was sent home with instructions on how to do it.

There are probably many methods and companies that help in this process, but I was given the “WatchPat One” information and equipment. This is one-time use equipment, paid by your insurance, that goes along with an app. You download the app, log in with a specific password from your doctor, and before you go to sleep you connect the “watch” and the finger monitor. This is what mine looked like.

It connects to your phone via Bluetooth and basically you just fall asleep and it tracks your oxygen levels and your heart rate all night. It can give false negatives and it can give inconclusive results, it is not near as advanced as the in-lab studies, which are where you spend the night in the sleep center hooked up to a millions machines, but in severe cases this can give a clear diagnosis and at this point Dr. Sharma suspected I had a severe case of OSA. I asked her at one point if losing weight would make it go away. I was still so stuck on my weight being the factor, and she said it might help some people who have moderate OSA, but in my case, she suspected it was so bad, had gone on for so long, that it wouldn’t matter much. Turns out she was right…

Four days after my sleep study she called to tell me that I have severe OSA and most likely have had it since I was a child. She said that my airways are probably small and abnormal and that only a machine would help me. She said that I needed to get on a machine ASAP and use it every night. She said all these years of dealing with this had the capacity to do a real number on my heart, and y’all know I don’t need anymore bad vibes with my heart.

Fast forward to this week and we are currently waiting on insurance to okay not a CPAP machine, which is what most people know, but an APAP machine. A CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine is used to pump oxygen into your body through the mask at a continuous pressure. You set the pressure and let it do its thing. I’m “special” though, because of course I am. *Hair Flip* I need a much more advanced (ahem, more expensive) machine known as an APAP (Automatic Positive Airway Pressure) machine, that meets my oxygen levels where they are and automatically adjusts how much air I need. This is because the “severe” part of my OSA is in my REM cycle and it’s pretty erratic. With the APAP my doctor won’t have to constantly monitor and change how much pressure I get, because it’s kind of impossible for us to know as it changes so drastically. The machine will constantly assess as I’m sleeping and do it for me.

Yay me.

Listen, I’m not sharing this to scare any of you. We all have trouble sleeping from time to time, but if you are like me and it is consistent trouble and you feel like you can’t breathe sometimes and it’s to the point where you are afraid to fall asleep, talk to your doctor please, regardless of your size, because OSA can have real problems on you health and if left unchecked it can get progressively worse.

I’ll work my way through this shame I feel, shame about lots of different things, and you just stay happy as can be that you aren’t me.

Today I was thinking about how I turn 41 in a few weeks and I was excited because it would appear that 40 hasn’t done me any favors, but the truth of the matter is, 40 is the year I got the nerve to deal with all these problems head on, to look for the answers, to ask the questions, to put my ignorance and my shame aside and try to get healthier, so I should be proud of myself. And I will be one day. Maybe I just need a good night’s sleep first.

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

PS… This is what I had to see when I was at Dr. Sharma’s office and I thought it might give me nightmares, so I will pass it on to you. Just FYI, they weren’t looking at the patient’s chair before I got into the room. 🙂

The Surgery (Dun Dun Dun!)

I had the old hip surgery on August 11th and boy was it a doozy. I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I’d be though, I think having gone through one major surgery already (I had a hysterectomy in 2018) was helpful, I sort of knew how it all worked. But Dr. Whitfield did go into this surgery prepping me for the worst-case scenario, and it ended up being a lot of worry for nothing. I’m glad he did it, in hindsight, because I was pleasantly surprised when I woke up after a two-hour surgery, rather than a four-hour surgery. So what did he end up doing? Okay, let’s dive in.

Pre-op

I had a pretty standard pre-op. I got there and was asked to fully undress and wear the surgical gown, which is much better than a regular hospital gown, thankyouverymuch. But first I had to wipe yet again with the surgical wipes, but they were warmed for me, unlike the ones I had to use the night before at home. Brrr. I also had to drink not one, but two pre-op Ensures the day before. I had to do this with my hysterectomy too, I think it might be standard practice now on account of it helping by pumping major carbs into your body. Seriously, so many carbs and really it was so sweet that my teeth were hurting! But it helps with recovery and has been proven to allow a quicker return to normal, as well as a shorter hospital stay, an easier bowel movement post-op, and the loss of less muscle mass during recovery. Seriously, here is a really academic paper on it if you are so inclined. This should be the standard for pre-op.

The walk to the hospital doors. I had taken a Klonopin so I was feeling okay about it all!

After the wipe-down I met Alexis my pre-op nurse, who was kind and funny. You all know I love a funny gal. She was great with the IV and as soon as I was hooked up at #5 (my lucky number!) she brought Jerimiah back to hang with me, which was really nice and helpful at keeping my nerves at bay.

Fall risk, because duh.
He was navigating a work crisis all morning, so he had two phones on him at all times. 🙂 Crisis was averted though.
Feeling ready to get this party started!
With Alexis! She was the best, honestly.

After my IV was all hooked up, I had a visit from the anesthesiologist, Dr. Whitfield (my surgeon), then my OR nurse. They were all very nice and gave me good info and assuaged any lingering fears. Dr. Whitfield was still planning for the worst-case scenario here, which was the four-hour surgery where they had to do several things. But in the end it was much less complicated. This next pic I do not recall taking because they had just given me that medicine in my IV that sort of makes you feel like you had several glasses of wine, well that’s how it makes me feel anyway and I was all, yeah y’all let’s get this party started now!

No recollection of this one.

In the OR I was met by a smiling Adrianna, who is Dr. Whitfield’s right hand lady, and I liked her a lot up until that moment. She said some encouraging words to me then she started putting my feet into boots so I could be put in traction on the table and I was all, “How you gonna do that to me, Adrianna?” But then the anesthesiologist asked me if I talk about Bruno and someone put an oxygen mask on my face and I mumbled, “We don’t talk about…” Then I woke up three hours later in recovery. So yeah, it was an easy surgery for me! 🙂

Operation

They called Jerimiah at 2:00 pm to say the first incision had been made and it was apparently smooth sailing from there. Dr. Whitfield saw some things on my scans he was worried about, mainly that he would not be able to repair my labrum, so he had that cadaver labrum ready to rock and roll and he did end up replacing it in large part due to the fact that my torn labrum had started to repair itself best it could and that was by calcification, meaning it had started growing bone in the tears. This was one of the reasons I was in so much pain. I had my hip bone regularly hitting this calcified bone and wow, it was not fun.

Dr. Whitfield scraped the calcified bone out (there isn’t an easy answer about why some bodies do that) and then he pulled my labrum out and replaced it. He also had to shave off portions of my hip bone that were irregular, they were causing an “impingement.”

After it was all done, however, it was not as long or as involved a surgery as he was expecting and he called Jerimiah at 4:15 to say the surgery was over and I was being taken to recovery.

Recovery

I don’t know how waking up from recovery is for people, but for me it fucking sucks. Sucks, y’all. I just can’t get it together. I wake up five or six times, but never really long enough to talk to anyone or respond to questions, then I just feel all sorts of out of it for like 24 hours.

Because this was an out-patient procedure and I had to meet with Rehab before I was cleared to go, I was out of it the entire time the doctors were teaching me how to use a walker and crutches, how to walk down stairs, and get in and out of a car. Like, I don’t have a clear recollection of any of it. Thank goodness Jerimiah was there. At one point the Physical Therapist was all, “Yeah, I’m gonna stop talking to her and just talk to you,” then he moved his body toward Jerimiah. I was all, “That’s rude, MFer,” in my head. Then I got home and Jerimiah showed me this pic.

Sure, yeah. I get it now.

This was like an hour after I “woke” up and clearly I was not alert and had no real idea what was going on. Take someone to see the PT with you, that’s all I’m saying.

That night when we got home I was still out of it. It was probably a full 24 hours before I had some sense to me, which is why when I saw this awesome spread from my friend Jennifer, I was like, “Oh cool. What happened?” Then I had a couple bites and went to sleep. It wasn’t until the next day that I realized how kick-ass that spread was and how lucky I am to have the community I have.

Jennifer made us asparagus and mushroom pasta, a kick-ass watermelon and pecan salad, French bread, and dessert! She also brought me some beautiful flowers, which apparently her cats attacked the night before (Ha) but you couldn’t tell!

I should also say that we didn’t actually get home from the hospital until 7:00 pm, so Jennifer dropped this off to Jackson who was home because his friend Araf’s mom, Sharmin, brought him home after school. Also, I’ve had a ton of friends send me gifts and texts. My friend Kristi asked me if I needed her to grab groceries for us, other people have said to call if I need anything. But you know I hate to ask for help, and Jerimiah and Jackson have been awesome, as usual, so we are getting by and so far so good.

Because the surgery wasn’t as complicated as he had planned for, the recovery has been far better than I had planned for. In fact, my biggest issue has been the cough. I was pumped so full of fluid that it had to come out somehow. That mixed with the fun aftermath of anesthesia (it really does a number on me) I have had the most problems with the coughing and peeing all night long. But I’ll take that over pain any day. So I’m calling it a win. I’ll do a whole other post about my recovery period, because I certainly have some tips and tricks for people who are going through this surgery or one like it.

Now Here We Are

So, I started this post the day after surgery because I wanted to write about it while it was fresh on my mind, then I got side-tracked and am just finishing it today. But there are some things I bought in preparation for my surgery that have proven to be invaluable so I am going to add a link to them here to finish up this post. As I mentioned my next one will be solely on recovery and the ways I managed to get around in the two weeks after surgery.

I go to Dr. Whitfield on Monday for my post-op check in and I will keep you all informed of how that goes! So until next time, I hope you enjoyed my journey or at least have something to laugh about. Just look at that pic of me with the PT, that should give you a good chuckle.

M.

This has been a life-saver, y’all. Yes, this is my elevated commode and when it came in the mail (I ordered it from Amazon) I was like, “Oh what fresh hell is this?!” But lemme tell you, whew! You’re gonna need it because you aren’t supposed to sit at a 90 degree angle and trust you will feel it if you do. Plus, with strict instructions on “no weight bearing” tell me how you’re supposed to get on and off and wipe yourself in tiny bathrooms like mine without some help. Trust me, buy it. Also, it is FSA-approved!
Another FSA-approved product on Amazon is this shower stool! You have to wait 72 hours after surgery to shower, but when you do you will want to sit. You can’t take a bath because you can’t submerge your leg for two weeks, so it has to be a shower, but standing while you shower might be a pain in the ass. I am fortunate to have a shower that is an easy step in and seriously as big as the rest of my bathroom, but even if you have just a tub/shower combo this will still be very helpful. Buy it!
In the meantime, these bad boys are super helpful in feeling refreshed.

Hip Surgery

Shit y’all, I’m only two days out from this hip surgery and I am starting to panic! But not the kind of Panic! that you would find at the disco, rather the kind of panic that keeps you up all night because it gives you bad dreams. Damn it, I’d much rather be all Panic! At the Disco. Jerimiah had a good suggestion though. He suggested I write out all the stuff since writing things out helps me feel better. He’s right, of course, so I’ve decided to turn to the old blog to document my surgery and all the feelings (and pain levels) and what not, so that 1. It might help me feel more in control of things that I have zero control of and 2. Help others? I’m always trying to help others in my writing, so sure, this might have the capacity to do that too. So let me just get through the nitty-gritty first, then we can start down he rabbit hole of things in subsequent posts.

Diagnosis

So as y’all might recall I have an autoimmune disease called, Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS). It’s essentially arthritis of the spine and it has the potential to fuse joints and all that not-fun stuff. In order to control the progression of the disease I take weekly Humira injections, see my rheumatologist four times a year, do regular bloodwork, and get annual CT scans and MRIs. During a routine MRI back in December of 2021, the doctor noticed some problems with my hips that were not related to my AS. My AS has mainly attacked my SI Joints, which are the joints that connect your pelvis to your spine. On the MRI it was noted that I have “Bi-lateral Labrum Tears” among other issues. It was also noted that my right side was much worse that my left side.

All of this made a ton of sense to me, considering for the last ten years or so, I’ve had incredible, intermittent pain in my right hip area. I would sometimes be in such pain (mainly in the groin area) that I could not walk. This seemed to happen after intense workouts and when I was stretching or jogging or even walking too much, like when the fam and I would go to Disney and walk 15 miles in a day. There was basically nothing that helped alleviate the pain but rest.

I was referred to an Orthopedic Surgeon immediately and that’s when I met Dr. Whitfield. I should mention here that I live in the Atlanta-metro and because of that am blessed to have Emory right up the road from me. My doctors and hospitals are all within a 20-minute drive, with state-of-the-art campuses like 21 Ortho Lane, where I first met my Orthopedic team and where the Atlanta Hawks practice. No, they will not let you on the court to take a selfie. I asked.

Upon meeting Dr. Whitfield he showed me my scans and I was like, “Eww, is that my butt?” It is, it is your butt on an MRI scan and it’s not cute and he was all, “Can we focus?” Sure thing. Then he showed me where the biggest areas of concern were and it turns out it was with my right labrum which has been really “jacked up” (my term, not his) from years of overuse and also the way my hip bones are made. Seems I have bones that come to a point. Your hip bones should be rounded but mine are not which means for years they have been doing a number on my labrum.

Le sigh.

Your labrum, in case you don’t know what the heck a labrum is like I didn’t know what the heck a labrum was, is the ring of cartilage that goes around the socket that acts as a suction seal and as a stabilizer. One of the other not-so-fun symptoms of this problem is that my hip often “pops” or comes out of place and then goes back in which is usually unexpected and painful. You also have a labrum in your shoulder, maybe other places too, I dunno, I’m not a doctor. Here, look it:

There is the labrum and also you can see the bone that fits into all snug as a bug in a rug? See the rounded part there that looks kind of like a penis, if you see penises in things like I do? That fits up against your labrum, and yeah, it does sound like labia which is how I got there. Annnnnnyway, my bones and ligaments in this pic are all kinda jacked up and that labrum is really jacked up and that is why we are where we are. And that’s my official diagnosis: Jacked-up Hip.

Treatment Options

Since my left hip isn’t bothering me at all, even though it has the same probs, we are just ignoring that one for the time being, but it’s possible I’ll have to repeat this surgery on the left side one day. It’s also “likely” that I will need a full hip replacement on account of my jacked-up hip and my AS. So why not just get a new hip? That’s a valid question, thanks for asking. I too asked that question and Dr. Whitfield told me all about how if you put brand new tires on a young (new) car you will still need more new tires years later because the young (new) car will tear up the new tires and basically I’m a Ferrari.

I’m too young at forty for new hips and my hips aren’t “that jacked up.” But when I’m 60 we will be having a different conversation. No offense to less young Ferraris.

First we tried hip injections. This is where they inject the hip with steroids and hope for the best. My first injection immediately took the pain away and allowed me to go to AWP in Philly for a weekend of walking and exploring the city, then when I got home the pain was back. The injection lasted about four weeks.

The second injection allowed me to go to Disney and have a kick-ass time with the fam, very little pain, until the last day then BAM! The second injection lasted me about a week.

After the two “failed” injection attempts we moved on to surgery. To be fair there is another option, physical therapy. And I could have tried it but with my AS it makes PT tricky. What might help my hip, has the potential to hurt my SI Joints and likewise. Plus, there’s no way you can PT your bones to be more rounded.

Normal/Not Normal

So now here we are, two days from what they tell me is, Hip Arthroscopy to replace a jacked up labrum, along with shaving my bone to make it round, and something, something, something. This is a pretty common surgery with pretty good results. Dr. Whitfield is the resident expert in this surgery at the Emory Orthopedic and Spine Hospital where I will be having the it done. This hospital is actually in Tucker, GA the town I live in and it’s right off The Perimeter, making it uber convenient because it is an out-patient surgery.

Normally they’d just fix a torn labrum but mine is so jacked up it has to be replaced. Normally they replace it with your own tissue, but in my case there’s a risk of my body attacking its own tissue, on account of the autoimmune disease, so I’m getting a new labrum fashioned from a dead person. For sure, it’s cadaver tissue and this isn’t my first time getting cadaver tissue (they use it in dental implants of which I have one) and my body was cool with it, so awesome.

Thanks dead people for donating your bodies. I am also an organ donor, though I don’t know what they will possibly want from me? They probably can’t take a labrum out of my body that originally belonged to a different dead person? Right? Or maybe they can and deeply discount it? Like half off? Most of my joints are junk and my heart, well, check back in with me in about 20 more years. Also, if you want to be an organ donor you can do so here.

Also they will be shaving the bone and cleaning the area, as well as poking holes in it all to generate stem cell growth. I have no idea why, but I’m told it’s all normal. It’s approximately a four-hour surgery and in terms of this surgery I’m getting the Cadillac of deals. As in, this looks cool, but it isn’t. It’s just overpriced and will end up making your friends think you are pretentious. It hits all my out-of-pocket costs though, which means I’ll get all the rest of my medical shit for free* through April!

*Free is not free you see. It’s actually $5000, but $5000 is way better than $40,000 which is the MSRP on this bad boy.

Outcomes

Since my diagnosis I’ve talked to a ton of people who have either had a similar surgery or who know someone who has. This diagnosis is common in athletes of particular sports that require pivoting, like basketball, soccer, and even softball, of which I played all through my childhood. It’s also common with people who suffer from various autoimmune diseases like mine, which makes my outcomes a little more complicated.

With the right PT and a top-notch surgery Dr. Whitfield says I should be at about 90% within the next year. Meaning in a year or less I will be walking normally and (fingers crossed) without the pain and the popping that I have become accustomed to. I might even be able to stretch my right leg or move it in certain ways I was not previously able to! Wow!

My weight factors in, but only slightly. I’m a sturdy girl. Like if I were a dancer I could try out for Lizzo’s Big Gurrrrls, okay. 💁🏻‍♀️But he’s actually more concerned with my AS, than my weight having a significant impact on the outcome of surgery. It just makes it all tricky. Plus, I’ve had to go off my weekly injections for a total of six weeks (three before and three after) to limit my risk of infection. I’ve been okay so far, no flare-up of significant symptoms (someone knock on some wood for me) but I’m definitely reminded daily why I take the risk of injection every week.

My recovery starts immediately and looks like rest and crutches for the first four to six weeks. This is nuts to me, but I see why. It’s just that again, I hear all about people having complete hip replacements and being up and at ‘em the next day, so it’s frustrating to know I won’t be up or at ‘em for a bit. Plus, I have crutches already and I’ve been practicing on them and uh, no. Just no. My upper body strength is gone since I’ve been on rest for almost a year now, and oh yeah, my damn dogs are terrified of them.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh! Sorry. Just needed to scream.

So there you have it. The first blog post of probably several pertaining to my hip surgery. I hope you’ve found this helpful, enlightening, or entertaining in the least.

I go in on Thursday morning and should be home by dinner. My friend Jennifer is actually bringing dinner to us Thursday night, so I won’t have to worry about that and we’ve prepped best we can for my recovery. I’m so incredibly thankful to my friends and Jackson and Jerimiah who will be helping me out the next couple months. I couldn’t imagine having to do all this alone.

Okay so you know the deal, y’all: Thanks for reading and stay safe and sane out there!

M.

Happy Birthday, Jerimiah!

Today is Jerimiah’s 41st birthday. Usually I write a silly, funny, sappy FB post or a share a pic on Instagram, but he’s off all social media these days so instead I’m turning to the old blog to let the world know how grateful I am for him because that’s what you do for the people you love. You celebrate them every chance you get by reminding them how incredibly important they are in your life and the lives of others. Because really, at the end of this life what do we have but the way we treated people, the lives we touched, and the blog posts that will live in perpetuity.

Forty-one Things We Love and Appreciate About You

  1. You treat our doggos like they are our children. You cuddle with them, you let them sleep on your feet and take up way more space in our bed than they should. You pay stupid amounts of money to keep their hair and nails cut. You worry about them when they develop a cough or eat something weird in the backyard. You try your hardest to teach them right from wrong. Right: Be nice to the neighborhood cats. Wrong: Stop chasing and barking at the neighborhood cats. Even though you also hate cats.
  2. You watch murder documentaries with me and YouTube videos with Jackson because we ask you to watch them, not because they interest you in the slightest.
  3. You do the things that need to get done that no one else wants to do. Example: Cleaning up the mouse poop from that weird crawl space in the basement and not complaining about it one bit.
  4. You don’t mind being “the bad guy” when it comes to holding your boundaries or helping Jackson and me hold ours. You have always said, “Just tell them you can’t (insert thing we don’t want to do) and blame it on me.” We never blame things on you, but we appreciate you going to bat for us at all times.
  5. You vote in every election. You send postcards to get other people to vote. You phone bank. You protest in the streets. You do the damn things. You show up.
  6. Before you have some important thing to talk to us about, you ask us if we have time to talk. This is something you have actively worked on over the years and I think it stems from you being a good leader at work. You don’t want to interrupt people when they are doing something, you are considerate and thoughtful in that way, same as you like for people to respect your time.
  7. Speaking of your time, all your “free time” is spent with your family and we appreciate you for it. You are not the dad or husband who makes his own plans on the weekend without consulting us first. You always say, “What are we doing?” And if you are invited somewhere you say, “I have to talk to the family first. Also, can I bring them?” It’s weird to you to do something without us and the feeling is mutual. We are a packaged deal and you make sure everyone knows it.
  8. The phrase, “We’ve always done it this way,” irritates the shit out of you. You think people use it as a crutch and will never grow or expand their opportunities, knowledge, and ability for empathy if they continue to believe things can’t get better. You are always looking for ways to make things better.
  9. You don’t kill spiders, when you can help it. You shoo them out of the house instead.
  10. You don’t have a fragile male ego. You don’t want your son to have a fragile male ego. You are systematically ridding our lives of these men, even the ones related to us, which is hard and sad, but necessary. Thank you.
  11. You give hugs and kisses and tell us you love us every day.
  12. You take us wherever we want to go. If we wake up one day and want to drive to the beach, you’re game. NYC for the weekend? Why not? Disney for the THIRD time in a year? “Okay, yeah, we can probably make it happen,” you say.
  13. You cook. You clip recipes from random flyers we get in the mail. You pull recipe cards from packaging. You browse the Kroger website for recipes. You often say, “I saw this recipe on LinkedIn that I want to try!” Who looks for recipes on LinkedIn? Who shares recipes on LinkedIn? You do.
  14. You fight for the people who have a hard time fighting for themselves. Your employees have no idea what you do for them behind the scenes, and while it’s best that way, sometimes I wish they knew how much you care about how they are treated, compensated, and spoken to.
  15. You volunteer to come to my doctor’s appointments because you know it makes me feel better to not be alone sometimes.
  16. You despise CIS white men who play golf all day and tell racist/sexist/homophobic jokes. The men who are always turning everything into a competition. You are learning to speak up to them. You are working to rid your life of them.
  17. You do not shy away from the tough conversations. Not with me, not with Jackson, not with your co-workers, our family, or our friends.
  18. You are a lifelong-learner who is always taking opportunities to grow and change, even if what you are learning has the capacity to bump up against your worldview and beliefs. You will still politely listen, take it all in, think on it, talk it out with us, then decide. Maybe you will change your mind, maybe you won’t, but you always try to see the other side.
  19. You love board games, but only when they aren’t taken too seriously.
  20. You jump in with both feet. You have always taken the chance. It hasn’t always paid off, but when it does, it pays off big. Your motto is: The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. There are times I know you were nervous to do it, but you did it anyway and every time we are better than before because of your courage and tenacity.
  21. You cry when you need to, even if it is in front of our kid. I don’t think you realize how important that is and how hard it is for other men to do.
  22. You always read what I write or let me read to you. You always try to have feedback for me, even though that is not your thing.
  23. You remember birthday and anniversaries.
  24. You ride the Tea Cups at Disney, even though they make you sick. You ride them with us one time and you smile and you make a big deal of it so Jackson laughs and laughs and laughs. Then afterward you sit on a bench and drink a Sprite while you watch us ride them eight more times.
  25. You smile for the picture and you don’t complain.
  26. You volunteer for all the things and make them work in your own capacity. You are the freaking President of Band Boosters for fuck’s sake. How many other dads do you know work full-time as the sole supporter of the family, show up to all the school events, help the PTO whenever they need, and are also the PRESIDENT of the freaking Band Boosters? I only know one guy.
  27. You dress up on Halloween with us in whatever theme we come up with.
  28. You have no qualms about driving for 12 hours to pick up my mom in Kansas, because she is afraid of flying, to come stay with us for a month-long visit.
  29. You are the SOLE financial supporter of this family. With an artist for a wife, you don’t have a lot of options. But you do it without complaint or ridicule or even side-eyeing me. In fact, you go out of your way to make sure I have very little guilt about it. There’s always guilt and I know that frustrates you, but I’m working on it. You tell me to keep writing. To keep pursing my academic goals. You tell me we will make it work. You have always said that and it has always worked.
  30. You are sarcastic and clever and wicked funny.
  31. You are working hard on breaking the cycle of generational trauma.
  32. You let Jackson and me work things out on our own. You don’t “mansplain” and if you accidentally do, you realize it and apologize. You always apologize, in fact, when you have messed up, even sometimes when you haven’t but think you might have. You ask if you messed up. You let those conversations happen. You seek ways to get better. You think about what you just said and how you said it. You do this with friends and family, with coworkers, with me, and most importantly with Jackson. You never chalk it up to him “being a kid” and not needing an apology. We hope you know how much we appreciate this and how hard it is for people to do. You should teach a masterclass.
  33. You support whatever weird obsession Jackson and I develop. You go all in with us.
  34. You always get the doggos pup cups from Starbucks and kid cones from Dairy Queen.
  35. You like to shop for Christmas presents and birthday presents and any other presents. You aren’t that Dad who just gets his name written on the Mother’s Day cards or the Welcome the New Baby cards, you often write them yourself and sign our names. Thanks.
  36. You always involve Jackson in work, conversations, and situations that will benefit him in the future. He can change tires and brakes. He can drive a manual. He can clean out the gutters and have tough conversations with family members because he’s been privy to all that.
  37. You send us articles that you want to discuss with us or that we might find interesting or challenging. We wouldn’t know about half the cool-ass shit we know about without you and your articles and your podcasts.
  38. You share your pronouns when asked. You wear your “Proud Ally” shirt whenever you can. You support friends and family all the time.
  39. You don’t have to be “right,” you just want to be heard and respected, while also respecting everyone else’s thoughts and ideas.
  40. You take fashion advice with a smile, even though I’m sure you get tired of me saying, “Are you gonna wear that?”
  41. You will drop anything you are doing if we need you. We know that is the case and we try to do it sparingly because we always know you are there and that we are the most important people to you in the whole world. We hope you know we feel the same and that all the other things in this life don’t matter as long as the three of us (ahem, five of us) are together. We would follow you to the ends of this world to keep us as close as possible. We love you and appreciate the dad, partner, and friend that you are to us.

Happy 41st Birthday, Dad. We love you to the moon and back.

M. and Jackson

There’s honestly too many good pics to post of you being awesome! But Jackson wanted to make sure this last one made it on here! 🙂

School’s in Session

Well, not exactly. Not quite yet, but school around here does start on August 8th, which means we only have two weeks left of “summer” which makes me incredibly sad. I love having my kid home with me, being able to run off whenever we want to, not having to plan things, or worry about after-school rehearsals and meetings. Bleh. But alas, I’m not educated enough in some subject areas, ahem, math, I can’t do math, y’all, to home school so here we are, bent to the damn will of the public school system. Cause y’all know how I feel about private school, but that’s a whole other post.

Because school starts in two weeks our schedules have already exploded with things to do. Jerimiah and I have to work the Open House table for Band Boosters. We have school-wide beautification day, I have PTO duties, including serving an awesome breakfast for 125 teachers and staff on their first day back, and then there is the last-minute additional school clothes shopping (I know he didn’t buy enough new underwear), the cleaning out of the band boosters room, the list goes on. It’s also that time of year for other parents to start bitching about buying school supplies.

I know, I know, I’m like a broken record with this shit, but I have to be because some of y’all are like broken records with bitching about buying school supplies. You’ve also recently taken to being mean to the PTO/PTA, and saying shit like, “We need some big changes!” Then when asked how and if you will help, you suddenly disappear. That’s infuriating, but all too common. Also, another post.

Let me get back on track and just say: BUY THE DAMN SCHOOL SUPPLIES AND SHUT IT!

Now, if you are the parent of a middle schooler or higher, please DON’T actually buy the school supplies until the end of the first week of school. Those teachers will give you specific lists for their own classrooms. It is always safe, of course, to send your child to school the first week with a bag (and here I mean every day with a new bag for a new teacher) of hand sanitizer, Kleenex, and TICONDEROGA pencils. Say it with me:

TICONDEROGA!
TICONDEROGA!
TICONDEROGA!

If you are chanting the brand of pencil and it doesn’t sound like you’re summoning a sea God from an obscure society in a sci-fi novel, you are buying the wrong brand of pencil.

Dixon!
Dixon!
Dixon!

Paper Mate!
Paper Mate!
Paper Mate!

See, it’s not right.

I feel like I’ve been enlightening you all enough over the last eight years that I don’t need to explain why it has to be Ticonderoga, or why it is so important that you buy school supplies for you kids, so I won’t go into this year. You’re welcome. But I do need to remind you that I am talking to those parents who can legitimately afford school supplies, and who will probably buy them, but will bitch the whole time and just make your life and anyone who will listen for that matter, full of school-supply-buying drama. Stop! Everyone talks about you behind your back. *Raises my hand as I have been a “Mean Girl.” (We just watched that movie over the weekend for family movie night. It’s still a 10/10.)

If you are a parent who cannot afford Ticonderoga, any pencil brand will work and be appreciated. If you are a parent who cannot afford pencils, your child will be provided pencils from parents like me, who will load up Jackson’s teachers with them, as well as the teachers themselves, who know kids will need pencils so they buy them with their own money year-round. Also, there are many places to find donated school supplies. If you need help you can check out this website for ideas on who to contact. Locally, there was an enormous school supply drive for DeKalb County Schools this year, as well as a separate one for Atlanta Public Schools. Even the smallest school districts have ways to get free supplies for your children, just ask around.

I want to mention something I saw on FB the other day. FB, as you know, and I have a love/hate relationship and currently it is a hate/hate deal, but we must trudge on. The other day in a local mom group I saw a mother ask what it is exactly teachers “do” with plastic bags. Let’s let that just sit there a moment. She wanted teachers to explain to her what EXACTLY they use plastic bags for. She wanted teachers to “educate” her, like teachers owe her an explanation.

Now, did I want to jump in and give a myriad of ways that teachers use plastic bags? Yes, I did. Because even as a person who is NOT a teacher, I can think of at least 10 ways elementary school teachers use plastic bags on the daily and how this particular mom couldn’t figure that out on her own and instead had to take it to the collective seemed, well, passive-aggressive to be nice.

Bitchy. That’s the word I was looking for.

She posed it as just “wondering,” just wanting to be educated on “the elementary school use of plastic bags” that she never sees again once she takes them in. The audacity of teachers to not return unused plastic bags or get her those bags back in some way or another throughout the school year! She obviously doesn’t spent enough time in the classroom or she’d see them littered all over the place. Holding take-home-books, headphones, children’s shirts they vomited on, lost teeth, etc. She also, feeling the dial of the heat she started turning on her, said she had “environmental concerns.” *Side eye.*

Stop.

Stop.

Stop.

If your kids teachers asks for five gallon-sized boxes of plastic bags, just get your ass to Sam’s Club and shut up, middle-class moms.

If y’all remember (raising my hand) I was a free-lunch kid. I had a parent who was generally unable to buy the whole list of school supplies, though she often put a layaway on at K-Mart at the end of one school year for supplies for the next, that’s planning and thinking ahead! Even then, my school supplies were always off-brand. I got RoseArt Crayons, y’all. RoseArt.

But the thing I remember more than the shame of RoseArt Crayons, was the kids who came into class empty handed on the first day of school. The kids worse off than me. I was in a Title One school, there were kids worse off than me. So, I always slipped those kids something. A pack of pencils, or some erasers. Something to let them do the march up to the teacher’s desk with a school supply. I knew our situation and I felt shitty for it, so much shame, y’all. So I can only imagine what the kids worse off than me felt like.

All I’m saying here is that we all find ourselves in different difficulties in life, but when it comes to our kids and school supplies, stop talking about it with them around. Again, if you can’t buy school supplies, your kids will be okay, they will be provided. If you can and you just walk around bitching about it, stop. Kids see and hear all of this, then they take it into the classroom with them.

YOU bitching about supporting YOUR KIDS’ teachers sits there in the subconscious. Teaches them that their teachers don’t deserve their support, and that has far-reaching consequences. It also sits on their hearts and is reflected back at the kids who couldn’t support teachers in that way, either positively or negatively.

I think that is all I have to say today. This has in fact been my annual bitching about parents who bitch about school supplies. And I feel better.

Stay safe and sane, y’all,

M.

Jeeper Creeper Shit

We went to the Georgia coast for the first time last weekend. We kept meaning to get there, but every time we’d have a free weekend we’d fill it with yard work, or lounging on the couch all day, or going to Disney, there was nothing else. So, we decided to do it and just book the room and be committed. We also decided to take the dogs because ultimately we dream of being that family who travels everywhere with our dogs, only our dogs are shitheads with serious anxiety about most situations. So, we booked a hotel for two nights at a dog-friendly place, which generally aren’t the “nicest” hotels, but that’s okay we don’t want to be the people staying at a four-star hotel getting complaints because our dogs bark whenever someone walks by the door. People at two-star hotels are way nicer, and usually much more forgiving.

I should mention here that the Georgia coast is fucking lovely. The “fucking” is necessary there because that’s how lovely it is. I so want to tell y’all about St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island and Savannah, and I will, but first I have to tell you about something else. The flat tire. Well, the almost flat tire…

Friday we went to St. Simons Island where the dogs are welcome on that beach after 6:00 pm and they were actually pretty good doggos. Winnie, who is terrified of everything, was terrified of everything. But Duke, a much better traveler as he had two years of experience before Covid, was a very good boy except when other dogs won’t say hello to him he takes offense immediately, he shows no grace, and he gets pissed off and starts his barking and jumping on his hind legs like a goddamned madman. But that’s just normal Duke.

Our goal was to make it to three beaches: Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island Beach, and St. Simons. So with the last one checked off the list, Saturday morning we decided to head for Driftwood Beach, which as you may know is a beach littered with driftwood and it’s marvelous! See below.

On Saturday morning, we loaded up the beach buggy and the umbrellas and chairs, snacks and water, and we headed for the beach. The dogs came along because dogs are welcome all the time at Driftwood. As soon as we headed out Jerimiah looked concerned. He pulled into the Starbucks parking lot which was right across the street from our hotel (lucky us!) and said, “I picked something up in the tire.” He then got out of the car and checked the tire and saw a huge bolt sticking into the tread. Jackson got out and they conferred and the next thing I know we are at Firestone.

Now, this is where the story takes an interesting turn. We had obviously picked up a very large bolt in the tire and the tire was losing air. We all heard it. It was hissing air. But the tire sensor was not registering that we were losing air. I should mention here that last year we bought our first “nice” car. It’s an Audi Q7 and it is the most money we have ever spent on a car and for good reason. This car is top-notch nice and we love it. However, when all you have driven for most of your life are small Volkswagens (I know, I know Volkswagen owns Audi, but they are not the same) and Chevy pick-ups, let’s just say there are some things to learn about luxury cars and we usually learn them a little too late.

Like Saturday at the beach.

At Firestone they told us they couldn’t get us in until well after lunch. Then they told us to go to some other tire place down yonder. Meanwhile, the dogs are in the car, along with all our beach shit, it’s like 10 am on a Saturday in Georgia. It is hot, is what I mean to say, and we are all standing in a tire store parking lot wanting to be at the beach.

On the way to the other tire place, we decide to try Sam’s Club. We have taken our cars to Walmart to have the tires serviced before so we know they can usually get us in quickly and they are fairly inexpensive. So when we get to Sam’s Jerimiah goes in and Jackson and I start taking all the things from the back of the car to look for the spare. Meanwhile, there is hissing, but the tire is not going flat.

We get the back unloaded and voila! No spare. Just a can of “slime” and an air pump. What the what?

“Where’s the damn spare?” I squeak out.

Jackson says, “We don’t have one.”

Jerimiah comes back to the car and looks at us looking in awe at each other and he’s all, “Oh yeah, I was afraid of that.” Then he tells us that Sam’s Club can take a look at the tire in an hour. So we decide to sit there and wait. Meanwhile, Jerimiah takes the dogs for a walk around Sam’s Club and Jackson and I go inside to look for bug spray because the bugs at the coast are no joke. We do not question why there isn’t a spare, because what can you do?

Inside, I notice that there are no cars currently in the bays and three guys are just standing around. I figure I will go ask if they can squeeze us in a bit sooner and that’s when I meet Matt, the tire guy at Sam’s Club. Matt is very nice to me, although he was kind of a dick to Jerimiah. He tells me to have Jerimiah go ahead and pull it in. (eye roll) So I’m all, “Oh thanks! Because we don’t even have a spare!” And then Matt stops and looks at me.

“What kind of car is it?” He asks, very seriously.

“An Audi Q7.”

“Oh no, I can’t help you,” Matt says.

“Why not?”

“You’ve got run-flats.”

“Huh?”

Alright so some of you already knew where this was going because you’re not a dumbass like me. I had heard the term “run-flat,” but only for military vehicles. I had zero idea normal, everyday cars had run-flats. If you are kind of a dumbass like me (we really aren’t dumbasses, but you know, we kind of are) then you know that a run-flat is a tire that will not go flat. You can drive on them, up to 50 miles but probably a lot more, which is why we don’t have a spare tire. We have an air pump to pump up any air we have lost and then drive to the nearest tire place to get a new tire. Which in theory is no big deal, only when you are in Brunswick, Georgia on a Saturday in July and you have “very big, odd” tires, well, there is a problem.

You see, you have to replace a run-flat with a run-flat. And our tire size is 285/45/20, which I know by heart now having called about 15 tire places in a hot parking lot last Saturday. And they are hard to get. They have to be ordered.

We had a couple of options at that point. We could chance the tire back to Atlanta or we could spend a few more days at the coast and wait for a tire to get in or we could try to find someone who would patch the tire. Sam’s Club would not patch the tire. That is their company policy. Walmart, and many other places, will not patch a run-flat because they don’t want to take liability if something goes wrong. It’s an expensive tire and people will sometimes drive them until they actually do go flat just to avoid getting a new tire which makes the whole situation worse.

I get that this is way more than you wanted to know about car tires today and I salute you for sticking around.

At this point we were all hot and sweaty and a little bothered, but I gotta say, maybe it was the salt air, maybe it was the fact that we were all together, maybe it was because we were on vacation, but our spirits were still high. We never once got short with each other or complained. Whenever one of us would start to feel defeated we would look around the car and laugh a little. Honestly, this time was coming. We are road trippers and we are generally VERY lucky. We’ve never had any major problems with a car on a road trip (someone knock on wood) and the fact of the matter is this wasn’t a “major” problem, it just was a problem we had to conquer as a family.

We decided to drive down yonder to old what’s his names tire place. It was almost noon at this point and the temp was heating up. Turns out old boy closes up at noon on Saturdays. So, in another hot parking lot, we took the dogs out for a walk and started calling. Jackson called car dealerships around the area, who were less than helpful, if they answered. (The nearest Audi dealership was Jacksonville!) Jerimiah called random numbers he got from each tire place we had been to. I called tire shops like Mavis, Firestone, and Goodyear. No one had the tire, no one could get the tire quickly, no one could get us in. The Mavis in Savannah gave me another option: Just buy four new tires that are not run-flats.

“That seems extreme,” I said, as I looked out onto the massive yard in front of the tire shop while Duke took a big shit right into a ditch filled with water and mosquitos. “How much?”

“Ohh, I don’t have that size tire in stock.”

AHHHHHH!

The Firestone guy asked where we were.

“Brunswick.”

“Oh, you’ll need to go to Savannah to find a tire like that.”

The Goodyear guy in Savannah told me I’d have to go to Atlanta.

“That’s where we live. I know we can find 20s in Atlanta. Please help me get back to Atlanta!”

For his part, the Goodyear guy did try. But best he could do was get me a tire by Tuesday, which would be no big deal usually, we’d just stay a couple extra days and have a great time, but I had my pre-op appointments on Monday.

We all got back into the car. Jerimiah looked defeated. Jackson was sweating. The dogs were licking our faces. I said, “Jekyll told me to call Brunswick. Brunswick told me to call Savannah. Savannah told me to call Atlanta.”

We looked at each other.

“Well, let’s just go to the beach,” Jerimiah said. “We will figure it out.”

He started up the car and then the sensor came on: “Tire pressure is low in driver, left rear!”

Damn it.

That’s when I was like, “The Mavis lady told me to call RimThyme, which seems nuts. It’s like one of those places that sell spinning wheels. We don’t need spinning wheels. Or do we…”

That sparked an idea with Jerimiah who had been Googling tire shops all morning. He’d come across one called, “Rent a Wheel” in Brunswick so he called them and thirty minutes later our tire was patched and we were on our way to the beach! For real, “Rent a Wheel” saved us! They got us right in, were appalled no one would patch our wheel, “It’s just a normal tire inside,” the guy said, ” And besides, the bolt was in the tread, not the sidewall.”

Although when he pulled the bolt out of the tire he did say, “This is some Jeeper Creeper shit!” The bolt was actually massive and we still don’t know where we picked it up at, but check out this bad boy:

It was about three inches long and what even is that? An eye bolt? I dunno. In hindsight I should have taken a pic next to something for scale, but just know that the tire dude was accurate with his “Jeeper Creeper Shit” comment. If we lived there we’d think someone was out to get us! Damn it, maybe it was all the barking…

When the tire was patched and ready he told Jerimiah that would be $20. All Jerimiah had in cash was $25 so he gave it all to him and was like, “If I had more, I’d give it to you. You saved me today.”

Then we left the tire shop and promptly went to an ATM to pull out cash to take it back to the tire guy because the truth of the matter is, when you tell someone “If I had more…” in a situation like that, you just go and get more.

When Jerimiah returned with cash to “tip” him, he was so surprised and shook Jerimiah’s hand. He was the nicest person we encountered on our whole trip. Brunswick, Georgia, you hear me? We all know you have some issues (RIP Ahmaud Arbery) and you need to get your shit together, but please respect your “Rent a Wheel” people.

So yeah, that was our Saturday morning on vacation. We took the dogs to Driftwood, we walked, we played in the water, I cut myself when I fell into a hole with rocks (Driftwood is not a swimming beach, it’s a walking beach, for future reference) and then we took the dogs back to the hotel, went swimming for a bit in the pool, then got them situated in the kennel and went out Saturday night for dinner (Tortuga Jack’s on the water), mini golf, ice cream, and an evening stroll on Jekyll Island, where we were looking for the Loggerheads, but instead found a family of deer eating Loggerhead eggs. (shocked face!) It was a lovely evening and at dinner, Jerimiah thanked us for being calm, cool, and collected throughout the whole ordeal and we thanked him for the same. And also for being the kind of guy who goes back to the ATM.

The truth is, when Jerimiah and I were sitting in the car trying to figure out what we were going to do, both of us were transported back to our childhoods. Both of us have memories of flat tires–no run flats in sight–and how our parents handled that situation, and well, it wasn’t good. I remember being afraid we would be stranded because my mom didn’t have the money to replace a tire and Jerimiah remembers his dad flying off the handle, which was common, he was a raging alcoholic who flew off the handle at anything and everything. And we were proud of ourselves and at each other for pushing ourselves to be better versions of the parents we had, to be far removed from that generational shit that has the potential to bring us down, for being the kind of people who laugh when there’s nothing else you can do, and well, for buying an Audi, it was just a smart decision.

Stay safe and sane and try not to get yourself into any jeeper creeper shit, y’all.

M.

MFnA, Y’all

Whew, it’s been a whirlwind kind of summer so far. I haven’t even been here on the old blog in several months and it shows. It’s looking a little shabby around here. Sorry about that, but thank you for your continued support even in my absence. I’ve received at least two comments telling me that they could optimize my platform or something like that and one more calling me an “asshole,” which I mean, I should take offense to, but it is slightly accurate as of late so Imma let it slide.

Well then, how the hell have you all been? Good I hope, all things considered. I have nothing enlightening to say today, only here to catch you up on some things: 1. My dogs are still crazy. 2. It’s hot as shit in Atlanta right now and 3. I’m officially finished with grad school, all school actually, and at the end of the month I graduate, earning my second masters degree, but honestly this is the good one.

Yep, it’s official. My 150-page thesis, a collection of short stories set in the Ozarks, is off to the Trappist Abbey Monks to be bound, my signature pages are signed, all assignments are completed and as far as the world is concerned I’m officially: Melissa Goodnight, MFA. Though because of my friend Andrew and his absurdly wonderful outlook on life, I will only sign my emails, Melissa Goodnight, MFnA because really that’s more inline with the truth of things.

There is actually a ton more going on in my life than finishing up grad school, but there’s a ton going on in everyone’s life right now so I’m gonna spread my shit like a Roomba that got hold of the puppy’s accident, that is to say I’ll gonna make a trail of shit over the next several weeks to keep you all updated.

And also, you are welcome for that visual.

Wow, I really did miss you all and I’m super glad to be back. Back to having free time to write on my blog, back to reading what I want to read, and back to being able to make up outrageous lies for how to get out of social obligations since I can’t blame it on thesis anymore…

So as usual, stay safe and sane, y’all! Let’s talk again soon.

M.

Sexualizing Kids

Friends,

Please don’t say that you don’t agree with “sexualizing” children in relation to Florida’s “Don’t say gay” bill, because if you are a parent you know that since the age of like two, people have been sexualizing your kids, saying to you things like, “Ohh, she’s gonna break hearts!” Or “Ohh, he’s going to have so many girlfriends!”

Adults actually asked my KINDERGARTNER if he had a girlfriend. Repeatedly.

Adults actually asked my second grader if he thought “blonde girls are the prettiest!”

Adults consistently ask my middle schooler if he has kissed his girlfriend.

Are. You. Kidding. Me.

Society “sexualizes” children all the damn time in their clothes, their hair/makeup, the way they are taught to look at the other gender, etc.

So say what you really mean, “Gay people make me uncomfortable and I don’t know what to do with that emotion so I have to freak out so everyone knows I don’t like it.” Or something like that.

I actually know parents, today, who think this way, say things like, “Kids shouldn’t be ‘dating’ or discussing sex in school, that’s not why they are there,” then want their sons and daughters to go to school dances or let their kids wear attention-seeking clothes.

What do you actually think your child is talking about in middle school with their friends?! Newsflash: Sex is a topic, whether you like it or not.

Stop.

You look just as ridiculous as the adults out there sexualizing our kids. It’s bigoted and it’s hate-filled rhetoric. It’s from far-right republican leaders who lack critical-thinking skills.

Don’t be that.

Do better.

Lastly, some of y’all need reminded to love your kids for whomever they are, whomever they turn out to be. Gay, straight, trans, gender fluid, a high-school graduate, a PhD candidate. Love your kids and make sure that they know it’s okay to be who they are in their hearts.

That’s how this world gets better.

Thanks for coming to my TEDTalk.

M.

Our 20th Anniversary

On this day 20 years ago, while drinking beers at the Kansas City St. Patrick’s Day parade, Jerimiah asked me to be his girlfriend. I said, “Sure,” then hilarity ensued. Well, it took some years for the real hilarity, but right away I was happy. I was happy because I saw the potential of our life together. I saw how sweet this guy was and how lucky I was to snatch him up. He, I think, saw regular sex.

Now here we are 20 years later and this morning while I coughed up my morning phlegm and yelled at the oodles to get their shit together (Jackson would be scrambling to get to ready too, but he’s actually out of town with school today) I wondered if this is this what I thought marriage and being together forever would be like? Is it what he thought it would be like?

The truth is we are a thousand miles away from those kids on 18th and Vine 20 years ago. Yes we are actually living almost 1000 miles away, but when I look back at pics of those two kids in Kansas City I don’t recognize much about us. Life kind of beats you around in two decades, time leaves it mark on you. But what I see when I look at those pictures is this dumb kinda of optimism that I’m not sure how either of us ended up with. How lucky we are that the two of us, with our fucked up childhoods and our small-town worldviews, ended up not just together, but together and striving for a world we didn’t even know existed.

I just want to say thank you to you, Jerimiah. Thank you for the wonderful years between that parade and now. It has been wonderful. Yes, some days have been hard, terrible even, but even on the worst days I know I have you to come home to and that has always made it better. The life we have built is certainly better than we could ever imagined and certainly better than anyone expected or knew we were capable of back then. If it weren’t for you I don’t know where or who I would be, but I know it wouldn’t be this life and I am so incredibly grateful for you and your love.

Here’s to 20 more years and then 20 more and then… ❤

M.

Whoops-a-Disney

Well y’all know when I get really stressed out I sometimes find myself booking a Disney vacation, right? Ope! It used to be that Jerimiah would stop me, or at least slow me down a bit, make me consider other things like vacation days, school days, shit that is important in other people’s minds, not mine. But a few weeks ago when I was all, “Damn dude, I’m feeling like I need to escape to Disney for a few days,” he was all, “Sounds about right.” Did you catch a, “No, Missy! That’s not a good idea?” in there? No, I didn’t either.

It feels like it all happened so fast, but listen this time I was having a hard time booking an actual hotel room. You know we like to stay on property because duh, but we only have about five days because Jackson has a long weekend coming up so we decided to focus in on there. But that’s a quick turn-a-round time for Disney and it’s a holiday weekend so we were not finding anything. Like nothing. All the hotels were sold out. I even went as far as to Google, “Why is Disneyworld so freaking busy?” and I got a bunch of responses but mainly it was that it is their 50th anniversary and people have been actually saving for years to go this year and also pandemic and also life sucks right now and Disney makes it better (for some people. Some cool people.)

But in the end, I called Disney and they made it work for me because again, it’s Disney, and just when you think it can’t happen, something magical happens.

So we leave Thursday for five days and we are staying at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort, which is great because we love New Orleans, but not the actual New Orleans (Jackson spent one weekend there and said he never wants to go back) so we are going to get the whole NOLA experience without the headache of people vomiting on you on Bourbon Street or someone yelling at you from the streetcar or a hotel falling on top of you. It’s a win/win.

For those of you Disney nay-sayers I wish I could say something that made you love Disney, but alas, I just recently stopped trying to do that. I have realized that some families just aren’t cut out for the world of Disney. To the rest of you, see ya at Epcot!

Ears up.

M.

Our first trip in first grade!
HUGE Doc McStuffins fan back then!
Gonna recreate this one for sure!
Jackson and I LOVE the teacups! Daddy and Mama, not so much!
Mama’s first time at Disney last spring!

Reading… A Room

I’ve always been skittish around people who can’t read a room, but I could never explain why until today. Jerimiah sent me a couple of podcasts he’s been listening to and one of the podcasts was about how we are always trying to understand the intentions of other people. It’s from the “Hidden Brain” podcast, have y’all heard this? You should check it out, it’s a pretty interesting podcast. In this particular podcast the host, Shankar Vedantam explores “Theory of Mind,” which is what psychologists call the way we are consistently trying to read the intentions, desires, and motivations of other people during social situations. We do this subconsciously. But also, not all of us are able to do it as well as others.

It all made sense to me, because I had already realized this about myself. I am quite aware that I constantly try to understand others in social situations, it’s what makes me so empathetic. Too empathetic. Like, I’m not being a braggart here. I wish I wasn’t so fucking empathetic. I think my life would be a lot easier if I were less so, but empathy is exactly the key to all of this.

On the podcast the psychologist said that people who “can’t read a room,” also lack empathy. You know those people, we all do. They tell jokes that repeatedly fall flat because they aren’t reading the room. They have no concept of what people around them are doing or saying because they are so focused on their own thoughts that they seemingly randomly blurt something out and everyone is like, “What the hell, Steve? What does that have to do with anything?” And then Steve just assumed we are going to move the conversation or activity or whatever to whatever it was that he brought up. In that case Steve (aside from being a bit of a narcissist) lacks this “theory of mind” ability, and therefore also lacks empathy.

This made a lightbulb go off in my brain! I know people who lack empathy and these people absolutely cannot read a room to save their lives. It’s exhausting to deal with them in social situations because I am constantly trying to find out what their intentions, desires, and motivations are, meanwhile they don’t give a shit about mine and most of the time are so damned aloof that it is distracting. This is why I have always been skittish around them. Because it’s mentally and emotionally taxing on me, when I’m already pretty much always mentally and emotionally taxed. I have had to actually separate myself from these people, like walk away from the situation, put space in friendships. And now I’m learning that it’s not really through any fault of their own, they actually lack an important part of social functioning hardwired into our brains. You see it a lot in children with autism, for example, who generally lack the same ability.

Whew. I feel a little relieved actually. I always thought I was just being super-sensitive toward those people, or that they were just assholes (again, and I can’t stress this enough, some of them are just assholes) but others really have no idea that they lack this ability and go on about life like this and it makes me feel kind of bad for them. Like, they must get weird looks from people all the time and I’m sure that others do not understand this about them and don’t really know how to treat them or handle them.

And listen, I’m not saying we need to treat them any differently, I don’t even think I can because of how hard it all is, but at least we know now that some people, through no fault of their own, can’t read a room to save their life and maybe we just try to be more patient?

Or maybe not.

M.

Click for the link! And trust, there is more to the podcast than my aha-moment, but it was mine, damn it, Steve! Get your own!

(Fr)Eke Out

I’ve been eking out work these days. Like squeezing the water out of a wet swimsuit kinda stuff, y’all. Like every time I think I can get it all out in one squeeze, I can’t. Where does the water come from?! Don’t tell me, I know it has something to do with the type of material the swimsuit is made out of, but Christ I’d like for the water to just come out all at one, you know?

No, you probably don’t know because you have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m talking about my thesis, y’all because of course I am! What is the deal with this thesis? Why can’t I write right now? Do I need to just drop everything and go to DisneyWorld? Well, the answer to that is yes, always yes, but won’t that just be procrastinating? But isn’t that what I’m doing by writing this blog about how I can’t write?

Here’s the thing, I sit down to write a full short story, maybe a 10-pager, hopefully a 20-pager, and I all I get is about five pages. That’s it. I squeeze and squeeze and squeeze and it dribbles out. This is highly unusual for me, that’s why I’m telling you this. Normally I think about a story for a few weeks, then sit down and it pours out of me. But I have been thinking about TWO stories for OVER a month now and nothing happens when I sit down. Just drip, drip, drip…

Maybe the stories have no merit? Maybe they suck and I know it subconsciously? Or maybe I’m just so freaked out by these deadlines that I am sabotaging myself? Or maybe I think my thesis advisor is tired of my shitty work? Or maybe, just maybe, I’m afraid of the work I know they will take and I don’t want to do it?

All these questions.

All this water.

Send help. But not a life raft. I’m still on dry land.

M.

Cognitive Dissonance

Can we talk about cognitive dissonance for a sec? Cognitive dissonance is when we hold two opposing cognitions (beliefs, perceptions, opinions, etc.) at the same time and so we make excuses so we don’t have to live in that uncomfortable space.

Here’s an example that I’m pretty sure we all know:

A Lifelong Smoker: I know that smoking is bad for me, but we are all gonna die one day, amIright?! Plus, if I quit I will gain weight and that is just as bad!

It is not.

That’s classic cognitive dissonance.

The smoker knows they should quit, knows it is unhealthy and will lead to an untimely death, but they like to smoke and they are addicted and stopping is hella hard. We all do this at some point in our lives. (Not the smoking, though I certainly did when I was younger and thought it was cool!) I mean we all struggle with cognitive dissonance.

I am addicted to food. Always have been. It’s my go-to comfort and it’s why I have liver problems and it’s why I have high cholesterol and it’s why I am at risk for heart disease. Genetics play a small role, but much smaller than you’d think.

Over the last year Jerimiah and I have changed our eating habits and we are constantly side-eyeing each other’s cognitive dissonance. Like when my doc asked me to cut out red meat this Midwestern girl was all, “HOW DO YOU EXPECT ME TO LIVE?!” I absolutely said to Jerimiah, “It will make me sad and that’s just as bad as heart disease!”

It is not.

Jesus, I’m dramatic. And also full of cognitive dissonance. As if I need certain foods, drinks, or things to lead a happy, fulfilled life. Bleh.

Jerimiah is guilty of cognitive dissonance in work-related ways. Corporate America has done a number on him and he truly believes that if he is not available for certain people the world will come crashing down. He says shit like, “I have to reply to emails while on vacation or they will back up and it will be more work for me when I’m home.”

One day we discussed him telling people that when he is on vacation he will not be accepting emails and when he is back, if they still need to talk to him, they can just send another email. He thought that was ABSURD, at first. Then, not so absurd.

He knows that he needs to relinquish work to enjoy his time off, he is even quite aware that his company relies on him to never be “off work,” even when he is “off work,” but he also knows that he deserves time off fucking work! He has to have it to function properly. He hates that uncomfrotable knowledge so he says shit like, “Well the work will just pile up.” Not if you don’t let it.

Some of you are like where’s the new, interesting stuff, Missy? Because you are working on your shit. You see a therapist regularly, you read Brene Brown, you have open and honest conversations with your loved one.

But there are some of you who will be learning what cognitive dissonance is for the first time on this bleh Tuesday morning and all I’m asking is that you consider if for a bit. Because what’s worse than just run-of-the-mill cognitive dissonance is ethical or moral dissonance, and I think many of us struggle with that more often than not these days.

I’m including a short video that I found helpful in wading through all this, I hope it sparks something for you today.

As for me, I’m going to go have a whole wheat bagel with avocado instead of cream cheese because it is heart-healthy and the world is not going to implode and I am not going to live a sad sack of a life with no purpose just because I am cutting back on dairy. Yes, there was a time I thought cheese was the be all, end all to my world, but it is not.

That’s ice cream.

Have a happy, healthy day, however you do it!

M.

Chaos and Control

Whew. It’s been a hectic season and I don’t just mean the holidays. When it gets too crazy I tend to shut down and shut down I have. I haven’t written anything new, not even on this here blog, for quite some time now and while I have a lot I want to say, a lot I want to fill you all in about, I really just wanted to jump on today to say that I am still here and so are you and isn’t that just dandy! Yes, I think it is.

The truth is that I don’t know what my life is going to look like six months from now. Like, actually, I have no idea what my life will look like in very big ways, like we might be moving from Atlanta, I might be having a major hip surgery, I might be put on a medication that requires infusion every six weeks, big things (not all good, not all bad) are afoot here and it feels a bit like things are spinning out of control, so I want to focus on the things I can control. Doesn’t that make the most sense? Yes, yes it does.

Let’s make a list of things we can control. If you are feeling like me, or have ever felt like me, or (most likely) will ever feel like me, lists sometimes help. Try it! Here is mine.

Things That I Can Do to Feel Like I am in Control or Things I Actually Can Control

  • Getting enough doggy pets in everyday
  • Logging what I eat
  • Making healthier choices with food/drink
  • Writing again
  • Watching trash television that will help me feel better about myself, or at least take away my intrusive thoughts for 30 minutes at a time
  • Focusing on my family, getting quality time, cooking together, shopping together, playing more games
  • Ask questions, or at least tell the person, “I do not have questions now, but I will. How may I contact you about them?” (This is really important with my medical stuff right now because when I am inundated with new info it takes me awhile to process it before I have questions)
  • Doing something creative every day
  • READING MORE!
  • Ask my doctor for some help sleeping (ie…get some prescription sleeping meds, y’all because this not sleeping just adds to the damn problem)
  • Get 10 hours of sleep! (Yes, I need 10 hours of sleep to function and you’re kidding yourself if you are one of those, “I just need four and I’m good.” No. Everyone needs at least 6-7 hours, most of us need more we just refuse to admit it. GET SOME SLEEP!)
  • Work to block intrusive thoughts (I’ve been thinking about scheduling “Intrusive Thought Time” into my day. I know that sounds nuts, but that way if an intrusive thought comes that I have no control over, I can try to take control by being like, “Nope. I will deal with that at my scheduled ITT.” I’ll let you know how that goes..)
  • Stretching, lots of stretching
  • Calling/texting friends more to check in
  • Planning a vacation to literally anywhere

Okay I am feeling better, y’all. Just knowing that I took the time to write a list that may be helpful, just knowing that I took the time to check in here, it all helps tremendously. I hope you take a moment today to do something you like.

Take a walk.

Watch the birds in your backyard.

Buy a new sweater online. (Brr, it’s like 40 degrees here!)

Call your mom (or someone you love like a mom)

Those are just some ideas, but the truth is we all have our own things, just find yours and do it, just for ten minutes. I think it will help.

Stay safe and sane.

M.