Uterus Liberation Day, or, Don’t Say You’re Sorry

It’s been a whopping 8 months since my last post, and there is so much I want to write about. But first, I’m going to wrap up that last rant with this cathartic summation courtesy of John Oliver on Last Week Tonight.

Ok, it’s time for stories about things actually going my way. After 6 years of not changing my mind, my preferred doctor finally consented to giving me a hysterectomy.

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I don’t care if it is a birthday meme, IT SPEAKS TO ME

The nightmare I described in the last post plus the severity of my pain was finally enough to convince her this was what I needed, PROMPTLY (reality: 5 weeks). I kept a handy countdown app on my phone.

COUNTDOWN CAP My friends and family were thrilled for me, and congratulated me while acknowledging that congratulations shouldn’t be necessary. Nobody congratulates you on getting your appendix out, and nobody makes you wait years to do it. I cared about my ute as much as my appendix. (Incidentally, like any good academic, I have a really really long appendix).

I am exceedingly lucky that I can count on one hand the number of insensitive friends or family that have disregarded or ignored my disease. Actually, I can count on one finger, and I bet you can guess which one I use to count him. In continuing evidence that I am surrounded by the very best people, my friends threw me a Hysterectomy Party.

Family even brought cupcakes from Boise for me!

Family even brought cupcakes from Boise for me! Courtesy of Lilly Jane’s Cupcakes.

UTEIATAEmily made me a pinata, complete with cysts and lesions and ovaries that will not cooperate. PERFECT.

I cannot tell you how good it felt to beat that uterus pinata with its own ovary. And we all concurred, burning a uterus in effigy was the most pagan thing any of us have done on Easter weekend.

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or any other weekend, really.

I had hoped that once I set a date for my surgery, I could cope better with my pain. I could always remind myself “Only 30 days…only 25 days…” but I was mistaken. Every day was worse than the one before it. I couldn’t go to work for the five weeks leading to my surgery. You could find me miserable in bed from painsomnia, or miserable on the couch clutching an electric blanket because standard hot pads were insufficient.  And angry, I was always exhausted and angry. My psych let me up my anxiety medication from “as needed” to “three times a day.” I did cross stitch projects, which made sense since I couldn’t move around and all I could think about were needles.

OVARYACTING

Picked up this pattern from Etsy shop NerdyLittleStitcher, the cysts and scars and endo growths were my idea. https://www.etsy.com/shop/nerdylittlestitcher

I couldn’t exercise, I’d been putting on weight, I hated my body and all my clothes, and I was teetering on the edge of a midlife crisis, mourning the loss of my 20’s and all the freedom and energy I had then. (In my 20’s, I fell in love, graduated college, got married, traveled, and danced all the time. Even with all my accomplishments, I feel as if endo robbed me of that decade while I cycled fruitlessly through every birth control available, continually upsetting my hormones and only ever making the pain worse).

The 1-10 Pain Scale is totally insufficient for a person coping with chronic pain. It’s appropriate for someone who’s just fallen down stairs, or a tooth ache, or childbirth (I assume!), something acute. I was operating (sort of) with a daily baseline of what I interpreted as 7-8. Even driving hurt– every bump stabbed. My doctor asked me, “How do you live?” and my only answer was “Ten seconds at a time.” I couldn’t plan for anything, couldn’t look forward to anything with excitement; even the surgery. I was sure I’d be feeling awful for a few weeks even after “Eviction Day.” There was still no identifiable end. I even had to reevaluate my Level 10. Yes, I found a pain higher than the strongest pain I had imagined. I tried to enter 11s and 12s in my symptom tracker, but…

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My doctor prepared me for two possibilities for my recovery. One, that since I had lived with so much pain, this too would suck. Both my previous surgeries left me worthless for at least 9 days. She prepared me for worse, with 40 oxycodone. The other possibility was that since I had so much pain, this would be relatively a breeze. After all, I had been “living” at an 8. I needed to take 15 oxy just to get me TO surgery. Vicodin no longer even took the edge off (and if you mention ibuprofen I might reach through the internet to slap you).

I was at the hospital by 6:30 a.m, and before the gas, my surgeon had me tell the surgical team about my hysterectomy party and pinata. They loved it.

POSTSURGERY

I was home by 6:30 p.m. with the huge relief knowing I had left my uterus, cervix, both tubes, and left ovary at the hospital. I felt so good I tried to eat pizza (I admit, a bad idea). But aside from that stunt, I didn’t have nausea. I didn’t have any bleeding. I didn’t feel the air bubbles in my shoulders. As for pain, I followed to the recommended dose schedule of the oxy, but stopped after 5 days! I only needed 15 oxy to recover!* I went out for dinner with my sweetie 3 days after surgery. When I saw my doctor for the post-op appointment, I had been off pain pills for a week! A WEEK! She was flabbergasted (and yes, she apologized for making this a 6 year process, so hopefully the next Katie that comes around has it easier).

In my post-op appointment, my doctor confirmed I’m recovering fine. She said the weirdest thing… “I’d like to see you back in… no more than a year.”

I went back to work in about ten days, and was able to attend graduation for “my” kids. I can exercise again. I love my scars. I can sleep and wake up rested and without pain. My clothes are starting to fit again. I am having days with no pain! When I do hurt, for the first time in my life, Aleve seems to do the trick. I’m still turned off to Ibuprofen.

There is so much left I want to write about, so I promise I’ll be back in less than 8 months this time. I’ve learned a lot this year about coping with chronic illness and hospitalization for both myself and my husband. Roughly a list of Do’s and Don’t’s, which I will begin here.

When I tell you about my hysterectomy, don’t say you’re sorry.

Endo wasn’t going to kill me, but hysterectomy saved my life.

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Springtime for Katie and Marylhurst, a photo essay

wpid-2014-04-09-22.14.25.jpg.jpegHello, dear readers. Believe it or not, I think of you often. But graduate school has demanded most of my writing-energy and time, so I’ve been away from my WordPress. Luckily, my professors seem to like my writing as much as you do, reader, and that means a lot to me.

I’m halfway through my program, and it’s been a whirlwind. Here are a few glimpses.wpid-20140409_202647.jpgGuess which one I helped on? The one with no straight lines and obvious structure, of course… complete with a ladybug (top right).

wpid-1398040825649.jpgBasketball was really fun– for a while.

wpid-2014-06-12-12.04.23.jpg.jpegThe first time I saw the sunshine caught in the campus fountain. Wow.

wpid-20140512_201854.jpgIf you have homework on your birthday, wear fabulous glasses, have chocolate and wine.

wpid-2014-05-12-18.12.48.jpg.jpegOh yes, I had a birthday. 30 circles around the sun.

wpid-2014-06-05-17.44.26.jpg.jpegI got a label maker.

wpid-2014-05-14-11.45.27.jpg.jpegI got to explore a hunch I’ve had for some time– that the words people use to challenge and ban books can be used to incite curiosity in readers. So I’ve been doing a little project that is one part research, one part art, and one part cheeky teacher. The above books are popular or frequently required reading and are just as frequently banned. I taped them all to block out the covers, titles, and authors. I labeled them with praises and criticisms, and then I taped the books shut.

2014-05-14 11.42.57 I want to draw attention to how people try to censor entire books based on single themes, scenes, or words. Taping them closed elicited a stronger response than I expected, and I realized that one of the best things about books is that they are so inviting. Drop one on the floor and it opens up, saying “read me!” Opening a book is automatic, it is instant gratification. Preventing that brings on emotional (and physical) responses from frustration to anger. It makes for fascinating conversation with students– even kids who hate reading discover they have an opinion on censorship when they learn the only book they ever liked gets banned all the time.

wpid-2014-06-09-08.52.31.jpg.jpegI spent several weeks observing at the nearest alternative high school. It’s a perfect place for me.

wpid-2014-06-09-08.50.40.jpg.jpegIn the spirit of the art project/phenomenon, Before I Die (which I did in the fall with my class). Here’s another good example.

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We were visited a few times by the blondest raccoon I’ve ever seen. Matilda agreed. But if there’s any place for a ginger raccoon, it’s my backyard. wpid-2014-06-12-11.41.12.jpg.jpeg

Speaking of Matilda, she’s in pretty good shape these days. Diana’s cat got an upgraded cat tower for Christmas, so the old one was bequeathed to Tilda, and Emily and I did some improvements on it.

 

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To top it all off (literally and figuratively), my mom made a wee little quilt for Matilda’s tower, which happens to fit perfectly. She sits on this at the window for hours every day with a look that says “What took you so long?”

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I write this on an anniversary of an important day for me and everyone who ever loved Matilda. So forgive me a re-post of my most popular entry, Thirty Days of Solitude.

Here’s a balance-in-the-universe prologue to that story: earlier this spring I saw a cute little calico hiding in our yard. A few days later I saw Lost posters in the neighborhood for the strictly-indoor-tortie. I called and met the lady, and I recognized the tightness in her throat and the hope in her eyes. Luckily, her kitty was still in our yard and they were reunited after 6 days. I had so much trouble communicating to her just how much it meant to me that I got her calico back to her. It wasn’t just a good deed, it was paying it forward.

So pet your pets, and tell your loved ones you love them. I’ll be back with more stories soon.

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What took you so long?

You may have noticed it’s wedding season

That means that it’s also anniversary season.

And that’s how I’m justifying a totally self-indulgent post for the 4th anniversary of

The Wedding.

The other WK wedding

I can see it now, the face you try to hide when a woman says

“Let me tell you how my wedding was the best thing ever ever ever!!”

No, please. Go on.

So I’ll start with something universally appealing. Cake. Don’t trust anybody who doesn’t like cake.

We got this tower of deliciousness from the wildly capable hands of Myriad Cake Design in Salem. Each level was a different flavor cake and filling (like white chocolate cake with raspberry filling, espresso cake with chai frosting…) and for our first anniversary she made us a fresh top tier–instead of that tradition of year-old frozen cake. I didn’t realize how many traditions are tied up in tying the knot… I puzzled over a few, and gladly ignored the bulk.

So, sorry* if you were upset that our wedding invitations were not the same colors as our wedding. Or if you were lost because we didn’t make a seating chart. Or if you desperately wanted my garter or bouquet.

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*I’m not sorry. I love colors, I dislike organizing, it’s my garter, and my bouquet was big enough to knock your ass out. Look at that, it doesn’t even fit in the frame of this shot.

But it’s still smaller than the heart of the man on my arm here. That sharp gentleman walked the aisle 38 years ago this month, on the hottest day of the year (much like ours).

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Mom scoffed at me when I thanked her for modeling a successful marriage for me. But seriously, they have pulled each other through sickness and health, through good times and hard, and raised two pretty cool people in the process. I never ever feared that my parents would split up, and I know that’s a blessing not everyone gets.

Pipple's Wedding Proofs 045Likewise Bill’s parents would shrug off such compliments, but I’ll say them anyway. They still crush on each other like newly weds. Because when a Pippel man finds the woman for him, he will go to any length for her, for ever. They showed him that marriage is one long adventure in love, 32 years next month.

Pipple's Wedding Proofs 163Enough mushy stuff. We have another thing going for us that we learned from our parents: a healthy sense of humor. No, scratch that. An unhealthy sense of humor. So much humor it bubbles over into unfunny things. We laugh at ourselves, we laugh at each other. And somehow we find ourselves laughing in the face of adversity; cancer, depression, epilepsy, and endometriosis. On a smaller scale (and more on topic) laughter was the soundtrack at Portland’s White House for our party. Our vows were full of jokes, our officiant was full of wine, and our clever friends showered us with toasts that elicited a lot of laughing out loud.

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Pipple's Wedding Proofs 268Those blurry orange things were one of the best ideas ever. It was crazy-hot of course, but I thought ahead and got paper fans in orange, white, and green. With my wonderful friends, we painted daisies on them. It made the heat bearable so we could laugh that much harder. Plus since they were all different original paintings, people had a great time choosing out their favorites. I’ve never seen people respond so positively to wedding favors. Good thing I ordered them plenty early, because I got a surprise…

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150 paper LANTERNS. For 10 seconds I thought “Well our wedding theme just changed drastically….” and then I hopped on the phone and made a big fuss over it. Like I mentioned, I ordered them with plenty of time to sort out the mistake…. but I didn’t tell THEM that. I put on a Bridezilla veil, just to see how it felt.

I’ve gotten word that many of the fans got extended use after the wedding– very useful for summer car rides. By now, the colors are fading (they are cheap paper, after all) but the hand painted flowers remain. I kept a few here on our wedding-shrine.

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wpid-2013-07-16-18.16.49.pngHere, a page from our wedding scrapbook that Jess created with more work and love than even our “photographer” put forth. This was an overwhelming gift, and looking at it always makes me feel surrounded with joy. It was a better wedding than I ever imagined was possible, and I have to thank all our family and friends for their love and support, before the wedding and beyond. So I raise a glass of champagne to you all and say again,

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 “With you, I know today is the happiest I have ever been,

but not the happiest I will ever be.”

More reasons to love where I live and the fluffy I live with

Hello again, friends!wpid-20130615_180618.jpg

I’ve been out and about lately. I’m pleased to be back at the blog to report the good times. I kicked off my summer with a weekend trip to Newport, Oregon. I was fueled by nothing but seafood, beer, saltwater taffy, and the laughter of my awesome cousins (hey, ONE of those things is on my diet). It might have started as a small family trip, but it snowballed into a gathering of our own little Rogue Nation boasting reps from several of our family tree tribes: Davises, Johnstons, Duzenacks, Clarks, Uleps, from Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, and Nebraska, 4 generations.

Good people to know, I’ll introduce you sometime.

I’ve lived in Oregon for ten years, but I spent my formative years in the comparative desert of Idaho, so I’m still totally enthralled by the ocean and other soggy parts of the west coast. If I’m still overwhelmed by the greenery of winter here, imagine how I was when I figured out sea urchins come in pretty colors and starfish like pool toys!

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wpid-20130616_122605.jpgWe visited the Hatfield Marine Science Center, where I was allowed to poke anemones, get sea urchin hugs, and feed seaweed to an abalone. We learned about estuaries, dug up shrimp from the mud flats, and thoroughly worked up an appetite.

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 In true Oregon fashion, you’re never far from your favorite things– essentially next door to the Science Center is the Headquarters for Rogue. It’s possible I’ve mentioned their products before.

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It’s possible we set up this photo.

And if all that wasn’t already a recipe for a totally happy trip, I got to do yet another one of my favorite things for some of my favorite people. Newportpoi

Spinning poi on the coast at night with a great audience made up not just of my family, but some strangers who wandered over to see too. It’s my new favorite stretch of beach to spin on– perfectly flat and stable, not a lot of overflow light from the buildings nearby, and with waves gentle enough we got some pictures with me calf-deep in water, the reflections are delightful (har har get it? Delightful?).

I’ll have those to share in the next post. For now here’s a nice one with my Death Stars. Or as I like to think of them, the Great Balls o Fire. When I did wade in the water with them, the combined light of the poi plus the reflections was so bright I felt blinded. I actually thought at 10 at night, “Damn I should have brought sunglasses!” But as I said, those pics to come…

In the meantime, I’d like to direct you to a re-post. It’s one of my favorite stories to tell, and it’s one of my most popular blog posts (but bear in mind I do re-post for every anniversary).

wpid-2013-06-23-14.22.36.pngPossible story titles include:

Matilda’s Grand Adventure.

Thirty Days of Solitude.

All She Ever Wanted Was to Poop Outside.

More Reasons Salem Friends of Felines is my Favorite.

DAMMIT CAT DON’T YOU EVER SCARE ME AGAIN EVER.

Day 3 in Elementary, or, Future party planners in the making

Fabulous news, I got to work two whole days this week! I even get paid for it… I’d almost forgotten what that feels like. I’ve been substituting in the same elementary school as last wee, working with 2nd thru 6th grade students, in all the 3 R’s. You might call it a circus. I prefer to paraphrase my Dad; I tap dance pretty well for a clumsy chick.

I have Valentines in my ETSY shop!

If you’ve heard my war stories from my other classroom jobs, buckle down for a new one. I don’t even know where to begin.

Ok, yes I do. I was the staff member on duty for 6th grade lunch, which largely means run around the four square games and yell “Hands to yourself!” and “That’s not what a jump rope is for!” I noticed a gaggle of girls huddling in the far end of the playground. Clearly suspicious. But I had to intervene in game of Wall Ball, anjd the blessed whistle blew before I made it over there through the mud.*

Luckily (ish?), a pair of girls came up to tell me “Those girls over there? They’re having a funeral…”

You may now let that sentence fragment wash over you. It took me at least 5 seconds before I could say “Go on?”

“They’re having a funeral… for a water bottle.”

You may now take 7 seconds, but I warn you not to think too hard because you WILL pull a thinking muscle, and Icy Hot doesn’t help that kinda thing. Seriously, don’t think too hard, because it actually gets weirder.

Evidently the girls made invitations for this funeral. The girls who came to talk to me? They came to me because when they went over to the girls (to pay respect, I assume) and since they didn’t have invitations, the mourners shoved the uninvited away.

Let’s use this moment to look at this beautifully designed and executed quilt— look at its simple beauty and geometric logic. Then say a happy little prayer that you are neither a 6th grade girl nor their lunch duty.*

In a lucky stroke of genius,  I wrote out some Mad Libs stories to fill time with them. If a kid can do a class activity AND use the word poop, they will all sign up (unless they’re too busy sharpening pencils). Thursday’s story developed into a tale where we all went on a field trip to the White House. When we were there we got to see 600 turkey-vultures and a billion saber-tooth-tiger-lions. Our field trip lunch included poop sandwiches and booger milkshakes.

I sincerely hope your weekend meals are poop- and booger-free. And remember, everyone’s invited to a funeral.

Hiding under a tree Indoors is better than hiding under a tree Outdoors

Isn’t that pretty and festive? Before I put the table cloth on our Pile-O-Christmas, I put a string of lights down, for a nice illuminating effect.

This post is really to check in with wishes that your holiday has been full of friends and family. It has been a particularly stressful and challenging month for many people I know, and I wish for positivity and support for each of them. I think of you often, and I hope 2011 brings good things.

Meanwhile, I’m still feeling pretty….

….laazy

Somewhat like the cat, shown here under the Christmas Pile, romantically lit with LED Christmas lights. I hope you’re taking it easy in this crazy time of year.

I promise to return to my blog again soon– this time in less than 6 days. There are things I have brewing (and not just in the kitchen).

For now, I offer you a link to my most popular blog post. By far.

Thirty Days of Solitude

Also, Maty says "HI HI HI Can I smell your face??"

I finally got to be in a high school talent show (and all I had to do was get a job at one)

Another tale of adventure from my days at RHS.

”]One part of the end-of-school-year-fun was the first Student and Staff Talent Show. I already knew that the staff I had the good fortune to work with were talented people. Talented, creative, very very very hard working people. Turns out they’re musicians and singers and artists as well.

I had to finally make good on my talk about fire dancing. My students didn’t believe I could dance. I got to bust out my just-acquired flashing LED poi and to jerry-rig my double staves to glow. Only a few of the students had seen this before– a few weeks prior I got the Willamette Poi Club to come give a little performance demo.

Great fun was had by all.

Naturally it’s a lot more fun with ‘the real stuff.’ So here’s a recent-ish video.

Thanks again to Lorenzo for his hard work on this.

The last day of school was the triumphant day I got to announce that Matilda had made it home. Speaking of which, her fame is spreading further– to cat lovers all over Salem. From Salem Friends of Felines “Mewsletter:”

this is a volunteer operation-- please support them

Did I mention Matilda is a licker? Licks like a puppy, it’s so silly.I hope the weather is nice where you are (and if it is, stop hogging it and send it over here!)

February and March–A spring of romance.

In February, Bill proposed to me. We’ve been together for 5 years. He’s supported and encouraged me with my art (and dance… and writing…) from day one.

Europe Vacation - London, Paris, Amsterdam

As usual, he brings out my best. I painted this as a gift to him after we went to Europe. I get really great feedback about it, so I love to show it. But the wall in our living room is awfully bland with its spot empty.

In March I got IMMENSE joy out of the wedding of two of my dearest friends. Nick and Jess. They got married at McMenamin’s Edgefield Lodge, and if you ever get a layover in Portland, it’s near the airport and is one of the best hotels I’ve stayed in. It was the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, so there were activities going on at the hotel anyway, so we were sort of just another spectacle in the halls until we got to the ballroom.

[Here] is where I would put a picture of the painting I made for them as a wedding present. Next time I’m over at their place I’ll take a picture of it. Like myself and other good Oregonians, they appreciate good beer. I designed a beer label with their names. A few years ago I did something like that for Bill’s parents:

Their wedding year and Alaska mountains

I scored really well that year with this gift. 🙂

I hope your New Year’s Eve was fun and safe. I’m a little too excited to write things in my new 2010 planner. I’m contacting places in hopes I can start writing in GIGS even.

Christmas missive gone digital

I have sent a LOT of mail this year. You could probably measure my mail by gross. I love to send mail. But it’s a matter of mental health that I not go to the post office for a while. I exceeded my Post-Office-Patience quota sometime in May. One benefit to moving out of Salem is that I don’t have to go to the post office with the woman who thinks I’m a moron. You bring a UPS box to the Post Office ONE TIME and suddenly you’re transformed from a (mostly) capable adult into a competitor in the Special Olympics of Mail.

Last time I went to the post office near our new place, my car battery died. So I’m just steering clear of it all. I’ll start fresh in 2010. Until then, I’m sidestepping the stamps and paper cuts and dyslexically written addresses. I’m going paperless. Digital. This is Christmas letter meets Photo Journalism.

In  January I was working two jobs in the Salem-Keizer School District. One was running a computer lab after-school hours for students to take online classes to make up for deficient credits. The other was as an assistant in a class at the area’s alternative school. It was a strange place to find myself, the most opposite a school could be from my own high school. I went to a huge high school in Idaho… and found myself teaching in an ESL class in a tiny high school made up of kids who had been expelled elsewhere. “Challenging” is an insufficient adjective. I worked in the midst of a supremely talented staff and I learned at least as much as I taught. Here are some of my guys kicking butt in the school Volleyball Tournament.

Proof that we got 6 to look in the same direction at the same time. ONCE.

Their parole officers are all very nice on the phone. 🙂 I’m so glad I got to be a part of the school and to work with the kids we had in class. I’d never have survived that class room without my teacher, Marianne. If you’re reading this, Marianne you’re a clown. When I say “survived,” I mean that in a more literal sense than when most people talk about their jobs that way. On April Fool’s day, she and I changed the sugar shaker with salt before they got there for their morning coffees and hot chocolates. I kid you not that it was ten minutes after one said “Oh we’re gonna get you back” that she and I realized the following: my keyboard unplugged, my purse missing, a paper covered in honey on her chair, and our security radio gone. We’re lucky that they were doing this in good-natured fun and not a backlash of sorts. They gave little hints to help us find these HUGELY IMPORTANT ITEMS. I’ve got a hundred stories like this.

Up next, February and March…