So. That happened…

It’s been a while since I last posted… a year and nearly ten months, holy cow…but I have one hell of an excuse.

I think.  You be the judge:

If you haven’t read my last post or you don’t remember it, you might do that now.  I’ll wait.

Yeah, so it turns out that the pancreatitis thing wasn’t over yet. In fact, at my very next checkup, the doctor took one look at me and ordered me directly to the nearest ER. Who had me airlifted for emergency surgery to a hospital an hour away.

The surgeon, the incredible Dr. S, did her best to piece my insides back together–from what I was told later, it was a bit like tatting lace.  Things had melted to other things and had to be pried…well, never mind.

That was September 4th.

Since then, I’ve had five major surgeries (only three planned), about twelve procedures under general anesthesia, and countless adjustments, stitches, rebagging (think ileostomies and colostomies) and retubings. At one point, I was sporting approximately eight drains around my waist, a hula skirt from hell.

Coincidentally, my torso looks a bit like target practice for a small, hungry shark packing a twenty-two.

I spent around eight months in various hospitals, under various levels of sedation and the really good painkillers.* Not to mention various Dante-like circles of PT, learning to sit up and maybe do a little walking, as someone followed me with a wheelchair, just in case.

When I left the first hospital, for a specialty one nearer to home, the nurses and staff lined the corridor and gave me a standing ovation… because (i was told much later) most of them weren’t sure I would make it.

That changes a person, knowing that kind of thing, even more than the 140 pound weight loss (I didn’t eat anything by mouth for a long time), or my new 4-inch belly button. Or having to resign from my beloved job (who am I, if I’m not a librarian?)

I couldn’t write for the longest time, either, even after I came home, this time possibly for good, two months ago.  I was tired and empty and in quite a bit of pain.

But bit by bit, I’m getting stronger. I walk a little every day, sometimes without my walker.  20170202_090039I no longer have a stomach tube and am down to six medications, only one of which is longer than my thumbnail.

Money and insurance are worrisome, buy I’m working on applying for Medicaid and Social Security.  I’m also looking for a stay-at-home job that doesn’t involve stuffing envelopes or fraudulent practices.

And better yet, I have incredibly supportive friends who have stuck with me through all this mess (including those of you who keep asking me when I’ll be blogging again–this is all your fault!)

And I’m writing again. Maybe not well, but there are words now, and sentences, and maybe stories, too, however rusty and convoluted.

And I am here. Battered and bruised but not beaten.

How have y’all been?

________________________

*It is a terrible thing to put someone with a fraught imagination on heavy drugs when they have no outlet.  At one point, and I’m not kidding, I refused to wear my socks because I was convinced they were pregnant…and when they died in childbirth (because they aren’t built for it, obviously), I tried to convince the nurse to call a funeral home so they could have a decent burial.  She’ll be telling that story for decades; I should be getting royalties.

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Throwing Orange Flags

Yesterday was the Day of Misplacing Everything.

Duck!2I would go in the sorter room to find a book on a shelving cart and go out on the public floor with the item in hand, and somewhere between the door and the patron, the item disappeared.  I backtracked and found the things—except for the time the patron reached out and took it from her table as I stared at my empty hand—but I’m sure I never put them down.

My travel mug was never where I thought it should be, even when I finished its caffeinated contents.  Twice.

PencilsI never had a pencil when I consciously needed one, even though there were penciled hash-marks on my stats sheet, which implies the existence of at least one.  This mystery was solved, sort of, when our page appeared at the desk near the end of the day with a handful of pencils.  “These are scattered all over the place,” she said.  “Did a little kid grab some or something?”  “No clue,” I said, nonchalantly shoving one behind my ear.  Two minutes later, a coworker handed it to me.  “You dropped this.”  I could see how she came to that conclusion, but I knew the truth—it had dropped itself.

My phone also drifted around in this manner all evening. If I was in the bedroom, it was in the living room.  If I was in the living room, it magically relocated to the kitchen.  If I was in the kitchen, it promptly moved itself behind the breadmaker.

And then there’s the stack of Sunny’s clean underwear, which evaporated somewhere between the clean laundry hamper and her dresser.*  You could argue that this one isn’t my fault, but Sunny’s talents at making things disappear had to come from somewhere.Dear Me

My copy of Peter Ustinov’s autobiography kept relocating to the bathroom, but that was convenient, so I told it to carry on.

But it was obvious to me that something was going on.  Either small, localized portals are opening up and things are falling through them; inanimate objects have decided to mess with me more than usual; or my short-term memory is finally coming unmoored.

I’m pretty sure it’s at least two out of three, and since I’m more of a self-aware magical realist than a scientist, we’re going to go with anthropomorphics and that last thing I said, whatever it was.

Since the need to lecture, apologize, and apparently amuse lifeless items is deeply ingrained in my core belief system and ginkgo biloba sound like something that clogs up the filters in your aquarium—for all I know, that’s where it comes from—I need some other method of pinning down the things I need and remembering where—and what—they are if they momentarily leave my direct line of sight**

I know there are little lo-jacking systems for your stuff, along the lines of the keyfob that lets you know where your silver Honda is in a large parking lot full of Silver Hondas by making it beep loudly, thus scaring hell out of the elderly lady innocently walking by, which also helps identify the spot.***

But a system like that depends on being able to put one’s hands on their fob (Oh, hush.) whenever they feel the need (Hush, I said.), and if my keyring wasn’t in desperate love with the lanyard of my work ID, I wouldn’t have a chance of locating either.  I’d have to stalk elderly ladies in the parking lot, hoping one would have a Pavlovian reaction to my car from a previous encounter, and people tend to misconstrue behavior like that, or so I’ve heard.

What was I saying?  Oh, right.

So as amusing as a beeping remote or coffee mug might be, I’ve decided on a more subtle method:

Warning Cone Flag

I’ve decided to plant orange flags on anything I set down, even for a second.  I’ll need seven for the average work day and maybe a set of ten or fifteen for home use.  And one for the roof of my car, which I hope will keep the AARP from sending me strongly worded letters.

The flags will be collapsible and carried around in a quiver.  I haven’t quite figured out how to deal with the cones, which are necessary for stability . . . which I assume upon re-reading this post, is also something I should be working on.

I’ll just go put a flag on that.

______________________________

*You could argue that this one isn’t my fault, but Sunny’s talents at making things disappear had to come from somewhere.

**Hey, blinking is semi-involuntary.  Just out of curiosity, how many of you consciously stopped blinking when you read that?  Weird, right?

***I think it also locks and unlocks the car doors, but that’s clearly a secondary function.

^Because my purse is a Bag of All Holding, not a Bag of All Finding.

 

Why Sarah Shouldn’t Be Allowed In Craft Stores

A friend of mine is trying to pare down her stash of craft supplies.  My punishment for snickering at her pain (in sympathy, sheesh) was a bagful of gorgeous embroidery floss and a roll of 14-count Aida cloth* metaphorically let on my doorstep with a note saying, “You know you want to.”

I do and this was the perfect excuse to make time for a project I’ve been thinking about off and on for a while now:  I wanted to make a framed cross stitch of one of my favorite poems.

The poet is a very-much alive friend (hi, John!), so I asked permission and he immediately granted it, because he’s a nice guy.

Last night, I sat down with a calculator, a ruler, the back of an official-looking envelope that I should probably look at more carefully once I finish this post, and this nifty little online program.

An hour (or two) later, I had a basic pattern and a problem.  Because this other nifty little program told me I didn’t have enough Aida cloth, unless I skipped the border and the framing margins.

Luckily, it’s my day off today, so I had time to run out this morning and buy a bigger piece.  Unfortunately, the only place that sells that stuff . . . is the craft store.

You don’t send an alcoholic to the liquor store.  You don’t send a compulsive shopper to Rodeo Drive.  You don’t allow Sunny near FAO Schwartz, Jane within visual distance of an Apple Store, or any member of my family by blood or marriage into Jo-Beth books without a plan, a cash-only budget, a megaphone, physical restraints, and possibly a trained therapist to provide aftercare.**

I know this.

But I still believe I can  zip into the craft store—by which I mean any craft store—and buy the single item I need without trouble . . . and I still automatically pick up a cart at the door, like that isn’t a blatant, if subconscious, admission of defeat.Aida cloth

This morning, I spent a ridiculous amount of time debating whether one of the several other available items is better than the one I was determined to buy.  One was, and I bought it*** and avoided the scroll frames, because my friend Grace gave me a perfectly good one before she moved last year.^

I could have left.  I should have left.

Craft NeedlesCraft glassesBut then I caught sight of the needles, and I couldn’t remember if I had the right kind or where I would have put them, if I did.  But I did remember the trouble I had the last time I tried to thread a needle, while simultaneously ignoring the fact that I’d been trying to even shove the end of actual invisible thread through the eye of a tiny sharpie.

I’m talented that way.

Alarms were dimly ringing at this point, possibly from the direction of my credit card, but I remembered that Jane had asked if we had any fabric scraps so she could practice with the sewing machine.  So I decided to swing past the quilting stuff to check the remnants, which was just past the bargain bins . . . which is when everything went a bit funny . . .

Craft Yarn

. . . I don’t know, the last thing I remember is a random thought about Christmas and scarves and the kids, who don’t like wearing scarves.  Then next thing I knew, I was at home with a big bag of stuff and a receipt that was a lot longer than I’d anticipated.

At least I came home with the Aida cloth.  It’s on the frame (thanks, Grace!), center-marked, and ready to go.

As soon as I can decide on the colors . . .

Scroll frame

Onward!

_______________________

*The stuff that looks like rows of tiny squares, for cross-stitch.  The count means how many squares there are in a linear inch.

**You’d think librarians would be immune to the lure of literary acquisition, but we really, really aren’t.

***The project isn’t this big, but stores don’t usually carry sizes between 15″ x 18″, which is what I had at hand, and this.

^Along with four garbage bags of her stash.  I have a theory that craft supply stashes are a single, gestalt being that shuffles itself around from place to place as needed.   My husband has a theory that I’m a sucker in need of professional help.  I don’t see the conflict, here.

Cruising with Disney

Disney Fantasy

We’re back from our seven-day Bahama cruise on the Disney Fantasy™ and while the kids seem to have rejoined the Real World without a hitch—though with some magnificent tan lines*—my husband and I are still staggering around on sea legs humming “Be Our Guest”.

And doing loads and loads of laundry.

As many of you know, I approached this vacation with a high amount of anxiety about what we would need and what we would do and how I would handle the possibility that my family wouldn’t let me escape the experience without wearing a swimsuit.  In public.

But for the most part, it was a blast—a relaxing blast—and it was comforting to know that we were surrounded by families who understood about random pre-teen surliness and the low boredom thresholds of small fry in formal restaurant settings.  When I noticed a fellow passenger standing in a corner and lecturing their child through gritted teeth, I knew that these were my people.

The staff was terrific, the staterooms were comfortable, the showers were pure heaven, and the food was wonderful.  There were little touches, like towel animals and pillow chocolates and wait staff with impressive memories for preferences and a good supply of riddles and brain twisters.**

The Disneyness of the place, while obviously a fundamental theme, wasn’t oppressive at all.  Some people dove in head first and Lived the Disney Experience™ but the rest of us just skimmed the surface of our personal nostalgia, avoided the Princess Photo Op Corral, and/or took advantage of the company’s rights to the Marvel movies to see Ant-Man once or twice.  Three times tops.

My husband and I are already plotting to take another cruise, though next time, I’ll be referring back to this list of things I wish I’d known before we sailed:

disney-cruises-logo

1. Decent walking shoes are essential

 Sandals and flip-flops are usually good enough on board*** but don’t let packing space or weird tan lines prevent you from wearing decent arch support when you go ashore.

I brought my sturdy pair of walking sandals, but my mother’s quest for “that one shop” she remembered on Cozumel^ still nearly did my poor feet in—you know you aren’t doing well when the hawkers stop telling you about the bargains in their shops and start luring you with benches and band-aids.

 

Towelephant!

Towelephant!

2. Go off the grid

I decided to leave my laptop at home, figuring I’d write longhand and pay the minimum to connect to the ship’s WiFi through my phone to check my e-mail,^^ but I only tried once or twice with no joy—my phone couldn’t detect the signal.  My husband ended up borrowing a ship laptop to check in on my MIL, but the connection was very slow and intermittent, and ultimately wasn’t worth the bother.

Good thing we paid by the meg and not the minute!

And barring a bit of blog and texting withdrawal, I didn’t miss being plugged in at all.  My phone did come in handy for on board photo ops and to entertain Sunny on the nights when we were assigned to the boringest most formal restaurant, but I kept it in Airplane Mode the whole time.

 

Towel Baby!

Towel Baby!

3. Don’t care about the hair

You know how your hair reacts to your hometown humidity, but in equatorial, oceanic humidity, cowlicks go gleeful.  Arguing about this with styling implements, smoothing products, and bad language doesn’t help.

I gave up by day three—I’m stubborn—and generally wore my sunglasses as a headband indoors to keep the whole mess back.   By the time we reached Jamaica, I was able to walk through the windtunnel of Falmouth without care—and when the nice young lady trying to sell me a $2000 pendant told me she loved my hair, I thanked her instead of laughing in her face.^^^

 

Towel Rhino

Towel Rhino with nose blurr!

4. All body types are welcome

This ain’t the Love Boat—this is parents and grandparents and kids who are all too busy having fun to give a hoot how you look in your swimsuit.

Assuming you know what strangers are thinking about your body is defeatist and damaging . . . unless you’re focusing on all the strangers of your general size and shape who aren’t letting anything get in the way of their fun.  You can totally assume that these people think you’re fabulous and would like you to leave your towels and cover-ups behind as you stroll to the water, so they can check out the adorableness of your swim-shorts.

 

Towel Monkey!

Towel Monkey!

 3. Sunscreen. Sunscreen. Sunscreen.

At all times you are emerging into the open air, even if you’re only going to the buffet by the pools.  Reapply twice as often as you think you should.§

I had sunburned knees from sitting in the surf, even though the stuff we use was rated waterproof for 80 minutes, and I wasn’t in there that long.  I would think that the waters near public beaches would be 30% sunscreen anyway, but it apparently doesn’t work like that.§§

 

Towel Bear!

Towel Bear!

4. Save your receipts—there will be a quiz afterward!

The last full day of your cruise, your steward will deliver a copy of Declaration Form 6059B, courtesy of US Customs and Border Protection.  THis form will ask you which foreign ports your household members visited and how much they spent there, itemized by general category.

I saved my receipts because I do that, but my husband had to go through a few bags to jog his memory.  It was a blessing that the nine pounds of beach shells Sunny brought back, not to mention all the hitchhiking sand, didn’t count.

Of course, if you really want to be prepared, you can check the list of Things That Custom Agents Frown On before you go shopping . . . but what’s life without a little risk?

 Towel Monkey Again! We like Towel Monkey!

Towel Monkey Again!
Because we love  Towel Monkey!

4. Check every single drawer after you pack to go home, even if you remember doing it.

Because you might remember packing all your clean underwear and good bras from the upper drawer of the cabinet to the left of the connecting door . . . but  if you don’t make absolutely certain, it will become evident that you did not and tragically so, if you aren’t traveling directly home after disembarking.§§§

 

Snorkel Sunny!

Snorkel Sunny!

5. You aren’t actually obligated to do anything.

This is your vacation, too.

You can spend time with your whole family, part of your family, or enjoy some Me Time.

You can go swimming all day, every day, or never go near the pool.

Pirate Buffet!

Pirate Buffet!

You can eat at your assigned restaurant every night or skip it in favor of the buffet or a poolside food stall—or even room service.¤

You can see all the shows or none.

You can spend the whole day in the movie theater or never go at all.

You can stay in your room the whole trip and watch Disney stuff on television (or never turn it on after the suggested Shipwide PSA feature).

Princess Corral!

Princess Corral!

You can stand in line to get a photo taken with various Disney characters or avoid that noise altogether.

You can dance, play, write, nap, party, work Sudoku, take towel-folding classes, shop . . . or not.

You are paying the Disney Cruise Line to entertain, feed, and clean up after your family—let them take care of you, too.

 

______________________________

*Sunny’s skin went brown and her hair went platinum.  She looks like a walking photo negative.

**Joseph, our amazing assistant server, managed to stump the whole family twice—we still maintain that our answer to that one about making four triangles out of two by moving one crayon was perfectly right.  So there.

***Though it’s a bigger ship than you think and most of it, oddly, is inside, away from the pools.  So you don’t actually need ventilated, water-friendly footwear all the time.  And unless you become addicted to Elevator Roulette (I did, at one point, for the sheer challenge of it all), you’ll be taking the stairs out of sheer frustration.

^I’m not sure we ever found it, but the ones we did find were well worth the blisters, if not the walk back.  At one point, I was seriously considering hiring a taxi to take me the remaining six blocks to the port entrance.  Guh.

^^On advice, I was careful to shut down the automatic updates on my apps the day before we left; the last thing I wanted was to waste all my allotted megs accidentally updating Fruit Ninja.

^^^I’ll admit that I might have been stunned by the price of the pendant at the time.  I managed to extract myself with relative dignity and bought a nice, kitchy, CZ frog necklace at the duty-free for . . . somewhat less.

CZ Froggie

CZ Froggie

§ Especially if your idea of setting a base tan is to glance briefly at the Midwestern sun as you scurry from your air-conditioned library workplace to your air-conditioned car.

§§ Except for Sunny, who never had so much as a pinkish blotch on her.  Though we still squirted SPF50 in her direction whenever she gamboled past.

§§§Thanks again for running that emergency load for me us, Dad!

¤But if you go on the Fantasy™, try the Animator’s Palate at least once—it featured interactive shows guaranteed to make 8-year olds abandon Tetris.  According to the aforementioned 8-year old, they also have the funnest desserts.

Mickey Cupcake!

Mickey Cupcake!

Hi ho, Hi ho, it’s off to Cruise I go . . .

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I hate traveling.  I like being places, but getting there, for me, is never half the fun, especially if it involves airports.

disney-cruises-logoBut Mom and Dad wanted to take the kids on a Disney cruise and invited my husband and I along for the ride—and I may be a travel curmudgeon with a serious hate-on for how certain airlines treat their passengers, but I’m not passing up a free week on a floating amusement park that exists solely to take over the entertainment needs of my high maintenance offspring.

So on Thursday, we’re driving the seven hours to my parent’s house, then flying out to Port Canaveral the next day,  to catch the boat the day after that.  Nice and easy—and plenty of time for Plan B, C, and even D, in case cars break down and planes are missed and luggage is lost.

So this time, the big problem is getting ready to get there.

Since my only experience with an ocean cruise thus far has been reruns of The Love Boat (I love me some Bernie Kopell), I’ve been spending the last few days spinning in panicked circles wondering what to pack and what  not to pack, reminding myself that the Disney Fantasy c. 2015 is not the Pacific Princess c. 1979,* reading every article about Disney cruises I can, all of which have differing ideas of what to pack and what not to pack.

But I’ve made a list of things to take (Sunscreen, extra contacts, Jane’s inhaler, manuscript, PASSPORTS), and another of things that need to get done before we go.  It’s not that bad, really; all I have to do is pack for me, assemble boredom bags for the car ride, clean the whole house, pack for the kids (one of whom wants to take everything and the other of whom has a decidedly minimalist/grunge approach), get Jane’s hair trimmed, write out instructions for pet care, get to the bank, sort out my purse, buy toothbrushes and sunscreen, and return that butt-ugly dress I bought in a panic over “formal dress night”.  And maybe a few other things . . .

WiFi may or may not be affordable, so you may not hear much from me for a week or two, until I come back with a sunburn and pics—and maybe even a manageable sleep deficit.

Disney is supposed to be all about making dreams come true, right?

 

Ever taken a Disney Cruise?  Any advice?

Who was YOUR favorite Love Boat crew member?

______________________

* I will not, for example, be meeting Isaac, however much I might need him, nor will I be on the prowl for anything other than an empty lounge chair and a nap.