Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Christmas Hangover

Bored and anxious to get home on New Years Eve, I curiously observed the other passengers shuffling along the security line at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. One family, consisting of two children (about 10-12 years in age) was not in a good place. The 10 year old boy hid behind his mom, while she smothered him with kisses. The exasperated sister found a moment when her mother wasn't looking, glared angrily at her brother and mouthed, "I. HATE. YOU." Closer to security, an adult daughter sighed with frustration as she snapped at her senior parents, "JUST MAKE A DECISION ALREADY!" A young couple wearing "bride" and "groom" hoodies quickly transitioned from wedded bliss to pure annoyance when the "bride" discovered multiple bottles of liquids in her carry-on. Now I know that airports are not an environment conducive to fostering healthy relationships; however, this mood was exceptionally grim. It dawned on me in that moment that everyone at George Bush Intercontinental Airport was suffering from the Christmas Hangover.

The Christmas Hangover is more than just the after effects of excessive food and drink. It can be summed up in a simple equation. Christmas Hangover = Your Christmas Expectations -  Your Christmas Reality. The larger the disparity between your expectations and your reality, the more severe the Christmas Hangover. How can your Christmas expectations not be high? Movies, TV commercials, Christmas specials and Christmas carols begin setting the bar to an unachievable level, raising our expectations in early November. We imagine the perfect holiday season, complete with egg nog,  Christmas cookies, joy, love, laughter, and pure Christmas happiness. When a tantruming child, a holiday gift gone awry, a forgotten Elf on the Shelf or a disagreement between Uncle Joe and Cousin Eddy arises, we feel panic and disappointment. It's not supposed to be like this! This isn't what I envisioned! Although I love Christmas just as much as the next guy, including holiday baking, Christmas music, Christmas movies, and catching up with family and friends, I've become more cognizant of the stress level and pressure that many feel to meet their Christmas expectations.  In addition, since the loss of special family members over the past few years, I am more conscious of the fact that Christmas can be a horrible time of year for someone who is mourning a loss. I could definitely sense a collective sigh of relief once the holiday season (and all the pressure that comes with it) reached it's end this year.

Contrary to my above thoughts, my Christmas was quite nice. There was no arguing amongst relatives, disagreements, or Elf fails. I was able to catch up with Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins. I cuddled up on the couch with my sister and watched National Lampoons Christmas Vacation (my favourite!) I decorated a real Canadian Christmas tree with my Mom and Mother-in-law. I got Grandma hugs and Baba kisses. I devoured perogies, turkey, and butter tarts. We reunited with our Saskatchewan posse and caught up over prosecco and shark fins. All good. The weather, on the other hand, was terrible. I must admit that I've gotten a little soft since my move to a tropical island almost 4 years ago; however, the weather in Saskatchewan over the holiday season was atrocious, even for the most seasoned Canadian. With windchills of up to -50 degrees Celsius, it was much too cold to stand outside for more than 30 seconds enjoy outdoor winter activities (by the way, did you know that at -40 degrees Celsius and Fahrenheit become equal? Mind. Blown). The frigid temps wreaked havoc on our "stuff," which typically only operates during the summer months. Our water line froze, and I found myself angrily melting snow on the stove like a freakin' pioneer. The diesel in our truck even froze, rendering us vehicle-less for the last part of our holiday.  The weather was not fit for human (or nonhuman) habitation, and that put a damper on things. Although I felt negligent leaving our friends and family behind when we flew back to Cayman, I have to admit that I was very ready to return to the island. I exhaled a huge sigh of relief when I stepped off the plane in Cayman, felt my joints begin to thaw, and was able to walk without pain again.

I'm pretty pumped about 2018. Let's call a spade a spade: 2017 was not my year. I admire those who can reflect upon a tough year with realizations such as, "I learned a lot of lessons" or "2017 challenged me!" Not this girl. With 3 knee surgeries, crutches for 3/4 of the year, the #neverbending story, and enough painkillers to kill a horse, 2017 does not deserve an inspirational saying, and will forever be known as "The year that sucked." Thankfully, I am heading into 2018 in pretty good shape! Today I am painkiller free (cheers to brain clarity!), am hitting up the gym again with light weights, and am feeling much more stable emotionally and mentally. Although I still experience pain and suffer from moments where I temporarily freak out about the future of my cartilage, I'm learning to embrace the here and now. And here and now I am a poster child for Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation recovery. Boo ya! In addition, there was an incredible sighting in my bathroom mirror this week - my ass! It's slowly returning from the depths of the unknown. I don't want to brag, but I'm presently a few squats away from the Kardashian-ville (No. Not even close).  It's difficult to express the relief you feel when you make it through the other side of shit and find your old self (and ass) after a long 12 month hiatus.  I am happy Kirstie again, and you know the saying, "Happy Kirstie, happy life" (I totally made that up, but I would argue that Evan would fully agree with that statement). After a year of watching from the sidelines, I am so looking forward to "doing" again!

Cheers to a health and happiness in 2018!

My Posse

Eggnog, Canada slippers and Rudolph

sister hugs!

Christmas Eve with Baba

The Candle lake view has changed since August

Tea with Grandma

Rockin' around the Christmas tree with the girls

Ev's mom got to experience a cold Candle Lake Christmas!

The day the truck gave up on life: heaters, blankets, and blow dryers. No luck. 

All thawed out. Cheers!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Your 30's: like being in your 20's but with nice sheets and scotch

"So how old are you?" inquired the tipsy 20-something as she eyed up my buddy at the bar.

Upon revealing that he was in his early 30's, the 20-something wrinkled her nose in disgust.

"Oh my god! What's it like to be in your 30's?" she asked, wide-eyed with horror.

My wise friend responded, "It's like being in your 20's...but with money."

As our group of friends listened to my buddy relay this story, we laughed at his witty response. This was about 5 years ago when were just discovering that the 30's are a fabulous age. Still basking in a youthful glow, we hadn't yet developed crow's feet, sleep disorders, or joint pain.

Now that 40 is on the horizon, I'm attempting to embrace my age and all the positive aspects associated with becoming a mature adult...stability, solid friendships, and self-identity. When I look back on my early 20's, I have fond memories of partying, studying, and....well...partying. As I peruse old journals where I faithfully entered my daily dramas, I see excerpts riddled with exclamation marks: "This test is going to be so brutal! I need to study all weekend!" "I got so wasted last night!" and "Evan didn't call me today. I am so pissed!" Gosh. My world was small. It's interesting how priorities shift with age.

I've created a list of things that, although were not on my radar in my 20's, now top my list of adulting priorities as I near the big four oh!

1) Sleep
In my 20's, sleep was not a priority. I crawled out of clubs sweaty and inebriated and crashed on friends' couches, I spent the odd night in the fetal position rolled in a towel on my bathroom floor, and I may have slept on a pontoon boat in a marina once. Who cares? I can sleep when I'm dead. When I did actually sleep in my own bed, not only were clean sheets not a priority, but sheets in general were not a necessity.

This will do

At this time in my life, sleep tops my list of adulting priorities. I have transformed my bedroom into a zen-like oasis where peace and serenity are of utmost importance. I begin to set the mood about a half an hour before I intend to fall asleep. I fill my diffuser with essential oils that promise "relaxation," turn down my expensive sheets specifically designed for tropical climates, and slather myself with Japanese Cherry Blossom lotion. If I do venture out for an evening (whoa!), I ensure that I have received adequate hydration before turning in, and am generally in bed before midnight. Upon awakening, I quickly calculate the total hours of sleep achieved and am filled with pride and contentment. I did it. I slept blissfully through the night.

You will go to sleep or I will put you to sleep!

2) Alcohol
In my 20's, I ingested my fair share of alcoholic beverages with 2 main goals: 1) To spend as little money as possible and 2) To get drunk as quickly as possible. Does anyone remember the term, "pre-drinking?" Before heading out to a club, the goal was to consume as much alcohol as possible to avoid dipping into the tuition account for booze. When someone asked what my drink of choice was, I replied, "whatever is on special!" Rum, vodka, wine (if you can call a $5 bottle of Strawberry Angel "wine"), whatever! Occasionally, the glowing neon green "vodka special" was even on special! Our little University house never contained a liquor cabinet because we drank with a purpose - to finish the booze...and fast!

Jose Cuervo you are a friend of mine...
In our 30's, Evan and I made an executive decision to never consume cheap booze again. Our focus has shifted significantly from quantity to quality. Like responsible adults, we now have a liquor cabinet stocked with fine scotch, pricey tequila, higher-end wines, and random liquors like Cointreau and Grand Marnier. Gone are the days of shooting Jose Cuervo and sucking on limes at a sticky bar. Welcome to the days of creating a complex cocktail in a copper mug and sipping on it during an episode of Dateline.

Adulting 101: notice how George's Tequila has taken a beating

3) Cleanliness
Cleanliness is next to Godliness. That is, unless you are a 21 year old University student in the midst of final exams. My roommate, J, and I (I promise to maintain your anonymity, Janna), lived together for 4 years during our University career. Most of our 4 years were spent in a sweet old house just off of Whyte Ave in Edmonton. I loved living with J. She was, and still is, one of my closest friends. We laughed together, we cried together, we danced together, and we avoided cleaning together. For the most part, we were able to keep our little old house tidy, but we both shared an intense displeasure of washing dishes. Our little old house did not contain a dishwasher, so we took turns washing the dishes - typically every few days once they began piling up. During one very challenging final exam period, we lost track of the dish washing schedule. Instead of determining whose turn it was or - brainwave! - just doing the dishes together, we simply closed the door to the kitchen and carried on with life. We fixed the glitch. When weeks had gone by and we had resorted to using the same utensil, plate, and glass for each and every meal, we realized that we had let this go on for too long. It was time. By that point, month old spaghetti sauce and Kraft Dinner cheese had become one with the unwashed plates. Screw the pot scrubber...we needed a sledgehammer! I cringe when I remember how disgusting that was.

I am not too proud to admit that today I enlist the help of Debbie. Debbie is a fantastic lady from Jamaica whom we hired 3 years ago. Debbie comes to our house every Sunday and magically transforms our house into a sparkling Mr. Clean commercial. We love Debbie. I feel no shame. End of story.

4) My Health
Working out and/or watching my diet never occurred to me until I turned 20 years old and realized that my love of vodka paralyzers and late night Boston Pizza had caught up to my waistline. I abruptly purchased the cheapest gym membership that I could find (thank you, Spa Lady!) and diligently focused on my 3 problem areas: tummy, butt, and thighs. Screw the upper body and cardio - my sole purpose of working out and watching my diet was to look good. Although I had learned about the body systems in school, I did not give a care how my circulatory, musculature, skeletal, cardiovascular, blah blah blah systems were operating.

Fast forward to life in my 30's. Gravity has kicked my ass. Literally. My rear end (what's left of it) appears to be closer to my knees than to my back. Speaking of knees, you can imagine that my sole purpose of working out (Let's just call it what it is - physiotherapy), is to keep my body functioning "normally." I now enter the gym with a strengthen my muscles so that I can walk without crutches for as long as possible.

Likewise, I presently focus much more attention to my mental and emotional health than I did in my former life. In my 20's, I considered eating a bag of chips whilst watching Part of Five a boost to my mental health. Today, I treat myself to a list of services including regular massages, pedicures, hair highlights, and facials. These indulges were way out of my University life budget in my 20's.

5) Reading
During my college days, reading was full-time job. I recall scowling at the University bookstore employee as I charged thousands of dollars worth of textbooks to my over-used credit card. Professors assured us that someday these textbooks would be useful in our chosen career. However, I assure you that "Graphical, Numerical, and Algebraic Calculus" has not been cracked since December 12, 1999 (the night before the final exam). From age 18 to 25, reading was a chore rather than a recreational event. The purpose of reading was to simply acquire information, ace a test, obtain a degree, and receive a steady pay check. Done.

Today I absolutely love to read. As I immerse myself in a new plot and character, I can temporarily escape reality. Who doesn't want to escape reality from time to time? My argument is this: because the books assisted me in achieving my career, I am entitled to spend an unlimited amount of my salary on books. I am Amazon's #1 customer, clicking "buy" on my kindle with reckless abandon. Why? Because I am a mature adult and have earned the right, dammit!

So, you see my friends, things have changed. I've developed into a mature adult who enjoys sleeping, Cointreau, exercising, and reading. Although my 20 year old self may have rolled her eyes at my list, accusing me of being boring and cliche, I am relieved that the days of Kraft Dinner, subpar sleeps, and vodka specials are waaaay in the past.

Cheers to embracing your 30's with fine wine, fancy sheets, and unlimited books...and maybe some 90's music ;)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

DINKS in Paradise

I'm gonna let you in a little secret. Don't tell anyone. Ok. Come closer so I can whisper it in your ear,

"Evan and I do not have kids."

Shocker. I know. We are nearing 40 years of age, have shared over 20 lovely years together, and we do not have children. I am well aware that we are not the norm. And sometimes our "child-free/childless?" lifestyle feels like a shameful act.

When Ev and I were 25 years old, we prepped for our marriage with a pre-marital class where we discussed all of the issues that we would face as a couple: finances, careers, sex, household duties, communication, and....children. Ev and I were quite proud of ourselves when we compared notes and realized that we both desired 2 children. That was the plan. A boy named Madden and a girl named Hollis. We agreed that 30 would be the perfect age to start the procreation process. We still had 5 years to live the carefree childless lifestyle.

The next 5 years were spent "finding ourselves." After an incredible adventure, which allowed us to travel the world, Evan retired from professional hockey and began a career as a Calgary Firefighter. I properly started my career as a Speech Pathologist and came to the realization that big city life was not for me.

By age 30 we were settled into a beautiful new 5 bedroom house in my hometown of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. We both had stable careers. We had tons of family support. Friends and family encouraged us, "Time to start filling those bedrooms!" This was the perfect time to add Madden and Hollis to the mix.

Despite being cautioned by Doctors that conceiving may be difficult due to a history of endometriosis, we put it off. We said things like, "Maybe in a year or two." We actually created a scale - a number system to communicate our desire for children at any given moment. 1 = I absolutely do not want children today and 10 = I absolutely want a child today. Neither of us ever exceeded a "3." We were always on the same page. End of discussion. Spin the globe! Where shall we go for our next vacation?

We planned surfing and diving holidays to Mexico, Hawaii, Florida, Honduras, Bali, and Costa Rica. We researched employment in other countries and dreamed of moving to a tropical island. We bought longboards and skated around our neighbourhood. We set up an obstacle course in our garage where we balanced on wobble boards while we listened to loud music. We were having fun. Our friends began having children and we observed how much love they felt for their new additions. We also observed how drastically their lives changed. Some relationships flourished with the arrival of a new baby. Some relationships destructed under the weight and responsibility. We enjoyed our life and we appreciated just being with each other. We didn't want it to change and we weren't yearning for a child. I kept waiting to wake up and feel an emptiness that could only be filled with a baby. People suggested that it was only a matter of time before I caught "baby fever." But as I watched my friends gush over little baby toes, I felt nothing. A part of me longed to feel something. Was I defective? I felt overwhelming happiness for my friends, but I also felt completely content and fulfilled (gasp!) without a baby. So we continued to put it off and negotiate with our plan: perhaps we would just add a "Hollis" to our family. One child would be enough. We would have plenty of time and we decided to table the issue and re-examine at age 35.

Then life happened. I was diagnosed with a rare cartilage condition, resulting in multiple surgeries, rehabilitations, and unanswered questions about my genetics. We fulfilled one of our greatest dreams and moved to a tropical island. Getting pregnant was the last item on my "to do" list. And to be honest, I was totally OK with that. Choosing to have a baby is a huge, life-changing decision. There is no return policy. I don't know what the future holds. Things change. Perhaps I will have a change of heart and become a geriatric mature parent. Perhaps it will be too late. Perhaps I've never actually had a choice. I own that. But I do know that having a child simply to fit in, please others, or to adhere to the rules of society is not the right decision for me. The path that Evan and I chose (thus far) is not conventional, but it's our life and we are living it our way.

I've compiled a list of things that I want my friends with children to know:

1) I don't hate children
Just because we don't have children doesn't mean that we dislike them. I work with children every day. I appreciate their innocence, honestly, and goofy senses of humour. I like children. In fact, I love your children! I love your children because I love you. I love seeing you reflected in your child. I see your sass, your wit, and your intelligence when I interact with your child. I also love seeing the joy that your child brings you. I also know that your child can act like an asshole sometimes. All kids do! You don't need to apologize. I'm not judging you. I know that you are doing your best and if your child is presently throwing a tantrum, although I can't necessarily relate, I do empathize. There is no doubt in my mind that parenting is a challenging, yet rewarding gig. Although Evan and I might return home after a day with children and thoroughly appreciate our serene and quiet home, we do not go home and say, "Wow, our friends' kids are assholes."

2) I know you can't be at my beck and call
I've witnessed enough of my friends have babies to come to the realization that it's inevitable: things change. Our relationship will change. Your priorities have shifted from being responsible for yourself to keeping another human alive. I get it!

But...if you ever want a reply back from a text ASAP, you can typically count on me. Why? Because I am not responsible for the life of another human. I know that you might not be able to respond as quickly. I know that an adult lunch date must be booked in advance so that you have time to arrange a sitter. I know that you need time to plan. I won't judge or take offence when you don't immediately reply to my text about the latest "Real Housewives" debacle. I won't hold it against you when you ask for a rain check due to sick baby. No worries. And when you have some time, I will happily fill you in on all the mindless pop culture news.

3) Sometimes I feel left out
I think that I was one of the last girls in my class to get a bra. I remember listening to my female classmates discuss which bra offered more support, which bra had a cute butterfly on the front, and which bra was the itchiest. I remember nodding blankly, having no idea what they were talking about, longing to be a part of the club. I feel the same way 20+ years later when my friends discuss pregnancy. I don't know what it feels like to have a baby growing inside of me. I can't relate to morning sickness, labour pains, the feeling of a baby kick, or placenta plugs (is that a thing?). But I care about you and how you are feeling. I will listen and offer support. I just can't offer any advice based on my experience. During those discussions, be prepared for my radio silence (or an awkward attempt to relate through my pets). It's not that I'm upset (although occasionally I am horrified), it's simply that I don't know what to say. I want to contribute, but I don't always know how. That can feel isolating. I might just exit the conversation about episiotomies and discus boats with the boys.

4) So when are you going to have a baby already?
I really do not mind if close friends inquire about our baby situation. I would be curious too. What sucks, however, is if someone I don't know particularly well makes a point of asking in a large group setting. At a baby shower, for example. Nothing makes me cringe more than when I'm totally kicking ass at pin the diaper on the baby, and some random pipes up, "Looks like you're ready for a baby! When can we plan your shower?" This is such a sensitive subject. For all you know I could be recovering from a miscarriage or struggling with infertility. Never assume that a woman is choosing not to have a baby.

5) Must be nice
Yes, I really enjoy sleeping in on the weekends. Yes, I really enjoy reading quietly by the pool. Yes, I really enjoy quiet wine dinners and last minute getaways with my husband. Yes, it is nice. I know that you haven't slept soundly in 2 years. I see that you are struggling to breastfeed your newborn or reign in your busy toddler. It looks fricken hard and I have mad respect for you. I will try not to gloat about my siesta if you don't say, "must be nice." We made different choices which resulted in very different lifestyles. I also see you light up with pride when your baby smiles at you, and sometimes think, "must be nice." Different strokes for different folks. To be fair, my close friends who know my situation do not partake in the passive aggressive "must be nice" game.

6) Words can hurt
I find it unsettling when I hear things like, "You don't know real love until you've had a baby," or "You haven't lived life until you've brought life into the world." I have an endless supply of love in my heart for friends and family. Please do not pity me. As far as I know I am living my best life, and although it's not without struggle, my life is full of love, joy, and happiness.

7) But you would make such great parents!
Agreed! Ev and I would make fantastic parents. We are obviously committed to each other, respect each other, and share a stable relationship. Our finances are in order. We are mature -ish. We are well aware that we could provide a wonderful life for a child. We are not choosing this lifestyle because we are afraid that we would be shitty parents. I find it annoying when someone observes Evan playing with a child and says, "He would be such a great father!" Yes. I am well aware. I would make an excellent mother too. Again, that's not a good enough reason to sign up for a baby.

The beauty about life is that we have the ability to write our own story. Although I've occasionally been enticed to emulate someone else's story, I've made a conscious decision to own my personal journey. There's no doubt that plot twists will arise, taking your story in a completely different direction, but that's all part of the adventure.

Cheers to living life your way - whatever you choose!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Better bend than break

I survived knee surgery #10, AKA "Bend It Like Beckham." It was fine. Not the passive aggressive "fine," that you use with your spouse when you are pissed. It was legitimately fine - a satisfactory experience.

Surgery goals

The build-up to the surgery was the worst, and I honestly thought that they would have to drag me into that OR kicking and screaming; however, once I arrived at Pennsylvania Hospital (the correct hospital this time), I went into automatic surgery mode and willingly followed my surgery team into the operating room with no tears or panic.  Like a crack whore, I immediately began begging staff for versed (the drug that makes you loose and not give a care). As I met my OR Nurses, my Anesthesiologist, and my Surgeon, I greeted each with, "Hello. Can I have my versed?" I even attempted to wow and sway them with my surgery experience, "It's my 10th knee surgery. Can I please have versed?" After 2 hours of mounting anxiety and versed rejections, I finally got my shot  and contentedly entered the land of apathy. As I lay freezing and high as a kite on the operating room table, arms splayed out and restrained, it occurred on me that the Anesthesiologist was MIA. I could hear the surgery team discussing amongst themselves, "I texted him. He should be here soon." To distract me, my Surgeon's fabulous PA, Sabrina, exclaimed, "All right. It's Kirstie's 10th surgery! Let's play some tunes. What can we play for you?" I immediately requested White Snake, "Here I go again," as it seemed rather appropriate for my 10th knee surgery. So for the next 10 minutes I lay on the cold metal operating table and belted out tunes with the OR staff. I closed my eyes and sang Chumbawamba, "I get knocked down, but I get up again, you're never gonna keep me down," I serenaded the Nurse with Backstreet Boys, "I want it that way," and finally I channelled Calvin Harris and happily sang, "Don't be afraid to catch feels." I was stoned. I was content. I was having the time of my life with all of my friends!  At some point the Anesthesiologist realized that he had missed several dozen texts and arrived at my Operating room. I requested one more chorus of "Feels," but instantly fell asleep as he placed the mask on my face, and the Nurse bid me goodnight with, "Sweet dreams, sweetheart."

I'm smiling, but what I'm really thinking is, "Where the f is my versed?"

I woke up as I typically do, high on life and as chatty as Kathie Lee and Hoda on Wine Wednesday. As I listened to my fellow patients in recovery moan and groan with confusion and discomfort, I sat up, alert and happy, discussing Candace Cameron's fabulous wardrobe on "Fuller House" with my recovery Nurse. The pain eventually did hit, but it was fine. I dealt with it. The nausea hit a few hours later, and lasted for a few days, but it was fine. I dealt with it. Overall, I will chalk it up as a fine experience.

At this point, I am conditioned to hear "bad news" post surgery (i.e. "It was worse than we expected" and "It's deteriorating faster than expected"), but this time, I was pleasantly surprised to receive relatively positive news from my surgeon. There was a LOT of scar tissue removed which subsequently allowed the surgeon to "gently" bend my knee to 130 degrees (I even have the creepy surgery pics to prove it). The cartilage that was implanted in May is healing well, with no new lesions in my weight bearing region. My new meniscus also looks solid. The cartilage under my kneecap looks shitty, but you can't win 'em all, right? Overall, the surgery was successful. I hope and pray that I can have a break from surgeries for a while. I need a break.

Another one for the album: The equivalent of the passed out Frat party pic. Did I do that? 

I crutched into Penn Med Physiotherapy 2 days post surgery, and easily bent my knee to 122 degrees! 122 degrees! After being stuck around 87 degrees for months, this was a huge accomplishment. I've spent the last 6 months feeling like a physio failure (through no fault of my physiotherapists). I am super pumped and proud that my knee is finally doing what it is supposed to do. I can now fit in the backseat of a car, cross my legs, and even lay in my natural "flamingo" sleeping position. What a freakin' relief! I can officially announce that #theneverbendingstory is over!

As per usual, My fabulous team consisting of Mom and Ev were there with me through it all. I love them to bits and pieces. How lucky am I to have such an incredible support system! In the words of our Millennial friends, Mom and Ev are my ride and die.

Out of bed! Cruisin' the Jersey Shore with Ev 

Nausea has passed - time for fudge with Mom!

Check out these beautiful flowers from my Aunty Barb and Cousin Courtney.  Love you guys!

Ev has since flown off to Orlando for work and Mom is staying with me on the island for a week. I am so grateful that she is here with me. It was apparent as I crutched through the door that Biloxi and Dundee were relieved to see Mom as well, "Yes! She will keep us alive!"

I'm now on the road to recovery, doing my physio exercises regularly and ensuring that my knee continues to bend. I will show anyone who demonstrates even the tiniest bit of interest that my knee can now bend, "Look at me! Watch this!" Although it's been difficult to keep the swelling down since I flew back to the island, the knee is feeling stronger each day and is doing just fine.

Thanks for the love and support, friends.
Cheers to bendy knees!

Look at me! Watch this!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Preparing for Bend It Like Beckham with brunch

Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends and family - miss you and love you guys!

It's been a challenging month for me. In preparation for surgery #10 on October 16 - that's right, Surgery NUMBER FREAKIN' TEN, my Pain Specialist and I decided that it was time to wean off of the Gabapentin, the drug that is effective in reducing my pain, but has temporarily lowered my IQ by 50 points. He suggested a rapid wean as Gabapentin's half life (the time it remains in your body) is quite short. So, you know, get 'er done. I'll save you the messy details, but let's just say that there was twitching, multiple panic attacks, tears, and horrible itchiness. It was like the worst hangover of my life, but persisting for an entire week. I was adamant that I wanted to keep my schedule as regular as possible, waking up early, getting dressed like a regular person, and heading to work every day. I think that maintaining a consistent schedule kept me sane during that awful time.  I held it together while I was at work, then collapsed on my couch at 4:00 and madly scratched the bottoms of my feet while uttering judgmental comments to the contestants on the Food Network's "Donut Showdown" ("Too much yeast you idiot!") Good times. I've since begun a new painkiller and although my dose is not therapeutic yet, the pain relief is improving, and I'm smart again. I can problem solve, produce complex sentences, and follow 2 step commands. I got my smarts back!

One might think that after 9 knee surgeries, surgery would become a routine procedure for me. It's not. With each surgery, my anxiety and fears increase. Thankfully, #10 is not a major operation. The plan is to remove the scar tissue that is preventing my knee from bending past 90 degrees and then bend my knee until my ankle hits my ass. You know, a little "Bend It Like Beckham." They've warned me that there will be pain post surgery. NO SHIT! Anyway, when I begin to think about going under anesthetic, waking up confused, in pain, and pleading for more drugs, "The pain is a 10/10!" (Aside: save your 10 for when you really need it. No one believes you if you claim 10/10 pain too frequently), it evokes sheer panic. I just have to focus on getting through this, knowing that with some hard work my range of motion will return, and my left knee can continue to get stronger. Right? I am cautiously optimistic.

In the meantime, I'm back to pre-surgery bulking. My scrawny little frame took a bit of a beating during the Gabapentin wean, and I know that I will likely lose at least 5 pounds after "Bend It Like Beckham," so I'm currently eating and drinking everything in sight...cue BRUNCH.

I thought I knew "Brunch" prior to moving here. But I was wrong. I had no idea. Here on island, brunch is an experience of pure, unapologetic gluttony, immediately followed by regret, shame, and a terrible hangover. Brunch is comprised of 4 distinct phases. Let me explain:

1) Phase 1: Pre-brunch planning and brunch strategy

It is important to select your brunch attire accordingly. Some people choose to fancy up quite a bit for brunch and others take the more casual route - that's not important. What is important, my friends, is the fit of your clothing. Ensure that you choose something loose with ample give. The biggest mistake one can make is donning a tight sexy dress, only to discover 3 courses in that you look to be 3 months along. Also, avoid long flowy sleeves. Strappy dresses are best. You don't want billowy fabric dipping in the cocktail sauce.

The perfect brunch attire: loose and sleeveless
 Brunch strategy, on the other hand, involves preplanning how to the get the most bang for your buck, and consume as much decadent food in 3 hours as humanely possible. Some suggestions include: 1) Avoid the bread and other inexpensive fillers that you can easily eat at home, 2) Load up on seafood and pricey cuts of meat, and  3) At the dessert bar, avoid things that you could easily make yourself like cookies and brownies. Choose the creme brûlées and tiramisu. Strategy is key. Brunch smartly.

Look away from the bread!

2) Phase 2: My life is soooo awesome

Around 1pm, as you are simultaneously consuming champagne, rum punch, and sangria, a warm fuzzy glow overtakes your body. You look around the table at the friends that have joined you for such a joyous event. You LOVE these people. This is the BEST day ever. You moved to a tropical island and your life is soooo awesome. You are truly living the dream. This is when the person seated next to you with whom you've only ever shared work files hugs you tightly and proclaims, "I love you!" You return from the sushi bar with a new friend and introduce her, "This is Stephanie, the amazing person who handed me wasabi!" Phase 2 is characterized by being enveloped by the warm protective bubble that shields you from the rest of the scary scary world. You have no recollection of horrible world events, troubles at home, or even the fact that you have to go to work tomorrow. Tomorrow? Is there really a tomorrow? Live in the moment! Bottom's up! You have officially achieved the ultimate (legal) high.

We are awesome. Obviously. 

Look! My new friend is holding my crutch!

3) Phase 3: SHIT!

Now phase 3 can attack as early as 5pm, in which case, you still stand a chance of survival. If phase 3 hits, however, around 9pm or later, you are screwed. I repeat, SCREWED.

It's all about the decision that you make once brunch is complete. If the adulting part of your brain hasn't been completely drowned in alcohol, you will make the responsible choice to go home and hydrate. If, on the other hand, all sense of responsibility has been washed away with bubbles, you will make the fatal error to continue your shenanigans at the beach bar, Royal Palms. If this is the case, the warm and fuzzy comfort of Phase 2 will continue to overtake your body...until it doesn't.

Once phase 3 hits, you begin to feel regret, "Oh my God. It's Sunday. I am drunk. I have to work tomorrow! What was I thinking?" You madly guzzle water and rub your extended bloated belly. You examine your reflection in the mirror. You wipe the mascara that is dripping down your face and note that you resemble a Picasso - one eye here, one eye there- your face has literally fallen off. You retreat to a dark room and ponder how you could have been so damn irresponsible. How could something that feels so right be so wrong? You are so freakin' thirsty.

Phase 4: My is life is NOT awesome

This phase occurs once you awaken from passing out  post brunch slumber. It could be midnight. It could be 6am. It all depends on whether or not you took part in post brunch beach shenanigans. Waking up on Monday morning with a furry tongue, alcohol seeping from your pores, and vague memories of what you may or may not have said or participated in is a horrifying way to start your work week. You immediately reach for your phone and groan in despair as you realize you've been tagged in 32 pictures that display your Picasso-ish brunch face to the world. You feel shame. You feel regret. Think of the waste! Think of the starving children! How many glasses of bubbles did you drink? You have no idea. It was bottomless! You consumed infinity glasses of champagne! No wonder you feel so terrible.  You solemnly swear at that moment that you will never do brunch again. Until you do.

I drank this many. 

Cheers friends!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

I got a blank space baaaaby...and I'll write your name

Hey Friends!

We made it back to our little slice of paradise about a month ago. August 14th marked our three year anniversary of island living. Typically, I've found the transition from the busy, event-filled Canadian summers to the quiet, slow pace of the Caribbean "Fall" a bit challenging; however,  I'm finding that with each year, it gets much easier to adapt to island routine. Adjusting to driving on the left side of the road, dodging chickens on the school yard, and sweating my ass off in 100% humidity is no longer that difficult or strange. You just do it without thinking. On the other hand, there are a few things that I've noticed in the last month that have made me stop and think, "Riiiiight...I am not in Canada anymore."

My eye candy heading in for a dip in the sea - much warmer than Candle Lake!

1) Hurricanes

Whoa! We sure dodged a bullet with Hurricane Irma. We watched it carefully as it developed over the Atlantic Ocean and evolved into a massive Category 5 hurricane. Luckily, it passed about 200 miles north of us, ravaging the Eastern Caribbean, Cuba, and parts of Florida in it's path. It's heartbreaking to see the pictures of St. Martin and Barbuda, for example. The devastation is horrifying! I can't imagine seeing your beautiful island in ruins and losing everything you own! But it is important to be prepared so, for that reason, I am becoming hurricane savvy. I've substituted the winter car emergency kit, complete with booster cables and a shovel, for a hurricane kit. I follow the National Hurricane Center's website and watch the direction and speed of tropical depressions forming in the Atlantic. The hurricanes develop to the east of us and move from east to west. Typically these storms make a north turn somewhere along it's route. This is exactly how we escaped Irma. It was heading from east to west and made a north turn toward Florida before it could strike our island. We did experience high winds and huge waves as a result, but nothing destructible. 2017 has been a very busy storm season and I'm presently closely watching 2 more storms brewing to the east of us. We will need to monitor these carefully. What would we do if it looked like we were on the path to take a direct hit of a major hurricane? Um...not so sure on that one. We have plenty of Chef Boyardee, water, and tequila in our hurricane kit, but to be honest, if a massive storm was headed our way, I think that I would try my best to get off the island!

The purple arrow points to us. Irma decided to take a turn to the north. 

Thar she blows! 

2) Whining, Daggering, and Singing At the Top of Your Lungs!

I've noticed many interesting differences between the Canadian and the Caribbean culture. One very entertaining difference is the way in which the Caribbean people embrace music and dance. They just go for it! No holds barred! One night a bunch of us girls hit up a club for some 90's dance and drink. Our group of ladies hailed from Canada, the US and the UK. We formed our little dance circle, placed our purses on the floor and danced the night away, with heavy emphasis on upper body movements. You know, "white girl" dancing (can you picture it?) Around midnight, a group of Caribbean partiers entered the dance floor and demonstrated how it's done. All the "daggering," (a dance move that is described by wikipedia as "dry sex") and "whining," which is comprised of hip thrusting and rotating, made our moves look like a school dance on a Full House episode. Wow. Caribbean peeps just know how to use their lower body in a sexy, rhythmic way.  My hips can't physically do those things, and for that reason, I will stick to my finger snapping, shoulder shakin' grooving. I just sounded like an 80 year old woman. Ugh.

White girl dancing: heavy emphasis on the shoulders, arms, and head.  Don't forget the hair flip.  

Singing at the top of your lungs also appears to be a cultural difference. Perhaps Canadians feel a bit more self conscious about singing in public? My speech therapy room is next to the school cafeteria, and it's not uncommon to hear the cook belting out the tunes, "Jeeeesussss is inside of meeeee!" No one comments or even bats an eye, as it's just a normal everyday occurrence to hear someone singing loudly in a public place. The other day, I was waiting in line at Paperman's, the "Starbucks" of Cayman. I could have been in any coffee shop in Canada or America, waiting patiently with the other patrons for the Barista to prepare our drinks. When suddenly Taylor Swift's, "Blank Space" came on the radio and the entire coffee shop erupted in song. I looked around suspiciously, wondering if I was part of a flash mob sing-along, but everyone carried on their business, singing, "I've got a blank space, baby...and I'll write your name." I'm not gonna lie, I sang along as well. My voice is not brilliant, by any means, nor was anyone else's in that coffee shop, so I felt no qualms about joining in. I walked out of that coffee shop with a chai tea latte and a smile on my face. Pretty cool.

3) Decisions Decisions

As much as I absolutely love summers at Candle Lake, the one thing that I often feel during our summers is a sense of urgency. Because there are such limited days of hot weather, if a nice day arrives, everyone feels the need to get outside NOW! Get in the boat NOW! Drink some cold wobbly pops! HURRY! Have fun! All the summer excitement is compacted into 2 short months. Also, because we only spend about 2 months a year there, we also feel a sense of urgency to complete renovations  and household chores that have been waiting for us all winter (when I say "we," I mean "Evan," of course). It's a little exhausting (watching Evan do so much work). Haha.

Now that Ev and I are back in Never Never Land, adulting has taken a back seat to relaxation time. Although we still have to work five days a week, the sense of urgency for paying bills and completing household chores is just...gone. There is zero sense of urgency to get outside and enjoy the hot weather, as it's hot Every. Single. Day. Don't get me wrong. We are under a lot of stress with regards to my health (the #neverbendingstory continues, unfortunately), as well as worrying about the health of family members. For those reasons we've had to make some difficult decisions recently, which makes the option to chill out and go with the flow that much sweeter (On that note, I must pay the overdue Flow (internet) bill!) It doesn't mean that I don't feel homesick, missing my friends and family back in Canada. I do. A lot. I would give anything to spend a day at Baba's house right now, chatting away and eating her cinnamon buns. But I have settled into the laid back vibe of our little island, and when I am not at work, I'm spending a lot of time resting, rehabbing, and relaxing.

This is an actual conversation that Ev and I had this week regarding an important island decision:

Me: "Where should we go for a drink?"
Ev: "Well I like the drinks in the Marriott lobby."
Me: "But then we can't see the sunset. Maybe we should go to the Marriott beach bar?"
Ev: "But if we drink outside at the beach bar the ice melts and ruins my drink. I don't want a watered down Old Fashioned."
Me: "Yep. And then the condensation drips down your leg. The lobby bar makes sense."

Haha! The struggle is real.

Cheers to cold drinks and singing like no one is watching!

Hurry! My pina colada is melting!

Dundee resumes his beach walk routine

The night before Irma passed us - red sky at night, sailor's delight

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Time to pack up the sharks and shame the CPM

Wow! Summer is coming to an end and I have no idea where it went...well, actually, I kinda do know where it went. Approximately 252 hours of my summer were spent on the damn CPM (Constant Pain Maker) - the knee bending machine. I'm sure you are all dying with anticipation...can her knee finally bend? Did her perseverance and "never say die" attitude pay off? Did she avoid the scar-cutting, knee bending surgery? The answer is.... no. It's definitely not the fairy tale ending I was hoping for. You know the motivational saying, "You can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it"? Someone needs to add the clause, "...unless you have a shitload of scar tissue in your joint capsule."

Despite my best efforts, the knee's progress is too little, too late. It's now bending to about 85 degrees, which is progress; however, it's not quite enough to be functional (The average person's knee flexion is about 135 degrees). The Penn Med protocol states that at 12 weeks post surgery I should be able to touch my knee to my ear whilst funnelling a beer and one legged squatting on a surfboard. Not there yet. I continue to get stuck trying to get out of the bathtub and hot tub, as well as struggle to climb stairs. The knee is very stiff and painful. My surgery team in Philly suggested that it was time to come in for a scope in order to remove scar tissue and manually bend my knee under anesthetic. The surgery was booked for August 7. About 10 days before the surgery, I contacted the surgery team and requested that the surgery be postponed. I explained that I am in no place, physically or mentally, to endure another surgery and recovery. It's been a hot second since surgery #9, I'm underweight (but gaining!), still requiring a high dose of pain medications, and feeling pretty defeated at the moment. My surgery team listened intently and supported my decision, stating that I basically have until October to fix the flexion under the knife. Fine. That's a "future me" problem...I guess. Until recently, I continued to hold out hope that I could achieve flexion on my own. I've finally come to terms with the fact that I cannot fix this problem and that another surgery is inevitable. A part of me feels like I am accepting defeat. My rational side says that this is not my fault. I tried my best. My very #$%#ing best! Aside: I spent $1500 renting this damn CPM machine. I want my money back! I wish I could throw this damn machine in the lake. Note how I cannot reference the CPM without preceding it with "damn." haha.

CPM shaming
We head back to the island on Saturday and I'm back at work, full-time, next Wednesday. I had envisioned my return to work to be much different than the reality that I'm now facing. I will be heading back to work on crutches and an unbendy knee. Not ideal. It's incredibly disappointing and daunting. I'm struggling to wrap my head around how I will do this. My contract is up for renewal this year, and although I've never felt direct pressure from my employer, I feel an obligation to get back to work in order to ensure that I am renewed. I love where we live, enjoy my job and the people, and do not want to jeopardize that. Plus my job comes with the amazing health care that is covering my surgeries. I'm in a tough spot. The last year of work has been a battle - struggling to get through the work days in intense pain. My goal is to one day return to work and thrive, with my only focus on providing awesome speech therapy, as opposed to strategizing how I'm going to drive, carry materials, sit and get off of little people chairs, and walk students to and from their classroom.

This is a tough week. This is the week that I say goodbye to all my family and friends in Canada. I know that the next time we return, things will have changed. A few of my favourite people in the world are facing tough challenges right now. I wish that I could be here to support those special people in person. It's difficult saying goodbye, knowing that the next conversation will be over text, email, or Skype. I'm not a touchy feely huggy person, and I'm feeling especially flat this year (I blame the pills), so as I'm saying goodbye this week, I'm not crying or feeling particularly emotional. But I have something important to say to my family and friends, and even though I am struggling to express this verbally, I am able to put this in writing. Family and friends: YOU ARE THE BEST. You are the reason that I made it through the last 3 months. Despite the fact that I have been agitated, sad, and irrational, you did not give up on me. You came to see me, you brought me treats, you took me on the boat, you towed me on my paddle board (Kayla!), you made me laugh, and you made me feel loved. You never made me feel like I was a burden. You always encouraged, supported, and lamented with me when I needed it. I'm not sure how I would have survived the past few months if I hadn't been here, at Candle Lake, so close to the people who love me unconditionally. I am incredibly grateful for that. I won't give up. I keep going because my people need me to keep going. I love you guys. I apologize for every shitty thing that I said or did whilst angry and medicated! Thank you for sticking with me. You have no idea how much I will miss you. Soon come.

On a brighter note, the pets have received their import permits, clearance to re-enter the Cayman Islands, in record time this year! After 3 years, blood, sweat, and tears, I think that I may have finally resolved how to successfully import an animal to the Cayman Islands. To celebrate, Dundee insisted on donning his scary shark outfit. He can't wait to wear it on Seven Mile and scare the crap out of unsuspecting tourists. Who are we kidding? He can't wait to don his scary shark suit to Macabuca and pick up bikini-clad babes.

The perfect outfit for intense tropical heat!

Adios Amigos! See you in paradise.