The San Jose Pop Up Choir

Performing “Little Town” for Kidney Action Day – I was Belle

Up until about 2 years ago I had only had one truly close friendship since college that I didn’t meet at work.  One of those work relationships developed long past that job, but the others all ended every time I transitioned.  Friends I had from college and after pretty much all got married and had families, leaving more and more married to work.  When I moved to San Jose almost 6 years ago I ended up in a work environment that did not really harbor any friendships for me, and I became desperately lonely.  My doctor had been recommending a website called meetup to me for several years, and I was lonely enough to start considering the possibility of facing my social anxiety to try something new.  I really missed singing, but all of the local choirs I could find were very “official,” requiring auditions, money, strict attendance, and musical skills that I really don’t have.  Then a coworker told me that she had once visited a meetup group called the San Jose Pop Up Choir, a small group of people that get together to sing karaoke at a little studio.  I had never sung karaoke and, despite my love of performing, the idea terrified me.  I checked out the meetup and the next one was going to a Sound of Music singalong at a movie theater.  Now THAT I could do!!


I met Teresa and Kathleen at that theater, and the rest is history.  The San Jose Pop Up Choir is now my family.  I have found people like me there… single, professional, mid-30s, overworked and lonely in the Bay Area.  I have found people a generation or two above me who are living proof that aging doesn’t have to be boring.  I have found “kids” a generation below me, and been able to observe just how special and unique and admirable these beautiful snowflakes truly are – they endure a life far more rigorous than I ever have!  I’ve watched people come to meet a New Year’s Resolution to overcome stage fright and a year later belt out Whitney Houston by themselves.  I have found the friendships that I never expected in my tiny subgroup called Quarter to Ten.  I have found family.


I love the tagline on our new website: Making friends one song at a time.  Because, really, that is our priority.  Honestly, we don’t care if you can “sing” or not (whatever that means).  All we care about is that you will support an environment where people can make music with their voice and laugh together.  And, shockingly (or maybe not so much), as people who think they can’t sing relax in a nonjudgmental environment, they suddenly discover that they CAN sing.


Because we are such a wonderful group, we are growing.  This year we have grown a lot.  When I became a “serious” member almost 2 years ago, we were lucky if 20 people showed up on a Friday night.  Last night was special because it was the last karaoke night in our current space, but there were about 40 of us!  We are performing more, putting on our own showcases, singing at events and fundraisers.  We have never charged for a performance, unless it was to cover expenses; in those cases it is usually US that pays so our guests can enjoy the evening for free.  Last year we raised over $3000 for victims of hurricane and fire disasters. Our stage is small, making rehearsals cramped and difficult, and it’s increasingly easier to trip over cables these days.  We keep buying more equipment as we grow and become more active, but it’s expensive and breaks down.  Some music can’t be performed at a formal event unless we can purchase licenses (Even songs like White Christmas!).


We’re in the process of moving to a new location (Well Sinohui is – we’re along for the ride), and we need to make some upgrades – a bigger stage, some better equipment, promotional material like business cards and postcards, things like that.


Will you help us?


Click here to read Sinohui’s story and watch a video of our signature song (in which for some reason I can’t keep my chin down).

This holiday season we will be doing lots of caroling – a toy drive and downtown Campbell to name two – and would love for you to join us!

Here are our two upcoming big events – we’d love to see you there!!


(Turn your sound up) – Free Holiday Concert



GISH 2018 – Change A Life: Rwanda

GISH 2018 – Change A Life: Rwanda


Y’all, I love GISH!  I love the craziness of it, the weirdness of it, the community of it.  Most of all, I love the extrinsic motivation to do good in the world.  Last year, the GISH community rallied the world to save a special program in South Africa.  This year, we will impact a community of Rwandan Genocide Survivors.  It is so fitting that my team is called Carry On My Wayward Sons.

Please please please, check out my team’s crowdrise campaign.  Read the remarkable story of Olive, who started a cascade of transformation through her risk of forgiveness.  Share our campaign.  Consider contributing just paid hour of your life by donating your hourly wage – in this way you are pouring your time and energy into this community even though you can’t be there to do it in person.

If you are interested in learning more about the Rwandan genocide, this is an excellent article by the UNHCR.


Looking my age

Looking my age

I’ve been holding back on this, but it’s starting to really bug me. So file this away, please.

My peer group is starting to approach and crush 40 years old. Everywhere I see and hear, “But you don’t LOOK forty! SERIOUSLY, you don’t! You’re so beautiful!”

I was faced with this for the first time ever a couple of months ago when I turned 38, and people kept insisting I don’t look a day over 27.

I speak strictly for myself, but maybe this will resonate with others.

1. Age is an abstract number based on a unit of measurement. Different countries have annual calenders of different lengths and start counting years differently. And know what? No one has ever taken a picture of age. So how on Earth does anyone know what it looks like???

2. That said, I DO look my age. I live inside a body that is a certain age, and this is what it looks like.

3. Newsflash: Implying that “looking my age” is the opposite of being something you’d want to look at is not actually a compliment.

4. I have earned most of the changes in my body. I have worn sunscreen and eye creams or not, I have slept or not, I have exercised or not, I have cooked or not. My worry lines are there because I have cared. My laugh lines are there because I have found joy. I have physical scars because I had adventures. I have stretch marks and round cheeks because of the journey my body and I made from enemies to soulmates. So remember, when you try to compliment me by erasing 11 years of my life… That’s what you are actually taking away: Me.

5. My life is so very far from over. A few months ago I was getting a little worried, then I stopped and conducted a full 10 seconds of first-grade math. I discovered that I’m not even half way into my career yet. This is comforting, because it feels like I’ve been in this for a REALLY long time already.

6. And think about it… If NO ONE “looks their age,” then clearly whatever standard we are using for this is no longer the standard.

So when my age comes up…
Tell me I look healthy.
Tell me I have lived well.
Ask me about my adventures.
Ask me what’s next.
Tell me the years have been good to me.

Please, do not tell me I don’t look my age.

Indelible Words

Today I saw this video, and it made me cry.  Of course I shared it, and started blogging a comment that went ellipsical and ended up far from this video.  So I shared the video with the lame comment of “Such a cool story!,” and decided to post the blog here.  It really is a sweet love story, and I recommend watching the video, so here it is:

If you decided to skip the video, here’s the spoiler: boy send’s Samaritan’s Purse Christmas Shoebox to a girl in the Philippines when he’s 7 years old, girl finds him on Facebook 10 years later, now they’re married.  There are so many things we could get from this story…. it’s a love story for a Hallmark movie script, a testament to shoebox ministries, a testimony that God brings two people together (bonus points if they had both just “stopped looking in order to focus on themselves”), all great things.

Here’s what made me cry: the power of showing love on paper to children in need. What need?  The need for connection.  I am forcibly reminded of the letters I received as a child in Mexico. I remember because I saved every single one. All the letters from my grandparents (so many postcards and place mats from my Grandma Dorinda!), my Uncle David in the Navy, my penpals (Jennie, Sara, Amanda, and Emily), the ones my dad sent when we lived in opposite countries (even the one he sent when I was at summer camp where he spelled my name with a y (he fixed it before he mailed it, and it took two tries for him to sign “Dad,” too, so it was just an off day that made me laugh)), the letters Angel faithfully wrote me when I was lonely in America, all of my birthday cards. They were read and reread, studied, memorized. I can tell you who sent me the same birthday card two years in a row, which cards ended up in my Bible and Box of Special Things, the round gold-rimmed Teddy bear sticker Sara sent me, the white cat birthday card from my Grandma Wiedling… these written words – so much more than my carousel horses or snow globes or shiny rocks or boxes or international coins or stamps or white teddy bears – these were (and are) my treasures. These are in my heart still, burned into my soul as the indelible reminder that I was not forgotten, that I was loved, that I was worth an international stamp.  People get tattoos of the handwriting of loved ones, and I totally get it.

Since then there are wonderful inventions… email, Facebook, text messages, ecards, evites, affordable communication in and to almost any person in any country. It is convenient, customizable, dependable, and instant. It also gets lost, right in the palm of our hands, lost in feeds, inboxes, threads, accidental (or regrettably intentional) deletes, the fleetingness of Snapchat. There is no more saving the letter for when we can relax on our couch, or hiding in the privacy of our rooms, no more pages of stories, enclosed stickers, birthday cards with activities in them, specially chosen photos to be treasured.  Boxes of treasured handwritten pages are a thing of the past, no more the ceremonies of burning love letters from that hurt us… the delete button removing most of our chance to halt such violence.  There is no more choosing of stationary, finding pens that don’t smear, numbering of pages, taking the TIME to STOP and write to someone, to invest actual time in a relationship with someone far away, no more choosing what flat and weightless memento to enclose.  Now we share snippets, emojis, endless streams of filtered and staged pictures. They come without ceremony or excitement. They are invasive, appearing instantly and stealing from us the option of choosing the location and circumstances of discovering what lies inside.  There is no more turning a sealed envelope over in our hands, studying the stamp and postmark, wondering what the letter went through to get to us, realizing that we are touching a paper that not long ago was being held by someone thinking about us.  The magic is gone.  No we read our messages at stoplights, in lines at the supermarket, on the toilet, in the middle of dinner, in the middle of conversations with other people. The words are no longer sacred.  Using a stamp has become a luxury, synonymous to actually paying for parking and going inside the airport to meet a weary traveler.

And they are typed. There is always an element of genericness about them, even if we have the option of font selection. Teenagers… would you recognize your grandparents’ handwriting if you saw it? Or your parents’, if it wasn’t just a scribbled note? Parents, would you recognize your teen’s developing script, the one they use in real life? Because our handwriting is US. It is our personality, our emotion, our development, our soul.  They are pieces of and links to history.  I have heard my aunt say, “Well, I’m not sure who’s in that picture, but that’s mom’s handwriting and she was labeling all these photos when she was in college, so it’s probably…”  Could you do that?

I know my grandparents’ handwriting… my Grandma Wiedling’s short script on unlined white paper, my Grandpa Wiedling’s typewriter-like block letters on graph paper, my Grandma Dorinda’s narrowly-spaced cursive squeezing as much as possible on the backs of diligently-mailed postcards, my Grandpa Rupe’s childlike lettering (a result of learning disabilities and decades of teaching young elementary grades), my mother’s small loopy cursive, my dad’s scrawl, my brother’s big print.  My own handwriting, like all of ours, has evolved into something that reflects me – a mix of print and cursive, depending on what is easiest in the space, with a’s shaped like “a” that came after my college calligraphy class.  I have always regretted not knowing my Grandma Jean’s handwriting.  She was the first grandma to see me, but died before I was old enough to get a letter from her.  I do have samples of her handwriting, but they are not burned into me like the words that have been written for me.

I don’t know where I’m going with this.  I’ll be honest, I don’t take the time to write.  I have a collection of fantastic Mother’s Day cards that I have collected annually for my Grandmother… some day she’ll just get a package of them.  I have even made a rule not to comment on Facebook birthdays, because I carry so much guilt over not consistently commenting on everyone’s.  I have so many things to write on my blog, but I don’t do that, either.  I am too busy and too tired to muster the energy needed for this skill at the end of a day.  But why is it a skill that requires so much attention?  It used to be second nature.  Why is it not normal for us anymore?   And if the answer really is that we are too busy and too tired to invest in relationships that are out of sight…. for goodness sake’s, WHY???  Technology was supposed to make life easier, faster, more efficient.  We should have more time and more energy.  But… we spend more time editing photos, don’t we?  More time checking email, more time thinking about 12 things we should be monitoring at once, more time synching schedules, more time sending one little text or email, more time watching just one more 22-minute episode.

And so we have forgotten the value of handwriting.  We have forgotten how special it was to get a letter.  We have forgotten what it is to sit and contemplate a friendship as we share our lives on paper.  We have forgotten that labeling and describing the memory is more important than the perfect selfie.  We have forgotten that children remember the simplest of things… like whether you remembered or forgot.

So right now, while I’m remembering… excuse me while I go write a letter to a child.

Give a Little, Change the World

Hello, everyone, Gishwhes is extending to all of us the chance to work together as a global community to not only solidify the legacy of a dying hope-giver, but also ensure that her mission to empower children in South Africa continues.

Click here to read the powerful story of Fiona Sargeant, a miracle worker suffering from advanced-stage terminal cancer, who has used dance to strengthen her community and improve the lives and opportunities South African children.

Please donate whatever you can to our Crowdfund page (no amount is too small!) and share this post with everyone you meet!

You can share this post using the buttons below, or share this shortlink:

We only have 3 days – act fast!!


“It gives me hope. I feel special when I’m doing it. If something bad happens to me, all I have to do is dance…” -Timarandarin (14 years old)



Extremely Important GISHWHES Research!! – UPDATE –

Hi everyone!

Long time no write.  I miss it.  Unfortunately, that’s not why I’m here today.  This week I am a proud participant in GISHWHES (which everyone knows stands for “Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen.”  Duh.)  The important thing to know about GISHWHES is that it brings together loads of people to do loads of fun things for the entertainment and benefit of loads of other people.  It’s pretty cool.

You can learn more about GISHWHES here, if you want: 

Which leads me to how YOU can help!!

The GISHWHES Institute of Vital Statistics (probably not a real thing, but whatevs) has tasked me with solving the question of whether or not people brush their teeth starting on the side of their dominant hand.  To that end, I am asking you to do 3 simple things:

  1. Put your hand up to your mouth right now, pretend you’re brushing your teeth.
  2. Answer the following 3 questions. Be sure to click the “vote” button for EACH question so that the results pop up!
  3. Share this post with the world (we need at least 400 responses!).  For easy, you can use the sharing buttons below or this shortlink:

Click “Vote”

Click “Vote”

Click “Vote”




Thanks to everyone who participated – may your teeth live long and strong!



The Day My Appendix Died

I just read one of those clickbait articles on Facebook titled something like “I prosecuted serial killers all my life but never really understood until this one came for me!”  The story is about a very physically healthy prosecutor who almost died of a heart attack.  There was the bit about her feeling okay but her husband being worried when she vomited so took her to the ER, then all of a sudden she was swarmed by people ripping her clothes off, hooking her up to IVs, etc.  In the middle of all this the surgeon takes her hand and says, “I’m the boss of all these people. I’m going to look at your heart and do what I need to do to keep you safe and healthy.  I will treat you like my own family.”  That part made me cry, and I knew that – even though it’s late – I need to write this.  I wanted to share the article I read with you, but as usual… Facebook swallowed it whole and left no crumbs.  But if you see it, click the bait.  It’s not long.

So here is the story of the day my appendix died…

Exactly one week ago (11:30pm, 3/7/17) I was walking laps around the post-surgical unit at Good Samaritan Hospital at the instructions of my awesome Filipino nurse, Cef, who taught me that when there’s a kink in the hose gas will work its way UP your body until you think you have a pinched nerve that is numbing your neck and sending shooting pain down your arm. That’s right: the treatment for post-surgical neck pain was to walk and fart. He was right. Drinking lots of ginger ale quickly and belching loudly was also helpful.

I spent a lot of money on nursing school, and the better part of 9 months in 1997/1998 memorizing the tiny words and drawings in my very expensive and heavy Anatomy and Physiology book. I know what I’ve got going on inside me. For the past 6 months or so I’ve been having random expectant thoughts of appendicitis (God prepares me for important things because He gave me an awesome brain that just doesn’t handle surprises very well).

So when the indigestion I’d been having for a couple of days suddenly focused itself on a specific point deep inside my lower right belly last Monday evening, I knew exactly what it was.  I also had a plan.  I BARELY had symptoms. I was in no pain except little sharp bursts when I laughed, coughed, or pressed on that specific spot. No fever. No nausea. I was hungry. None of the things that happen when your gut is in trouble had happened yet. I called an advice nurse and my doctor’s On-Call doctor. I told my closest friend to keep her phone on in case I needed a ride to the ER. I updated my parents and told my coworkers I might be out on Tuesday. I cleaned the litter box and filled the cat’s food. Then I went to bed. I was not remotely afraid, but I knew I would be in surgery the next day.

The next morning I was at Urgent Care at 8:30, dressed for work just in case I was wrong.

I would like to take a moment to say how much I love absolutely everything about Palo Alto Medical Foundation.

Things moved faster than expected, but only because of efficiency.  In between the nurse and the doctor and the blood thief I was busy cancelling my morning sessions, communicating with my work team, prepping a list of what I would need my friend to bring to the hospital.  They made me do a urine test to prove I wasn’t pregnant.  I had a cat scan, which was kind of cool. Those machines talk to you! My IV tubing wasn’t connected quite right, and the whole thing exploded all over me and the machine when she did the trial with saline (before iodine). It was hilarious! That poor VERY pregnant tech with long curly hair was mopping me up and I just couldn’t stop laughing!

I told her the story of my very first day in nursing clinicals… my patient was an extremely obese woman (over 400#) who took up the full width of the bed. I managed to dump an entire tub of water (maybe 2 gallons) into her bed with her. It was like slow motion, watching that rose-colored rectangular tub tip over.  I will never forget. My instructor was right there. I was mortified, horrified, just… yeah. “Honey, I am one fat woman who can’t bathe myself. This isn’t the first time this has happened, and it won’t be the last!  Trust me, this is the most interesting thing that’s happened to me in awhile!” Then she just laughed and laughed while my instructor and I (and probably a 3rd person) struggled around her giant body and big naked bottom to try to get everything clean and dry. That woman taught me one of the most important lessons I’ll ever learn: I’m going to screw up. Laughter will make it much better!

So I laughed on Tuesday with the very pregnant tech who sprayed me out of my IV tubing. And surprisingly (because by this time my belly was getting pretty sensitive), I don’t remember that laughter hurting.

We got the IV fixed and within an hour I was congratulated on my very early-stage appendicitis.  I cancelled my life for the week, and started an email to a coworker who always steps up to help coordinate these sorts of things because in my office it takes 5 people just to make the phone calls in all the right languages.  The doctor at urgent care handed me a stack of paperwork and a CD and told to drive myself down the street to Good Samaritan Hospital, and hand these things to the surgeon waiting for me.

(Note: this is a graphic paragraph about surgery and body things.  You are warned.)  It’s a very surreal thing to drive yourself alone to a hospital for an operation.  Because I understand operating rooms, too.  I have explored them, studied them, watched incredible things happen in them.  I have seen babies and organs and bones and blood come out of human beings in them.  I have watched in awe as artists who have mastered the human body practice their craft, each focused on a specific part so that the mechanism can work smoothly and efficiently.  If I had been a nurse, I think I would have been an OR nurse.  But you can’t drive yourself to surgery without imagining yourself on the table.  I know I won’t feel or remember it, but I know I will have a tube down my throat.  They might give me a catheter.  If they cut me they will cauterize me.  I remember the smell of cauterizing flesh; it is the second most disgusting smell I’ve experienced.  Adipose tissue was the worst.  I have a lot of adipose tissue.  If my appendix bursts, how big will the incision be?  Will they put my intestines on my chest like in the bowel resection I observed?  I hope they get their gauze counts right.  I was not scared.  Not at all.  But I could see myself on the table.  I remember the patient’s perspective from the surgery on my leg.  Good Sam has free valet parking, which was awesome and super convenient and a relief that I wouldn’t have to try to tell Michelle where to find my car in the parking lot later.

So I showed up at registration with my stack of papers.  “Hi! I came to get my appendix out!”  I’m not walking quite so easily now, but the older Black gentleman behind the desk smiles back at me.  I wish I could remember his name; it was a grandpa sort of name, like Walter or Reginald.  He reminds me of William on “This is Us.”  He seems like the kind of guy who would get to know his mailman.  He looks at me oddly; apparently this is not usually how appendicitis patients show up for surgery at Good Samaritan Hospital.  So I sit for 15 minutes on the lovely couches with built in USB charging ports.  He figures stuff out and sends me down the hall and to the left to the surgery waiting room.  I go down the hall and to the left to the place that says “Surgery Waiting Room.”   There is only a volunteer there, no doctors or nurses.  There is coffee and tea there, and magazines that everyone is touching.  That doesn’t seem to match my expectations, but I’m starting to feel a little tired and fuzzy so I’m not quite sure why.  I tell the volunteer I’m here for surgery.  She looks at me oddly, too.  I don’t think volunteers process surgical patients.  Apparently this is the place where non-sick people wait around for sick people who are currently being mended.  She sits me down and bustles around trying to figure out what to do with me.  I am not emailing anymore.

Ten minutes later the volunteer and a nurse come rushing up to me.  “We’ve been looking for you everywhere!!”  She takes me another 20 feet down the hallway to the left.  Just around a little bend is another place.  It has a sign that says “Surgical Waiting Room.”  Subtle difference in name, significant difference in presentation.  There is no coffee or tea or magazines here.  People in this room are not dressed for outside.  Half of the people in this room are in beds behind little curtains, some have family members speaking quietly to them.  This looks more like it.


We’re so glad you made it!  We’re getting all your authorizations.  The OR has been booked for you.  Just relax here.  Take off all your clothes and put this gown on.  Let me close this to give you some privacy.  Put this gown on.  Just relax.  I am alone in a space in a room full of people.  It doesn’t quite dawn on me that I’m changing into my surgical gown until it surprises me that it’s made of paper and the inside is lined with plastic and there are slits all over it and the plastic against my skin is actually some sort of tube thing.  It slowly dawns on me that they have clearly developed a more efficient body heating method since the days of separate tubing, and that the slits are placed strategically for examining and exposing various parts of the body while keeping the rest covered and warm.  “Bet this thing costs a fortune, but it’s really cool.  Wait.  I kinda feel like I just dressed myself for my funeral.  No, I’m not gonna die.  But strange things are gonna happen in this thing, special events completely focused on me, my body will be there, and I’m gonna miss it all.”  Okay, then.  I guess this is happening RIGHT now.

This is where things got interesting.  And funny. And really busy and fast.  And I was hungry and dehydrated and had appendicitis and no Ritalin.  So most likely this is not a direct account.  But it is as I remember it.

First they trickled in.

The nurse checked that I was changed and comfortable, then suddenly realized that I was never registered!  They put me in the bed so fast, before all the authorizations were done, and then made me get naked!  “Is there any chance you’re pregnant, honey?” No.

The anesthesiologist came in to introduce himself, make sure I understood all the things he was going to do to me and for me, get a history. I assured him I wasn’t pregnant.  I was reciting my medications to him when the surgeon came in.

Dr. Danagra Ikossi

When I broke my leg in college I got to take an ambulance ride.  I thought I could do it without pain meds.  Half a mile into the ride I swiftly and most robustly changed my mind.  That EMT put a morphine drip in my veinless arm without a tourniquet on the first try in a moving ambulance in less than 15 seconds.  His name was something normal like Matt or Chris, but I call him Toby.  I will swear to my dying day that a bright supernatural light shone over him inside that ambulance, reflecting off of his glorious blonde locks and making his crystal blue eyes sparkle like the stars over the Amazon rainforest.

Dr. Ikossi wasn’t quite like that.  Toby was magical.  She was sunny and bright and playful and calm, simultaneously curiously excited and in complete control.  Like a laparoscopic appendectomy was her version of a day in Half Moon Bay.  Dr. Ikossi is the doppleganger of my college friend, Mindie.  This is her, but her hair wasn’t all tight like that in real life.  She is funny, relaxed, natural, and made me feel in 2 minutes like she’d known me my whole life.  Like sucking an appendix out of a belly button is as normal and uneventful for her as pumping gas or putting her kid to bed.  In retrospect she probably wasn’t wearing jeans, but I remember her like that in my mind.  And she had this great black handbag over her arm.  I admire women who skip the shoulder strap.  It’s just classy, makes me think of the Roaring Twenties for some reason.  Women who can carry their bag on their forearm aren’t carrying around loads of extra stuff.  I’m a shoulder strap girl myself.

Dr. Ikossi checked first on whether or not we were on schedule, and was surprised the anesthesiologist beat her to me, and wondered why I wasn’t in the computer yet.  Then she kicked everyone out (or maybe they left, but we were definitely alone) and, after making sure I wasn’t in pain, asked me about my life.  She asked me where I work and what I do there and how long I’ve lived in San Jose and who I live with and where my family is and who my people are here and my cats’ names.  She spent what felt like a long time learning about everything except my appendix.  Then we talked about my appendix and my medicine and all the weird stuff going on in my body.  And how I’m definitely not pregnant.

Once we agree that surgery is the better option over antibiotics or denial, she leans toward me against the foot of the bed and says, “So here’s what I’ll do: little cuts here, here, and here.  I’m gonna blow your belly up like a balloon from here.  From your belly button I’m going to go in, scootch over your colon, tie off your appendix, cut it off and pull it out.  Risks: in the rare chance that something goes haywire, I will make an incision so I have more room to work and I’m going to make everything okay.  If everything goes to plan, you’ll be home tomorrow.  If not, it will be at least 4 days.”  I knew all of this already.  She didn’t smile, but she wasn’t stressed.  Not one bit.  That look of her leaning against the foot of my bed is frozen in my mind.  That was one confident woman.   I have only met one other person in my life who had this power to instantly absorb anxiety and replace it with peace just by being in a room.

I wasn’t anxious about the surgery at all, so it took me a few days to realize why she had such a calming affect on me.  I wasn’t alone in the hospital anymore.  There was someone else in that great big clean building full of experts who knew that I was a therapist who worked with refugees and lives alone with two cats and my family’s far away but my friend is close.  She said, “I could send you home today, but I think I’ll just keep you in so you’re not alone tonight.”  Magic words.

Then mayhem ensued.

Right now, before you go any further, create different voices for Nurse #1, Nurse #2, and IV Nurse.  You will need them.

IV Nurse: We need to put your IV in.  What’s your dominant hand?  I’m right-handed, but the only veins you’ll find are my right arm or left hand.  Okay, then let’s do your left arm.  Let me warm it up first.  Warm blanket on my arm. (huh?)  She walks away.

Nurse 1: We need to take your history.  Oh, you’re still not registered!  (I still have no wrist band or Medical Record # at this point.  I’m very glad my name is so unique.)  She goes to get the registration guy.

Registration Guy: Looks at me and realizes I’m naked under the gown.  Hmmm… let me just ask you some questions.  Asks questions.  Writes down answers.  Walks away.

Dr. Ikossi: I just tried to dictate my note, but she’s not in the computer yet.  I guess that will have to wait!  Laughs and leaves.  Calls back, “We need to hurry or we’re going to lose our time slot!”

I am frantically texting in the few seconds between all these people to make sure the people who need to know I’m about to go into surgery know I’m about to go into surgery.  The warm blanket has fallen off in this flagrant use of technology.

IV nurse looks at me like I’ve let her down terribly by not keeping the blanket on my arm.  She can’t find the vein in my left arm.  It’s clearly all my fault.  I guess we can try your right hand.

“Um, is there any chance I could use the bathroom before I get hooked up?”  She just stares at me as if we just drove out of the gas station 5 minutes ago.

Nurse #1: You need to take off your jewelry and hair clips.  Who’s taking your phone, do you have money or IDs?  You don’t have anyone here? (I’ve said this 5 times.) Then we need to call security to get your stuff.

IV nurse: Puts warm blanket on my right arm.  I do not understand this warm blanket business.

Registration guy: Brings me a tablet with a touch screen.  Okay, I need you to sign here, here, here, and here.  He explains briefly what they are.  I know what these documents say: I promise not to sue the hospital if I die.  I sign.  I never did get copies.  I always tell people to keep copies of these things.

Nurse #1 is on the computer on my left taking my medical history.  Nurse #2 is on the computer on my right getting whatever she needs for whatever she’s filling out.  IV nurse is stressing about the stupid warm blanket as she eyes the veins in my right hand; this is convenient, as Nurse #1 is now blocking her access to my left side.

In all fairness, hospitals can’t blow off OR time slots.  I cost us 15 minutes of precious prep time by getting lost, and everything was out of order.  No one was disrespectful to me or unkind, not in the slightest.  These nurses were awesome, and they did their job.  In surgical prep, their one job is to get all the information the surgical people need to know to keep you safe and alive.  But it got a little crazy for a bit.

In my imaginary replays, this is how it all plays out: I sit up tall in my bed, shake off the stupid warm blanket, and commandingly say, “Okay everybody, let’s all take a deep centering breath.  I know we’re in a hurry for the spot in the OR and I know all these questions are important.  Let’s pause for 40 seconds while you guys get organized and I pull up my list of medications.  I take a lot of pills in a day and that’s the only way I’ll get it all right.  Woman, for the love of mercy, you need a tourniquet, NOT A BLANKET, and the IV needs to go in my left hand or my right arm.  My left hand would be much more convenient. But before anything else happens, I am going to pee!”

Here’s what actually happened, in rapid succession.  I drew on every second of group home experience and greatly benefited from my ADHD to actually keep both of these conversations running separately and simultaneously.  I was rather impressed with myself.  And for the record, I take 3 vitamins because of specific deficiencies and several prescriptions.  Two of these prescription medications are most commonly used for seizure disorders and diabetes – I have neither.  Answering the medication questions is not a simple thing.

Nurse #1: What medications are you taking?

Nurse #2: So you told me what medicine you take, what did you take this morning?

Nurse #1: Did you take those today?

Nurse #2: What time did you take them?

Nurse #1: How long ago did you take them?

IV Nurse: Finally decides to use a tourniquet. On my right hand.

Nurse #1: Do you take the Lamictal for seizures?  No, for depression. What?  They use that for depression? Yes.

Registration Guy: Here’s your wrist band! He puts it on crooked because he has to reach over the IV nurse.  The adhesive messed with me the whole time I wore it.

Nurse #2: How long have you had diabetes?  I don’t.  The Metformin is for PCOS.

IV Nurse: Just a little stick!

Nurse #1: Is there any chance you could be pregnant? Not in the slightest.

Nurse #2: Do you take insulin? I don’t have diabetes.

The IV needle is digging into my bone.  There is no vein in my right hand.  Seriously, I promise you, God just drew a faint blue line with a magic marker.  I know this.  It has been proven multiple times by other IV people who like a challenge.  Right now, this hurts worse than my appendix.  Much worse.  I grunt and close my eyes.

Nurse #1: Have you ever had… she starts going down the list of every possible major illness.

Nurse #2: Do you think there is any way you might be pregnant?  (These women are literally 6 feet away from each other.)

I literally cannot speak.  I manage to grunt out “ooowwww.”

The IV nurse looks at me.  My eyes are welling.  “Maybe we should try your left hand.” Ya think?

“I would really like to use the bathroom before I get hooked up to a bunch of things.”

IV Nurse: Can she do that?

Me: (Looks left) No, I do not have any of those illnesses.  (Looks right) No, I am absolutely completely 100% NOT PREGNANT.  I’ve been on birth control for 3 years, don’t have anyone to make babies with, and the clinic sent you documents of the negative urine test they did this morning.  Not pregnant. NOT. not.

Nurse #1: Do you take insulin for your diabetes?  I’m not diabetic.  The metformin is for PCOS.  Oh gosh, you haven’t eaten today.  When was the last time you checked your blood sugar?  Calls out: Did anyone check her blood sugar??? Does she need glucose?! I’m NOT diabetic. Oh.  You’re sure?  I’m sure. (Again, these women are literally 6 feet away from each other.)

Security lady comes to collect my things.  She just stands calmly at the end of my bed.  Clearly, she has seen this mayhem before.  I start pulling out hair clips with my free hand.

IV Nurse: Hunched under Nurse #1’s elbow.  Just a little stick!

OR nurse arrives: Is she ready yet?  The OR’s prepped.

IV slides perfectly right into my left hand, like a miracle from Heaven.  Without a warm blanket.  IV nurse reaches for tubing and a bag of saline.

Me, pulling off my jewelry and dropping it into a zip-lock bag: I would really like to use the restroom before you hook me up to all that.

IV nurse looks at Nurse #1, who looks at Nurse #2, then all 3 look at the OR Nurse: Can she DO that?  I know they’re thinking I’ll be knocked out in 15 minutes and the OR nurse can just cath me.

OR Nurse: Yes, she should absolutely use the restroom.  Dr. Ikossi wants all of her patients to use the restroom before surgery if they can, it simplifies things later.  He winks at me.  I like this man.

Security guard is staring at me, looking at my phone.  I’m feeling pressured now to hand over my only link to the people who know more about me besides whether or not I’m pregnant or diabetic.

This time I do make everyone stop for 90 seconds while I call my mother to tell her I’m headed in and will have Michelle call her when I’m out.

Security guard lady, curiously: Is your necklace a snitch?  Where did you get that?

Me (quite proudly, because it’s actually really cool): I won it at my monthly Harry Potter Trivia Night meetup.

She smiles and I watch as she silently unbuttons and rolls her left sleeve up to her elbow.  Her forearm is tattooed with the word “Always.” We have connected on a much deeper level, sisters of an alternate universe in which this whole situation could probably have been avoided with a few drops of essence of murtlap, carefully chosen words, and a fancy stick.  The moment shatters as I hand her my phone and am brought back to this world of firing questions and increasingly firey belly.

Then they let me pee.  People, it was wonderful.  It had a door and no questions were involved.

Dr. Ikossi arrives in green surgical scrubs and a flowery cap, with her black handbag over her arm.  Big sunny smile on her face.  I have a sudden reverie to the world of Amelia Bedelia.  But I save it to enjoy later.  I’m honestly not quite sure when she got there, because I know she helped tape down my IV.  Something about some new kind of adhesive IV strips and shirt and pants parts of them.  The point is… I went to the bathroom, the IV went where it was supposed to go, my happy surgeon showed up, and people FINALLY stopped asking if I was pregnant.

IV nurse is hooking tubing and saline to my arm.  She puts the bag of saline on my pillow.  It rolls down under my neck.  I ask if it’s okay to use it as a pillow.  Her eyes get wide.  I think she might still be upset with me about my not buying in to her warm blanket system.

Dr. Ikossi: Is she ready yet?  We need to hurry.

And then we are off: Dr. Ikossi, the OR nurse, the anesthesiologist, and me, headed down the hallway to the operating room like Dorothy and her friends on their way to meet the wizard.

I really really did love my OR rotation.  I felt again the rush of cool sterile air as we went in, the sparkly stainless steel.  The trays of gadgets, the glass cabinet doors behind which is stored sterile versions of pretty much anything you might need if anything goes haywire.  Operating rooms are prepared for both the plan and the possibility.  A lot like me, how I structure myself within the context of ADHD.  Careful planning is the only way to have any sort of control over situations that can fall apart in an instant.

Falling asleep in an OR is a strange thing.  My mom told me that they had her count down from 100.  When my leg was repaired the anesthesiologist told me it was coming and watched me.  This time I was literally having a conversation with the anesthesiologist and Dr. Ikossi.  I don’t remember what about.  Normal non-appendix things.  The clock said it was right around 2pm.  I was talking…

And then I was in the recovery room, waking up very calmly from a remarkably restful nap.  Dr. Ikossi was there, watching me wake up.  She said things went perfect and I could go home tomorrow.  The anesthesiologist was watching over me, too, but disappeared pretty fast.  I hope I thanked him.  And there was a nurse.  And another nurse who called Michelle.  And really quickly I switched into a nicer hospital bed.  Next thing I knew they wheeled me into my room.  And it was done.

Dr. Ikossi stopped by the next day.  She checked my belly and everything.  But we talked about refugees and the executive orders and her kids being aware of these things even though they are young.  She said goodbye and I said thank you.  When I next saw my nurse she told me that Dr. Ikossi had told her I was a therapist who worked with refugees.

Dr. Ikossi never needed me to have a medical record number, and that meant the world to me.  I looked her up, there are lots of reviews online about her amazing bedside manner and how she treats all of her patients like people.  I loved one quote: “She is a beautiful tornado with a ferocious drive to make her patients whole again.”  Because I strive for the same thing in my own practice I know that this is not something she does for me, but for herself; she does it because that is what excellent practitioners do, it is how we maintain our integrity and keep ourselves out of the mental mire of red tape and politics and the power of expertise.  She will see me a total of 3 times and maybe never again, but she wrestles with her own methods every day.  Authentic caring is how helpers sleep at night certain that we have made the world a better place.  We do it because it is who we ARE, not just a skill we have learned.  But I also know that even though I was alone in the hospital and even though we were on a schedule, that afternoon she never let me feel alone.

So this processing exercise turned out a lot longer than I thought it would.  The whole recovery process has caused stirrings in my mind and these things are still settling into thoughts.  I have, however, learned that tiredness is not the same as weakness, and weakness really sucks.  I am overwhelmingly grateful for the help I received from friends, but also grateful that I only received the help I truly needed.  It was important for me to spend this time alone with my body, and in solitude.  Change happens deep within our souls when we are in a weakened state, much like my external weakness was only a reflection of all the microscopic work happening deep within my belly.  I hope I will write about these things later.  For now…

I am so very grateful that I took the time to listen to my body, and that I didn’t ignore that little pain.  Every doctor I saw last Tuesday was really surprised to learn that I caught this before I had any other symptoms.  Don’t trust google.  I googled my symptoms for kicks – she said I was fine.  Don’t trust what you know: knowledge is fallible.  Please, people, TRUST YOUR BODY.  If something feels funny or different, check it out.  In my case that was the difference between pain/nausea/fever/infection/invasive surgery and a simple procedure that was technically outpatient, the little healing cuts hurt more than the actual appendicitis, and me walking laps 5 hours later.

And I am so very grateful for a surgeon who knew exactly how to bring herself into her art form.  I never doubted her skill, but her humanity was what brought me peace more than anything else.  Please, people, BE YOU.  Yourself is what sets you apart from every other cookie cutter version of people who do what you do.  Do things expertly, your way, in your style.  Be memorable because you are authentic.

I realized yesterday… I totally forgot to tell them about my Vitamin B12.

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