So, today is a big day for me.

Today is huge for me. But in order for you to understand why it’s such an important day, I have to let you in on a little secret.

Today I have been sober for one year.

I’ve kept it from you guys for some reason, but the truth is, I’m a recovering alcoholic.

I don’t know why I’ve kept so mum about it on here. I guess I was feeling ashamed? Even though I’ve spent the better part of the last year learning how not to be ashamed of it.

It has been a long, hard road, but I’m so much happier today than I was a year ago. Alcoholism is a scary thing. Always feeling alone, lost, ashamed. Wondering why you can’t just stop. I wanted to stop, but I didn’t know how. It took rehab and a lot of support from my family to figure it out. To figure me out again.

Some of you may judge me, I get that. It’s hard to understand addiction if you haven’t been there. It’s hard to know why someone becomes addicted, it’s hard to know how out of control they felt.

Things all started to go downhill for me 5 years ago when I had my miscarriage. When I had the miscarriage, it was like somebody turned out the lights. I didn’t know what was happening, and I didn’t know how to put one foot in front of the other. Instead of reaching out and finding help to get the lights turned back on as it were, I decided I could fumble around in the dark on my own and figure it out. Throughout the recovery process, I have learned about myself that I often don’t ask for help when I need it. And this was no different.

And I managed for a while. But then stuff started piling up on me. A cancer diagnosis, my 20 year old cat dying, having a blog post go viral (which essentially is a good thing, but still very stress-inducing) my mom and stepdad getting divorced, being forced to move out of our house, it was just a long, terrible couple of years. And I was still trying to do it in the emotional blackness I had been wandering around in. I was already a very anxious person, but all of this took my anxiety to new, unbearable heights.

At first I just drank in the evenings. Just to give my mind a little rest. Then the day drinking crept in. At first, one day a week, I’d start at noon. Then a couple days a week. It didn’t help that they serve wine at the museum and zoo and there was wine at playgroup, and pretty much everywhere. This is California, after all. Eventually it felt like I couldn’t go an afternoon without it. At at the very end, it felt like I couldn’t bear any moment of my life without it. I was trying to drink away all the feelings of sadness, loss, frustration, fear and anxiety. And it worked, for like five minutes. But those five minutes were all I needed to think that alcohol really was the answer to all of my problems.

It was a couple of years ago ago that my husband asked me to cut back. And then eventually asked me to quit completely. And I had some minor success. But I always kept falling back into my old habits. It was about a year and a half after those first conversations we had that I finally made the choice to be sober. I knew I had a problem, but I didn’t know how bad it really was. Only an outside observer can see an alcoholic’s problems for what they really are. I thought I was fine. I thought I had it under control. But I really didn’t.

In January 2015, I checked into an in-patient rehab home. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. To admit that my problem was so bad that I needed their help to get better. And to spend 30 days away from my husband, my children and my home. I kept a calendar in my journal at rehab, and it was the most satisfying feeling to put a big X over each day in the evening. Another day gone, another day closer to being back home.

When I got back home, things were really awkward. I had to learn how to fit back in to my own family’s dynamic. They had gone on living their days while I was gone, and learned how to do it without me as a part of it. Now we all had to learn how to be together again. And the people who knew where I had been those 30 days didn’t know how to act around me. I had the big scarlet A for Alcoholic on me.

Shortly after my return home, my husband was in a serious surfing accident, and had to have his nose reconstructed. It was one of the scariest days of my life. And my alcoholic brain tricked me into thinking that because I had been to rehab, I was all fixed, and I could have some wine to take the edge off, and it would be no big deal. Which kick-started another awful month of drinking.

I went back to the rehab house for 10 days, and basically said, throw everything you’ve got at me. I need to make this work. That was April 22, 2015.

The past year of my life has been the most difficult on record. I’m finally in a place where not drinking is not such a big deal. Most days, I don’t think about it at all. I can’t even believe who I was a year ago, I’ve made such a change. I couldn’t have done it without my rehab counselors and psychiatrist, and the support of my family. Asking for help is so hard for me for some reason, but I’m so glad I finally did.

Only one thing still scares me: the future. There’s so much unknown in the future, so much we don’t know is coming. And I hear so many stories from people at my AA meetings about having years and years of sobriety under their belt, only to relapse and have to start all over again. My addiction is something I have to keep in the forefront of my mind every day. Every morning when I wake up, I have to remember that I’ve made the choice not to drink ever again, and if I’m not careful, alcohol can creep back in and take hold again. I don’t ever want to go back to that place, but I have to stay on my toes.

I’m sure you’ve heard somewhere that alcoholism is a disease. Which is supposed to make you feel better about needing treatment and help. You wouldn’t deny yourself treatment for diabetes or cancer, they’d tell me in rehab. So of course you get treatment for alcoholism. But, it’s a disease with no cure. You can only keep treating it and live with it day in and day out for the rest of your life. So, if you know a recovering addict, have compassion for them and their fight. And let them know once in a while how proud you are of them, because this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, and it’s nice when people acknowledge that.

So there you go, Internet. My big secret, out in the open. Thanks for listening, and I hope I didn’t scare you off. I found this great article on Babble that explains how to deal with some of the awkwardness when an alcoholic comes out to you. It’s a great read.

one yar

 

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Closing Day

It’s closing day on our new house. In TUCSON. For some reason, it makes me think of that 90s song, Closing Time. Which is somewhat appropriate, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

We’re moving. We’re moving far. We’re leaving our beloved San Francisco for the heat and the cheap housing in Tucson. We closed on a great house. It’s all set.

My emotions are so up and down. On the one hand, we’re super excited to go. It’s exciting to be homeowners. It’s exciting to be moving to a new city and opening a new chapter in our lives. But on the other hand, it’s terrifying. We’re leaving San Francisco, which we ADORE, and we’ve lived here for 11 years. So, it’s a bummer. A big, fat bummer. And if only it were even just slightly cheaper to live here, we’d stay.

I moved around a lot when I was a kid, and I kind of wanted to avoid doing that to my own kids. Bowie gets to finish the school year here, but I’m afraid for him when he starts a new school. I remember how confusing and scary that was. I know he’ll be fine and he’ll make friends, but I still worry.

It’s the right move for us right now, it just is. We’ll be able to give the boys so much more by leaving one of the most expensive cities in the country. We will have the security of owning our home. Renting in San Francisco is stressful as hell, not knowing if tomorrow your landlord will boot you out or raise your rent sky high to get you out. And when you have kids, that’s mega stressful.

We will have space. We will have opportunity. We will be happier in the end.

I will certainly leave my proverbial heart in San Francisco. Six months ago, my husband brought up the idea of leaving, and I said, “never!” through tears. But over time I got used to the idea, and was able to see the pros offered to us if we did move. I love it here though. The way everyone should have the opportunity to love where they live. If you’ve ever had the urge to hug a bridge, or wanted to get a cup of coffee with the fog, you might understand what I mean.

I’m excited for Tucson. It’s a great city with great people and lots of fun stuff to do. It will just be different. A good different, but still, different.

Off we go.

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Someday You’ll be Taller Than Me, But I’ll Still Hug You When You Cry

Bowie is about to turn 8. And most of the time he’s pretty grown-up acting. He mostly doesn’t need help in the bathroom anymore. He can shower himself, dress himself, and do a lot of his own homework. He can even make himself certain foods.

But, there are still those moments when something in this cruel world didn’t go away, and I find myself hugging my crying baby once again.

I thought the other day, as I just thought about how fast they grow, and the genetics of my family, and how more than likely my sons will both be taller than me. Before I know it.

And I want them to know:

I will always hug you when you cry. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t be embarrassed. If other people shame you, come find your mom. I will always be there for you to let you cry, to support you, to offer advice when you want it.

When I brought you into this world, I took on the role of mother, a role that never ends. I am your mom forever. Even if something happens to you, even if something happens to me, I will always be your mom.

And right now, you are small. Coming to me for a hug when life sucks comes pretty naturally. But as the years go on, you will come to me less and less. But, I hope you never stop coming to me when you need me. You’re never too big or too old to get a good comforting hug from mom, to cry on mom’s shoulders, to get the love you need when the world isn’t giving it to you.

Someday you’ll be taller than me, but I will still hug you when you cry.

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Older Generations: 9 Ways Parenting is Way Harder for Me than it Was for You

The world I grew up in was not what it is today. Parents now are charged with raising children in a vastly different world than parents of past generations. Life was simpler, and it showed. It’s not just that parents today need to “calm down.” There’s a reason we’re total basket cases. There’s a reason there are helicopter parents and a need for free-range parenting. This gig is tough! Childhood abductions are down. Childhood mortality, in the First World, is down. But there’s still a lot to contend with. Here are some ways I’ve had to adjust my parenting style from the examples I had as a kid.

  1. Raising my kids in a country where there’s at least one mass shooting per day. Whatever side of the fence you are on when it comes to gun control, you can’t deny that the United States has a problem. Random gun violence is everywhere, and there’s little a parent can do. The odds of being a victim of these random public mass shootings is low, but too high for comfort. And we always have that fear in the back of our heads. My son’s elementary school has lockdown drills. We certainly didn’t have lockdown drills when I was a kid. They make bullet proof blankets for schools to give kids in the event of a shooting. I have to raise my babies in a world where bullet proof blankets are a thing!
  2. Caring for an infant in a sea of unvaccinated children. I try really hard to not judge other parents for their parenting choices. But, when my kids are put in danger as a result, I get miffed. Infants who are too young to receive vaccinations are at a high risk for contracting possibly fatal diseases, and even school aged children who are vaccinated can be put at risk if vaccination levels are too low. So, I do my best to safeguard my child’s health, but in the end it might not matter anyway.
  3. Childhood food allergies have risen 50% in the past 20 years. My kids don’t have food allergies. That I know of. But, many of their peers do. And though I’m careful not to send nuts to our schools, I still wonder sometimes, “Did I forget to wipe the peanut butter off his face before sending him off?” And, allergies have this awesome ability to crop up at any point in our lives. Meaning, just because my sons don’t have life-threatening allergies right now doesn’t mean they won’t develop.
  4. Raising girls is a shit show. People think this isn’t an issue for me because I don’t have daughters. But, parents of sons have to raise them to be respectful of women, and to treat women as equals. And to not be intimidated by empowered women. As a mom, especially a stay at home mom, it’s easy to fall into the role of doormat. But it’s important to stand strong and give your boys a good example of womanhood. I don’t even know how parents raise their daughters to be strong in a world that tells them to play weak. To simultaneously be proud of their sexuality, but also to guard it with their lives. To be open and honest in a world full of victim-blaming. My hat is off to you, parents of girls.
  5. Parental guilt is at an all time high. Hospital birth or home birth. Breastfeeding or bottle feeding. Starting solids too early. Starting solids too late. Vaccinating or not vaccinating. Preschool or no preschool. Circumcised or uncircumcised. Non-organic food. Fast food. Television. Cell phones. No matter what choices you make, someone is going to (verbosely) criticize you for it. We have the Internet to thank for that. And before you even have kids, there are people telling you how to raise them. People who don’t even have their own kids! It’s treacherous. You literally never know if you’re making the right choice or not. You just have to close your eyes and point to make the choice, and then just cross your fingers and hope you won’t fail. And grow a super thick skin for all the mean words coming your way.
  6. Other people will try to parent your children. And I don’t mean making them follow the rules. I mean, the choices you make as a parent could get you in trouble, even if you’re not really putting your kid in any kind of danger. Leave your kid in the car while you run into the store? Send your kid outside to play without you? Put a soda in your kid’s lunchbox? You get fined. Or CPS takes them away. Or you could even go to jail! So much for making your own choices, there’s always someone looking over your shoulder.
  7. Raising my kids to be present and in the moment in the age of technology. Screens are everywhere these days. Admittedly, I spend too much time staring at my phone. And I use the TV as a babysitter more often than I’d like to admit. Silicon Valley is basically our backyard, so technology is pretty prevalent here. And it’s hard to find a balance between taking advantage of all that technology allows us these days, and not using it too much. We have to teach our children when to be present, and when screen time is ok. We have to filter what they watch, because left unsupervised, they can stumble on some pretty scary stuff. But we have to allow them to learn how to use technology because their world demands tech savviness.
  8. The media will have you believe your kid can, and will, be snatched from you. Even though abductions are actually less common than they were when I was a child, the media coverage of kidnappings is rampant. One kidnapping story can be their focus for weeks. And it’s not just the TV news, it’s newspapers, magazines, and social media. You can barely make it through a day without seeing reports of yet another child gone missing. I had to stop watching the news altogether to calm myself. And this is why people turn into such busybodies when they see your kid more than five feet away from you (see #6). The fear has permeated our generation of parents.
  9. College is basically a necessity, but also completely unaffordable. If you don’t start saving your money before you even have kids, it’s unlikely that you will be able to pay their way. And if you don’t pay it for them, you send them off into the world already dragging around the largest debt of their lifetime. And even if they do well and get a good degree, there’s no guarantee that they’ll land a job. As the population grows, the job market doesn’t. Not to mention the ups and downs of our unstable economy. If they don’t go to college, they walk a rough road. If they go to college, they walk a rough road. There’s just no winning. It’s tough to help them decide what to do, because you don’t even know the answer yourself.
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I Had my Baby on my Due Date. But You Probably Won’t.

I don’t know why I’m writing this. My youngest is 3, so birth stories aren’t exactly relevant. But I have a lot of friends and family having their babies lately, many of them having their first babies. And the topic was on my mind I guess. Anyway, this is all about due dates and how it’s all a sham.

I did NOT have Bowie on my due date. In fact, that little dude stayed in 8 days past my due date. I was devastated. I tried to have my midwife do a “membrane sweep” which is apparently impossible if you’re not dilated at all. Which I was not. I wept in the hospital room when they told me if he didn’t come over the weekend that they’d induce me on Monday. I really didn’t want to be induced. I decided he would just be a June baby rather than the May baby we thought he would be, and I’d wait. And wait. And then in the wee hours of May 31, I went into labor and 18 hours later he was here.

Ferris was different. I went to the doctor on my due date. She examined me and found I was already at 5 centimeters, and we both started freaking out. The exam triggered contractions and she gingerly walked me down to labor and delivery and they admitted me, and 6 hours later he was born. On my due date.

Studies say that only 5% of women actually give birth on their due dates. Far fewer when it is their first baby. Due dates are crap. They are just a day that they assign you to give birth based on the approximate time you conceived. It means nothing, really. It gets all your hopes up and when the day comes on your calendar you get all excited, and then nothing happens and you’re pissed because you’re so sick of being pregnant.

Really, all women should just forget about their due dates. Sure, use it as a benchmark for when your baby is fully cooked and ready to come out, but not a plan for when the baby will come out.

Your body knows what it’s doing, and your body will push that baby out when it’s good and ready. Your due date means zilch when you’re body’s got it all under control. Try not to put too much stock into it. Baby might even decide to come before your due date. Lucky you! Unless it’s too early. That’s a whole different ball game.

What about you? Did you have any of your kids on your due date? Anyone you know? How early/late were your littles?

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The Way Things Are Supposed to Be

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, my older son Bowie has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). He’s also emotionally volatile and fragile, likely as a result of his condition being misunderstood for so long, but he’s also just a sensitive guy.

My husband, my younger son and I spend a good deal of time just negotiating life with Bowie. Handling outbursts. Avoiding outbursts. Trying to give him everything he needs and deserves to be happy, healthy and successful.

I think, for the most part, we’ve grown accustomed to it. Often people passing us on the street mid-breakdown are astonished at his behavior, and that we appear to be so nonplussed by it. But there are those days when he has one too many breakdowns, and our nervous systems just can’t handle any more. Or, we get a lecture from a stranger about what a shit job we’re doing raising our shit kid. And then I just lose it. My husband appears to hold up okay, but I bet he’s losing it too.

Our younger son Ferris is around the age now that Bowie was when we first started to suspect there might be a problem. And so far, Ferris doesn’t seem to exhibit and of those troublesome traits (knock on wood). He’s a much calmer, more agreeable child. Of course he throws fits, he is just three after all, but it’s nowhere near the level we were dealing with for Bowie.

I find myself sometimes alone with Ferris and thinking, this is how it is supposed to be. This is how it was always supposed to be.

I don’t have to worry about Ferris randomly punching another child. I don’t have to worry about him yelling, “Fuck you!” at another child, or at me. I don’t have to worry that he’ll bite another child, or another parent. I don’t have to drag him kicking and screaming from a crowded public place because he’s completely overwhelmed. I don’t have to worry that he will head butt my face, sock me in the eye or kick me in the teeth.

Yes, Bowie actually did all of these things.

It’s the trouble with having your first child be a child with special needs. If you have another child, you get a glimpse into what a “normal” kid is like, and the whole special needs situation that you thought you had the hang of suddenly seems so very abnormal. 

It’s not that I wish to change Bowie in any way. He is my son and I love him 100%, difficulties and all. I never let my brain get to that place where I start to wish he were different. I stop those thoughts dead in their tracks. Because that’s not how I feel.

Sometimes I just wonder what life would have been like for us, what life could have been like for Bowie, if we weren’t dealing with SPD. It would have shaped our family so differently. But would that have been a good thing or a bad thing?

And how do people cope with larger issues? Bowie’s SPD is no walk in the park, but it’s pretty low on the scale of special needs in kids. What is it like for people who have it a little harder than us? I feel like I should just be grateful that Bowie is difficult, yes, but manageable.

I’d love to hear from other parents of kids with special needs. Or people who are friends with them. Do they ever get caught up in this “what if?” thinking? And do they feel mass amounts of parental guilt because of it? Is it taboo to talk about your other child(ren) as “easier?”

Just some stuff I’ve been musing on lately.

boys

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Making Your Own Bread and Other DIY Adventures

I’ve been on this major domestic kick lately, and have been trying to find ways to make certain food items at home to save money. Tops on my list included bread, jelly, yogurt, dried herbs, snack crackers, fruit snacks and cheese (specifically ricotta).

I’ve been hard at work at the bread thing. I was browsing Pinterest and stumbled on a recipe for “no knead dutch oven bread.” I made it and it turned out ok, and then I wanted to try to make it again, but obviously I didn’t “pin” it and promptly lost said recipe.

So, I did a web search and it turns out there’s a lot of different versions of this recipe. I’ve tried a WHOLE BUNCH of them, so you didn’t have to, and I’m here to tell you that this is the one. This. Is. The. One. Instructions so easy to follow that even me, a total baking incompetent, could follow them. Four measly ingredients that you always have lying around anyway.

It’s slightly time consuming, you have to remember in the morning that hey, I wanted to make bread for dinner tonight. But other than that, piece of cake. Er, bread. Whatever.

I found this recipe on a site called Girl Versus Dough. Click on the link, and make your life a whole lot more interesting.

Next, I’m going to try to perfect sandwich bread. I think it can be done. Anyone ever had luck with this? Without a bread machine, I mean. We got a bread machine as a wedding present and used it a lot those first few years, but then it sat in the cupboard and we decided to give it away at some point. I’m missing that thing all of a sudden…

What sorts of items do you make at home rather than buy pre-made? What are your biggest successes/failures?

my bread

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The Holidays, Anxiety, and Me

This time of year makes me crazy. No, scratch that, I’m pretty crazy all the time. But, this time of year really brings it out in me.

All the lights and trees and adorable snowmen make me happy. I like Christmas, I like the winter season and everything it brings. I like celebrating with family and friends. I like getting gifts, and even more, I like giving them.

But, there’s something about a year drawing to a close that gets me down. There’s a lot of pressure to make the next year better. To become a better version of yourself. And, I like to think every year will be a better year. Except…what’s coming my way? Will it be good or bad? Will it be scary? Will I be able to handle it?

Having recently been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), it all makes complete sense to me now. All those unexplained Christmas crying spells when I was a kid, sitting alone in the living room with only the Christmas tree lighting the room. All that holing myself up in my room all winter as a teen, instead of being with friends. All that relief I felt when school would start again in January, and I had less time on my hands to think. I get myself in trouble when I think.

As a part of my GAD, I also have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). A disorder that affects people specifically during this time of year. It is attributed to the lack of sunlight and shorter, darker days. So, it’s like adding fuel to already very raging fire. I’ve been told that “SAD is a bunch of crap.” I say, tell that to someone who suffers from it.

It helps to have kids. There’s nothing more magical than a kid at Christmastime. The wonder and excitement in their eyes as they dream about what Santa will bring. My kids don’t know the beauty of snow, and truthfully I never really liked the stuff. But, every year when the first flakes fly, it’s very magical and exciting. And the pure, unfettered happiness when they see a house all decorated with lights and wreaths and a big, shiny tree. With their help, I can see beauty in this time of year.

This year, armed with the knowledge that all my sadness and anxiety are due to chemical imbalances in my brain, I can relax and enjoy life a little more. When I start getting sad or panicky, I can recognize it for what it is and calm down. I have found ways to make life easier on myself–minimizing Christmas shopping, keeping the decorations at a minimum, keeping the gifts simple and heartfelt, keeping get-togethers small.

There’s also the fact that 2015 was about as low of a year as one can have for me. While my anxiety still has me on edge about what 2016 has in store for me, I’m also very happy to welcome it with open arms. A whole new year, a whole new, blank slate for me to fill with happy things, new challenges, new adventures. 2015 is in the past, and that feels good.

I feel like holding hands with all of you, in one giant circle, and stepping into 2016 together. We can do this together. It feels less scary when I allow other people in, and work together to make things happen.

So, have a wonderful holiday season, and come with me to 2016. May it be the best year any of us have seen yet. No pressure though.

xmascard

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It’s the Most Modest Time of the Year

When I was a kid, we didn’t have a lot of money. The holidays were simple. Great! But, simple. My mom and dad always did their best, and we always had good gifts.

It wasn’t just Christmastime that it was like that. We ate simply, and I argued with my mom every single year when it was time to get back-to-school clothes. But, the hot pink dress flats! All the girls in my class will have them!

We have a lot more money than my parents did. But, I want to raise my sons to know there’s more to life than possessions. I feel like I grew up with an appreciation for things. With the ability to wait and save up for things I really wanted. How to tell the difference between something I wanted and something I needed. I know the value of a dollar.

In today’s world, this is an all but forgotten concept. Especially in the United States, kids are raised to think they can have anything they want, and be surrounded with stuff. Hardly anyone tries to raise their kids to be happy with what they have, and to be happy with less.

We keep the toy box half empty. They don’t need every single toy they see on TV. And they don’t need 1,000 different things to keep them happy. A set of blocks, a few Matchbox cars, a train set, some art supplies. This fosters creativity, and a true appreciation when we do introduce a new toy. After a while of getting all the toys they want all the time, receiving a gift begins to lose its meaning.

It’s not that I don’t want to shower them with a ton of gifts. I love my children with all my heart, and want them to have more than I did when I was younger. But, that doesn’t mean there can’t be a balance. Good, nice gifts, but not every toy on the shelf. More presents than I got as a kid, but not a gigantic pile under the tree.

What’s your philosophy? Do you get your kids new stuff all the time? If you can’t afford to do that, are you sad that you can’t get more? How do you talk to your kids about money/consumerism?

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Sore But Relieved

post op

Hey! The surgery went off without a hitch. Well except that I have a huge gash and broken bone in my foot. But, whatevs.

Originally the surgeon thought they’d have to break two bones, and have me in a cast and fully off my feet for 6 weeks.

In reality, I have one broken bone, no cast, and I can walk around. They didn’t even give me crutches! And, it’s not my driving foot, so I am not housebound. I feel like a really big weight has been lifted, now that the procedure is over.

If this turns out as well as the surgery on the other foot, Im’ma be one happy mama. I am sore, but not like I thought I’d be. I am groggy, but not like I thought I’d be. And I’m hobbling around but NOT. LIKE. I THOUGHT. I’D. BE.

I’m like, seriously considering telling my mother-in-law she doesn’t have to come down and help on Monday and Tuesday like we had talked about, because I’m going to be fine! I mean, this is a whole different picture than the one I had set myself up for. Score one for Worst Case Scenario Thinking! But, just the one. Because that shiz is not good for you. No.

Funny story, somehow my cell phone fell out of the plastic PATIENT BELONGINGS bag at the surgery center, and when I got it back it had a bunch of pictures of rando nurses. Apparently the one who found it was trying to look at my pictures to figure out who the phone belonged to, but was actually just taking a bunch of pictures. Both adorable and hilarious.

Thanks, Internet, for being there to cheer me up. Here’s to my brand new foot that might be able to fit into those fabulous boots I found at the Salvation Army that I stupidly tried on with my good foot.

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