Sweet As Sugar

Normally when I throw a party I make my go-to, never fail to please, totally bad-ass Chicken BBQ as the main dish.  It’s delish, I can make it ahead of time and I can easily adjust the measurements to adapt for any size crowd.

I’m also getting bored of serving it. 

Not because it’s not good.  Rather, because I think I’ve over-done-it.  I’m concerned that my friends who faithfully show up for all my parties make their way into my kitchen and think, “AGAIN??  Doesn’t she know how to make anything else?”

In an effort to not be boring (ugghh – I shudder at the thought!) I started trolling the internet a few weeks ago hoping to come across a “new” main dish recipe for a crowd.  Maybe really good Italian meatballs, I thought.  Yes, that would be perfect.  Indeed, I found this adorable woman who has a great website called Cooking With Sugar.  She’s posted great instructional step-by-step videos on YouTube and is Italian. Win-win all around.

I did a test run and made them for dinner one night recently and they totally rock.  I will adjust the size of the meatball for a party though.  The ones she has on the video are the size of baseballs.  Or maybe a bull’s balls?  Or maybe those fake testicles that men with small… minds… hang from the back bumper of their big, overcompensating trucks?  Anyhoo – I’ll be making them more the size of a small golf ball for a party. 

Sugar also has a good recipe for marinara sauce on YouTube and her website as well.  Love her!

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Here’s Why You Need To Eat More Than A Cheese Stick For The Whole Day Before Having A Party

*Disclosure – Most names and identities have been changed in order to protect the embarrassed innocent.

 

When I opened my eyes I first registered the soft glow of the early morning light streaming into the bedroom above the curtain rod.  I looked over at the clock – 6:17 am.  I could see both clearly.

Uh-oh, that’s not a good sign.  It means I went to bed without removing my contacts.

Next I noticed my left knee hurt.  Did I fall?  Did I stumble into something?  No clue.

My mouth felt like a herd of elephants had trampled through it overnight.

I was still wearing my Madonna clothes, minus the boots, necklaces, earrings and rubber bracelets.  Ummm, did I do that or did someone else?  I had no recollection at all.

Then I waited.  Waited for the pain, nausea and general malaise to wash over me.  Waited to feel like absolute garbage, but strangely, it wasn’t happening.

I needed to go to the bathroom, but didn’t want to move.  I was afraid that if I did the inevitable hangover would kick in.  The following thought actually crossed my mind:

“How bad would the clean up be, really, if I shit the bed right now?”

And then it hit me.  I missed it.  I missed my own 80s party because I got S.H.I.T.F.A.C.E.D. and passed out during the height of it.

I MISSED IT!!!

Ohhh the regret!  The absolute sadness I felt!  I planned for this party for weeks; thought through every detail.  I wrote about each and every bit of minutiae I could think of relating to throwing 80s party – the fashion, the quiz questions, the food, the music.  How could I allow this to happen?  Oh what had I done?!?!  As I lay there in bed the few memories I had crashed over me with full force.  I rolled my eyes – Oh Dear Lord.  Boy, did I have some ‘splainin to do.

I couldn’t stay there any longer.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep.  Had to face the music.  After  s l o w l y  moving to get out of bed I walked to the bathroom.  “That’s weird”, I thought, “I feel great.”  It was 6:25 am.

I went into the bathroom, took care of business, washed the tri-colored eye shadow from my lids and then changed into yoga pants and a tank.  Ugghh.  What mess awaited me in the kitchen?

I tip-toed down the hallway not wanting to wake Charlie.  I didn’t know when he went to bed and I certainly didn’t want to wake him this early.  I turned the corner into the kitchen.  My jaw hit the floor.

It sparkled like Christmas morning.

The food was gone, presumably thrown away.  All of my entertaining dishes were perched upside down on the counter, washed and drying on towels.  I hung my head and slumped my shoulders covered in guilt with a side of humiliation.

Here’s how I got to this point:

Friday, May 11th, the day before my 80s party.  I took the day off from work in order to get the cleaning done, any food ready that I could and anything else that might pop up.  My house was already decorated with the fabulous 80s posters I bought through Amazon.  And I smiled broadly every time I looked at each of them – they made me so giddy I just couldn’t wait to hang them.  I got Emma on the bus at 7 am and went to work right away with getting things done.  Tasks were coming together quickly and I was pleased with my progress.  I even took some time to do a little dancing in between cleaning.  By the time Emma and Charlie got home I was dog tired and took a catnap on the couch.

I went to bed at my normal, “weeknight” time, 10 pm.  Then for no reason at 2:30 am – DING!!  I was wide freakin’ awake.  The only reasoning I can offer for this is that I was so excited it was finally May 12th.  I lay there until 4 desperately trying to go back to sleep and finally gave up.  I figured I would be totally pissed at myself later when I had a ton more to do and needed to go back to sleep.  There’s nothing worse than a tired, cranky party hostess, after all.  So I got out of bed, went into the kitchen and started to make my PacMan and Michael Jackson glove cookies (see my previous post, Blinky, Inky, Pinky and Clyde for details on how to make these).  Thankfully (because I’m good at party planning), I had made the dough a couple of days before.  While drinking coffee, I rolled them, baked them and marked them with a B (I’m totally kidding about marking them with a B, although I did roll and bake them).  It was 6 by now and I was cruising!  I was so excited – it was finally here – the day of my 80s party!!

I cooked the pasta for pasta salad and put that together.  “Damn I’m good!” I thought.  I got the filling together for my pepperoni bites (see my previous post, Get In My Belly! for details on how to make these).  By this time I had to get myself together to go teach Zumba class.

Class ended and was flying high by the time I got home.  After a quick shower to get the stink off, I had more coffee and a cheese stick and started cooking the bar-b-que sauce for the chicken (I had already cooked, shredded and froze the meat the week before).  Sauce & thawed chicken went into the crockpot and I silently congratulated myself on kicking major party preparation ass.  Then I sat down to put the icing on the cookies.  This took 2 hours.  By the time I was done it was 1 pm – 5 hours before the party was to start.  “I’m so good at this!” I thought proudly.  I was SO excited!!!

I decided to go take a nap and slept for 2 magnificent hours.  I felt so great when I woke and started getting really pumped – the countdown was on – 3 hours left until party time!

I showered again and dressed.  And oh how fabulous my 80s garb was!  I found electric blue leggings at Target, a tu-tu looking black skirt thingy at Goodwill for $3.00 (SCORE!), a lacy sleeveless black top to wear over a black bra at some slutty store in the mall.  I was SO gonna look the part!!  Thanks to ridiculous amounts of hairspray and pomade my hair looked like a rat’s nest and I held it back, of course, with a black bow I had fashioned by cutting up an old shirt.  3 different shades of eye shadow, pink, green and blue, went on my lids even though no one would be able to see them behind my badass Ray Ban Wayfarer knock-offs.  My lips were bright red.  I was bouncing off the walls.

Madonna?

Practicing this move since the 'Dress You Up' video debuted on MTV.
Thank God I could finally use it.

I was SOOOO excited!!!

Although it was very difficult, I refrained from listening to any of the 80s music loaded on my iPod.  I wanted to savor every note during the actual party along with my guests.  So instead, I danced along with Cee-Lo Green, Beyónce and Katy Perry.

I was SOOOOO excited!!!

Charlie had taken care of getting all of the outside stuff together at ‘Swing Bar’ (This will be explained in a future post; it wasn’t THAT kind of party – get your mind out of the gutter).  I just took a few final things (i.e., bottles of liquor) out back, along with my iPhone to hook up to the stereo.  I had a smile on my face the whole time – could barely contain myself!  I hit play and started the 80s music!

I was SOOOOOO EXCITED!

The clock struck 6.

HOT DAMN!  It’s time!  I’m SOOOOOOO EXCITED and I’m gonna have a drink now!”, I thought to myself.  I broke out the blender, added ice, and my Total Wine procurements: vodka, coffee liquor and Irish cream, hit ‘Mix’ and then poured the  Mudslidey chocolatey goodness into a martini glass.  The effects of the pure-alcohol elixir took their effect on the second sip.  I felt loose and fun.  (Note to the reader – this is foreshadowing at its finest.)

80s Hosts
  Me & Charlie. It was like 1984 threw up all over us.

The first guests pulled into the driveway; a lovely couple Charlie works with so I had to behave.  I set the drink down and put on the charm.  I offered the woman a drinky-winkie from inside the kitchen.  She accepted and into the house we went.  Next thing I know my kitchen is full of people laughing at each other’s 80s clothes and getting drinks from the blender and the rum punch I had already mixed.  I couldn’t let them drink alone so I picked up my glass again.  We moved into the living room where I had hung all my 80s posters with pride.  We laughed at the ridiculousness of our teen years, sung along with ‘Jesse’s Girl’ and sipped our refreshments.  It was really hot inside so we “took it out back”.  More people had shown up, including  Heather Locklear (who was sick most of the week) and I was PSYCHED to see that she was able to make it.  She was dressed in a neon-off-the-shoulder number and made my heart swell.  Her husband, Fabio, was wearing a warm up suit with a headband and I thought that was unusual (and kinda lame) because he is usually so fun with this kind of stuff.  Oh well, I get it, it wasn’t Halloween after all.

3 best friends

Hey Molly Ringwald, we ALL loved Jake Ryan.

A few pictures were snapped and my sides were hurting from laughing so hard over how great everyone looked.  Leg warmers made an appearance as did popped collars, lace-top ankle socks with heels, crimped hair and Miami Vice jackets.  I was running around making sure people had what they needed, checking the food in the oven and smiling from ear-to-ear like a complete ruh-tard.  Thanks to the Mudslide I was feeling NO pain.  Now, I don’t know what possessed me to do this, but I refilled my martini glass at this time.  Food was ready and I flung open the back door with the intention of letting my guests know they could eat.  Instead my dear, dear friends from a former job, Luke, Laura and Bobbie Spencer had just arrived and were walking up onto the deck.  They promptly laughed their asses off at the sight of me.  I was SOOOOOOOOOOO EXCITED!!!  I took them inside and got them squared away with the wine they brought.  Just a few minutes later we made our way outside to join the rest of the partiers.  As we got to where everyone else was hanging out, Laura Spencer says to me, “So who are all these people?”

She couldn’t have set it up for me any more perfectly.  I have ALWAYS wanted to do this… I took a deep breath, smiled and proclaimed…

“Everyone, this is Luke, Laura and Bobbie Spencer; Luke, Laura and Bobbie Spencer – this is… Everyone.”   Just like that scene in ‘Sixteen Candles’.  I was living the dream.

I took a moment to savor the scene.  My guests were having fun.  If they weren’t playing games or singing along with the 80s songs or filling out the 80s trivia quiz, they were laughing at the people who were.  I sure as hell was having fun.  And I carried my martini glass with me everywhere.

At this point, Heather Locklear’s husband announced he had a reveal.  Oooohhhh!  The music was turned down, voices kinda hushed, cameras appeared from nowhere and the sun even shone a little brighter with anticipation.  And then he removed his warm up suit (complete with break away pants) to display this little gem:

Fabio

It was on.  Thanks to Fabio, the tipping point of the party was crossed and CHAOS ENSUED.

Boys chased girls.  Girls chased boys.  Blondie was thrown to the ground by Fabio only to have him do push-ups over her perpendicularly!

 Push Ups

Much alcohol was consumed.  There were demonstrations of making out in the corner at a junior high dance, reminiscent of this…

Dancing

There was a lot of dry humping of inanimate objects (trash cans, tables, beer coolers, etc.).  There were costume changes, a moment of silence for MCA and a very energized, heartfelt recitation of ‘Paul Revere’ (I’m pretty sure this was recorded on Ted Nugent and Bob Marley’s iPhones and I must remember to kill them both in the very near future in order to destroy the evidence).  Prizes for the quiz were announced by Charlie.  3rd place went to Heather Locklear who received a ziploc bag of plastic Banana Clips.  Bret Michaels took 2nd and was awarded a snazzy ConAir Curling Brush complete with original packaging.  The GRAND PRIZE, a 25-year-old VCR, went to Molly Ringwald.

The whole party was glorious!  Just like a John Hughes 80s teen movie.  Only it was happening at my house.

At this point (I think) I was called into a game of beer pong.  I suck at beer pong.  So in order to combat my ineptness, I employ obnoxious distraction tactics on the opponent.  It was easy enough to do because it was girls vs. boys and boys are simple to distract.  I can’t believe I’m going to admit this here, but the boys, Ted Nugent and Bob Marley, were about to throw for the final cup.  I turned to my game partner, Nina Blackwood, on my left… and licked her boob.  Not the whole boob, mind you, just the skin that what was showing above her shirt, but still…

Oh and it worked.  The boys missed the shot.

Things were starting to get fuzzy for me around this point.  I know stumbling was involved.  I vaguely recall having a hard time keeping the Pac-Man cookie I was chewing in my mouth, Heather Locklear telling me I should put flip-flops on and having to pee a lot. 

 My outlook
This is how things were beginning to look to me.

I do remember one lucid moment where I thought this was bullshit because I had only had 2 measly drinks.  Apparently they weren’t so measly (she said with her eyebrows raised while leaning in towards you a bit).  I don’t really know what happened to me next.  I have a cloudy recollection of someone putting me to bed.  I think I said stupid shit to them too because ‘Drunk Jen’ thinks she’s sooooo funny!  Ugghh.  (Please don’t tell me.  I do not want to know.)

Thankfully, I did one thing right before the party started – I put my camera out on the table next to the stereo.  And although I passed out when things really started getting good, my fabulous friends took care of me and made sure I didn’t miss it after all.  This is how they did it…

Blondie instructed Molly Ringwald to start taking pictures.  Then Blondie totally

LOST.

HER fucking.

MIND.

There are pics of sweet looking Blondie kissing my 8×10 Jon Bon Jovi poster.  There are pics of silly looking Blondie, Bret Michaels and Andre Agassi licking said Jon Bon Jovi poster.  There are pics of estatic looking Blondie making my Jon Bon Jovi poster motorboat her boobs.  There are pictures of seductive-looking Blondie shoving my Jon Bon Jovi poster under her skirt.  There are pics of zombie looking Blondie showing off her Thriller-esque pose in front of my Michael Jackson poster.  There are pics of puppy love-looking Blondie petting my 24×36 Ferris Bueller poster while both were laying on the ground.  She looks CRAZY in each pic and every time I look at these I laugh to the point of tears.  It was like the movie ‘The Hangover’ in that the main character (me) goes M.I.A. and the friends take a mess of incriminating pictures so they can all laugh (and remember what happened) once it’s all over.  Of course, I can’t show them to you here because I still want Blondie to be my friend.  But know this ~ Everyone should have friends like Blondie and Molly Ringwald.  Oh, how I love them!

The next day I received reports that Heather Locklear had to pull over on the ride home so Fabio could puke, and Andre Agassi, Ted Nugent, and Charlie spent extended hours in bed.  In the days that followed, I had MANY attendees text, email and call to say it was absolutely fantastic and exactly what THEY needed.  I like to think that this party helped them to forget about mortgage payments and diapers and stressful jobs for a little while.  To remember a time when the word ‘Party’ was a verb and their only care in the world was when and where the next one would be.

So that’s what happened.  I was too excited, ate a mother fucking cheese stick the whole day and got annihilated on 2 Mudslides.  But you know what?

IT WAS THE BEST PARTY I’VE EVER HAD.

It was so good I think I need to do it again.  Yep – just have to have another 80s party.  I don’t think I’ll ever be able to replicate it, but a girl has to have a goal, right?

 And I heart them

Images *borrowed* from: Long Duk Dong & American gf – You Offend Me You Offend My Family.com; Molly Ringwald face – Red River Pak.wordpress.com; Fabio face – River Front Times; Heather Locklear face – lbcolby.blogspot.com

I Love America Because I Can Steal This Idea From Maggiano’s and Post It Here

I started working for a new company in April (well technically, they aren’t new – I’m new to them.  You know what I mean.  If not, stop reading now.  You are probably an asshole and we wouldn’t get along anyway if you’re into splitting hairs THAT much.)

I work from home and I am loving it so far.  Sure I miss Happy Hours and stuff, but not having to drive to work in east coast, mid-Atlantic traffic every morning and evening is worth its weight in gold to me.  It used to take me almost an hour to drive 17 miles.  Now I can spend that time doing something useful & get a TON of stuff done.  It’s the next best thing to teleporting (which I need to invent because it is AWESOME and then I could sell the technology and rights and finally have Oprah money [alternatively called Fuck You money – I can’t tell which one I like better so sometimes I combine them: ‘Oprah-Fuck You Money’, but I don’t mean to say ‘Fuck You’ to Oprah, because she, Gayle King and Rosie O’Donnell would totally come after me like some You-Aren’t-Giving-Away-Enough-Money mafia and sue me and take away all my Oprah-Fuck You money]).

But I digress.

Anyhoo, I had to go into the office last week for a mandatory face-to-face meeting.  In a totally classy move, upper management decided to take the entire department, about 40 people, to lunch at Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant.  We arrived and were shown upstairs to the private dining area.  A prix-fixe menu was strategically placed at several points along the table and it all looked delish on paper.  There was urbane business chatting and exchanges of pleasantries until the wait staff started delivering appetizers.  A couple of salads and the ubiquitious arichoke spinach dip were placed on the table.

And then there was the Bruschetta.

Nothing else in the world mattered at that moment.  Ahhhh… Fresh tomato, basil deliciousness.  Thankfully, there were no onions in it.  I’m not a big fan.  And I didn’t have any mints with me – after eating onions, my breath can wake the dead.  As I sat in front of my new colleagues and impolitely stuffed my face with the little slices of heaven, I got to thinking that these would be fabulous as a summer appetizer for any party.  I mentally catalogued the ingredients and made note to counterfeit the recipe as soon as humanly possible.  So I did and it was pretty damn good.

Here’s what you need:

French Bread, sliced into rounds

2 T. Butter

2 cloves garlic

1 Tomato, seeded and chopped

Basil, chopped

Kalamata olives, sliced in half

Parmesan cheese, shaved

Drizzle of Balsamic Vinagarette

Slice bread and place on cookie sheet.  Heat oven to 300°F.  Melt butter in sauté pan and add garlic.  Sauté for about 30 seconds – 1 minute.  Brush onto bread rounds.  Bake on top rack of oven for 3 minutes.  Check if bread is toasted.  If not, continue to bake in 1 minute intervals until lightly browned and crispy.

Top with rest of ingredients.  Serve immediately.

 Eat it up, yum, yum.

Texas What?

Ok, so I’m exhausted after writing that 10 part mini-saga, so I figured I should lighten it up some.  Here’s a fun, quick little story:

My work personality is drastically different from my real personality.  When I work I usually try to keep my head down and my nose clean.  There’s a lot of detail you have to pay attention to in Pharma and, because I am a Type-A perfectionist, I feel like a real ass-hair if I miss something when I should have been paying attention.  I know I have to stay focused on the work that is in front of me and usually only get up from my desk to go to the bathroom or get my lunch out of the fridge.  So when I’m in my job at Corporate America it can take me a very long time to get to know my colleagues.

This is difficult for me because I am also a very social person at my core and I would MUCH rather fuck off all day.  But that isn’t going to pay my bills, is it?  Still, all work and no play makes Jenny a dull girl.  (Thank you, Stephen King, for letting me plagiarise.)

Once I get comfortable with the work itself I can let my guard down with the people I am surrounded by for so many hours of the day.  This usually takes me about a year to do.  And when I do allow myself to make friends at work it’s kind of funny for me to watch their reaction to who I really am.  It usually goes something like this:

(At a Happy Hour I finally accepted an invitation for)

Me:  “…AND THEN I SAID ‘I’M SO HUNGRY I COULD EAT THE ASSHOLE OUT OF A SKUNK'” (I’m yelling because it’s always so damn loud at HH).

(Music screeches to a halt, my co-workers eyes have bugged out of their heads and jaws have hit the floor)

Every One of My Fellow Employees: “Ummm, I thought you were so quiet, serious and lady-like.”

Me: (One arm held high in the air above my head, usually with a martini in hand, and grabbing my boob or crotch, maybe alternating both, with the other hand) “SUCK IT, BITCHES!!!  YOU’VE JUST OPENED PANDORA’S BOX!!  HAHAHA!! (I’m still yelling because even though it’s totally quiet now, I have been unleashed.)

Many a beautiful friendship has begun this way for me.

For instance, last June the company I had been with for 6 years closed our location and moved all operations out of state.  We found out this was going to happen a year earlier (and heard rumors for the 5 years before that) so it wasn’t a big shock.  We kinda took it as license to spend the whole year fucking off.  Sure the work got done, but we could relax about it a little more than we normally would have.  It was glorious.  There were monthly countdown happy hours (although only my friend Kristin & I ended up going to most of them- I think this says something about us), clandestine trips to get mani-pedis and every day at 1pm there was coffee.

I didn’t really know all the people who would go to coffee, but Kristin dragged me along one day.  She told me I would love everyone and that they would talk about job postings they’ve heard about or resume tips or the whack-a-do on the second floor who was NOT invited to coffee.  I figured it was my kinda party & tagged along.  On this particular day, coffee was in Peggy’s office.

I only knew Peggy by name and reputation.  I had heard she was brazen and outspoken and knew her shit inside and out.  I was a little intimidated by her, but how bad could she be if Kristin raved about her?  When I got to the party I took up a spot in the corner and quietly observed the other attendees to size them up and see if they could handle the real me, Peggy included.

Well, she was bold and smiled the whole time and drank out of a wine glass.

I immediately loved her.

She was loud and obnoxious and funny as shit.  My kind of girl.  I felt comfortable and at ease around her and knew we could be friends.  And am glad to say, as I sit here now, I do think we are.  I don’t get to see her much because we no longer work together and she travels more than I, but let me tell you, I can’t wait until the next time I do.

Anyhoo – while at a soirée a few months ago, Peggy was in attendance and she made the most wonderfully fresh, delicious dish!  Perfect for any summer party.  She got the recipe from her South Carolina gays, so you know the shit is good.  The gays just make everything fantastic!

It’s called Texas Caviar and she gave me the recipe to share with you all here on my little ol’ blog:

2 – cans (15 oz) Bush’s canned black beans or black eye peas, drained & rinsed
1 – 15 oz can regular yellow corn, drained
1/2 – 3/4 cup diced celery

1/4 – cup diced green bell pepper

1/4 – cup diced purple onion
1/8 – 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 (14.5 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, drained

2 fresh medium jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and minced

6 tablespoons red wine vinegar

6 tablespoons olive oil (not extra virgin)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoonground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

Texas Caviar

Thanks Peggy!  Miss you!

Part 10: A Really Big Party… and Beyond!

Something has changed within me; Something is not the same; I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game; Too late for second guessing; Too late to go back to sleep; It’s time to trust my instincts; Close my eyes:  and leap!

~ ‘Defying Gravity’ sung by Elphaba, Wicked

I noticed right after the surgery, while still at HUP even, that every so often my heart would start beating really fast.  It could happen when I was sitting on the couch watching a movie or when I bent over to pick something up off the floor.  There was no rhyme or reason to it.  I would be ticking away normally for much of the day and then when I lay down to go to sleep at night – BOOM!  I’d be racing away.

Finally I went to my family doctor in March.  I explained to her what I had been through and she referred me to a Cardiologist.  “Oh Christ”, I thought, “Here we go again.”  They made me wear a Holter Monitor for 48 hours.  A Holter Monitor is a very sexy, bulky machine with electrodes and wires that are stuck to you in order to track your heart rhythm.  After the 2 days I returned it.  My doctor called me on March 17th, 2009 to tell me I had been diagnosed with Supra Ventricular Tachycardia – a rapid heartbeat for laymen.  (It was also the day my bff, Heather, had her twins! So this ended up being a very good day after all.)  A normal heartbeat is around 80 beats per minute.  Mine, when the SVT reared its ugly head, clocked in at 168.  ACES!  It was hypothesized that my Vagus nerve (the one that controls involuntary organ function) may have been nicked when the chest tube was yanked out of my thorax.  Thankfully, there’s a medication for that – Inderal.  One a day keeps the irregular beat away.

I invited everyone I knew to my ‘It’s Not A Tumor’ party in May.  Family, friends and co-workers all showed up to help me celebrate not having cancer.  I held the whole story pretty close to me and didn’t divulge most of the nitty-gritty details to too many people.  I was kind of bored by it all and really, they just needed to know the story had a happy outcome.

I prepped for weeks ahead of time.  Bought all the paper products necessary… prepared any food I could to freeze until that Saturday… cleaned my house to a sparking shine.  I’ve had big parties before, but I was really excited to host this one.  It was like a rebirth for me.  Mother Nature cooperated and the sun shone gloriously; the sky as blue as it could be.  Over 100 people came to my house that day – they brought champagne and chocolate and vintage bottles of wine.  Oh, they know me so well!  I shook hands and kissed babies.  We took a group picture and it is awesome – one of my favorites ever.  I can’t get everyone’s permission to post it on this blog though, so here’s my artistic license in stick-figure format:

stick figures

On July 10th, 2009 Dr. Kucharczuk gave me the all clear.  No new growth was detected in my final CT Scan.

It’s been 3-and-a-half years since my ‘mass’ ordeal.  I still need the Inderal every now and then – probably once every 2 weeks.  I consider it a small trade-off.  Also, I still have very little feeling in lower part of my right boob and along the incision line.  The best description I can come up with is that it’s kind of rubbery feeling on the inside when touched.  Good news is the scar has shrunk considerably.  Part of this is due to time, part of it is due to losing weight.  Here’s what it looks like now:

Me & Tommy Lee

The losing weight part I attribute to the promise I made to myself the eve of surgery.  I was so OVER feeling badly about myself that I took this second chance seriously.  I now work out approximately 5 days a week.  Some days I run and do push ups.  Others I do the Tony Horton (a.k.a. The Devil) P90X work out.  (He is an asshole for putting this program together, by the way.)  Last month I even got to realize one of the items on my bucket list and taught an aerobics class (Zumba) for 2 weeks while my instructor went on vacation.  I’ve lost about 20 pounds since surgery and am maintaining it well.  I’ll fluctuate a few pounds here and there, but I wear a size 4 or 6 (depending on the cut) and that is just fine with me.

I no longer accept what is doled out to me.  Rather, I ask for what I want and anticipate that is what I will get.  I don’t just go through the motions I am expected to go through because that’s the way it has always been.  Case in point… I recently switched OB/GYNs.  This is because the old OBG told me I have endometrial fibroids and need surgery to have them removed.  I wasn’t so sure about part of it and was questioning her about it.  She kind of dismissed my questions and acted like a pushy twat (pun intended) insisting I schedule the surgery right away.  I booked a consultation/paperwork appointment, but was uneasy about the way she treated me.  So after thinking about it for a few days I talked to Heather to find out if she likes her lady garden* inspector.  She said she absolutely loves him.  So I called the pushy twat’s office and said, “I will be changing offices and would like my records for my new OBG.  How do I go about getting those?”  I could have lied and said I was moving to another state/country/planet and I didn’t know who I would be seeing in the future so could I please just get a copy and not let you know how I really feel.  That’s what I would have done before November 2008.  Not anymore.  She can suck it now!  (Not literally – I like men too much.)

Yes, I still have my moments (it’s difficult for me to believe compliments about my physical self), but I find I’m more accepting of those every day.  For the first time in my life I feel healthy – mentally and physically.  It might have been this experience, it might have been turning 40… maybe a combination of both.  Who knows?  The important thing is that it happened.  Sure, I’m no Angelina Jolie, but I am who I am.  And who I am is a determined, confident, sometimes impatient, fastidious, decisive (with lapses of indecisiveness about really big issues), standoff-ish and guarded (until I feel a person can handle my true personality then I’m very loud, obnoxious and friendly), snobby (about certain things), smart, pretty girl who doesn’t look too bad for being over 40.  And is funny as shit (that’s the really important one – at least to me).

I actually like having turned 40.  At first I wasn’t so sure about it, but could care less now.  Besides, what am I going to do about getting older?  Stop it? Lament over it?  That’s no fun.  And I am all about having fun.  So why not embrace it?  Now that I am more accepting of who I am, I don’t have to question every word I utter or every move I make.  That I own my choices and I don’t care if someone else likes them or not because they are MINE.  If I didn’t have this health crisis experience, I don’t think my attitude toward this milestone birthday would have been the same.

While sitting in that hospital that first time I was told I had “a mass the size of your heart behind your heart”, I got really afraid.  Not just for the immediate situation that lay ahead of me, but for not having lived my life fully.  That was my biggest fearthat I had wasted it and the time had just evaporated.  That this was as good as it gets.  Yes, I had a great family and job and friends, but was I really living my life to the utmost extent?  Was I happy settling for being uncomfortable in my own skin?  Was I happy swallowing every true feeling I had?  Was I happy bowing to others because I was expected to be polite?  Was I happy maintaining the status quo and not growing and developing as a human being?

Nope.

For me, these questions are answered with determination and humor now.  I am determined to not feel poorly about myself anymore and to not allow other people to make me feel that way either.  So I work hard at keeping my body and mind healthy.  I like who I am now and I think other people do too.  If not, I don’t need to have them in my life.  And sure, I take things seriously.  At my core I’m a Type-A perfectionist, after all.  But I’ve realized that once I allow things to get serious, they become too real.  Humor stops it from being so real.  I try to put this into practice every day.  To practice loving myself and seeing the silver lining.  To practice having high energy and laughing at most things in life.  To practice being the best person I want to be.  And though I do not believe that practice makes anything perfect, I do believe it can make anything practical.  That if I am realistic with my expectations of myself and make certain they are useful, I can be the person I want to be; not some lofty ideal I can’t possibly live up to.  I find I often look for what I can change about myself to become who I feel I have evolved into.  Admittedly, I don’t act on every impulse I have – it’s gonna take me a long time to change the really big stuff.  It’s a work in progress and will continue to be for the rest of my life.

Many of my life’s goals that flashed before my eyes when the E.R. doctor told me I had some unknown glob behind my heart have come to fruition.  We did go to the Grand Canyon in July 2010; we drove across the American West for nearly a month in July 2011; I started writing this blog in January 2012 and have begun sketching an outline for a book; I’m considering getting certified to teach aerobics.  I even had very tasteful pictures done by famed “erotic photographer” Scott Church (yes, his work is pornographic, but it truly is art). 

Here’s how I feel about myself now…

Stronger

And so that is why I decided to write about parties.  Sure they can be a lot of work, but the ends justify the means.  And who doesn’t want to be surrounded with people they love and who love them in return while celebrating every little thing life throws at you?  Time passes at lightning speed. Who knows how long you’ve got?  You can let it get you down or you can grab it by the balls and take it for what it’s worth to you.  For me, no way am I merely going to survive it.  I’m going to make it count.  My life is now focused on seizing every opportunity I am given and having fun with it while loving myself – imperfect parts and all.  And if an opportunity I’m looking for doesn’t present itself, you can be damn sure I’m gonna seek it out.  DO EVERYTHING!  That’s my new Modus Operandi. 

And there ain’t nothin’ I can’t do.


*I did not come up with the term “lady garden”. That honor is reserved for Jenny Lawson, “The Bloggess”, who is awesome and should be worshipped by all people, animals, aliens and zombies. You MUST read her blog… The Bloggess.

Part 9: Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

The couch became my new best friend.  I spent most waking moments, and all sleeping moments, on it.  Emma hated me sleeping in the living room.  It was a reminder to her that I still wasn’t “normal” (if she only knew!) and every day she asked if I would be sleeping in bed that night.  Truth was I could not lay in bed; the incision affected all of the muscles in my upper body and my abs were unable to contract enough to lift me.  I couldn’t even roll over onto my tummy.  Besides, my shoulder was still throbbing and I could not use my right arm to push myself up off the bed.  So… sofa city it was, baby.  I actually liked it.  I didn’t feel as though I would disturb Charlie and the sofa engulfed me; kind of like being in utero.  And if the Vicodin wore off and the pain woke me up I would be able to flip on the tv until another pill took effect and I got sleepy again.

On a side note, I don’t know how people people get hooked on prescription meds – ugghh – they make me so nauseous.

Anyhoo, the major bonus to sleeping on the couch was that the angle of it allowed me to prop myself up so I could easily stand up all by myself and walk to the potty, like a big girl.

A week after the surgery I was finally allowed to shower.  I am NOT the type of girl to forgo a shower for a single day, let alone a week.  Truth be told, I often rinse off twice a day – in the morning before work and in the afternoon after working out.  So this ‘not being permitted to bathe’ shit was messing with my girlie-ness.  I was dying to get clean.  To let the water wash away the hospital smell from my skin.  To send the memory of alien abductions and I.V.s and having my heart stopped down the drain.  Dr. Kucharczuk’s orders indicated I could remove the bandages and let the water contact the incision site and the chest tube site one week post op.  Although I could move around just fine (actually much better than expected), I still needed a little help with the bandages.

Now, it is important for you to know that Charlie is not good with medical stuff.  He nearly passed out when we were in childbirth classes and again when Emma was being born.  He can’t stand blood or poop or vomit.  He’s not going to look at the stitches in your hand or watch endless replays of Theismann getting his leg broken by LT.  So I knew it was a big deal for him when he volunteered to help me with the bandage. 

The protection over the chest tube site was easy enough for me to remove on my own.  I peeled the gauze away from my skin to reveal what, I thought, was a disgusting gash (and I hate the word ‘gash’ because it makes me think of, what I imagine would be, nasty vagina).  The wound was an open and weeping.  It reminded me of a muppet’s mouth – like freakin’ Beaker.  It gave me the willies and I had to fight the urge to cover it up again right away.

"Meep-meep-meep-meep-meep-meep."  
Translation: "I'll kill you in your sleep."

I started the water for the shower and Charlie came into the bathroom to help with the bigger bandage.  Gently, he began to peel away the tape and gauze from my body.  He gasped out loud and I thought I might need to catch him.  He steadied himself and muttered, “Jesus Christ.”  His face turned pale and he stood to my side with his mouth agape.  (Remember, neither he nor I knew how big the incision was until this point.  We were both still under the impression that it would be 5 inches at the most.  Apparently even the very best doctors do not concern themselves with such cosmetic absurdities.  They just do their job and forget about your vanity or shallowness.)

I spun around to look in the mirror.  Frankenstein stared back at me.  Although the surgical team did a supurb job with the suture, it was immense.  I was horrified!  Without taking my eyes off the mirror I instructed Charlie to turn off the water running from the shower head.  I needed time to inspect this shit.  Beginning at the side edge of my right boob it snaked across my back to within 2 inches from my spine.  I told Charlie to go get my flexible sewing ruler.  Normally I would have asked him politely to retrieve it for me.  I had no ability to be polite in that moment.

It was so red and angry looking.  So U.G.L.Y.  It folded over onto itself.  My body was still swollen from the invasion, so the entire area was puffy too.  It was hard to believe it was my skin making this grotesque line across my back.  I stood blinking at it for the better part of a full two minutes before Charlie came back with the tape measure.  I made him hold the tape up to it.  That’s when I found out that I had been quartered; that it had taken Dr. Kucharczuk an entire foot of cutting to get the cyst out of me. Charlie had enough and left the room.  Standing there, looking in that same mirror again, I could have easily sunk into a depression.  Easily dropped back into my familiar habit of feeling sorry for myself over this new abhorrent piece of me.  But I thought back to the night before surgery and the vow I made to myself.  To love myself – “ugly” parts and all.  So instead, I shook it off -there was nothing to be done about it now.  Why lament over it?  I simply had to accept it.  And that is what I did.  ‘It rubs the lotion on its skin’ was not lost on me and made me giggle.  Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, my sense of humor kicked back in.  It felt good.  It occurred to me that it would be funny to name my scar.  Maybe Slytheryn or The Incredible Hulk.  Hmmmmm…those were ok, but this needed something bigger than life itself.  Something with *panache*, but suitable at the same time.  In the end, I decided to call my long, red, engorged, ugly, enormous scar ‘Tommy Lee’.  Flamboyant, but befitting.  And it was funny.

My scar's namesake.  I'm so proud.

Christmas was a little tough.  As I said before, the meds made me very sick and sleepy.  An invasive surgery like this leaves a person weak and my energy was easily zapped.  I had some visitors over the holidays who understood my plight and stayed for about an hour or so before giving me a kiss (I couldn’t be hugged!) and saying good-bye. 

These people are friends. 

I had other visitors who were completely fucking clueless and thought they should stay for hours on end without giving a rats ass about my compromised state. 

These people are family. 

To make matters worse I felt as though I had to entertain them.  “Can I get you something to drink?”  Thankfully, Charlie  intercepted the pass and did it for me.  After plastering a phoney-baloney smile on my face for about 5 hours Christmas night (I reminded myself of The Joker), I had enough at 10 pm and went to bed.  This was the first night I attempted to sleep in bed and it SUCKED.  I still couldn’t use my abs or roll over.  I had to wake Charlie at dawn to help me up in order to go pee.  We did laugh about it though because the similarity between me and the little brother rolling around in the snow in A Christmas Story was striking. 

Over the next 2 months of recouperating at home I started getting stronger.  Believe it or not, I rehabed my shoulder by painting Emma’s room, ceiling and all.  I thought it would be good for the range of motion.  It took me 3 times as long as it normally would have, but I did it and the room looked fabulous.  2 bright pink walls, 2 bright tangerine walls – perfect for a tween girl.  

It was during this time at home that I began to sense a change in who I was.  I also began thinking about how this was a perfect reason to have a really big party.

Stay tuned for Part 10, in a few days…

Images *borrowed* from: Beaker pic – The Muppet Mindset.blogspot.com; Tommy Lee pic – Dr. Dot.blog-city.com; Randy pic – Fan Pop.com

Part 8: Recovery

I regained consciousness as I was being lifted from the surgical gurney onto my ICU hospital bed.  There were a lot of nurses around me, but my eyes were still taped down so I couldn’t see how many.  My throat was sore from being intubated and I was only able to feebly whisper two words: “Where’s Charlie?”

The nurses were so sweet.  One of them said to me, “We need to make you look beautiful again first honey.  He’ll be allowed to come in soon.”  She removed the tape from my eyes and wiped them clean with a warm cloth.  I opened them and saw the time on the clock across from the bed – 7:37 pm.  12 hours since we left home.  8 hours since I was taken by aliens.  Was Charlie even still there?  I thought about how he would be beside himself that he wasn’t already home to take care of Emma.

Then I became aware of my body.  I looked at both of my hands – there were 3 I.V.s in the right and 3 in the left.  At least that’s what I thought I saw.  I cannot imagine what medical reason this would have served – maybe I was hallucinating.  Who knows?  The incision site was sore, but not as bad as you would have thought.  I supposed because all of those nerves had been cut.  The chest tube was uncomfortable and icky (yes, that is the technical term), but not unbearable.  The catheter was gross in general and I tried not to think about it.  I didn’t have to concentrate too hard either because of the white-hot searing pain ripping through my right shoulder.  Having my arm propped in an unnatural position across my body for 4-and-a-half hours left those muscles in shreds.  I could hardly move it.  I am very right hand dominant and tried to scoot myself up more on the bed with my elbow.  Bad idea.  Not only could I not support my own weight, it sent a jolt of acute agony through my entire upper right side.  It took my breath away and I gasped; my eyes bugged out of my head.  A nurse noticed my discomfort and brought me a hot pack to ease the pain.  If I could have moved I would have hugged her.

Charlie had been called and was waiting in the hall while they cleaned me up.  I remember him walking around to the left side of the bed and brushing my hair off my forehead. “How’d I do?”  He said I did just fine and that Dr. Kucharczuk told him it was the second largest cyst he had ever operated on.  That it had been infected at some point in my life and that is why it had adhered to my internal organs.  That removing it was like peeling sunburnt skin.  For someone who had just been unconscious for 8 hours I was dreadfully tired.  My eyelids were so heavy.  Charlie left and I went back to sleep.

I woke up around 11 pm.  A nurse was sitting in a chair to the left side of my bed reviewing some charts while monitoring me.  She had set up a floor lamp up facing her in order to not allow the bright lights to disturb me.  She looked over the top of her glasses at me, smiled and said, “Hi sweetheart.  How ya feeling?”  “Tired” I told her, “I’m so tired and my shoulder is killing me.”  She nodded and said that was normal; that I had been through one heck of a surgery.  I drifted back to sleep.

I woke early on Tuesday morning, around 5.  I was wired; wide-freakin’-awake.  The nurse was gone so I turned on the tv and watched the news for about five minutes.  Apparently there isn’t a huge audience at 5 am so there was nothing else on worth watching.  I sat there wondering if this is what it was going to be like for the next 3 days.  “Shoot me now”, I thought.  The pain in my shoulder was excrutiating.  I clicked the buzzer for the nurse.  To my chagrin there was a new one tending to me; she was fine, but not as warm and fuzzy as the one from overnight.  I asked her for a hot pack for my aching shoulder and she left to get one.  I took note that my speech was slurred.  When she returned she instructed me on how to use the Morphine button.   I suddenly became very aware of the tape on my back holding the epidural in place.  Bleeccckkk.  She left the room and I immediately began clicking the button incessantly despite knowing that only so much would be distributed at a time.  I had been up for a whole 10 minutes.  Then I passed out until rounds started.

Dr. Kucharczuk, his surgical assistants and about 5 gazillion interns came in to see me around 8:30 am.  He asked how I was doing.  I smiled and said, “Sleepy.”  He assured me this was normal, checked the receptacle the chest tube emptied into and moved on.  I tried to stay awake, but it was impossible.  Next thing I know the nurses are in my room at noon to give me a shot of Lovenox in my tummy (that really made my butthole clench) and get me to sit up in a chair.  The shot hurt like a bee sting and i wiggled around at the thought of it.  The nurse sat me up and hesitantly, I moved the 3 feet to get up off the bed and into the highback chair.  I fell asleep almost as soon as I sat down.  At 12:30 a woman was standing at the armrest saying, “Mrs. Newlin? I’m blah-blah, the physical therapist.  We need to get you up walking today.”  But I was so damn sleepy.  “No way” I said to her, “I’ll never make it.”  I noticed again that my speech was slurred.  She looked at me incrediously and got pissed.  She reiterated that this was a very necessary part of recovery, put one hand on her hip and chastised, “You need to get up and moving.”  I very firmly told her I was not going to walk today.  That I couldn’t do it.  That I feared falling, even with the walker she had brought along.  Her face flushed red with anger and said something like, “Well, I WILL be back tomorrow and you WILL walk then!”  She turned on her heel and bolted.  “Lick balls, bitch” I thought, “You’re not the boss of me” and promptly fell back to sleep.  I stayed in my sleep coma for the next 5 hours.  A nurse helped me move back to bed and right after Charlie and Emma walked through the door.  Poor Emma gasped at the sight of me.  “Oh Mom” she said.  But I could barely stay alert.  They drove an hour-and-a-half to see me and stayed for about 10 minutes.  I just couldn’t stay awake.  Oh the guilt!

Don't be confused.  This isn't me.  
I know it's hard to tell the difference.

The next day they finally figured out that my meds were too high.  Imagine that.  I don’t take ANY medication and my tolerance is extremely low.  With the medication adjusted I was able to stay awake like a normal human being.  The physical therapist came back with a chip on her shoulder.  I looked her right in the face and said, “You may want to check my chart.  My meds were too high for me and I could not stay awake yesterday for more than 5 minutes at a stretch.  You may want to listen to a person when they tell you they cannot perform whatever is on your agenda and not get so pissy.  Today is different.  Now give me that walker.”  She actually apologized to me and put the walker (complete with tennis balls on the bottom) in front of me.  She placed the catheter tube, chest tube, my epidural tube and my I.V. tube in the hooks on the sides.  She told me she wanted me to try to circle the floor twice.  I did 7 laps.  “Lick balls, bitch” I thought.

The next 2 days were pretty much the same.  They removed the catheter on Wednesday night.  The chest tube came out on Thursday morning.  That was freaking disgusting.  Dr. Kucharczuk’s assistant and a nurse came in to do it for me.  They removed the stitches and instructed me that I would need to exhale strongly and bear down as they pulled the tube out.  I asked if it would hurt.  “Yes” they confessed.  The nurse held my left limbs down.  The assistant held my right leg down with her right hand and released the clamp with her left.  I felt a pop in my chest.  Then, like a drill sargent, she screamed at me to exhale.  I did and she whipped that tube out of my body with force and purpose!  The wind was knocked out of me; a burning sensation shrieked through my insides; someone kicked me in the balls and I don’t even have balls.  That is what it felt like.  I panted and squeezed the handles on the sides of the bed to regain composure.  As I did the opening oozed fluid down my side.  Gross!

Charlie showed up about an hour later to take me home.  I was released, with one last trip in a wheelchair.  On the ride home I had to recline the seat; the meds induced motion sickness.  I didn’t care though.  We made it home in time to pick Emma up from school.

Stay tuned for Part 9 in a few days…