A farmer is sitting on his porch in a chair, hanging out with his dog. A friend walks up to the porch to say hello, and hears an awful yelping, squealing sound coming from the dog.“What’s the matter with Ol’ Blue?” asks the friend.“He’s layin’ on a nail that’s pokin’ up from the floorboards,” says the farmer. “Why doesn’t he just sit up and get off it?” asks the friend. 

The farmer deliberates on this and replies: “Don’t hurt enough yet.”
(from Amanda Palmer's The Art of Asking)
July 1
Yesterday, I answered the PA’s questions. Models of the brain lined the counter and she took my blood pressure which was too high. I swear I saw sympathy on her face and excused myself to the bathroom to pee and cry before the surgeon came back in.
I have never met with a surgeon before.
I had an appointment with one once to have my gall bladder out, but I never made it that far. I ended up in the back in the ER with pancreatitis instead and whatever surgeon on duty had the privilege of cutting me open a few days later.

He talked in a thick Italian accent about his experience. The risks. Assuring me that it was time. That he is good at this. But there are no promises or guarantees. He did not rush as he explained incisions and ICU and all kinds of other things that were hard to hear. 
I stared at his hands while he talked and hoped they were steady and strong.
I fought the urge to cry again in the parking garage, partly from the intensity and partly because I had no idea where I had parked. It felt a little vain. Or silly. Me being my usual overdramatic self.
There is nothing life threatening here. No tumors or bleeds or whatever else is bad medical news.
But I still decided to go ahead and let him drill a one inch hole in my head.

I am afraid of doctors and needles and hospitals.
I am afraid of breathing tubes and titanium plates.
I am afraid of the risks. 
Of being part of the 13% that this doesn't help.
Of the things that can go wrong that probably won’t.

But I am also afraid of pain caused by little every day things.
Of the wind
Of the blanket hitting my face.
Of hurting to talk.
Of hurting to smile.
Of hurting to run.
Or swim or kiss or chew or a hundred other things.

I am tired of taking so many pills that I can not keep up with them.
And so I decide that it hurts enough and I choose to get off the floorboards.

The other day I ate with a friend I had not seen for awhile. I filled her in. Trying to say these things lightly. I brushed off her apologies, telling her that everyone has their share of pain management.
That mine, at the moment, is just the obvious physical kind. And that I can keep managing it. Avoiding as much as possible the things that draw it out and make it worse. Or I can do the harder scarier thing which is to try and fix what is causing it. And how that is never easy or without risk. Whatever kind of pain we are talking about.

July 15
Today, I dropped my girl off at dance and headed to the hospital.
I gave the valet my car keys, the registration desk my medical history and enough money to take my family to Disney World probably more than once. I am escorted to Radiology, which unsettling, is right across the hall from a door marked autopsy. I am given an MRI, followed by a catscan, followed by a chest X ray, followed by a urine test, blood work and EKG. I am probably forgetting something but eventually I ended up in a private office with a nurse whose job it was to get more information, run a few more tests and tell me what I needed to know for Monday. She asked me a hundred more questions. She took my temperature, my weight and my blood pressure (which was still way too high). I had to sign form after form assuring no liability if it did not work or if things went wrong. She carefully went over procedures for the day before. Washing at home with the sterile soap she gave me. What meds to take, which ones to skip, when to stop eating and how much hair they were likely to shave.

Then it was my turn to ask questions.
How long would the procedure take?
Who would talk to my husband?
How long would I be on a ventilator?
When would I wake up?
When will I be able to talk?
When would my family be able to see me?
How bad would it hurt?

Most of her answers were “it depends.”

She was patient. She knew that I was on the verge of crying on her. I wanted her to ignore this fact. To pretend I was not on the edge.
Instead she looked me in the eye. Hard.
She asked if I had kids.
At this point I could only nod.
“10 and 6”, I eventually stammered while looking at the floor.
“Me too” she says. “And a 3 year old.”
“Don’t let them see you in ICU”, she advises, "they'll let them in, but I wouldn't."
“I have no intention of having either of them within a 200 mile radius of ICU.”I tell her.
I try to laugh, to banter, to make this casual and nothing.
She keeps looking me in the eye.
I keep staring at the floor.
I appreciate her kindness. I really do.
I just don’t want it.
I don’t want this strange nurse to see all my fear.
I feel exposed and seen through, more than the MRI.
I don’t want her or anyone else to try and make me feel better.
I don’t want to be in this fucking hard plastic chair with a hospital band on my wrist, my arms bandaged and one vein already completely blown.
I want to be at the pool, or beach, or even just on my couch. The dentist. A workshop. WalMart. Anywhere. Else.

She gives me more instructions and assurances. I must be in bad shape because she even gets personal, telling me a story of her own. About knowing this fear. About hearing all these details but not being able to listen or process. I tell her I better write a few things down, ones that aren’t on the handout she gave me. She does this for me, and calls my doctor, so I don’t have to. She even puts reminders on my phone. Probably because my hands are shaking. I let her and am glad but am in other ways embarrassed at how much I need this help. From a nurse whose name I can’t even remember.

She leads me down another hall. To see another doctor. Who listens, pushes, pokes and prods and pours over my lab results and EKG printouts.
He deems me healthy enough for surgery and wishes me luck.
He is gone before I can find my way out of the winding hallways.
Gone before I can find my breath or my valet slip.
I went home and slept for hours.
Exhausted from hallways and needles.

July 17
I thought I would get it all done before Monday.
But there is just too much, even with a community of help.
Of friends who take my kids to the pool or the train.
Of food that shows up at my door when I am too tired to cook or unpack another box. Of friends who pack and unpack while I hammer away on my keyboard, or read another journal article. There is even help with that. All for which I am uncomfortably thankful.

I don’t know what to do with this need.
I will post all kinds of ridiculously embarrassing moments on Facebook.
I will write blog posts about wetting my pants.
But I am reluctant to share this, even though it is not a secret.
It just feels like too much asking and too many questions to answer.
I have heard that you are not supposed to write from the pain, but from the scar.
Maybe I am waiting on that.  A raised line down the left side of my skull behind my ear snaking down to the nape of my neck. I want to keep this hidden until it is better.  Until it is fixed. Until I am out of hospital beds and back on my couch watching TV. When you say brain surgery people react. And I usually try again to make a joke or act casual. I want to reassure myself and everyone reading this that I will be fine. That in a few days…I’ll have this cool scar and metal plate in my head and a prescription for some of the best medicine you can buy. That my pain will be gone and I have a doctor’s note to not do housework for a month or work out for three. And I have to believe that is true.

Every time I start to freak out I remember that I am choosing this.
That I don’t have to do it.
But. I. do.
I need to get up off the floorboards.
And I need help doing it.
I need friends that show up at my door.
I need nurses that look me in the eye.
I need prayers from anyone willing to say them.

and because I really don't want to answer a million questions...if you want to know what or how click on these..
what:trigeminal neuralgia
how: surgery

take a breath that's true

I love weddings.
What is not to love when there are some of my favorite things: free wine, dancing and cake. 
People promising forever for better but also for worse, for sickness, for poorer. I love that wedding vows have all that awful stuff in them. And that people say them anyways. 

Me and my husband actually did 8 sessions of pre-marriage counseling before we got married.
It was ridiculously cheap and what all the “serious” couples in our campus ministry were doing.
It was so awkward sitting in a church office with a minister and his wife while they talked to us about family histories, sex or worse.
We were 22. 
Just babies.
And in the kind of young love that could kiss for hours until our lips literally hurt and our faces broke out. We fought over the most serious of matters, like which cds to sell so we could go out to eat or which station to listen to on the radio, probably just so we could make up and make out again.

Counseling seemed unnecessary.
Something only cold couples who don’t talk at dinner needed.
We were busy throwing french fries at each other and making mix tapes.
I do not remember 99% of those sessions.
Only we fought in the car on the way home. Every. Single. Time.
About things we had never mentioned before like where to spend Christmas, how much money to save each month, and how to fight fairly.

Today we will have been married for 14 years and together for the better part of 18.
Meaning if our relationship were a person it could buy cigarettes and R rated movies.
Our relationship is officially a grown up …when I sometimes struggle to be a grown up myself.

Occasionally we are the couple at the restaurant not talking or looking at our phones. But mostly because we are just so tired. We spend a decent chunk of our words on logistics.
We share a comforter and a bathroom but sometimes forget to share what we are afraid of. But we still share the last piece of cake.
These days, we have learned how to fight.
And how to make up.
In addition to things like file our taxes, fix a toilet and finance a home or two.
(we are still working on that budgeting thing)

And I’ve read and listened to enough talks about writing to learn that a critical element to any story is conflict. In other words. The middle.
Most people want to start at the beginning and skip to the end and avoid the messy, long hard middle.  The part where we have to go to the store. Or the kids are sick. Or the tire is flat. Or I watch the same episode of House for the 10th time. Or we get on each other's nerves. Or where we fight over furniture or coffee stains on the counter.
But then he airs up my tires, brings me donuts, or lets the dog out in the middle of the night so I don’t have to. And that boring stuff right there -it is better than roses any day. Besides, he knows what flowers I actually like and it isn’t roses.

I think the girl in that picture thought she knew what marriage was.
People tell you it is hard.
And it is and it isn't.
The hard part is making decisions that are bigger than you especially when you are as self absorbed as me.
The isn't is having someone beside you making those same decisions with you.
holding your hand
over romantic diners.
on roller coasters.
in hospital rooms.
on airplanes.
at funerals.
at school plays.
on church pews.
in the kitchen.
on the couch.

I still have the exact same bed that I took to college and a dresser that I got for my 13th birthday. I have a few shelves that a friend gave me and there is a TV in our bedroom is held up on two unfinished wooden cubes. (A TV in our bedroom btw is a thing we swore we would never do when we got married….but that was before we had kids and any kind of grasp on reality). I am 37 and have the bedroom of a 22 year old frat boy. (well with a few more photos and a prettier bedspread). This weekend I thought it would be “fun” to go buy bedroom furniture for our new house. A bed that did not used to be my parents and maybe even a matching piece to go with it.  I was excited for about two minutes until I told my husband what furniture actually cost and the first trip was doomed. Even before my kids tried to jump on every bed at Rooms to Go. There might have been some yelling on the way home. So much so that my son took off to the neighbor’s house the second we pulled into the driveway. We might have needed a brush up on our premarital session on fighting fairly. listening…and that dang b-word: budgets.
We went inside, talked about what we wanted, what we had to spend and did some research.
Piled back in the car, went to a different furniture store where my kids also put their feet on every piece of furniture in the place and ate all the free cookies and this time actually bought a bed. I told my son that I was sorry that we yelled, but to be assured that we would always make up. That conflict is ok, to not be afraid of it as long as it is working towards resolution. 

14 years of marriage sometimes looks like that.
fighting in the car.
dirty dishes that I did not rinse out.
clothes that are not put aways.
shoes in the entryway.
bikes in the driveway.

But it is also someone who knows you.
in pajama pants and hair that hasn’t been washed in more days than I’d like to share.
and climbs into a bed that could fall apart at any moment and lets you steal the covers and gets you a drink of water even though he is already settled in.
love moves over even though he is hanging over the side when at 4 am a six year old who looks just like you squishes between us. (because someone let her watch shark week before going to sleep).
Her snores and freckles and love in the middle.

And how isn’t that true for most things.
The middle isn’t always the most exciting part of the story. 
The beginning tries to hook you and the ending tries to make you cry with either joy or sadness and resolve everything. Those two chapters get all the big scenes and moments and the fanciest words.

But the middle is really where the story is.
So here is to a really long middle....to love and to cherish.
Besides, with me…even middles aren’t boring.

This is the worst wedding video ever. beacuse it isn't a wedding video it is me going through a flip cam of wedding pics w/ my wedding music in the background and my kids screaming....but it still makes me cry. every. time.

i believe

So I wrote this almost exactly 4 years ago. The day before the finals in the World Cup.  This year...I am hoping for a different outcome, but these words....just like the two teams in the finals...are exactly the same.

I was not made to play sports. No one in my family played sports in school. My knees are bad. I’m slightly asthmatic. I got genes for long division and reading music and telling jokes, not ones for basketball or volleyball or even playing ping pong without hitting myself in the head (it has happened). I have the coordination and natural athletic ability of Paul on the wonder years. When they did the flexibility test on me at the gym I think I scored about average for an 80 year old. My parents never signed me up for softball, even when I begged. I took PE instead of athletics in junior high. I quit dance when I was 6 because it was “too hard”. I quit gymnastics because it was too much like dance (read – again, too hard) and played the piano and violin and read books instead.

I was not going to let those things stop me.
I ran across the driving range ducking and covering to take tennis lessons as a kid and would often spend hours banging a tennis ball back and forth on the side of my garage because only people over the age of 70 lived on my street. By the time my sophomore year rolled around I finally had time in my schedule, between all those honors classes and orchestra to fit in some JV tennis. I didn’t own a skirt or own of those matchy bags and most of the people on the team had taken it as freshmen and played on their respective junior high teams. My coach referred me to the counselor to get a schedule change. But I convinced him to let me stay. And even though I caused all kinds of havoc on the bus on the way to tournaments, and ripped my warmups climbing a fence and was the kind of girl that talked a little trash and threw her racket. I brought home my share of trophies and left more than my share of skin on the court. Plenty of those trophies said consolation bracket or 2nd place. But I got my share. And it wasn’t because I had any natural ability. I never had any fluid motion to my serve. I was no Serena. But I ran hard for every shot, even the ones I shouldn’t have gotten to and just kept hitting it back. I loved the competition. And the sound a ball makes when you have a particularly good shot and the look on someone’s face who shouldn’t have lost to me and did. I did my share of losing too, but was always good about shrugging it off.
I never lettered. JV was as good as it got.

Senior year, my school (thank you title IX) started a soccer team. I’d played soccer for a minute because my older sister’s boyfriend coached a team and he picked me up and took me to and from practice. The team was mostly boys and I was terrible and can’t even remember playing any games but I figured I might as well try out.
This was before the days of little girl soccer leagues. The only girls who played soccer my age were doing it on the boys teams or with their brothers in the back yard. But I went to Acadamy and bought a cheap pair of cleats and figured how hard could it be. And a lot of other girls thought the same thing….because about 30 of us signed up and most of us didn’t know a shinguard from an athletic cup. My coach didn’t know much about soccer either, or coaching girls (which was never more evident than when he told a teammate to pee in a Gatorade bottle because he wasn’t pulling over), but he knew plenty about running. And I guess he figured that he could run us down to a respectable team number and we’d go from there. I think someone threw up daily. I was occasionally one of them.

And at one of my first games I remember the sun going down and the lights coming on and just looking around the pitch. We all had rub on tattoos and double french braids and matching jerseys and I remember thinking tennis never felt like this. There was something about playing on a team that I had never experienced before. I still hadn’t really figured out offsides, but I ran and sweated and pulled jerseys and secretly hoped that the ball didn’t come too close to me or that I didn’t accidentally pick my feet up when I threw it in. I think we lost like 10-0. But I was hooked. I eventually earned a starting position, although I think that had a lot more to do with the fact that I took my coach to the ground while he asked me to help him demo a defensive drill than the fact that I had any skill. I was still a slow runner. I was more likely to toe punch the ball than kick with my laces, and I spent as much time on the ground as I did on my feet. But I always got up. I tried to hustle even when I wanted to puke and wasn’t afraid to use my body to make up for my lack of skill and I rarely complained. I never scored any goals out there and often road the bench as many minutes as I played. And it was no surprise that we only won like 2 games all season. 

But I kept playing. In college. In grad school. Even after having babies. 

And people thought I was crazy 12 (now 16) years ago when I told them I wanted to go to the Womens World Cup. They told me the US didn’t stand a chance. And that no one cared about women’s soccer. That no one in the US cared about soccer period. But I had seen Mia, Lily, Foudy, Scurry, Chastain, Akers etc… all play at an exhibition game back in high school. I had a few of their autographs. And I knew that I wanted to keep watching. A few weeks later girls around the nation were ripping off their shirts like Brandy Chastain and they were on the cover of every magazine and newspaper in the country.
Shaun and I went to DC four years later to watch for ourselves...and trust me those stands were packed.

I haven’t played soccer in years, because these days I’m too busy driving my kids to practice and games. My husband walks and talks ESPN and mostly I just tune him out. But the last few weeks I have been glued to the TV and the updates just as much as him. I’m too old to want to be Abby Wambach when I grow up. But I watched her in the college final four from the stands before most people knew her name. And I’ll be watching her again on Sunday. Maybe even with my face painted and my old US jersey on.

And what inspired this post isn’t all the TV/radio talk, but this great article that my husband posted on his facebook.…..which even if you don’t like women’s soccer is a good read: What if soccer isn't a big deal here? from the Wall Street Journal.

And I think I learned something important from my soccer days. You don’t have to be great at something to play. You just have to tie your shoes and go.
me. and yes, i really do have 2 legs.

Besides a W --the only thing that could make today's game more awesome would be: the announcer saying "Sasic's" name like sausage over and over just for fun, Wambach dropping the f word on national TV again....and my friend Bryan ripping off his shirt and running around after the US scores a goal.  I feel like chances are good for all three.

my favorite old school commercial

my favorite new one