Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Greetings and Salutations, Oh My Long Lost Friends

How are you all? I miss you! I thought it might be appropriate to update you on how things are going for Team Stimey and check in with you all. How are things? What's the latest? Did any of you worry that I had died?

Let's see. What's happening? Well, I just got an email from Netflix that a DVD of a movie I don't remember putting in my queue has been mailed, so I have that fun surprise going for me.

I could tell you about my knee, as that is all I've been blathering on about here for the past several months. Good news! It's feeling a lot better! In fact, I ran my first race since my injury just last Sunday. It was a 10k across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Jean standing in front of a view of a bridge
Too bad it was such a dismal day out.
Good lord did I run slow—like, slower than early days running Jean, but I ran every step and, honestly, that was my goal. When I signed up for this race, I was sure I was going to have to walk some of it—I really didn't think I'd be ready. I'm proud to say I worked really hard to get to my super slow time.

This was an especially important feat after a recent neo-knee drama. A few weeks ago I had triumphantly run 4 miles without stopping and was feeling awesome about myself. A couple of hours after that I was walking into my garage when I somehow stepped into a little strap with both of my feet. I couldn't do it again if I tried. I fell. I fell hard. I fell almost entirely on my right knee, which was at least not the knee I had surgery on.

drawing of me falling in the garage
My head almooooost hit that pole. I coulda died.
I was incredibly sad. That afternoon my knee hurt but wasn't too bad. By that evening, I was contemplating opioids for the pain. The next morning I could barely walk. In both pain and mobility, it felt just like my left knee had immediately after surgery. I was heartbroken. I didn't want to spend the next several weeks recovering because I somehow calf roped myself in my garage.

Happily, the next morning, my knee was a billion times better. I was able to run again by the weekend. It was super scary and pretty painful though.

The children are pretty good. Ups and downs, ins and outs, but mostly good. They're all huge almost-adults now.

That's Katie. She's a nerd.
Katie is driving with her learner's permit these days. She has to drive for 60 hours with me before she can get her license. I got one of those "Student Driver Please Be Patient" magnets that I slap on my car when she drives. Then I saw one that said "Student Driver and Screaming Parent" and I wished I'd gotten that one although I think Katie would be even madder about that. She's actually pretty good at driving. But she's new. It's a whole thing.

There's Jack on Halloween. He's a something from Splatoon.

And Quinn. He acquired 18 pounds of candy trick or treating.

He was an emoji. A terrifying, terrifying emoji.
We still have five cats. I currently have to give Sharky eye drops five times a day, so that is great and bringing us closer together. No, not really. He eyes me with suspicion every time I get close to him and sometimes he hides under the bed from me. Then I have to put some food out as a lure and then scoop him up and hold him down while Pickles looks on in horror. It's really eroding our relationship.

Also, we're embiggening our kitchen, which, while ultimately great, was not planned out to occur at the best time. Right now they're building the outside of the new kitchen and then they will break through the wall once that is completed and we will no longer have a functional kitchen. That part of the renovation will be happening right around Thanksgiving, so I'm really looking forward to cooking a turkey in a toaster oven in the living room.

I have a new athletic project coming up that I'm pretty excited about. I've been planning it and thinking about it (and teasing it here) for months now, but haven't pulled the trigger because then I actually have to do it. Now that my knee is mostly better I think that I should get started on it soon. Also, I bought a domain for it, so I guess I really have to do it now. But I can't start until I create myself a little logo. There is order to this madness, y'all. It is called Project Crow. What do you think it is?

There's a lot going on, huh? Well, I am coping by doing absolutely nothing but playing this new kind of puzzle that a coworker introduced me to, thereby ruining my life. It's called Picross and it is the greatest. And the worst. You're welcome and I'm sorry. There are some good time-sucking apps available.

Photo of Oreo. I'm holding her paw out.
Fist bump.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

(Not) Run-zo

So. I haven't been running. After I saw my ortho in July and he broke my heart, I decided to take all of August off and maybe try running again in September. As it is not yet September, I haven't started running yet.

Because my plan is to wear the fuck out of my current knees then get new bionic ones that will surely be all kinds of technologically awesome in five to ten years, and then run the shit out of those, I am not overly concerned about long-term damage. In fact, at this point, I kinda am Team Long-Term Damage. What I'm afraid of is that I will go running and my knees will hurt really bad and then I won't be able to run even though I don't care about my knee health.

I mean, my whole thing, my whole ability to be okay with being a slow, chubby runner is that I am staying healthy so I can live and exercise until I'm really old. When I track and limit the food I eat and work out hard and still don't lose weight and I get angry at my body, I try to pull back and remember that even though it's not exactly how I want it, I should love my body because it is strong and it can run far and it does amazing things. And now it can't. And I'm dealing with a sense of being betrayed by it.

Although my knees only really hurt when I try to sit down or stand up, so as long as I remain either standing all the time or sitting all the time, I should be fine. And really, its only a problem if I'm going more than 90 degrees. *starts hauling all the low chairs in my house to a backyard bonfire*

I mean, a smarter plan would be to do leg-strengthening work, actually somehow lose weight, and do some research on what the best options are for me. So far, I've successfully started with step one. I have a Peloton now and I ride a lot and I do leg and core work through their digital app, so at least I'm not sitting on my couch eating potato chips.

I am absolutely obsessed with the Peloton (that's a whole other post), but being a runner is such a big part of my identity. I don't want to lose it. And I love to run. I just really love it. Even when it's hard, even when it sucks, even when it is hot and humid or freezing cold, I fucking love to run. I can't imagine not doing it.

After school starts, I think I'll start running on my treadmill exclusively for a while and will definitely ease into mileage. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

(Not) Done-zo

It has been a rough summer. In my grumpier moments I've considered peace-outing and just putting up a post here that says THE END even though I knew even as I was thinking it that I would regret it.

A lot of my angst has been that we have been super busy. I have regularly spent up to FOUR HOURS A DAY or more driving one kid here and then sprinting over to this other location to pick up another one while abandoning the third at home and then hurrying back to pick up the first one and repeat, repeat, repeat. The first two months of my summer felt like an elaborate puzzle where the pieces were getting my kids to places and home and not forgetting anyone anywhere while still trying to fit in work, my physical therapy, and all the regular appointments of daily life that never end.

Spoiler alert: I did it! Also, I was only late picking kids up 3 times and with all the pickups I did, that is an excellent on-time rate. In addition, big thanks to my homies (Gayle, Heather, Alex) who helped me when it was just not possible for me to be in two places at one time.

I did manage to get one on-going activity within walking distance of my home, which was Katie's driver's ed, chosen specifically for that reason. Sorry, Katie. Also, the irony.

June and July were spent going to physical therapy for my knee twice a week, which significantly added to my scheduling difficulties. That went really well and ended with the therapists putting me on the treadmill and me feeling great about myself followed a week later by an appointment with my orthopedist wherein I waited an hour past my appointment time for him to walk in and take five minutes to destroy my heart with words like "after seeing inside your knee" and "no more than two to three miles a couple times a week" and "you can do long runs, but you'll need a total knee replacement in five to ten years" and that's when my grumpier moments solidified into complete despair. I was way ahead in working through my five stages of grief because I hit depression by the time I made it back to the parking lot.

I have a lot more to say about that, including my plan to get two total knee replacements in five to ten years, but that is for another post.

For now, I am pleased to report that my schedule is lifting. I had three days this week that, until a couple of days ago were completely empty squares on my calendar (two of them are now filled with a trip to a trampoline park and an echocardiogram FOR MY CAT), but I had a day where I just sat around and did nothing and it was great.

To recap: This was a rough summer. It rained a lot. We didn't go on any vacations. There was a lot of drudgery in driving everyone around. I had a lot of working mom guilt. I only ran four times all summer. Projects I started got dropped. It was hard to get anything done. My kids bickered with each other all the time. It also felt like they played video games all summer long.

But there was a lot of good too. While I was driving my munchkins around all of Maryland, they were attending fun and educational camps and hanging out with their friends. I was able to go to New York City twice to see shows on Broadway. Alex continues to amuse. I only work part time and it is for an organization I deeply believe in so my guilt is mitigated. I got to spend some good time with my own friends. There was a lot of joy in small moments.

That is why even though this summer was exhausting, I'm not ready for it to end. When I fall into my depressed or irritated spaces, I try to remember that it is temporary. I am decidedly NOT done-zo. But I am looking forward to some empty squares on my calendar once school starts.

Friday, June 15, 2018

What time is it?*

When I saw Hamilton on Broadway last summer I knew I wanted my kids to see it too. The story, the cast, the music—they needed to have that experience.

Because it was coming to DC, I knew they would have that change. I also knew that it would be a really tough ticket to get and so I began scheming about how to get seats. The tactic I ended up with was season tickets for Alex and me and a rotating schedule of friends.

The bonus to this tactic is that Alex and I (and said rotating schedule of friends) got/get to see a bunch of other great shows at the Kennedy Center as well. In fact, we liked it so much that we renewed our subscription for next year (although we're shaking off the friends).

*takes a moment to acknowledge my complete and utter privilege here*

June 13 was the night for us. I had been looking forward to it for months. I'd even specifically scheduled my knee surgery to ensure my best theater experience. By the time Katie, Jack, and I drove down to the Kennedy Center to meet Alex I think they were happy it was finally time if only to get me to shut the hell up about how excited I was. (Quinn is going in September. He needs more of a one-on-one experience.)

Me, Katie, and Jack in front of the Hamilton poster
You guys, I'm not the only one. There was pretty much a line to take photos in front of the poster.
The show was fantastic. I even think the elderly couple sitting in front of me who reviewed their printed out Wikipedia page about the musical during intermission enjoyed it. (OMG, I love those people. So funny.)

I was so excited to see Jack and Katie's response to the show. Katie had been obsessed with the soundtrack for a while, but Jack had only heard parts of it, although he loves it and was excited to go to the show. In fact, if we're in the car and my kids are arguing with each other, I put on the soundtrack and everyone shuts up. It's one of my most foolproof parenting strategies.

They LOVED it. Jack has a tough time at long, stimulating events like this and Hamilton is LONG. But it held him. He got it. I was beyond proud of that kid. Katie of course loved it. In fact, there was only one time when I evidently laughed too loud that she got pulled away enough from it to lean over and whisper, "Mom, that was really loud."

Moms are always embarrassing.

And we're nice too. I could have leaned over near the end when all I heard was her snuffling to tell her that she was really loud, but I didn't. Although I was pretty encased in my own emotions by that time too.

Alex had steadfastly refused to listen to the soundtrack prior to the show, but he really liked it too. Mr. Stoic even cried at the end. It'll get you, that show. He's agreed to listen to the soundtrack all the way through on his commute so he can get some of the finer points of the lyrics that maybe he missed because of all my loud guffawing.

Alex drove home by himself because he'd come straight from work so I don't know how his trip was, but the kids and I glowed all the way home. I gotta tell you, those two children are pretty incredible. I'm really lucky to have them. It felt so good to share with them something that is so important to me and have them so truly appreciate it. It felt really connecting. Also, my car stopped for candy bars on the way home, so I obviously won "best car trip home."

We saw the show on its second night here, so I'm looking forward to seeing all of my local friends who got tickets taking their own photos in front of that poster and getting to experience the show. I'm so excited for all of you who are still living your pre-Hamilton lives—you're going to love it!

If you don't get to see the show, maybe you will enjoy this "got milk?" commercial from way back that I always think about when I think of the show.

* Showtime.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Knee Bone is Connected to the Gunk Blob

I am happy to report that my knee surgery was definitely the right decision and my recovery has been like butterflies and unicorns. I couldn't be happier. In fact, I am so delighted by how this went that I kinda want to have arthroscopic surgery on all my joints to improve them. That wouldn't be weird, would it?

My surgery was Friday May 25 at about 1pm, which was a bummer because I wasn't allowed to eat or drink anything until afterward. Food isn't such a big deal, but it turns out that I am a fan of liquids. I was actively resentful when I got to the surgical center and there was a water fountain right there in the waiting room. Also, they made me pee for a pregnancy test (negative, thank the good lord!), which was no easy task considering it had been 12 hours since I'd ingested water.

Weirdly (according to Alex), I wasn't nervous about the surgery. I mean, it's not like I was performing it. I was just hopeful that I wouldn't say anything embarrassing while sedated, but otherwise I felt pretty chill about the whole thing.

Alex, on the other hand, was extremely concerned about them operating on the correct knee. He was aghast to hear that I wasn't drawing a big arrow and the words "THIS KNEE. THIS KNEE RIGHT HERE," on the knee they were fixing. I figured if they operated on the wrong knee, there was probably plenty wrong in there for them to fix, so it'd actually be not that bad.

In turns out, however, that apparently enough doctors have operated on enough wrong limbs that there is now a whole procedure in place to make sure that mistake isn't made, meaning the doctor used a single-use marker to sign the intended target of surgery.

My knee in a bandage with an ice pack on top and my doctor's initials on my leg.
I took this the day after surgery. I don't think that ice pack was doing much through the 26 layers of bandage.
 Alex hung out with me before surgery and took a picture "so we have one last photo of you."

Me in a hospital gown and hair net in a bed in the surgery center.
Alex has probably three photos of me on his phone and this is one of them.
As I suspected it would be, surgery was easy, fun, and took only about 10 seconds from my perspective. Then they gave me animal crackers, Percocet, and wheeled me out to my car. Altogether it was a pretty good deal.

My doctor had told me that I should take a week off of work, which I did. I was prepared to spend that entire first weekend in deep recuperation mode, but my body recovered much easier than I expected. I did nap for much of the afternoon after surgery, but felt pretty good otherwise. I was more tired than anything. I only had to use crutches for a day or two and didn't have a lot of pain. Short bursts of energy on my part, however, led to multi-hour naps. People tell me that's because my knee was doing a lot of work inside my leg healing, so I didn't feel too bad. Plus I'd given myself permission to laze around for a week, although if I were to do this again, I don't know that I would take that long. I got so bored I cleaned my kids' rooms. I live a charmed life. I'm really lucky.


Alex had told me that the doctor told him the surgery went well but didn't give me many details. When I went to my follow-up appointment with my orthopedist, he told me ("now that you're more coherent") that my knees were much older than I was. I don't know whether to feel pleased for me or outraged for my knees.

He also told me that even more impactful than the meniscus tear was all the "gunk" in my knee bones. He showed me lots of photos of said gunk before and after his cleaning it up. There was also a ligament caught on something that he freed up—or something to that effect; honestly the details of what happened inside there is not that super relevant to my life. I mostly care that I can use the knee again.

I'm almost three weeks post surgery now and I'm feeling great. Apparently being physically active prior to surgery results in a significantly easier recovery. I've started what will hopefully be about four weeks of physical therapy although the PT told me that I can't run until I can do a one-legged squat, so apparently I'm never going to be allowed to run again.

I've been enjoying PT. It's like a not-hard personal training session that ends with, in my case, an ice wrap that acts very similar to a blood pressure cuff wrapped around my knee that squeezes and releases for ten minutes. It's my new favorite thing in the world.

Except for getting to exercise again. I can't run yet, but I am back on my (newish) spin cycle (trying not to be a Peloton nerd, but OMG LOVE) and loving getting to work my body again.

In sum: Surgery > delightful Percocet > napping > deciding I love Percocet too much to keep using it > feeling pretty recovered > living a gunk-free life > yay!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Upside Down

Long time no speak, friends! I hope you're well. I had my knee surgery and am well on the mend and I very much want to tell you about it, but something else came up and I think it is important that we discuss it first.

off-brand PopTart, frosting side up

That picture up there is of a Pop Tart. Well, not a real Pop Tart, but some organic off-brand version of it. And, no, we're not debating whether brown sugar cinnamon is the best/only flavor worth eating, because that's just common knowledge.

What we are here to talk about today is how you would put that thing in your mouth. Now, when it comes to things like this breakfast pastry or bread sticks with Parmesan cheese on top, or a bite of food with frosting on it, I will always eat it delicious side down so that the frosting/cheese/brown sugar comes directly in contact with my tongue.

I gave this piece of advice to Katie when we were sharing bread sticks the other day and her reaction was suitable considering the life-changing nature of the knowledge.

Coasting off of my success with imparting knowledge to Katie and newly armed with the information that not everyone had thought of this, I decided to tell Alex in case this was new information that I could help him with.

Alex immediately made the utterly ridiculous claim of, “I don’t like to eat things upside down,” even though he'd ever tried it.

Now I turn to you to prove my point.

Do you eat your food upside down?

If no, is it because it never occurred to you until this moment?

Now that you are aware of this, will you always eat top-delicious food upside down?

Or, are you like Alex and completely uninterested in living your best life?

I'm confident that you all will see reason. And before you ask: No, I wouldn't eat something absurd like pizza upside down. Now you're just being ludicrous.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Orthos and Arthros

Bad news about my knee, friends.

Xray of my knee
Bad knee! Bad!

I got the results from my knee MRI a couple of weeks ago. I had waited a couple of days for my orthopedist to call me and when he didn't, I called to find out if they had my results and the receptionist told me that I had to make an appointment for that.

I told them that I wasn't going to do that because I didn't have a good experience with the doctor, so I would just take the MRI elsewhere. Now, it is at this point that I would imagine the receptionist would say, "Oh no, what was the problem? Maybe we can make it better," but that did not happen. Instead she said she'd have the doctor call with the results. And then instead, a non-doctor called me back to tell me I had a bone contusion and medial meniscus tear.

Evidently they didn't care why I'd had a bad experience or they just didn't care period. Cool.

My next step was to find a new orthopedist who could tell me what to do. (Well, actually my next step was to google the hell out of "medial meniscus tear" and discover that sometimes it needs surgery and sometimes it doesn't.) I'd gotten a recommendation from a friend for a new ortho, so I made an appointment for the following Tuesday and then went on a short run to see how it felt on the knee.

I was able to run and after a month without it, running felt amazing. Unfortunately, my knee felt significantly worse afterward AND I pretty severely strained my foot/ankle by compensating for the knee (or at least that's what my new orthopod suspects).

My appointment was last week. I made the appointment for 9:30 on a Tuesday and made a note to myself that I had to get there early to fill out forms. By Tuesday, I'd convinced myself that my appointment was a 10 and that I was supposed to get there at 9:30 with pen and insurance card in hand to be a good patient.

That's why I rolled into the ortho office at 9:32 on Tuesday, signed in, and was feeling pretty good about my ability to handle change.

Then the receptionist called me to the desk and told me the doctor I'd signed in for wasn't at that practice and that I was in the wrong place. Somehow I had managed to deliver myself to an entirely different orthopedic practice with which I had no affiliation whatsoever.

Good job, Jean. Never change anything ever again.

I hadn't put the correct ortho in my phone yet because I didn't know if I'd like him, so I had to search him up on the internet on my phone and beg forgiveness from the receptionist. This is when I found out that my appointment really was at 9:30—not 10. Evidently the front desk at my new ortho office is the nicest in the world because they gave me the correct address and told me that I could still come by to see the doctor. I already liked them better than my previous ortho practice.

Seriously, the front desk was great, the nurse was thorough and attentive, they updated me to let me know they were waiting for a fax from the imaging office so I wasn't wondering why it was taking so long to see the doctor. (Actually, I was prepared to wait all day what with their generosity in squeezing me in.) Also, the exam room in which they had put me had this numbered drawing of chipmunks on the wall:

Framed black and white drawing of three chipmunks.
It's like they knew I was coming.

Anywho, long story short, because of the type of tear I have, yadda, yadda, yadda, the doctor ended up recommending arthroscopic surgery, which I was assuming was orthroscopic surgery—you know, because it is done by an orthopedist—and just ten or so minutes ago discovered that it starts with an "a."

He said I didn't have to do it right away, but I am tired of not running and I figure the sooner I get it done, the sooner I can start relearning to run. Plus, I didn't want to get surgery in a couple or three months only to have to ease into running in the winter again, because that would be some buuuuuullshit.

My surgery is scheduled for just under four weeks from today, so you all should spend that time enjoying my lack of whining, because as soon as I'm hobbling around on crutches, I'm sure I will be the most annoying person in the history of the world. Also, crutches? I feel like they don't know how clumsy I am. This is likely to be a hilarious and embarrassing disaster of a recovery.

I actually feel okay about the whole thing. I'm glad it is something that can be fixed—or at least improved. If everything goes well, the recovery won't be too long and I'll be back on my feet soon.

Until then, I'm looking into upping my cycling and strength training. Although I gotta tell you, after not exercising for a month or so, my motivation is suffering. I gotta learn how to step up my non-running, non-eating activities.

Also, I would greatly appreciate not hearing about your arthroscopic surgery horror stories. Maybe after everything goes perfectly for me and I have a like-brand-new leg, we can talk about that, but until then, I mostly want to hear, "Gosh, that sounds fantastic; I think this is definitely the right decision and your recovery will be like butterflies and unicorns and you will be running at twice your normal speed within weeks."

That would be great, thanks.