Friday, June 24, 2016

You know, like one of those twins just made of teeth and hair

Nick captioned this "Lisa doesn't get enough attention at home."
In the last two weeks I've had adventures in belly button pain, chest pain, two visits to the ER, and one to a surgeon.

So, a couple weeks ago my belly button and the area around it started hurting really badly.

I know, I know. Nobody has ever heard of a pain in the belly button.

I did an ab workout on a Monday and the next day it started hurting, and it hurt worse on Wednesday, at which point Nick and some other friends suggested it might be a hernia and I should see my doctor.

I saw my doctor, who sent me to the ER.

I don't know if you've spent any time in the ER. I myself had only been a bystander in times prior. Mostly with my dad. As such, I brought a book and plenty of water and snacks.

But when you're the patient and they think you might have a hernia then they are all, nope, no eating or drinking anything in case we have to do emergency surgery. Oh, but here, drink this bottle of gross stuff for your CT scan.

Initially I said no thank you to an IV, just go ahead and take my blood, because really, I won't be staying that long.

Everyone winds up with an IV, apparently.

And eventually they stuck iodine in my IV, and then I got my CT scan, and then I got X-rays.

But first they poked my stomach a whole lot, while I tried not to scream profanity.

"How much does it hurt? On a scale of 1-10?"

When I had Jordan and the nurses forgot to hook up my pain meds post-C-section (but hadn't yet realized it), they asked me this question.

I had language like, "How much? Like a motherfucker."

But now I understand the scale, and I have a concrete 10. So I was able to say, "Well, if 10 is labor, then I would say 6 or 7."

They like when you give them numbers rather than vague terms like motherfucker.

After seven hours and two tests and much poking they determined that I didn't have a hernia, or if I did, nothing was stuck. Because did you know little bits of your bowel can get stuck and then they die and then this is VERY PROBLEM.

They discharged me and told me to make an appointment with a surgeon, and to come back if I had more pain.

Genuinely, everyone was lovely. Really professional and lovely. Also, two of the nurses had read Gone Girl, which was the book I'd brought with me. We had good conversation.

So I took my hurty belly button home and then the next day I started having sharp pains in my stomach and chest. This persisted until Sunday, at which point Nick was like, let's just make sure it's not a heart attack because pains in your chest!

So we trekked back to the ER, and when we were checking in I was all, "Well, see, I was here on Wednesday and then I started getting sharp pains in my stomach and right around my heart and I think it's the stuff that I had to drink..."

And Nick was all, "CHEST PAIN."

At which point they put me on a stretcher and hooked up five million little thingies and put in an IV.

If you want immediate attention, it turns out "chest pain" is the way to go.

So they did another CT scan--this time of my heart. And they asked a whole bunch of questions. And then said they though it was acid reflux and gave me a prescription antacid and sent me on my way.

And then yesterday I saw the surgeon.

She asked what my story was. She had the whole history and the scans.

So I told her that at this point, my belly button only hurts when I poke it.

She gave me a look and said, "You know what I'm going to suggest, right?"

I explained that I only poke it once a day to see if it still hurts, which it barely does at this point.

So she did some exploration and determined that if I have a hole, it is a tiny one. And that she'd have to do surgery to see if I needed surgery, which she didn't want to do.

She suggested I just not do any ab work for six weeks. Several friends have offered to not do any as well in solidarity. I asked if they'd also up their Cheetos consumption with me, and a couple were gracious enough to say yes.

And now I need to see a gastroenterologist about my potential acid reflux. Which I still think is my body freaking out from CT scan drink and iodine.

But now I'm like, huh, maybe I do have a wee hole in my belly button? And it lets air in? And maybe that's my whole problem?

Or maybe, as Kris suggested, it's "something benign, like one of those twins just made of teeth and hair".

One can hope, sister wife, one can hope.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

So we bought a pack of cigarettes, and Mrs. Wagner's pies...

OK, so the truth is, my North American geography is terrible. I mean truly.

And it never seems to improve.

I don't know what this is about. It's like how I never remember very many presidents.

What grade do you learn the geography of the United States? I am quite sure I was there, and I learned the states, but they just didn't stick, or anyway, not in order.

Did I ever even learn Canada? I don't think so.

In college, in an African politics class, I once had to memorize and label on an exam all the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, including drawing in the locations of their capitals and major rivers and lakes.

It was the kind of bullshit exercise that pisses you off but I didn't have the wherewithal to ask our angry young Marxist instructor how he thought this might actually help us in the future.

Like does he picture me in an interview for my first job? And I ace it only because they slide me a blank map of the African continent and they are so impressed? Ooh, look at your ability to label a blank map!

I memorized in clusters. I cannot think of any of the following countries without chanting them together: Uganda-Rwanda-Burundi. Rwanda? Ugandarwandaburundi.

So when Maude and I drove from DC to San Diego, which was basically when Maude taught me to drive stick shift or even really drive at all, I learned where Indiana was because suddenly, after Kentucky, there we were!

Anyway. Now I always have my phone and there is Google.

I have lots of childhood friends in Denver, and have been wanting to visit for quite a while. And my dear friend Kristin is going to be visiting Wendy in July. We have no travel plans this summer, and this is the perfect excuse!

So the other night I told Nick that I want to take Betty and the kids to Denver this summer.

We were talking about the expense of it, and I said that I was considering driving (which...I hadn't been...but thought I should offer it up as it would be a lot cheaper...).

"Lisa..." He gave me that don't start with this again look. He had a tone.

And I said, "What? It's not like when I wanted to drive us all to Texas! It's like half as far!"

His face softened. He said, "Come here, please."

He led me by the hand to our globe. And then asked me to move out of the light. Which kind of annoyed me because I was there at his behest.

And then he pointed and said, "This is Washington." He slid his finger across it and said, "And here is Texas." And then he kept going left, waaaaay over towards California.

He said, "Oh! Look! Here's Colorado! Maybe you could stop in Texas on your way there!"

So I was all, "Fine, fine. I get it. I don't know why Colorado is so much further west than I ever think it is. I like to locate it solidly in the Midwest. It just seems very middle of the country shaped."

Nick doesn't see the value in things such as where I like to locate states. And what shape just feels like it should be where.

Yah. So he didn't even realize I was joking when yesterday I sad, "I was thinking about visiting friends. And do you think it would it be too out of the way to stop in Michigan on the way to Denver?"

I was joking! I mean...I was sort of joking.

Right. And Ugandarwandaburundi is all I have to say about that.

Monday, June 06, 2016

And after all the violence and double talk, there's just a song in all the trouble and the strife. You do the walk, you do the walk of life...

Because New York is all I can say.
You guys. My NYC Out of the Darkness Overnight walk was extraordinary. And fun. So very fun.

Mentioning fun along with suicide likely makes you question my definition of fun. Or my sanity.

But let me tell you. This walk, where we have all lost at least one person to suicide, or we walk for others who struggle, or we walk for ourselves...this walk is comprised of people who have cried plenty.

The back of the Overnight shirt says, "I'll be up all night for..." and then there's space. People put pictures or names. I have three. I saw a woman whose shirt listed her sister, brother, sister-in-law,  brother-in-law, and multiple others.

The people who walk have lived through pain.

And there is comfort, there is freedom, there is joy in walking with others who know from whence you come. Who know where you live.

I was going to walk alone, which wasn't my preference, but was just how things shook out. And then my friend Rob, who lives outside Toronto, said he was considering driving down to NY to walk with me.

And I was like, "Yes, please yes please please please walk with me."

He almost brought his hatchet. This here hatchet:
And then he realized he had his new hatchet in the back...
He started out and then realized he had recycling in the back. So he returned home to clear it out, and  noticed his brand new hatchet. I don't know if border police care if you have a hatchet, even a new one without blood and other axe-murdery evidence, but I'm going to imagine yes?

Rob was the perfect walk companion. I had such a great time. I am so tremendously grateful to him for walking with me.

And good, good things happened on this journey.

I got to meet a lovely woman named Tiffany, a long-time reader who lost her grandfather to suicide. She was walking with a team, but we met before and after. And hugged. But forgot to take a picture! Maybe next year!

My high school friend Seana, who lives in Brooklyn, joined us for dinner.
And then, just as the walk began, it started POURING. People slogged ahead. In fact, almost everyone. I insisted on standing under a large overpass, and Rob, a hardy Canadian undaunted by rain, indulged me. I loathe precipitation. I take it personally.
I don't know why he's doing that. Blame it on the rain that was falling, falling.
I checked the weather every 30 seconds and we only had 30ish minutes to wait until the rain was supposed to clear. I knew we could walk fast enough to catch up at a rest stop.

As we walked, having lost everyone, we started wondering about the route. And then we spotted a fast-walking woman who looked like she knew where she was going. We followed her.

So as not to freak her out, after a couple blocks I said, "We're following you. You look like you know where you're going."

She was from NYC. She was fabulous. Sharp, gorgeous, and hilarious. She has twice my energy and talks to everyone.

She was walking alone until we joined her. And after the first mile or so she said, "A friend of mine owns a restaurant a couple blocks off the route. He contributed to my walk. We could stop in and say hi and get a drink!"

Rob and I looked at each other, said, "Why not?" and off we went.

They hugged her and gave us the largest and possibly tastiest meatball and sauce. And bread and salad and sangria.
Our new friend, she basically knows everyone. And anyone she doesn't know yet, she will in like 30 seconds. Truly, I've never met anyone like her.

We stopped into this bar for a drink. And that one just to say hi. The walk took us over the Brooklyn Bridge about 11 pm.
Brooklyn Bridge
Halfway over the bridge we stopped to take a picture and when we turned around, she was talking to other people, trying to figure out where the next snack stop was. And we were like, "Don't think you're making new friends. Even if they know where the snacks are."

Once in Brooklyn, we picked up her boyfriend, a police chief, who was just getting off work. He joined us for the remainder of the walk.

We stopped in to some bar to say hi to Lee--the man with his tongue out.
We went to this place called Lucy's because it wasn't that far off the route, and they know the 85-year-old Polish woman who has opened and closed the place for decades. Who gave us shots of some kind of Polish liquor.

Somewhere around 2:30 am she said, "Do you like rice pudding? Because I know a place..."

We had rice pudding from a take-out window.

It was extraordinary. Every time she said, "It's up to you, but there's this place..." Rob and I were all, "Yes! Let's go!"

This was a night of embracing the YES.

Admittedly, I'd never been to so many bars dressed in neon pink workout tights and a suicide prevention T-shirt and beads and a backpack. Or any, really.

But there we were.

Somewhere near the end of the route, we encountered half of the Village People (see above).

I just wanted their picture, but they insisted I get on in.

This was my third Overnight, and I will admit to you that the lead-up takes a toll. I hear stories of loved ones lost. I think of my own.

I cry. I carry stress.

The week before the walk, I had what felt like a shard of metal stuck in my upper back. Ibuprofen helped, but not enough. By the time I was driving to NJ on Friday, I had to turn my whole body to look over my shoulder. I was worried about the walk.

It was still there Saturday morning, but sometime after Rob met me at Penn station, it began to dissipate. By nightfall, it was gone entirely.

The walk is something I have to do. I'm going to write another post on the why, because it would make this post too long. But it fills multiple needs.

Thanks to the generosity of friends, loved ones, and even complete strangers, I managed to contribute $5,507 to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

I feel so pleased and proud.

It was a night of adventure. Of randomness. Of many unexpected stops in many places, and then hurrying to make up lost time. Of snacks, good lord, the endless snacks. Of hugging strangers. Making friends. Laughing. Shedding tears.

The Overnight is an event like no other I've been to. It is weird and amazing to walk through the night. I hope you never have reason to do it. But if you should find that you do, I cannot recommend it more strongly.

I set out alone for NYC with trepidation. I was looking forward to spending time with Rob. I was nervous about the walk and the city.

It couldn't have been more wonderful. I mean, maybe it could have, like if I got to meet Jamie in person and he was wearing his kilt and whispering sweet nothings in Gaelic or something.

But in the real world, it couldn't.

Sometimes the stars align, and you do something you feel good about, and in the process you spend time with an old friend, make some new ones, and meet some Village People who are hanging out on the stoop.

It's good to be reminded that sometimes, the stars all line up, and life is like that.
Big hugs and lots of love to all of you.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Which is why I should probably just stay home

Two weeks ago, my mom and I flew to California for my cousin's memorial service.

On the way there, we didn't have seats together, but at the gate they let us switch seats. We had two seats together in the very last row--the one that doesn't recline. But we were together, and I was on the aisle, which is always my preference.

But immediately I started worrying. I mean, more than usual. Because you know I expect death on a flight.

Was it bad luck to change seats? What if the plane broke in half? We were both in the middle, near the wings, but in middle seats, before I switched us. But wouldn't the middle of the plane be more likely to survive?

Had I jinxed us by switching?

A friend said the plane breaking in half was unlikely, but I wondered about a water landing. The pilot lands the plane in the water, and then the back half, with us in the way-back, cracks right off.

And there we all are in the death and drowning and sharks.

My head can be an exhausting Mordor disco rave sort of place, I tell you.

Anyway, we landed safely, and then our bags were nowhere to be found. My gate-checked bag and her checked bag.

I finally located Betty's, which was so much bigger and heavier than I remembered. I dragged it to her, and then she insisted it wasn't hers, and I insisted it was, and we went back and forth in front of all these people in the American Airlines WHERE ARE MY DAMN BAGS line, which had two agents and a million people.

Finally, after much crabby, tired back-and-forthing, I opened it to show her.

The first thing I saw was a giant thing of lotion. I pulled it out and was like, "Look! This is...uh...not your brand of lotion. And not your bag. Sorry."

I skulked back to the carousel with it as quick as I could.

And then we got up to the front of the line. And the guy put our info into his computer and was like, your bags are on the second carousel. And I was all, "But the first carousel says IAD."

He said, "Yes. But you flew from DCA. Which is carousel two."


And then on the way back, we thought we lucked out! Two seats across the aisle from each other!

All was well until a couple hours into the flight. At which point a woman hurtled herself towards us. I was reading (Guns of Autumn), and saw her forward motion out of the corner of my eye.

Listen, if we'd been up front and she'd been sprinting for the cockpit, I'd have been all ninja warrior. But we were toward the back and she was running that direction.

Our seats were about six from the back. Exactly the point at which she began projectile vomiting.


She vomited on lots of people. Starting with us. And then all down the aisle. 

So Betty and I, in our lucky lucky aisle seats, both got puked on. One arm each. The back of my seat. The ends of my hair. MY HAIR!

And, I discovered when we got home and I went up to scour my whole self with Clorox (because plague! Ebola! Cholera!), I had dried puke on one of the arms of my eyeglasses.

On the upside, we didn't crash.