Sorry I’ve Been Away…

We were going to do some traveling. We got into a bad accident.

But now I am wearing a foot boot and I am on the way to recovery. My husband sustained tougher injuries, but he is also on the road to recovery.

I will be back on schedule here at the kathleenwcurry blog soon.

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Fall Has Arrived

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Fall arrived last week.

The days have been growing shorter. It won’t really feel like Fall (temps in the 40s-60s versus 80s-90s Farenheit) until Halloween is here. But signs of late summer and early fall have appeared.

Partridge pea flowers are blooming. Morning glories are blooming. Sulphurs and Swallowtails have been here all summer. But tiny butterflies, stout butterflies, and harvest colored butterflies (in orange and yellow and brown), are flying all around in the late morning and well into the late afternoon.

It won’t be long until the swamp marigolds are blooming around waterways. Acorns, hickory nuts, and sweetgum balls will soon be underfoot.

As pedestrians crush the acorns, the sidewalks will be covered in saffron yellow crumbs. The acorns and other seeds that were spared pavement and hungry squirrels will nestle down in a thick blanket of old leaves until spring.

Nature is always beautiful thing. This season brings with it a mixed bag of other likes (and a few dislikes) for me.

DISLIKE: I don’t look forward to being cold. Not so much outdoors, but indoors. The only beverages most restaurants offer are cold, and they are running an odd combination of AC and heat. I ask them to hold the ice. I carry decaf tea packets in my purse, and I hope restaurants have a tea spigot on their coffee machine, or a microwave to heat up some water. Many restaurants don’t have decaf coffee on hand and I try not to drink caffeine after 4pm.

LIKE: I have a collection of crazy patterned socks to wear everyday. Wearing tights or other spandex also holds in heat without adding bulk.

DISLIKE: The cold and flu bugs that go around.

LIKE: The changing leaves are beautiful, especially when the sunlight streams through them. New England and the Blue Ridge are bracing for record traffic. But anywhere cool and at higher elevations has a brilliant show all its own.

DISLIKE: Christmas overkill arriving too early. Hearing Christmas songs in stores on November 1.

LIKE: Fall and winter are seasons offer more people opportunities to showcase their individuality and creativity.

  • Carved pumpkins are beautiful. Extreme Pumpkins out of Detroit always has a impressive show of last year’s carvings.
  • People’s costumes for Halloween. People who don’t have $30+ to throw at a store bought costume can get pretty creative.
  • Every year I see more Day of the Dead food, decor, etc. appearing in stores, its awesome to see this Mexican cultural phenomenon take off in the US.
  • There’s some really beautiful woven work at Interweave. It’s not cold enough to wear it here, but I love the slideshows.
  • Seeing Northern Lights online. [One day we’ll see them in person.]
  • New plays come out. New art comes out. A lot of Oscar hopeful films come out.

For all the likes. For all the fun, beautiful things, I’ll put up with some cold. In the meantime, I am watching for butterflies.

Fibroids

It’s not about words this time, so I’m posting on wildcard day. This post is over 3000 words, so skim to the TL;DR at the bottom if you don’t have that kind of time, or don’t like reading biological/health stuff. 

A year ago today, I had a laparoscopic hysterectomy. But I will back up…

PERIOD WEEK:

During “period week” every month from 2010-2015, it was a lot like having a stomach flu. I was running to the restroom constantly. It was as if my system “woke up” during this time and decided it was a fine time to have a liquidation sale: “everything must go.”

I was anemic, bloated, and gassy. I got horrible sleep. I wore the biggest pads, but I was still paranoid about leaks. I slept on a towel just in case.

I was achy. Ordinarily I would just take NSAIDs for 2-3 days and the worst of the pain would be over. If my NSAIDS weren’t working, I’d use a heating pad.

I haven’t worn white pants in 25 years. I haven’t gone swimming much at all. When I was near a pool, it was inevitably “period week.”

THE DISCOVERY:

By 2014, periods lasted longer. NSAIDS weren’t working so well. There would be other aches (not cramps) that, like lightning, came and went. I thought it would stop happening; it didn’t. So I went to my gyno in the Fall of 2014.  I got a ultrasound, and that’s when I learned I had a fibroid. This happens to 30-something women. A lot of them: to the genetically predisposed, to women of color, and to the more voluptuous ladies among us. But I didn’t know about that happening in my family.

I had the option to do nothing about it. I could bear with it, and it *should* stop growing once I was in my 40s.

I opted to have this one pedunculated fibroid (looks like a hornet’s nest dangling from the top of the uterus) removed in January 2015. Then I had a followup scan two months later.

The new ultrasound revealed that there were rapidly growing fibroids that weren’t even detected months before. Apparently, my uterus was a fibroid farm, with different types in different locations. And maybe more were growing on the outside that the ultrasound wand couldn’t possibly detect.

There was a lot of thinking to do.

DECISION FACTORS:

I could keep getting these things cut out every few months, in the hopes of still keeping the “still have kids” window open. Each surgery, if I didn’t have insurance, could cost at least $30k. But to what end? How costly would all those repeated procedures add up to be? If I got the whole thing taken out, this would be over quicker, and less expensively. I just had to let go of the biological offspring option idea.

It would be really hard to get on with our lives if I had to get repeated surgeries several months or years in a row.

For added complications, we’d seen TV ads for lawsuits about fibroid removals that led to cancer. I didn’t want to take the steps to fix the situation, and just make it worse in the process. The more fibroids a woman has, the more I would suspect one of them could be a “rancid tomato” whose contents are capable of spreading cancer around the abdomen. So it seemed even more risky to have repeated morcellation procedures.

We talked to my doctor on two separate occasions before I decided to have the hysterectomy. He/she affirmed that the devices used in those recent lawsuits aren’t in use anymore. My procedure would use a DaVinci.

THE SURGERY:

There’s an animation here. In this procedure, they took the whole uterus, fallopian tubes, and cervix out of a very dilated vagina. The vagina was sewn shut at the top. The ovaries are still in place, but they release eggs with nowhere to go. All released eggs are absorbed by the body. The patient does not experience menopause until her ovaries have run out of eggs.

So I had that done a year ago today. I went in very early, so once I proved I could walk around the hall and use the restroom, I was free to go. I was in and out the same day.

THE RECOVERY:

At first I was forbidden from lifting things because it could tear where the vagina was sewn shut, and organs could fall through. Yuck.

I had to walk a lot. I was easily fatigued. But it got better over the course of a couple months. I didn’t have to take a lot of pain pills. I haven’t had complications in followup appointments. I made a point to eat more fiber and stay hydrated so that for any pain meds I did take, constipation would not be an issue. I had read about the procedure and aftermath at Kronda.com, a woman who had been through the same procedure a couple years before me, whose blog I discovered online. [If you know somebody taking painkillers awhile, stool softeners, laxatives, and a bouquet of broccoli or fruit are a nice gesture. You would think the hospital would provide these, but even if they do, they are quite possibly stupid-expensive.

Days after my surgery, I called my family to tell them what happened. They were sad I did it alone without telling them beforehand, but they were glad I was okay now. In talking to my sibling, I learned who else in the family had had fibroids.

My spouse, always a wonderful support, was really good to me. My best friend and family sent flowers, which is always nice.

Months later, I could lift anything I could pre-surgery, and I was back to normal. Actually, probably better than normal given the drama I used to have every 30 days. I don’t miss buying pads or NSAIDs.

My fibroids could have been so much worse. I feel lucky to have the doctor I did, and to have sought the procedure when I did. Some are not as lucky.

THE AFTERMATH:

NEW PHASE, NEW HAIR: I’ve given up coloring my hair dark chocolate once a month and that’s saved cash, time, a messy sink, and the packaging trash. With this procedure and turning 40 soon, it just felt right. I think it will be much easier to maintain as we travel more.

I grew my roots out from July until December. Then I got a pixie haircut so I would look nice (okay, nicer) in holiday family photos. Who’s that in the short salt and pepper hair and glasses? Oh, right.

After a year of growing it out, my hair is salt and pepper gray with several white streaks around my face. I’m not a master with wax and product. I haven’t mastered a faux hawk or gel-based pompadours. I haven’t updated online avatars just yet.

I just might buy white pants and a swimsuit.

THE BIGGER PICTURE:

Since the procedure, I have thinking of all the other ways this has been a positive change and happened for the best.

Since I’m not anemic, I can get back to donating blood on a regular basis. I have a desirable donor type. It’s a good thing that I’m comfortable with needles. [I don’t know how someone could be lifelong hypothyroid and not comfortable with needles. I get blood drawn pretty much every GP visit.]

Seeing tampon, birth control, pads, and cramp meds on TV is strange: wow, that doesn’t apply to me anymore. 

HYSTERECTOMY ON TV: Sister Evangelina on Call the Midwife had this procedure (albeit more difficult and with a longer convalescence in the 1950s; they made a bigger cut into a woman’s abs back then.) Like a lot of Evangelina-isms, her observation was priceless: “No need for any great fanfare. It’s just an old pocket in some apron that I’ll never use.” 

THE MEDIA & SOCIAL SCENE: IS IT JUST ME? Evangelina was a nun, though, living in a home with nuns of all ages, and working with young midwives, in a tight knit small town called Poplar, in postwar England in the 1950s.

In the real world, in the 2010s, in the US, it’s not easy to find same-age peers who’ve gone through a hysterectomy, except online. So many women around me have babies and kids, and they identify and hang out with other American women with babies and kids.

Hollywood women between 30-50 are having kids left and right, all over the globe. So let’s just say this procedure is alienating in that regard. Am I one of the guys now? Is it time to join the Red Hat Ladies? Another group?

Fibroids and hysterectomies don’t usually make it to (non-PBS) primetime TV, the web, or the news. Most likely there isn’t going to be a The Real Hysterectomy Honeys of Homosassa, or Barren in Bismarck, or other drama series anytime soon.

So I and other women who’ve been through this have to hunt down common ground on message boards, websites, and blogs. Because it’s the internet, we have to type in the just the right subject keywords to find information on the subject. It doesn’t just appear in our inboxes, or get delivered by a godmother, or stork. I just learned this year that July is Fibroids Awareness month.

This sucks because it’s not just me, or any other woman that had this procedure, or will have this procedure in the future. But it can definitely feel like “just you” when your culture that doesn’t acknowledge hard things, or disorders, nearly as much as it does life’s “happy” milestones. Or it acknowledges women’s issues mostly in March (women’s history month), or pink-laden October. Medical challenges don’t happen during a convenient PR month, though, they happen all the time.

Sometimes daytime TV touches on women’s issues. But how many women are home during the day, and even if they are home, are watching daytime TV like previous generation did with their afternoon stories?

It’s the avoidance and refusal to talk about hard things in primetime that are less than perfect/ideal that’s a problem. When you get bad news about your body that you didn’t see coming, it’s like being hit by the proverbial bus. When you don’t hear about it happening to anyone else, I reiterate, it’s alienating.

My motivation for this post was to talk about hard things, and encourage other people to talk about hard things with their younger family members. A lot of people go through life with the attitude bad things can’t happen to him/her, until those things happen.

If you are a young woman and want to have kids someday, your aunt blogger here hopes you discuss fertility, fibroids, thyroid problems, and breast and any reproductive organ cancers that run in the family with your parents, just so you know what you’re potentially dealing with. If you can afford a genetic test, it probably can’t hurt to get one. If you are adopted, I hope your biological parents had some documentation about family history to share with you because you deserved to know. If they didn’t, a genetic test is the next best thing.

Broaching the hard things with our moms, the family history of fertility and cancers is something the grown daughter is more likely to bring up to the parent, not the other way around. I didn’t, I should have. The wonky periods. Fibroids. Cysts. PCOS. Infertility. Midlife chin whiskers. Cancers. Thyroid flip outs. Rapidly declining metabolism. Other estrogenic Murphy’s (Murphette’s?) law type stuff. Please talk about it.

Some women don’t get a lot of time to detect these things and get it dealt with. As of this writing, the youngest woman to be diagnosed with breast cancer was 10Linda Creed, lyricist behind Whitney Houston’s The Greatest Love of All, died of breast cancer at 37 after fighting it for years. You might recall that Angelina Jolie had multiple procedures because she learned she carried the genes for reproductive cancers. In prior years, Jolie had lost three women in her family to those cancers, including her mother, who was 57. Was that ever gonna be front and center on E! ? Was that going to come up on the red carpet? Likely no. Jolie wrote an Op-Ed for the New York Times. Then it was entertainment news.

When Generation Y (today’s adults), Generation Z (today’s young adults), and the Alpha Generation (today’s little girls) want to be moms, I think they should know some things. For all the cute babies in media that everyone’s having (like its easier than tying a shoe), the truth is fertility has been difficult for a lot of Generation X moms, mom’s siblings, and mom’s friends. It happens to the famous and not famous. It happens to princesses, and royalty is chronically, singularly obsessed with offspring more than the average in-law. How does this aunt blogger know? It’s gleaned from newly released books, interviews about those books, and just digging around on the web. I guess because I don’t have kids I have this kind of time. For some, kids just aren’t happening at all. For some “no kids” was a choice, but for others, it was inconvenient genetics.

It concerns me that once a decade is over, the issues get shelved and not brought up again, as if they won’t be repeated in some fashion if people just don’t bring them up. But they can, they have, and they do. And another generation of moms and non-moms gets hit by the proverbial bus because no one wants to talk about hard things in the family genes, or culturally. It appears like the only time you can bring up something hard is after something happy occurred after it. You know, the ubiquitous athlete mini-biopic type story.

We can’t prevent all hard things from happening, but communication about potential problems makes people better off about their choices, and working with what time is available.

In my view, based on more proactive conversations I could have had in my life, Moms and their grown daughters should discuss fertility and reproductive cancers in their family history sooner than later.

Thanks for reading.

TL; DR: Though usually benign, fibroids hurt, can be debilitating, and they can mess up fertility for 30-something women. I had several fibroids when they were discovered, and the best option to me was a hysterectomy, so I got one. Everyone’s decision is different.

Sources and Other References:

Kronda.com (especially if you are going to have a hysterectomy procedure)

Fertility for Colored Girls: July is Uterine Fibroid Awareness Month

Fibroid Relief.org

Barrier to Motherhood: Raising Awareness of the Fibroids Crisis

May 18 is Fibroid Awareness Day (I had no idea before writing this post)

HysterSisters

Call the Midwife

thenotmom.com (I am intrigued about this site and only heard about it 7/11/16)

Jennifer Aniston’s op-ed for Huffington Post, July 12, 2016

 NEW! Refinery29 Slideshow: Childfree celebrities 

Sorry I’ve Been Away. . .

I’ve been creating an e-class with my husband called The Remote Worker IT Toolbox. If you want to check out some free lectures for our class, here’s some links: the first is Google Drive and the second is Security and Passwords.

There’s also a companion website, WifiWorkerBees.com, and a Twitter account, @WifiWorkerBees. We’ve both been posting stories about remote work, digital nomads, co-working spaces, and remote working trends in our own Twitter feeds as well to build a community focused on remote work.

The last six months have involved brand brainstorming, doodling logos, fine-tuning said doodles in graphics software (for a final logo I am very proud of), writing courses, creating presentations, and rehearsing presentations to sound more at ease on camera, then editing those videos and posting them online. That was all a lot of work, a lot of I hadn’t done before (talking to a webcam, video editing, writing a class) and next comes the marketing!

Easily Confused Words will be making a return in the next couple days.

Thanks for reading!

Excerpt from Real Life: Sea Change, Lessons Learned

(WRITTEN LATE JULY 2014)

Recently, I got sick with a stomach virus and body aches. By day three, I feared it might be something more serious. Thankfully, I went to the doctor and got a clean bill of health. Four days in, I was back to normal. Not everyone is so lucky. If a virus attacks your nervous system, for instance, it can be crippling or even deadly.

Getting this break made me think about how I’m spending my working hours, and how is that working out? How did I get sick? How do my frustrations, my stresses affect on my immune system? What could I do to change things for the better all around?

In the wake of my illness, I made realizations and changes.

Sadly, local print journalism might have been a way to get a following in the 1980s & early 1990s, but I can affirm it most definitely isn’t now. I’m at midlife right now, I really don’t have 20 years to lose in trying to get a following in an old-fashioned medium that doesn’t have readership, or much brand awareness, in its surroundings.

When I requested interviews, I had to repeat whom I wrote for several times, I heard silence when I mentioned the name. The brand isn’t new, it’s actually been around for years. I know it exists, I wrote for it over 50 times, but yet I am talking to new business owners in my city and they don’t have any idea about that brand. It’s the state of current culture I guess. It’s a crowded marketplace, lots of things are demanding attention. And people don’t want to be featured in your paper unless it’s THE paper in town. You’re not THE paper in town if people haven’t heard of it. And THE paper in town typically gives poor reviews to restaurants outside its own zip code and the desirable address zip codes.

I think there’s some romantic delusions that come with all jobs. But I think you hear them more from jobs that don’t pay well, like journalism, teaching, and non-profits. These jobs have an odd juxtaposition: they’re white collar jobs, they expect or demand education, but they pay the same or slightly better than fast food.

  • One delusion is if I keep on trucking it will pay off eventually. Careers and pay are supposed to move forward and advance. Thing is, so many don’t, the people in them just get older and more experienced and get paid less every year for doing the same work. Or worse, even more of the same work.
  • A second delusion is, others quit or stagnated but it won’t happen to me, I’m too good. I’m too talented. I have a brand-name label education. I’m not like them. If talented older people around you quit, know they were you once.
  • A third delusion, I am performing a community service and the community knows, recognizes, and values my efforts. I mean too much to them, they don’t want to see me fail and won’t let me fail. They would miss me if my writing ceased.
  • A fourth delusion is there’s an occupation deity/angel looking out for me because I such a good-hearted person for doing what I do for a profession.
  • A fifth delusion, is it’s not about the money. That is a major cliché phrase these days. Everyone’s working their passion because it’s hip to say that. However, it’s easier for someone making $100,000k or 75,000k or more to say it’s not about the money than someone $20,000k or less. All jobs at their base, are about the money, whether you need the money or not.

I gave this job two years. I wanted these stories to be great samples, and on some level, I thought I was performing a community service telling residents about new business in their area, in a fresh, non-critic fashion. I wasn’t trying to talk readers out of checking out new business, rather, I was trying to introduce both parties and give the readers reason to check the new business out at least once. I probably put far too much effort in research and word choice given most locals aren’t reading what I write and the pay was minimal.

It doesn’t matter how good a journalist you are if no one’s reading the content. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, right?

Everyone is a celebrity of their own making these days. Today a person has to build his/her personal brand through a blog, through writing a book (or books), or all of the above. When he/she does write articles in someone else’s publication, it’s an advertorial for his/her brand to drive sales of the books, presentations, films, etc. The editor gets credentialed content in their publication, the author has a platform to provides examples of his/her knowledge and reaches buyers in the process. It’s a win-win.

So what will I do next?  I want to produce my own books and other products that meet the needs of underserved markets. I am really interested in health, pathology, psychology, human experience, tech, and cultures of rising economies of the world. In the food arena, I’d like to focus on international foods education for better health in American culture. I want to learn more about social media via a variety of online work assignments. Editing, writing, or producing e-books and blogposts for people who know what they want and ideally, want it within a week or two. Fiction would be a fun diversion. I want to take more online classes and team up with my spouse in teaching a few about making remote work really work.

I reiterate that:

  • Creating a sample portfolio of published news articles with a byline was awesome.
  • Using my gift with words to tell a story and hopefully drive business was awesome.
  • Talking to people about what they do was an absolutely wonderful experience.
  • I am grateful to everyone I met.

I handed in my final story to the paper with my resignation last week. My story printed, there’s one more to go. I haven’t heard a peep about my resignation, but what did I expect?

Followup: I got a message a week or so after my resignation that my editor wanted me to write a story about another restaurant’s recent revamp. I had the awkward moment of saying I guess you didn’t read my message with the last story I submitted. I wrote about all the new openings I was aware of (there were four) and then handed in my resignation with the final one.

That was two years ago in summer 2014. When I pick up the paper now, it appears I was not replaced. The column space is still dedicated to restaurants, but it’s filled with a press release put out by the restaurant and it sounds as canned as you probably imagine.

Excerpt from Real Life: The 20 Year High School Reunion

The first week of June, twenty years ago, I graduated from high school. And spoiler alert, I am not going to a reunion this year.

I attended the same school system in the same town from kindergarten through 12th grade. I think that was long enough.

I was a long-haired brunette and the younger sister of another long-haired brunette. [Why the long hair? Our dad is a total Hispanophile, having fallen in love with Rota, Spain during his Navy years.]

If I was well-known, it was by default. I never felt “popular.”

For someone who lived in the same house and the same town all that time, I felt alien in a lot of ways. We were a Navy family, not a storied last name in these parts. Our last name (my maiden name) was German, but not pronounced ethnically; we had to spell it on a daily basis. We were Catholic. We all had dark hair. In the South, blonde and blue-eyed has been the beauty ideal for a long time.

My circle of friends was the ‘nerd herd’, a circle of mostly girls and one guy who would graduate in the top ten. Most of them were in gifted programs (the ones that let you skip class for another activity several days a week), but I was not. All in all, they were a good circle to be in, even if sometimes I wondered if I belonged in their company. This circle was my date to prom for two years in a row. Somehow, even with my lackluster math scores, I managed to graduate at #9.

I am in touch with a couple of these friends on Facebook. One, my best friend, I’ve been in touch with the most. In the last twenty years, it has become apparent friends like that don’t come along very often. I was fortunate they came along twice: once with her, once with my husband.

This year, the reunion is being planned by former cheerleaders and their ensemble. Predictably, they’re choosing the activity, they’re setting a date, and they’re lobbying their circle to hunt down the outer limits of the class of 1994 on Facebook. It’s $65 a head to hang out with people I had no choice about hanging out with for the bulk of my young life. People who think they know me, people who probably think they knew me.

I think I’ve seen this movie and the ending is predictable. I will regret going, and regret feeling upbeat in anticipation. No thanks. And thanks to social media, there isn’t too much about my life people couldn’t figure out from a Google search.

I won’t say it was all bad, but school was a lot of other people telling me what to do and what I was capable of. Some of my strengths, but mostly my weaknesses. Early on, I scored high on reading tests, but because I thought through my answers before speaking, I was labeled slow. It took parental intervention to put me in an appropriate class. The word “introvert” was unheard of.

I was a daydreamer prone to petite mal seizures. I was bad at math. I was not athletic. I would take walks and listen to my headphones. I spent most evenings in my room drawing, reading, or listening to the radio. I was avoiding a grumpy parent who I was nothing like personality-wise or interests-wise, and that wasn’t okay. I lived with a lot of daily anxiety because I thought every stranger saw me as this parent did and it had me shaking in my boots. I didn’t have my own car. If I had, I might have left for good.

School is full of judgement. The clothes you wear tell everyone about how much your parents make. As your teen years arrive, you can add your acne to how you are being judged. Some teachers played favorites while being pretty cold to other students. If you were a younger sibling, you learned your teacher’s relationship with your older sibling mattered a whole lot in how you were treated (you know, because you weren’t being compared enough at home.) Some Christian teachers were nicer to the souls they felt were”saved” versus those who are not. Some students or teachers with a unique religion encountered repeated scandal and controversy from parents and faculty even though they were perfectly fine people. And probably needless to say, gay kids couldn’t comfortably ‘come out’ in a small Southern town. Even if it’s something didn’t happen to me directly, seeing it happen to other kids didn’t feel good. These were all unfortunate life lessons about the petty, shallow side of human behavior. Are any of these things worth reliving, or celebrating? In my mind, they are not.

When you run into people from your past, you get reacquainted with who you used to be, whether you want to or not. It’s not always a bad thing. But I think the question is, do you want to feel like that person again, yes or no?

‘No? Then don’t look back.

PS: Have a good life, class of 1994.

If you liked this post, you might like” Graduation, or Findings.”