Admissions of a Birthday Girl

Tomorrow marks another year closer to three decades of my existence on Planet Earth. Admittedly, there is, and always has been a strong contradiction between the number of birthdays I’ve celebrated, the age of my face, and the age of my soul. If everyone in the world forgot the year I was born, I would be very confused about my age.

A few months ago, I gazed in the mirror one day to see my first noticeable signs of aging. Before that, I had a face as smooth and white as a baby’s bottom. A baby face, that took at least five to ten years off of my chronological age. When I was pregnant, people gazed at me in shock and horror, as if I were a teen mother. I went to complete paperwork at the bank for my name change, and the teller was taken aback. “I swear, I wouldn’t have thought you were old enough to get married.” I got that, a lot.

Tick - tock.

Quite the oddity, I was actually excited to see the fine lines across my scarred forehead and around my mouth. I may be the only woman on the planet that was excited to see my face start to catch up with my chronological age! I despised my youthful appearance. I have never felt as if my chronological age fit, nor did I take it as a compliment when someone thought I was a teenager.

I will make an admission; I am one of those people that typically loathes their own birthday.  Yes, I find it absolutely pretentious.  Except, I do not detest my birthday for the same reasons that everyone else does.  As previously stated, I like the aging process.  I have always been excited about gaining more numbers.  My birthday just falls in a bad time of the year.

Growing up, I secretly envied peers that had birthdays during warmer months.  Pennsylvania has reasonable temperatures between March and November.  My friends would have all kinds of fun parties, because they weren’t all trapped in the house, buried in four feet of snow, and huddled around the heater in subzero temperatures.  Camping parties, pool parties, outdoor parties, indoor parties where we could run around the yard, parties in the park, and every other conceivable party I couldn’t have.

As an adult, the problem grew worse.  In the last ten years, I have had two nice days on my birthday.  My 22nd and my 24th.  Neither of those birthdays had anything planned.  I can’t plan a party.  Every year I have tried, I was doomed for especially bad weather.  My 23rd had to be moved to the weekend of Superbowl Sunday, when the Steelers were playing.  Living in Pittsburgh, the Steelers in the Superbowl is more important than anything.  When they win the Superbowl, the city gets shut down for two days, because everyone is too busy celebrating to go to work.  If they’re not going to work, they sure as hell aren’t going to my birthday party.

People don’t want to come out in January if they don’t have to.  I have been cursed with ice storms, heavy snow, and subzero temperatures.  So, I stopped planning parties.  I stopped planning anything, actually.  Because each year, I have been brutally disappointed.  Those disappointments mounted into resentment for that day.

Not this year!  I don’t especially care what the weather is like.  It does not matter if my friends or family notice the date on the calendar or not.  I like my birthday.  I am celebrating me, and everything my life has amounted to.  I am happy with myself, and all that I’ve created and become.  There is no need for anyone to justify my thoughts or emotions about me.

I love that it’s on a Saturday, because there are no expectations.  I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do.  And, I have all of the time in the day to do anything I do want to do.  I will go out and have a lovely dinner on the house.  (I already have the voucher).  Then, I will buy myself the things that I actually want for my birthday.  No expectations, no disappointments.

This past year has been one of the harder ones, but not the hardest.  I have made so much progress in all aspects of my life.  I am managing my physical and mental health well.  My marriage is solid.  My career is taking root.  And my son is growing.  My family is happy and healthy.  I am happy and healthy.  Those are all of the things I’ve ever wanted. This birthday, I have them all.

The best birthday present ever is the pride that I have in myself.  I have walked through fire to get to this point.  I may not have done it all gracefully.  But, I made it out stronger, wiser, and better for it all.

Marginally Clear

Thanksgiving will hopefully be a day of thanks. It marks two weeks since the LEEP procedure. Since it falls on a holiday, my doctor’s office was kind enough to squeeze me in on Wednesday, Nov. 23. I’m sure the scheduling nurse I spoke with was aware that I’d have a Sword of Damocles hanging over my holiday table. It was kind of her to be so considerate. (Note to self: Be thankful for considerate, compassionate people).

The Healing Process

I was briefed after the surgery about care and restrictions. No worries – this is not going to get graphic. I’ll admit, it was not quite as I expected it. They likened it to a colposcopy with a biopsy. I know there is a huge difference between the two. One is a little snip and the other is more akin to taking a sizable section. Like trimming the hedges versus pruning a tree.

They under-exaggerate when they describe the more unpleasant parts of post-op care. I was in nearly constant, serious pain for the first four days. I would wake up in the morning in severe pain, because a full bladder likely pressed against the area. The more I moved, the more the pain increased.

Mothers will especially stand this next part. It is more akin to the physical sensations to about a week after labor and delivery. My bottom half was sore. It was pain like a T, across my hips through me, and into my back.

They don’t tell you the real story on a lot of it, although they are still defined within the parameters of “typical healing”. To sat the least, it was a lot more intense than I predicted.

The healing time takes longer than I predicted too. The doctors assured me that I’d be back on my feet, doing my daily activities in a few days. But, those activities are not to include any aerobic / strenuous activity. I haven’t been able to do any housework. No stairs, so I have to limit my use of them at home. It’s frustrating to leave something on a different floor.

I’m still not quite back to normal. I always feel like the doctors overreact when they give you restrictions. Possibly, it is because they know patients will not follow them to the letter. But, they weren’t kidding here. I’m moving better, but I am still in pain. I need extended time sitting. I’m tired.

The biggest thing they don’t tell you is the emotional rollercoaster that follows. I don’t know if it’s hormonal, but I have been completely out of whack. I described some of it in With This Pill. Manic Monday touched upon the subject in 2.5.

This is a conversation C.S. and I had on Friday.

I swear. A lot.

I thought I was on the cusp of a depressive episode. Mobility is difficult. It is irritating and frustrating to be at the mercy of others. I am a control freak. I like things done my way, and I like to be an active participant at all times. But right now, I feel like a useless invalid watching life pass as I’m bound immobile, as much as possible.

I feel useless. I can’t take charge of classes because I have to meet them in their classrooms. I must have children assist me in classes by passing out lyric sheets and retrieving items for me from across the room. I hate asking people for help. Then, I start to feel like an inconvenience, a burden, if you will.

Tomorrow’s Follow-up
I was under the impression that they were going to poke in there and assess my healing.  Then, they were going to report how much had to be excised, and what my chances of having more children is going to look like.  What they failed to mention is that tomorrow is also the delivery of the results from the sample they took.  What I thought was going to be a completely benign appointment turned malignant fast.

What the doctor is looking for is are Clear Margins.  Essentially, if the tissue they collected has both the cancerous cells and a margin surrounding it of healthy tissue, then we can be assured that all of the cancerous cells were excised.  However, if the margins are not clear, then cancerous cells still remain and pose a possible threat.

The course of action after that is typically to wait until the results from the follow up Pap smear come back.  If they are positive, then we visit colposcopy land to see how bad it is.  And, there is a possibility of yet another procedure.

You guessed it.  This poses a greater threat to my future pregnancies.  The more cervix that is removed, the higher the risk of miscarriage and pre-term labor.  I have a plan, but I need to get C.S. on board.  If the issue is forced, I want to make the Hail Mary pass in order to conceive another child before I would have another surgery.  We have two months to make a decision, because after that, it’s do or die.

I really do want another child, even if it’s not at a great time.  If I have to do it and take some risks, I’m willing to do that.  However, C.S. has not expressed a great deal of enthusiasm about another child.  I don’t want to come to blows over this.  But, if there is a serious disagreement, I know it’s going to turn into a serious problem.

One bridge at a time, Lulu.  One bridge at a time.

Am I a 10?

I like to apply the 1 in 10 rule to everything.  1 in 10 people…

Those are the words from a man we call Fireman Dave.  Fireman Dave was at work yesterday to give us two DPW required seminars, blood borne pathogens and fire safety.  He is a truly entertaining man.  He began his presentation with the quote above.  And he did apply the 1 in 10 rule to many things.

With blood borne pathogens, he said, “1 in 10 people have something you don’t want to catch.” Sure, there is logic in that.  I know I’m part of that 1 in 10.  I have HPV.  I know it’s contagious in a sexual setting, so it doesn’t apply.  But it still makes me one of those 10’s that someone wouldn’t knowingly have sex with.  No big deal; I’m married.  So it doesn’t apply there either.

“1 in 10 people will catch something they don’t want because they aren’t educated about health and safety.” I’m a 10 – I had never even heard of HPV until I had it. We talked about all of the things that you can contract from contact with blood. Did you know that Hepatitis B can live in dried blood for up to 7 days? Scary.

He told us a story about a woman who called 911 because her husband had been stabbed. The police had told Fireman Dave (who is also a paramedic) that the scene was secure, so he rushed in to help the man. He was leaning over the man and checking his vitals. He hardly had time to look up in the mirror in front of him to see the woman stab him in the butt.

“1 in 10 people are truly wacky.

We all laughed. After he said it, I joked, “Yeah, that’s me!” Haha! “Nah, I’m just kidding!

He continued on with his presentation filled with humorous anecdotes. I made an off color comment about one of them. I heard a mumble in the crowd, “Oh yeah, she’s a 10.” and everyone roared. I smiled, shrugged, and said, “I told you!”

I may have seemed jovial on the outside. But the anxiety was welling up like a balloon being inflated from the churning in my stomach to get lodged in my windpipe. “Breathe, just keep breathing… keep… breathing., I repeated in my head. I was more still than a statue and closed my eyes for more than a moment. I hoped that when I opened my eyes, I would be out of the spotlight. When I opened them, the fluorescent lights seemed to be brighter and the room much quieter. Fireman Dave went on, but was the spotlight really off of me?

“Am I really a 10?”

Fireman Dave described 10’s as being Richard Baumhammers, Richard Poplawski, or George Sodini (three notorious murderers in Pittsburgh). I’ve actually read “Crazy George” Sodini’s blog before authorities shut it down. Although it was both homicidal and suicidal, it was very much like catching a mental health blogger on a bad day. Except, this was every day for a long time.

I’m not homicidal. I’ve never been homicidal once in my life. I’ve only ever wished death upon two people, and I never even considered that it could be by my hand. My moral compass has always been finely tuned upon a sturdy foundation of values. But, if George Sodini could have a blog that I could understand, could I be a George Sodini? Am I that 10?

Maybe not. But, the 1 in 10 rule is relative. It states that “1 in 10 people that you encounter…”.

Mental health and development issues are very commonplace in my life. My family has something or another, whether they want to admit it or not. So, my threshold for slapping a 10 on someone is probably way higher than a “norm’s” would be. I consider serial killers and child molesters to be 10’s. Does that mean the “norms” consider me a 10?

What do you think?

Fluent in Ebonics

Yesterday was my first day back to work, and I couldn’t be happier, despite the unpleasantness that morning. That school has such a profoundly positive effect on me. I take two busses there, and the alone time is relaxing. But the second I walk through that door, I feel the love and community there. Everyone is so pleasant and happy. My co-workers respect me and my boss appreciates me. The kids are always so glad to see me and are always telling me that they like my class the best. It’s one of the most wonderful parts of my life.

This week consists of educator’s professional development seminars and training.  I sat at a table with some of my favorite co-workers, the art teacher, the 3rd grade group leader, and the 4th grade group leader.  It’s my second school year there, and I’m becoming closer to the staff as time passes.  We were divided in groups based on our tables for our group activities.

The first activity was called “Number Knockout”.  You are given a 5 by 5 grid of random numbers.  The instructions are to use those numbers by addition, subtraction, multiplication, and / or division to get a predetermined number.  I am terrible at math.  It was up to the group to come up with as many number combinations as they could.  The mood in the room was light; everyone was joking and conversing.  When they were determining who won, I said, “Hey, we were at a serious disadvantage!  We have two fine arts teachers at the same table!”  Everyone laughed.

The next activity was called “Shorthand Code”.  The objective was to come up with as many phrases using only netcode – like CUL8R and B4UGO.  I hate using that.  I don’t use it in text, blogs, emails, or anything.  I am a person who seeks to preserve the correct use of the English language, instead of letting it disintegrate into grammatically incorrect, misspelled garble.  I thought it was going to be challenging.  But as soon as I got into it, I was unstoppable.  I kept churning them out.  And because of that, my group voted me as the one to present it, in front of everyone.  Yeah, you know I have anxiety.  But we were deemed the winners.

This led to the first racial joke I’ve encountered at work.  See, I work in an inner-city youth program in a predominantly African American community.  When I was hired, I was concerned that race may be an issue.  I’m one of four white people who work there.  It never has been.  They are an incredible, accepting community.  There, you are what you are.  If I seem quirky, they don’t care.  It’s just part of who I am.  They don’t suspect anything is wrong with me.  I’m T.M.  They always see the best in me.  I am enthusiastic, warm-hearted, friendly woman who is passionate about what I do.  I love it.

The point of the exercise was to help us understand the importance of positive, clear communication with our students.  This includes establishing expectations and providing clear instruction.  Which lead to a mention of Ebonics.  The presenter said, “T.M. seems to be fluent in Ebonics.  No clue how!”  Everyone roared with laugher, including me.  It seemed so, but I’m really not.  I am the whitest girl you’d ever meet.  My skin could rival Casper the Friendly Ghost, and I have white blonde hair.  I grew up in the suburbs, attended a school that was lucky to have 10 ethnic people in a graduating class of 247, and participated in extracurricular activities that did not include any participation from minority students.  Hell, I only knew one African American man in college!

I guess I can be proud.  I am not only a decent writer, a good musician, an excellent vocalist, I am also fluent in Ebonics. Ha!

I hope today is as great as yesterday!