Hello! The other day someone came to the blog’s Facebook page and yelled at me. Well, that’s not exactly true; they left a very concerned message asking for an update and if I’m okay, and it happened to be in all caps. So when I responded, I said “Please don’t yell at me!” (I am delicate and have tender, easily-hurt feelings) and the commenter hastened to apologize for the accidental caps lock.
This of course prompted me to check when I’d last updated, because surely it hadn’t been that long, and…. yes it was. Months. I left you hanging for the entire summer. Whoops! Sorry about that.
The short version: Everyone is fine and life is chugging along.
The long version: Wellllllll it’s been an interesting summer. Some good, some bad, mostly ridiculous, because it’s me. I will do my best to catch y’all up.
As you may recall, I’ve made it my mission to make all of the girls’ “rustic vibe” wedding dreams come true. When we last left off, I was busy buying up all of the graduated raw wood round sets off of Amazon in an attempt to amass what I needed to make the Rustic Cupcake Stand Dreams Are Made Of. When Otto tells the story, it gets a little more ridiculous each time, and so the last time I heard him detailing the saga (I think he was on the phone with one of his brothers) he said something about how “for a month, you’d walk into the family room and THERE WERE WOOD ROUNDS EVERYWHERE, AT LEAST 10 SETS!” That’s insane and untrue.
I ended up buying 5 sets, which is only 15 rounds, and our family room is a lot bigger than that. Pfft.
Once I had an (admittedly sizable) stack of rounds on hand, I FaceTimed the girls to show them my bounty. “I think these three will work for the stand,” I said, “and I can return the others. What do you think?” Sunny—ever agreeable—said that looked great. And Chickadee, darling daughter o’ mine, fruit of my loins and the apple of my eye, said, “Yeah, those look good for a 3-tier stand. But, um, instead of returning everything else… how would you feel about making a couple of 2-tier stands, too? For the rest of the cupcakes?”
I may have spent all of 30 seconds trying to scrape up a viable reason why that was a terrible idea, mostly because I just didn’t want to, and when I realized what I was doing, I stopped. “Sure,” I said. “I can do that.”
Two sets of wood rounds went back to Amazon, and I commenced with my research into how to do this thing I had promised to do for which I have exactly zero practical skills or knowledge.
I bought a special drill bit to make dowel-sized indentations in the wood rounds, and a long piece of matching dowel rod, and some wood glue. I scoured the Internet until I found little bark-on (rustic!) rounded chunks of wood intended to be place card holders, but which I could use as feet for the stands.
One fateful day in June, Otto got out the chop saw and we cut the dowel pieces and routed out the necessary indentations and I started building the stands. Once I had three 2-tier assemblies weighted and leveled and drying, I sent Chickadee a picture, ready for the oohs and ahhs which were sure to come my way for the obvious blood, sweat, and tears I was pouring into this project.
“How long are those dowels?” She texted back. “Those look way too tall.”
Otto tried to tell me I didn’t have to capitulate to her whims but the truth is that I had argued over the length with Otto, already, and gone with his suggestion even though I was afraid it was going to be too big of a gap between tiers. She was right and we were wrong, so I took everything apart and we recut the dowels and then I glued and screwed and weighted and leveled and the next day I attached the final tier to the main one and put feet on them all and NOW they are perfect.
I joked that I was putting the picture on my phone and showing it to strangers because these are my new babies. Try to imagine them covered in cupcakes, when all of the painstaking attention to detail will not matter in the slightest! Yay! No, my eye has always twitched like that, what do you mean?
So that was one task down and about 700 to go.
We’d also ordered wood flowers for the centerpieces, and at some point this summer (who knows when! time has no meaning!) Sunny’s mom came over, as did a couple of other friends, and we dyed all the flowers, which is messy but surprisingly fun. We also ate cake and gabbed, but we were WORKING, see. Now I just have to find a time when we can get together again and glue all the stems on and actually make the arrangements. I’m sure you will be completely SHOCKED to hear that we have some beautiful mercury glass vases (ruuuuuuuuustic) in which to arrange these flowers.
[Sidebar: Not an ad, I am not sponsored in any way, I am just a happy customer: If you need flowers for something, go check out Sola Wood because real flowers are finicky and expensive, but these are absolutely gorgeous and infinitely customizable and will last forever, plus I’m pretty sure it was cheaper than real ones.]
Bon Voyage, Otto!
A significant portion of my drive to get the stands done in June—despite the wedding not being until January—was that I wanted them done before Otto left town. While I did most of the construction, the chop saw frankly scares the beejeezus out of me. (You think that’s silly? Listen, I once broke my hand on an apple, so I just don’t feel like I should be allowed to use something that might cause an amputation.) And in July, Otto finished packing up and went to Australia for a month.
It was weird. I mean, he was working, and we were dealing with a 14-hour time difference, so we didn’t talk very often. We’ve been married for 16 years and that’s the longest we’ve been apart in that time. He was doing cool stuff there and I was busy here, but still.
Anyone who says faculty spouses don’t also make sacrifices for the students is wrong. Listen, I HAD TO MAKE MY OWN COFFEE FOR A MONTH. I hope those kids appreciated my suffering. (I have ADHD, which means I am largely incapable of making the coffee before I’ve had the coffee, whereas Otto is neurotypical and unfailingly capable, so there’s a reason he’s been making my coffee for me all this time.)
Eventually he returned, exhausted but satisfied with how it went, and the dogs lost their tiny minds with joy and I was so happy to actually get to hug him again. Then that night (after he’d been traveling for 28 straight hours or whatever it was) we went to bed and Otto immediately started snoring and the next morning I told him “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I slept SO WELL while you were gone!”
I’m a gift. Everyone says so. Totally unrelated, I’m pretty sure that was the day Otto started planning for next year’s session abroad. Huh.
While the Cat’s Away, the Mice Turn Into Lesbians
The truth is that Otto’s trip coincided perfectly with me being in my first play in TWO YEARS. (I guess we’ve been busy lately.) My character was a butch lesbian and if you think there weren’t a million jokes to be made about my husband leaving the continent and me immediately spending my evenings hanging all over another woman, well, you must be new here.
I also wore the world’s most dated and unattractive mullet wig, so that was an added bonus. After the run ended and we finished striking the set and headed to a restaurant for dinner, while we waited for our table I made everyone else in the production take turns posing for a photo in my wig. It was glorious. And also I have so much blackmail material, now!
The show itself was amazing—a damn fine production, if I do say so myself—with an all-female cast of badass bitches and exactly zero backstage drama. (If you don’t know how rare that is, you’ve never done community theater.) Otto returned in time to see it, which he swears he enjoyed in spite of having to watch me smooch someone else for two hours.
Monkey also claimed to enjoy it, in spite of 1) having to watch their mother smooch a woman for two hours and 2) due to Otto’s absence, having been the person I forced to run lines with me every night for a month. They told me afterward that the play “made a lot more sense now” because there are a couple of pivotal scenes which I wasn’t in, and they had therefore never read. That probably made me laugh harder than it should’ve.
Shortly after Otto left for Australia, my friend Sue came for a brief visit from Canada, which meant 1) I got to hang out with Sue (yay!) and 2) I got a bag of Canadian chocolate bars. So that was most excellent.
About a week after Sue left, Kira came for a visit, so that meant 1) Monkey got a lines-running break and 2) she was here to help dye wedding flowers, so that was also excellent.
I often think of myself as someone who doesn’t have a lot of “old” friends, but I think it’s worth pointing out that Sue and I met on an infertility chat board about, oh, 27 years ago? We now have 5 kids between us, from ages 18-25, and although this was our first time meeting in person, it felt like we’d known each other forever (which we basically have). And Kira and I “met” online about 20 (!!!) years ago, now, and although COVID definitely messed with our “get together at least once a year no matter what” plan, she’s the first person I’d call if I needed to move a body.
So getting all of that girlfriend time was awesome and definitely made Otto’s absence pass more quickly, but once he was back and the play opened and my birthday was coming up, I was still feeling sort of sad about Chickadee not being able to come visit. She’s seen every show I’ve been in since she was born! But she’s in grad school, and she works in an office nearly full-time and is also doing an internship, and it just wasn’t possible. I told myself not to be greedy.
And then at lunchtime on my birthday, which was a Thursday, Monkey unexpectedly returned home between classes, and this was because they had picked up Chickadee (after she got up at o’dark thirty in Texas, flew to Atlanta, and took a shuttle to campus) and delivered her home to my delighted, squealing self. I had been giving her a hard time ALL SUMMER about not coming home for my show, and it turns out that she had talked to Otto and booked her plane ticket THE DAY I WAS CAST. Sneaky! I figured she planned to see the show and immediately go home, but she stayed for the whole weekend. Best birthday EVER.
And, uh, a Few Medical Things
When we last left off I was breaking out in hives approximately twenty times a day and taking enough allergy meds to kill an elephant. At one point I was—no lie—on five separate allergy meds, with two of them at 3x the “recommended” dose. AND I WAS STILL ITCHY. Finally, we had done everything that needed to be checked off for my insurance to approve trying an expensive injectable biologic, and while I approached my first shot with more than a little trepidation and warnings from the doc that it might take a month or two to start working, for once the Modern Medicine Gods smiled upon me. Two weeks to the day of my first injection, the hives stopped. I get a shot once a month and get to have normal skin. It is AMAZING. I’m thinking of putting the allergist in my will.
So yay, a good medical story! Now here’s a more typical one: I waited about 8 months from initial scheduling to when I actually got to go see the fancy world-renowned heart specialist who treats POTS, and my initial appointment was… rushed. They didn’t take me in until about an hour past my appointment time, and it sort of felt like the doc breezed in, asked some questions, and ran out. It wasn’t what I expected. But I was Officially Diagnosed (I may not be good at much, but spectacularly flunking the orthostatic tolerance test? NAILED IT), given a prescription, and more tests were ordered. Okay, fine.
I started the new prescription and it dropped my (super high) heart rate like a stone. Yay! Except… I still felt awful. Huh. Chickadee (who was diagnosed with POTS years ago) said probably my blood pressure was too low. When she showed up at home, she brought me her BP cuff. And hey, yay for a lower heart rate, but that 70/45 blood pressure was… no bueno. I messaged the doctor. No response. I called the office, told them I’d messaged, asked them to ask the doctor to get back to me. They said I’d hear by the end of the week. In the meantime, I stopped taking the med because I was in a show and I didn’t want to pass out on stage, but 5:00 on Friday came and went and I hadn’t heard anything. I was not impressed. But lo! At 6:00 on Friday I got a portal message from the doctor. It read, in its entirety: “Stop the [new med].”
Uh. Thanks? I messaged back IMMEDIATELY (Emory’s portal sends you a text when you have a new message, so I’d seen it right away) and said “Yes, I’ve already done that, but now what?” Silence.
The middle of the next week, I got a message in the portal from a nurse, saying a new med had been called in for me. I messaged back (immediately) asking if it was instead of or in addition to the first med. Silence. Fortunately I have my MD from Google University so I was able to ascertain that the new med was designed to raise my blood pressure so that I could continued to tolerate the heart-rate-dropping and blood-pressure-dropping effects of the first med.
I took the second med for a week, at which point the raging, constant headache it gave me was clearly a side effect rather than a fluke, messaged again, heard nothing for days, then a third med was called in. Knock on wood, but these two meds together seem to be working/helping. My heart rate still fluctuates wildly, but in a much lower range. I have another appointment this month so we’ll see what torture is in store, then.
I also returned to Emory about a month after the first appointment to have some additional tests. These were venous studies done via duplex ultrasound, which sounds very fancy. In actuality they involve about an hour of someone pressing on your abdomen and legs VERY FIRMLY, over and over, while the ultrasound screen display looks just as inscrutable to a layperson as every other sort of ultrasound. “Is it a girl or a boy?” I joked, at one point.
So that was… unpleasant. Not awful, but not fun.
The evening after I’d had my scans, I, uh, didn’t feel so good. I basically ended up spending the entire night in the bathroom (sorry), and while the next day I was (blessedly) empty, I didn’t feel much better. In fact, I felt bad for many days. Really bad.
Finally I went into my messaging portal for my primary doc and said, “Listen, I know this sounds insane, but I had these scans at Emory where they pushed on my abdomen a ton and that night I was really, really sick. It’s been nearly a week and I still feel really bad. Almost like I did when I had pancreatitis. Could pressure like that trigger something?”
My doctor—to her credit—clearly thought I was nuts but was very kind in her response. The upshot was that she didn’t think they could be related in any way, but why didn’t I come in for some bloodwork just to ease my mind.
So I did.
And I had pancreatitis. Again.
Now, understand that I am SUPER DUPER GRATEFUL both to my doc for being diligent and that this second bout—while very unpleasant—wasn’t nearly as bad as the first one. It could’ve been MUCH worse and thank goodness it wasn’t. I wasn’t hospitalized! Yay!! BUT. I don’t have any of the standard risk factors for pancreatitis, and they’d called the first bout idiopathic (“LOL IDK!” in medicalese), but once you have it AGAIN something is definitely wrong and also your risk for chronic pancreatitis goes up exponentially, and chronic pancreatitis is Very Bad. So. This was concerning.
My doctor ordered me onto a clear liquids diet for a few days (not too hard, as the only solid food I’d had in a while was toast) and we set a follow-up appointment for the next Monday.
Which is why, OF COURSE, on Thursday night when I was getting ready for bed, I thought I looked a little jaundiced. But surely I was imagining things! Or the lighting in the bathroom was weird! I came out and made Otto look at my eyes. He agreed I seemed “a little yellow.” I told him I didn’t feel any different or worse, so we were going to bed and if I still seemed off in the morning, I’d call my doctor.
The next morning we both still thought my color was weird, so I called my doctor. She wasn’t in, because she doesn’t work on Fridays. I talked to a nurse, and she talked to the doctor who was there, and that doctor told her to tell me to go to the ER. OH GOODY.
I thought that the daytime ER would be a nice change from how scary it usually is late at night (which seems to be the only time I ever end up there), but in fact it turns out that our local hospital’s daytime ER is sort of like Grand Central Station. We waited and waited and waited and eventually they took my blood and stuck me on a gurney and a nice doctor came to tell me that my bloodwork was fine but they were going to give me some IV hydration and meds before they sent me home. I felt really stupid about the whole thing, but also the IV helped a lot and I felt much better, after.
The following week I saw my doctor, and she sent me to a GI doc, who I saw last week. Now I’m waiting a month for an MRI of my liver and pancreas, and “they might not see anything,” so that was super comforting. But hey, we’ve reached our out-of-pocket max for this year on our health insurance, so let’s do ALLLLL the tests! Fun!
I am finally feeling better, but I do still feel a little like a time bomb. I’m sure it’s fine.
Ready for my Medal
In conclusion… well, I have no good wrap-up for any of this. But I do want recognition for the fact that post-illness I got into one of those OH MY GOD I’M BEHIND ON EVERYTHING whirlwinds of (brief) productivity and in addition to baking everything, one day I cleaned out all the bathroom drawers and cabinets. You know how over time those spaces under the sink get filled up with who knows what? And the drawers have mysteriously eaten the thing you’re looking for but the bobby pins have clearly been reproducing? (If you don’t know, tell me what it’s like to be organized. But tell me really slowly, and don’t leave out any details.)
The kids’ bathroom was a particularly interesting treasure trove, because Chickadee hasn’t lived here for years but also moved out firmly believing she should just leave whatever she didn’t want where it was. (Lest this appear to be me picking on just one child, GUESS how many basically-empty tubes of toothpaste were in Monkey’s drawer!) (FOUR. There were FOUR in addition to the actual usable tube of toothpaste.) I found contact lenses that expired a decade ago, a panoply of nearly empty shampoo and body wash bottles, etc. And to be fair, the bathroom off my office wasn’t much better. (New nickname: the bathroom where cleaning products go to die.) AND (hey kids, look at Mom telling on herself!) my languishing makeup drawer contained—among other things—at least five petrified bottles of foundation, including the foundation I used FOR MY FIRST WEDDING. (In 1994. If I’d just waited a little bit longer, I could’ve legitimately thrown away THIRTY YEAR OLD foundation.) (In my defense, I almost never wear makeup. But every time I have A Big Event or a show, apparently I go buy something and toss it in that drawer. Whoops.)
Anyway, I’d hosted our cast party a couple of weeks after the show closed, which meant lots of people in the house/in the bathrooms, and I didn’t get to the actual clean-out until much later, so if anyone snooped, I’m sorry we’re disgusting. But everything is much tidier, now.
Come on over! You can have a muffin and admire how organized the bathroom cabinets are.