Writing this list of 100 Things About Me is one of nine fun goals I have set out to accomplish in 2020. It’s like an icebreaker for bloggers, and it’s a little less rigid and formulaic than your typical website “About” page (though I have one of those too). Take a look. Maybe we have some weird stuff in common.
1. Tacos are my happy place.
2. I write a newsletter called The Rabbit Hole.
3. I love quirky socks but rarely wear them.
4. I make the perfect club sandwich.
5. When people ask me how I sleep at night, I answer, “medical marijuana.”
6. My favorite TV show is The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
7. I can’t drive anymore.
8. I draw Zentangles to deal with stress.
9. My first Cabbage Patch doll was named Barbie Julina.
10. I crave Kraft Dinner when I am depressed.
11. My first blog, and my first 100 Things post, was on AOL Journals.
12. I’m trying hard not to make any of these things about brain cancer.
13. I think I just failed.
14. I’ve stopped caring about my physical appearance for self-preservation and rarely look in mirrors anymore.
15. Sometimes I forget to check for boogers before I leave the house.
16. My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving.
17. I have lived in two states and five cities.
18. I started this list five weeks ago.
19. My idea of hell is paying money to travel by plane.
20. I name house plants.
21. I frequently dream that my teeth are falling out.
22. I like to play video games on XBox, but I am generally very bad at it.
23. My favorite games are Fallout 4, Skyrim, and State of Decay 2.
24. I prefer unloading a dishwasher to loading one.
25. As of this writing, I have had 17 brain MRIs.
26. My favorite cover of any song ever is this one.
27. The last time I drove a car in real life was May 30, 2015.
28. I miss it.
29. My first attempt at college—immediately after high school—was a complete failure.
30. I didn’t go back full-time until I was 26.
31. I majored in English.
32. I am legally growing marijuana in my house.
33. I get migraines a lot.
34. I can tell one is coming when I see squiggly lines in my vision and I can’t read.
35. The squiggle is almost always followed by one of my arms going numb for a little while.
36. It’s usually the left arm, but sometimes it’s my right one.
37. During one particularly bad migraine, I could barely talk.
38. When I was little, I thought the lyrics were, “Help me Rhonda, yeah, get around in my car.”
39. I am a dog person.
40. I lived in an apartment that didn’t allow pets for a couple of years and it nearly broke me.
41. I have a small collection of Deadpool memorabilia that includes a Funko, a Funko keychain, a doll, and a bathrobe.
42. I have a public Amazon wishlist because people are always asking me how they can help.
43. I am a Spoonie.
44. I collect literal spoons.
45. This is totally a coincidence.
46. The first movie I remember seeing in the theater is Willow.
47. My parents thought about naming me Kristen.
48. My fictional character personality triptych includes Anne Shirley, Daria Morgendorffer, and Louise Belcher.
49. I cannot stand the smell of vinegar.
50. I like to do crossword puzzles.
51. The first thing I do when I return home from anywhere is put on pajamas.
52. I sleep with a weighted blanket and it has changed my life!
53. I’m a picky eater but am not generally offended by what other people like to eat. HOWEVER comma if you put elbow macaroni in your chili we cannot be best friends.
54. Logging into Facebook makes me literally, physically ill.
55. I think Burger King’s cheesy tots are superior to McDonald’s fries, and I am willing to fight you over it.
56. If I could have dinner with any person tonight—past, present, or future—I’d pick Dan.
57. I regularly have to remind myself that I am not bad at saving money, I am just poor.
58. I saw Marie Osmond in the Sound of Music circa 1994.
59. I experienced paralyzing night terrors for the week I tried gabapentin.
60. My biggest regret in life so far is taking a job I knew I’d hate for an extra $15,000 a year.
61. I am allergic to sulfa drugs.
62. The older I get, the more liberal I get. A conservative told me the opposite would happen.
63. I have never been inside an IKEA.
64. In fourth grade all my friends were listening to NKOTB. I was listening to Simon & Garfunkel.
65. Lemon ginger tea is my favorite.
66. I frequently get too exhausted to sit up.
67. I grew up in a town of about 7,000 people.
68. My first real job was working for a photographer at the mall.
69. I didn’t know I could write well until one of my professors told me so and then encouraged me to become a writing tutor my junior year of college.
70. I am all for abolishing the Electoral College.
71. My two internships at IUPUI were with Indiana Women Work and Central Indiana Jobs with Justice.
72. In 2018 I sent 251 postcards to voters.
73. I once had my picture taken with the Klement’s sausages at Al’s Run in Milwaukee.
74. In approximately forty years, I have lived in 5 homes, 3 apartments, and 1 condo.
75. When I was young, I thought being introverted was a personality flaw.
76. I bought my dog a toy sloth and named it Cole. Cole Sloth. Get it?
77. I have two older brothers.
78. I like to watch Japanese cooking videos on YouTube.
79. I am a backyard birder.
80. My favorite food is ice cream.
81. I haven’t been to a movie theater in over 7 years.
82. I have the same birthday as my husband’s twin’s wife.
83. I’m an INFJ.
84. My first car was a 1994 Pontiac Grand Am.
85. I want to see the Pacific Ocean IRL.
86. I can name all of Santa’s reindeer.
87. In fourth grade, I intentionally misspelled a word and took second place in our school spelling bee so I wouldn’t have to move on to the regional one.
88. I still haven’t told my parents that.
89. My favorite cartoon is Bob’s Burgers.
90. I’ve survived two tornados.
91. I am better at asking for help than I used to be.
92. I hate talking on the phone.
94. My pet peeve is being told I should be polite, not angry, when addressing someone who is causing me harm.
95. I live every day of my life on the edge of catastrophic breakdown. So yes, when something small goes wrong it’s a BFD. When something major goes wrong, my brain starts shutting down to protect itself.
96. I left the heavier stuff for the end because I don’t think anyone will read this far.
97. Sometimes I wonder who will live longer, me or my dog.
98. When I’m in a bad mood, I sometimes read Pat Robertson quotes for a laugh. Like this gem: “The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”
99. I am not brave for living life with cancer; I have no choice. I am brave for having dumped two different men who threatened suicide if I left them.
100. My favorite place to eat breakfast is Waffle House.
It feels so FUCKING amazing to finally have posted the video for this easy Zentangle art postcard to my YouTube channel today. Bonus: I am making progress toward one of my 2020 goals!
The last time I posted a Zentangle video was April 2019—nine months ago. There are a handful of reasons why, but they can all essentially be reduced to a single source: brain cancer. Posting a new video is like throat-punching cancer.
Or, you know, something.
About This Zentangle
The postcard was created for a new Patreon subscriber, and inspiration for it came from the official Zentangle channel on YouTube. I encountered the 3D-like spiral design on their Project Pack 07, Day 03 lesson. They used it with several other patterns, but I liked it so much I wanted to fill an entire postcard with it.
Getting this video recorded, edited, and uploaded to YouTube was a week-long struggle. I’m editing on a different computer now, and although I’m using the same phone to record footage, I had to factory reset it. So many tools and settings just—POOF!—gone.
But, easy or not, it always feels good to share another video with the world. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope it inspires you create some Zen doodles of your own.
If you make Zentangle art too, please say so in the comments and let me know where I can follow you on YouTube or Instagram or Twitter or wherever!
The following materials list includes affiliate links. If you use them, I might get a few cents. Your support helps keep this website (and me) going.
Last night the results of Brain MRI #17 posted to my patient portal. So as not to bury the lede: my brain tumor is unchanged from September, but I still have to see my oncologist tomorrow morning to talk about it.
After tomorrow, though, I have two whole weeks off from medical appointments. I won’t know what to do with myself! Oh wait, yes I will. I’ll stress over the fact my next appointment is with a new primary care physician.
Dr. S left the practice months ago, and I had to wait for an opening to establish care with a new one. This comes just shortly after switching neuro-oncologists, and adding palliative care to the mix. So while my cancer might be stable, I am…not so much. I feel ways. Many, many ways.
I don’t think I have the emotional energy for it, so I’m not going to do the usual thing where I break my back trying to help you understand how complicated a switch like this is for me. What I will say is going to new doctors is hard. Going to new doctors after prolonged gaslighting and trauma is—
Oh, hello, fetal position.
Friday’s MRI was scheduled for 7:15 in the morning. No idea why I agreed to that time. I don’t even remember doing it. I mean, I remember sitting on my bed talking to the hospital scheduler and agreeing to something; I don’t remember that “something” was 7:15 in the goddamn morning.
I was clean and appropriately dressed for the occasion, but when the medical receptionist checking me in asked if my dad was a doctor, I stared at her questioningly with my tired brain for a long, hard second. Finally, I got the joke I’ve heard a million times before and forced a laugh, “No relation,” I said.
The technician took me back to an even darker corner of the hospital basement. Every MRI starts with setting up an IV for the contrast and getting asked the same thirty or so questions. Do you have a pacemaker, shrapnel, tattoo, piercings, and so on. Then they check to make sure they’ve got the right person matched with the right procedure.
“And what are we scanning for you today?” the tech asked.
“And what’s the reason you’re having the MRI?”
“Oh, I’ve got this brain tumor.” I tried to make it sound like no big deal, but my tech was an empathizer. The answer made him pause.
“Oh,” he said, looking me straight in the eye.
“I’M NOT FUCKING GO TO CRY YET!” I screamed internally.
We walked back to the room with the body-sized tube and the super-heavy, super-wide door. And I assumed the position.
Not every machine is the same—there can sometimes be huge differences, at least from a patient’s perspective, even among machines in a single radiology department.
The one I got Friday didn’t have headphones or music. I got foam earplugs. It wasn’t as roomy as the ones at Barnes-Jewish or Siteman either. There was no light inside. It was very much like my first MRI in a mobile unit in a trailer in a clinic parking lot in Danville, IL. Right down to the washcloth I asked them to put over my eyes.
The very caring tech Friday reminded me of the very caring tech in 2017. “Hey, I haven’t left yet!” he tapped my knee. He was yelling so I could hear him with the earplugs in. “Squeeze the panic ball for me so I know it’s working!” A loud tone sounded out in the room.
“Great! Let’s get this over!” I think he said. I gave a thumbs up.
The thing about trauma is that it’s not just the bad things that are triggers. In fact, my personal experience is that the bad triggers are easier to anticipate and therefore easier to ignore. But most of the time I can’t even identify a good trigger, like a very caring rad tech, until it’s too late.
I don’t use the term PTSD, but I often wonder if I qualify. Friday morning I didn’t just remember how scared I was in 2017. I *was* that scared again. For several terrifying minutes, I couldn’t bend my toes. None of my doctors believed me. The weight of their dismissiveness sitting on my chest was so real it could have cracked a rib.
Luckily what I lack in strength, I make up for in resilience. I pulled out of the episode and back into the present by wondering what I’d do if Iran missed Chicago by a hundred and forty miles while I was inside. When that caused its own set of anxiety-related problems, I attempted to do my Alphabethical List of Things thing.
“The category is: the cosmos. And go!”
Asteroid, Black Hole, Constellation, Dark Matter, Einstein, Fusion, Gravitational Wave…
Just being totally honest—I’m still on the verge of tears more than 48 hours later. I’m not crying 24/7, but my mouth is perpetually turned downward and the muscles in the back of my throat ache sharply.
I want to cry, actually. So I can move on. It’s like wanting to vomit so you can be done with the nausea.
This is the aftermath of a “bad” MRI for me. Not all of them trigger me, but enough of them do that I get scanxiety for two solid weeks ahead of the appointment. I’m at my physical and emotional weakest during these times, and so it’s harder to push the usual cancer thoughts out of the way.
If I lash out, flake out, withdraw, or tell you where you can put your positive thinking, at least you’ll know why. It’s because to get the results of Brain MRI No.17, I had to go through Brain MRI No.17.
For access to exclusive content including my memoir, join me on Patreon.
The legal assistant assigned to my disability case against Lincoln Financial Group called me at the end of last week. She said they just needed a couple of signatures from Dan and me and a copy of my SSDI award letter. Then they’d be ready to ship off the entire appeal. This month is the deadline.
She gave me a quick rundown of everything they are submitting with my file, and—whatever LFG decides on this second appeal—I feel better just knowing there are people out there to push back against the insurance company’s lies and the lies of the doctors, like Samuels and Hartner, who shill for them.
It’s also been really nice not getting any emails or phone calls from the claims specialists that work for LFG since I found legal representation. I don’t know how employees like Ann and Sherry can do what they do to people in my situation. HR at Lincoln Financial must offer certified empathy extraction benefits along with vision and dental.
One thing the disability attorney managed to nail down was a sworn statement from my neuro-oncologist at Barnes-Jewish. “It’s going to be submitted as additional documentation after the deadline,” the legal assistant explained. “But he’s been out of the country for a while, so our hands were kind of tied.”
I’m stunned. Absolutely stunned that they are getting this from Dr. A. He’s good at the cancer stuff, but kind of impossible to pin down. I’d say 95% of my interactions with his office, including treatment and follow-up visits, at the cancer center have been with his NP, his nurses, and his office coordinator. I know that’s normal, but it’s far from ideal—even when you’re not fighting insurance.
Anyway, I asked the legal assistant how much time Lincoln Financial had to reach a decision on the appeal. I couldn’t remember. The answer is 45 days from the date of submission, but with a caveat. Since the sworn statement from Dr. A will be arriving later, LFG may request more time to review the additional evidence and it could be up to 90 days before I hear anything.
“Lincoln isn’t bad for missing deadlines—some other companies we deal with are terrible—but we’ll file a formal ERISA complaint if we don’t hear from them by their deadline,” the legal assistant said.
Do I think LFG will take another 45 days just to review one statement from my doctor? Yes. Yes, I do. Every day they don’t pay a claimant is another day they can earn interest on the stockpiles of cash they make from hoarding money that is supposed to be disbursed to disabled policyholders but isn’t.
My dad, who has always been really good at money, doesn’t pay his bills too soon before the due date for this same reason. “It’s silly to pay the bill as soon as I get it when that money could be making me more money,” he says.
The huge difference of course being that Dad isn’t holding someone else’s money. If he were doing what LFG is doing, we’d all be calling it theft.
Something to keep in mind, because the process for appealing cancelled disability claims is so stinking confusing, is that the appeals process is not anything at all like an actual lawsuit. There’s no independent third party, like a judge, weighing the evidence yet.
Both of my appeals of LFG’s egregious decision (the first one I made on my own, and now this one with my attorney) are appeals to the company itself. It’s nothing more than me saying, “Hey, you guys are wrong. Here’s why. Change your mind or be sued.”
LFG’s employees use language to try and make us all think the appeals process is about reviewing facts and making the right call. They’re spraying Febreeze on a pile of bullshit, guys. Being disabled as defined by your policy isn’t enough to win a disability appeal. You also have to convince them it’ll cost them more in the long run not to pay you.
I knew this in my gut from the day LFG cancelled on me, but I was so blinded by rage in the early stages that it was hard for me to wrap my brain around it. With a little more mental clarity, I see the appeals process for what it really is. Me saying, “Hey, bitches. Look at all this stuff I’ll be taking to the judge when it’s time to sue. Sure will cost a lot of money for you to prepare your defense and then lose anyway.”
Knowing Lincoln Financial will be holding my money hostage for at least another three months, seems like a good time to plug my serial memoir, Who You Gonna Believe.
To save money, I learned how to make crock pot cannabutter that I could use in homemade edibles. I am by no means an expert, but what I’ve learned I’d like to share.
When it comes to medical marijuana, I prefer to dose up with edibles. For me, the pain-relief is more noticeable and lasts longer than with other methods of consumption. The downside? Dispensary edibles cost a small fortune.
Making Cannabutter is Easy
The first time I attempted cannabutter, I was overwhelmed with advice. Everyone I talked to had a different recipe, and every website was pushing a different method. My post-chemo brain just couldn’t handle all that, so I whittled away until I could identify the most basic steps:
- Prepare (decarb) the marijuana.
- Steep the marijuana in butter.
- Use the butter in a recipe.
Step 1: Decarbing marijuana
If you don’t decarb your cannabis, your butter will be really disappointing.
- Baking sheet
- Parchment paper
- 6-7 grams of weed
Preheat your oven to 250 ° F. Place marijuana on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake on the middle oven rack for about 30 minutes.
Break up whole buds into smaller pieces first. This increases surface area and allows things to heat more evenly.
Some people are very particular about breaking bud, recommending you do it by hand or with a manual grinder. (Get your pieces too small and they might burn or be hard to strain later.)
But because of cancer fatigue, I’m from the School of Do Everything the Easiest Way Possible. I recommend giving whole buds a couple of quick pulses in a clean coffee or spice grinder, being careful not to overdo it.
That said, it’s even easier if you use shake. Shake is essentially just the debris left after trimming and handling buds. There’s no need to grind it because it’s already the perfect size. Added bonus: because it’s ugly and contains some stem pieces, it’s a lot cheaper than whole flower.
Step 2: Steep the marijuana in butter
- Small crock pot (1.5 to 2 quart capacity)
- Reusable basket coffee filter
- 3/4 c. butter
Warm 3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) butter in the crock pot on the lowest heat setting until it is completely melted.
Put the decarbed weed in the reusable filter and place the filter in the melted butter. Steep for about three hours, stirring occasionally. The butter will turn murky and green.
Turn off the crock pot and let the cannabutter cool for about an hour so. The goal is to cool it enough it won’t burn you, but not so much it becomes too thick to strain.
Lift the filter basket out of the cannabutter, letting the liquid drain completely back into the crock pot. If the cannabutter looks disgusting, you’re doing it right. Discard the used marijuana.
There may be fine bits of marijuana and really gross looking milk solids floating in your butter. To strain these, simply pour the cannabutter through the emptied filter basket and into a clean container.
After straining you’ll end up with about a 1/2 c. of cannabutter.
Notes on Potency and Dosing
The most important thing to keep in mind if you’re new to cannabutter or edibles in general: YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY. Start small, give it a couple of hours to kick in, and adjust as necessary.
Effects aren’t immediate. I usually feel them between 90 minutes and 2 hours after I’ve eaten. If, after only 15 minutes you think “this isn’t doing anything” and you keep eating more, you could end up like the cop who made pot brownies and called 911 because he thought he and his wife were dead.
Personally, I find the cannabutter I make using these ratios to be nice and potent. But then I’m really sensitive to edibles. For example, if I use cannabuter as-is on an English muffin, I will only need a pat about the size of a pea.
If I make a pan of brownies, I will only need a piece about the size of a mini candy bar (that’s right Mini—the smallest size, not to be confused with her big sister Fun Size).
Since I typically only take weed before bed, a 9 x 13 pan of brownies can last 9 months—no exaggeration—saving me literally a thousand dollars over dispensary prices. (Pro-tip: Cut cooled brownies into full-sized candy bar-ish portions, vac-seal, and freeze. We use a FoodSaver.)
Step 3: Use cannabutter in a normal recipe
Keeping it real here. Cannabutter has a distinct flavor that you might find off-putting, especially if you’re a first-timer. I think it tastes the least offensive in things like brownies and peanut butter cookies.
You can use cannabutter in any recipe you want, though, not just sweet treats. If it calls for more cannabutter than you have on hand, simply make up the difference with regular butter.
When I make a 9 x 13 pan of Real Good, Feel Good Brownies (recipe to come later), I use 1/2 c. cannabutter and 1/2 c. regular butter.
You probably already know this, but just in case you don’t: you can replace most fats in your recipes at a 1:1 ratio. So you could swap 1 c. of vegetable oil with 1 c. of butter (and therefore cannabutter) if you wanted. What I’m trying to say is: you can also turn that boxed brownie mix in your pantry into something SPECTACULAR.
Do you make your own cannabutter? What advice would you give someone making it for the first time?
Did you find this post helpful?
Happy New Year, everyone. Historically, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day have not been very big deals to me, but I felt like celebrating today with 9 goals for 2020 if for no other reason than I’m feeling a little optimistic. (Note these are not resolutions I’m doomed to fail, just little nudges for making 2020 more fun than 2019.)
Stream a video game on Twitch
My brother Ryan and I live a few hours apart, but we still manage to get together virtually once a week or so to play State of Decay 2. He and my sister-in-law brought up streaming on Twitch several months ago. The idea has been percolating in my brain for a while, and I want to give it a try. No commitments to anything more than seeing how it goes.
Write a crossword puzzle
With my brain being what it is, I do word and logic puzzles almost every day to try and keep the neurons firing. Recently while working on a crossword with a really weird answer to a horrible clue, I wondered if I could make a better one. Now I’m obsessed with noodling out how to create the pattern of squares, make a functioning grid of words, and write good clues.
Though I’ve had a medical license to consume marijuana for about three years, Illinois just made recreational use legal. The govenor is clearing thousands of convictions as we ring in the new year. (Halle-freakin-lujah! More criminal justice reform, please, Governor Pritzker!) We can now grow up to five plants for private, personal use. I have several seeds in my position, and intend to give it a try. No biggie if I fail, but it has the potential to help me save a lot of money. This is one medication that is 100% NOT covered by insurance.
Complete a 100 Things post
I started my first blog on AOL Journals circa 2006, and I made a ton of online friends through that platform. I still keep in touch with many of those bloggers to this day. In fact, AOL J-Land (as we affectionately called it) is how I met my husband Dan.
One of the fun things that swept J-Land back in the day was writing a 100 Things post. It’s where you cobble together 100 facts about yourself and post the list. It’s like an ice breaker for bloggers. I recently and randomly stumbled across the Twitter account of a name I recognized from the AOL days, Kelly Sedinger of Byzantium’s Shores. I saw he still had a One Hundred Things About Me post, and got sucker punched by the nostalgia.
I’m going to post a new one soon. Honestly, I’ve been working on it for a few days already, so it seemed like a good addition to my 9 goals for 2020 list. (Yes, I’m one of those people who writes shit in her to-do list that’s mostly done just so I can experience the pleasure of crossing it off.)
Make new Zentangle videos
It’s been a few months since I’ve created any new content for my YouTube channel, because life is just that way sometimes, you know? But the meditative aspect of creating the art and then watching the time-lapse playback is so good for me. It also seems to be something that others enjoy, because my channel keeps growing. I can’t commit to a schedule for health reasons, but I can promise myself to just make “more.”
Track Swagbucks for a year
Swagbucks is a cash back slash survey website where you participate in polls, submit receipts, watch videos, participate in special offers and other junk, and then earn “Swagbucks” which can be converted to gift cards and PayPal cash. The catch is that they collect your data and make use of affiliate links. But you know, data privacy is for the financially privileged, anyway.
Last year as a casual user, I earned about $150. Which isn’t much, unless you’re broke. In that case, it’s a tank of gas and Christmas presents for the family. This year I want to track how much I make in a full year from January 1 to Dec 31.
For reference, I’m starting today with 355 SB (roughly $3.55 when redeemed). If you want to try it, use my link and we both get 300 bonus Swagbucks if you reach 300 SB in your first 30 days. (FWIW, I got to 355 in just 3 days, so that is very doable.)
Learn Krita and make a printable coloring page
I gathered up the Amazon gift card money I collected and finally purchased this stylus for my computer so I can do some Zentangling and sketching without killing trees or using up all my Micron ink. Krita is the free drawing program I will be using, but it’s pretty complicated and will require setting aside some time to learn. It’s kind of like Photoshop. Except it’s totally free.
I think it would be really fun to draw a coloring page and maybe host a cheesy virtual coloring contest sort of like those ones I always participated in at the grocery store when I was a kid.
Reach 100 Patrons in 2020
My goal for Patreon this year is to reach 100 subscribers. I currently have 29. I chose a people-based goal as opposed to a money-based goal because despite our dire financial circumstances, I really just want to find and connect with people who want to read Who You Gonna Believe and watch my Zentangle videos.
Reach 1,000 YouTube subscribers in 2020
Speaking of those Zentangle videos… 1,000 subscribers seems like a lot, but I’m giving myself a whole year to get there, and as of this writing I’m already at 485. The One Zentangle a Day series I did in 2019 really helped me establish my channel. This year I want to focus on producing higher quality videos. It should be doable now that I’ve got some of the basics sorted out.
So those are my 9 goals for 2020. What are yours? What are you looking forward to in the new year?
Normally at the end of December, I like to do a year-end post featuring all the books I’ve read. But I’m almost ashamed to admit I only read one book from start to finish this year—The Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries by Neil deGrasse Tyson. And, if I’m being 100% genuine here, I don’t even remember it because I listened to it on Audible to help me fall asleep. (Listening to astrophysicists explain space shit makes cancer seem really, really small.)
I’m probably boring you. Sorry. I guess what I’m trying to do here is explain why this 2019 Year in Review Post doesn’t feature a bunch of book recommendations and what I’ve decided to do instead: compile a list of my own blog posts—one from each month—for something like a highlight reel.
Oh, gawd. I just realized this is going to be the blog version of a clip show. I hated those sitcom episodes. They were always listed as new in TV Guide, but they just felt like someone was trying to put lipstick on a rerun.
Whatever, I’m almost 200 words into this thing now. Let’s just do it.
Bright colors help me cope—with gray winter days, with cancer, with the seemingly endless barrage of bad news that comes with being a politically aware adult these days. I love filling a page with color, and I love using alcohol-based markers to do it. By the way, if you’re looking to buy your own set, the Bianyos are more affordable and look every bit as lovely as the more expensive Prismacolors. (I know that Copics are supposed to be THE best, but ain’t nobody got money for that.)
I didn’t write much in February, but I did manage to post several Zentangle videos. (I tend to cycle through hobbies, focusing on one very intently for weeks or months and then taking a giant step back to re-energize.) Despite being a total YouTube noob, my channel grew from nothing to more than 470 subscribers in 2019. Wow! I’m looking forward to creating more videos in 2020. I received new art supplies for Christmas, and I’m itching to use them.
Desperate to make ends meet after a financial blow, I took a huge leap of faith and started publishing my memoir this year. I am so thankful for the Patrons helping me keep this project going, because if my only option was to publish traditionally, it would never have seen the light of day. Not because I wouldn’t love to see it in print, but because cancer has stripped me of the massive amounts of energy it would require to query agents or self-publish the entire tome at once.
March gets two entries, because Lincoln Financial Group’s decision to cancel my disability benefits was fucking devastating and the driving factor for my setting up a Patreon. Looking back on this open letter to their hired shill, Dr. Brian Samuels, I feel like I was too kind. What do you think?
Naturally, I fought back. And a huge part of my response to Lincoln Financial’s thievery was to simply talk about it. When I learned just how far they would go to keep me from successfully appealing their bogus decision—and then discovered how many others they’ve hurt doing the same thing—I figured the best way to punch back was show everyone what’s behind the curtain.
I was depressed for most of May. The only thing I wrote was Chapter 2 of my memoir. In it, I recount one of the many times Rodney tried to bury my self-confidence, which ultimately led to me missing a Brandi Carlile concert out of pure spite. I regret that I missed the show. I do not regret having a Rodney-free evening.
This summer severe storms (one a legit tornado) took out the giant maple tree in our backyard, ripped the weatherhead off our roof, and started an electrical fire at the utility pole near our shed, prompting me to call 911 for the first time ever in my life. For the rest of the summer, I was a little jumpy every time the wind picked up.
I kept after Lincoln Financial Group—because what choice did I have?—and in July Philadelphia Weekly published a piece about my story. (Both Lincoln Financial Group and Dr. Hartner are based in Pennsylvania.) There’s no way to know for sure if it had an impact, but I do remember seeing that LFG posted a third quarter loss to shareholders. Maybe that’s partly because potential customers decided to go elsewhere.
I wrote two posts in August that weren’t memoir chapters, and both were related to the ongoing ordeal with Lincoln Financial Group. One was an open letter (I wrote a lot of open letters this year) to Dr. Hartner’s colleagues at Penn Medicine. Site stats showed me that a lot of people using Penn Medicine’s internet read the letter, but not one doctor was brave enough to say publicly or privately that whoring for an insurance company was a bad look for the profession, let alone a conflict of interest. Which of course makes me think they’re all in on it.
Not surprisingly, I fell into a pretty significant depression. Well, it was more like I was pushed into a sinkhole of depression, and I didn’t blog or tweet much for a while. It concerned some people, which is never my intention. So I mustered enough energy to let everyone know it wasn’t because I had received more bad news.
In October I wrote once just to keep everyone informed. I mentioned why I had been avoiding Twitter and explained that because I couldn’t renew my WordPress.com subscription, I wasn’t really feeling excited about blogging. Then the most beautiful thing happened. People chipped in to help me keep the blog going. And not only that, but you all donated enough for me to move to a self-hosted site—THIS self-hosted site. And I love it. I’ve never been this happy with a version of my website before. I freaking love it. Did I say I love it? And I love you guys. Thank you so much.
My narcissist ex-husband “Rodney” tried to insert himself into my life again last month, 11 years after a pretty shitty divorce. I dealt with his cyber harassment this time the same way I did in 2012—when he tried to use my website to advance his career and his employer—by writing the truth until the compulsive liar in him slithers away.
I tried a writing prompt for the first time in, like, ever this month. I usually prefer reading fiction to writing it, but the exercise got me out of the doldrums for a little bit and helped me flex some writing muscles that I don’t have an opportunity to use very often. One thing that 2019 has made abundantly clear to me is that I need to do more fun stuff simply because it’s fun.
And there you have it, my 2019 year in review. Thanks to all of you for following along with me this year. For cheering me up when things get dark. And for having my back when things get ugly. I’m looking forward to hanging out with you in 2020. I’ve got fun things planned for us on my YouTube channel, in The Rabbit Hole newsletter, and with a brand new project. Stay tuned! 🙂
This post is about cancer and vomiting. Please skip it if that’s not your thing or it hits just a little too close to home.
I threw up into my favorite vomit bag this morning. It’s not something I do every day, but it happens frequently enough post-chemo that I’ve had strategically located vomit bags in place since 2017. In the drawer of the nightstand, in the end table by the couch, in the glove box, and in the seat basket of my Rollator. When those run low, I always have a backup stash in the linen closet in the hallway. (These are my preferred bags if you’re curious.)
That’s the cancer life, I guess—having a preference in vomit bags. I worry they’re not eco-friendly but have ultimately given myself a pass. Mostly because I move slow and reaching alternative receptacles isn’t always possible. But also because (pro tip for you here) stomach acid is a lot less likely to eat the lining of your nasal passages if you’re upright with a bag over your mouth as opposed to hunched over a toilet or trash can.
Anyway, I woke up feeling severely dehydrated this morning, which is another thing I still have trouble with over a year after my last gleostine: I always dehydrate when I’m sleeping. I keep water by my bed but it doesn’t really help unless I wake up to drink some every hour or so. A lot of times I do wake up. Usually to pee (go figure!) and I just perpetuate a vicious, vicious cycle. Sometimes though, what I manage to drink during the night isn’t close to enough.
So this morning I woke up with a pounding headache and was dying of thirst. I drank about ten ounces of water with my AM round of meds—Ritalin for my cancer fatigue, Vitamin D for a pretty severe deficiency, Synthroid for a thyroid my doctors destroyed (on purpose) fifteen years ago, and two Tylenol for my unbearable headache. I usually throw everything down in one take, but I was feeling cautious this morning. I dropped one pill at a time until I got to the last two. When I tossed the Tylenol on my tongue I immediately started gagging. I wasn’t always like this; brain cancer has definitely fucked me up. But these days I’m so sensitive I can’t even use toothpastes that are too foamy because they make me puke.
“Shit. I’m going to barf,” I said to Dan spitting the Tylenol into my palm.
“You still have the bags in here?” he opened the drawer of the end table and handed me one.
I lost my pills and vitamins. Thankfully, none of them were too expensive. But during treatment, I lost thousand-dollar pills this way. Then later I learned it’s not uncommon for cancer patients to vomit through a sieve for this very reason.
I’m feeling OK enough right now. After a Pedialyte pop (also a staple in our house) I was brave enough to try an English muffin and that went just fine. I can’t shake the headache, and it’s starting to settle into my eye teeth and molars. I figure I have about 30 minutes of screen time left before I classify this fucker as a full-blown migraine. Which sucks, because my migraine app just congratulated me for going three whole weeks without one.
Last thing before I go, though, because I want to log this: I have a hard pea-sized lump in my right armpit that’s been hanging around for about a week. Part of me is worried about it. Part of me is like, meh, I already have brain cancer. Oh! Brain cancer fun fact: we don’t get routine PET scans to check for the spread of cancer because—and I’m paraphrasing my oncologist here—brain cancer usually stays in the brain.
Yeah, so I know if this lump is still around when I see my new primary next month she’s going to ask how long it’s been there. If it’s in my blog, I’ll be able to answer that question. Could be just be a little infection in the lymph node—my immune system is pretty shitty after all. We’ll see if it clears up before my appointment. OK, leaving abruptly so I can log this migraine in my tracker.
Note: The post “Emily’s Christmas Ghosts Meet at Starbucks” is a response to Rubber Ducky Copywriter’s Writing Prompt Friday for December 20.
Tammy nudged Bart, who set his Eggnog Latte on the table and struggled to twist in his futuristic suit. “What?” Bart asked, annoyed. “I can’t see anything when I turn my head except the sidewall of this damn helmet.”
“Nick’s here,” Tammy said, gesturing toward the counter where a masculine figure in a white linen jacket and unbuttoned pink Henley ordered a Venti Caffe Americano. Tammy waved her arm above her head as Nick scanned the tables for his party. When he saw her, he nodded coolly and headed over to them.
The Starbucks on Neil Street was packed on the Monday before Christmas, but luckily Tammy had managed to secure a table near the entrance. Nick stepped sideways to avoid bumping into a bearded man pushing a stroller and then high-stepped over a young woman’s laptop bag before reaching them.
His chair scraped the floor loudly, momentarily drowning out the frenetic chatter of the over-caffeinated crowd and a festive Trans Siberian Orchestra track. “What’s with the get up?” Nick asked peeking over his RayBans. He nodded slightly in Bart’s direction, but it was Tammy who spoke.
“Don’t pick on him, Nick. It’s kind of a sore spot. By the way the 1980s called. Even they don’t want that suit.” Bart ignored his colleagues’ banter and sniffed his latte. He couldn’t take a sip without removing the entire Mylar onesie he wore, but if he lifted a panel on the helmet he could at least get a satisfying whiff of nutmeg and cinnamon.
“Very funny,” Nick made a face at her. “You do realize that in my capacity as Ghost of Emily’s Past Christmases, I am permanently attached to 1985? The first Christmas she remembers? The year she got her fist Cabbage Patch doll? It was either this”—he lifted his sunglasses and looked down at his white pants—“or the Rainbow Brite suit again. And those moon boots make my feet sweat.” He turned to Bart, “The future looks exciting though.”
“You know HR’s still got me on probation for the causality loop I created in ’08” Bart, the Ghost of Emily’s Future Christmases, said through his open helmet panel. “All I can safely say is that I forgot to double check 2019 climate conditions before I left the house.”
“Everyone looks fine,” Tammy said, hoping to avoid discussing why she was always wearing the same pair of pajamas to these things. It always brought everyone down. “Let’s get started. It’d be nice to finish this up before Christmas.” She opened a notebook and clicked the end of a ballpoint pen three times. “We’ll just focus on this year unless you guys have any objections. I know it’s the end of a decade and all, but rehashing the—”
Bart cut her off. “Actually, there was no year zero, so technically 2020 is not the start of a new decade.”
Tammy looked up with an incredulous expression. “You’re the only ghost I know who gives a shit about this stuff, Bart. Anyway…Emily doesn’t seem to be at risk of an Ebenezer Demerit this year, but there are a couple of items here that concern me—she missed Christmas cards for the second year in a row. Or is it the third now? And she bought four gift cards instead of real presents this year.”
Nick winced and sucked air through his teeth. “Yikes. I didn’t realize. Sounds like she’s phoning in the gift giving. Not good.”
Bart jumped in to defend Emily. He was a pedant for sure, but he was also the most sympathetic of the three ghosts. “You guys know Lincoln Financial Group still isn’t paying her right? They paid that Hartner douche instead. To pretend she was fine. She’s been broke and depressed since March.”
“Put that in her permanent record, Tammy.” Nick jabbed his index finger on the form she was filling out. “Also, that fucker’s ghosts better be recommending him for a lifetime achievement demerit this year.” Nick slouched back in his chair, holding his paper cup between his widely spread legs and throwing his right arm over the chair back.
“I’ll bring it up with whats-his-face at the treasury, too,” Tammy assured them. “I heard they were running low on lifetime demerits this year, but if they know there’s a need they might dump a few million more into circulation.”
Bart grunted his agreement.
“The rest of her 2019 looks to be as charitable as it can be, considering,” Tammy said before passing the form around for signatures. “Shall I call her in to give her the results and discuss next year’s goals and areas of improvement?”
“Yep,” said Bart.
“Let’s do it,” said Nick as he threw back the last of his coffee.