“Borges and I”

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I’m glad this story was merely a single page because I had to read it several times to fully understand it. How can something so brief manage to be so complex, powerful and true? The more I analyzed it the more I understood what Borges was trying to say and I’m glad because what he wrote rang true for me.

This week’s lecture on Setting and Atmosphere says: “Does “Borges and I” have a setting? In a traditional manner, no, but it does project a sort of “outer envelope” that surrounds the text, an atmosphere of thought. The setting might be somewhat invisible, but not non-existent. Perhaps it is what thinking might look like, a kind of dream space. And there are objects and details for the reader to zoom in on: “the arch of an entry,” “the portal of a church,” “the clumsy plucking of a guitar” (Borges 277). If not the mind, maybe time itself is the setting of this very short piece, or a human soul.”

This made a great deal of sense to me. The setting is in the author’s head and his subconscious mind. It exists but not in the same way a city exists. It exists in his mind.

“Borges and I” describes a kind of internal struggle that the author feels between his private and public selves, between what he writes and who he is, between his thoughts and how he expresses them. It’s a way of putting into words what we cannot actually see, hear or touch. How does one describe something that exists only in the mind?

He says: “It would be an exaggeration to consider our relationship hostile. I live, I agree to go on living, so that Borges may fashion his literature; that literature justifies me.” It seemed to me almost as though the author is admitting he’s depressed. He defines himself by his writing and so much so that he would cease to exist without it. It’s not just how he defines himself but it’s also what he lives for. That’s profound.

It’s beyond deep and, yet, I bet every writer can relate to this feeling on some level.

This story made me think of my own story. Not just the stories I write but also the one I’m living. I’d been writing full time for two years when my daughter was born. She wasn’t home a week and I was pitching one novel and writing another. Postpartum depression set in and even thought I fought it and denied it, on some level I knew it was there. Still, to his day, I’m unsure if the depression was entirely a result of childbirth and the lack of sleep that comes with it or the onslaught of rejections that come hand in hand with pitching a first manuscript. It was probably a combination but I knew I had to embrace my feelings in order to get through it. Family and friends urged me to take a break from writing but I knew I couldn’t stop writing because it would have been like killing the part of me that made me who I am.

Writing isn’t just a profession or a hobby, it’s an existence. It’s not just what we are—it’s who we are. We are defined by the words we put on paper as if we gave birth to them.

Borges writes: “Little by little I am surrendering everything to him, although I am well aware of his perverse habit of falsifying and exaggerating.” This brought me right back to Prose and what she says about “good liars.” In a way, writers of fiction are liars in that we are making up stories and telling them in such a way that the make-believe becomes believable. Good writers are able to pull this off much like “good liars” are able to seem genuine.


Mommy Confession: Clipping Toenails


I enjoy clipping my daughter’s toenails.

There I said it. It’s weird, I know.

But when she was an infant, she and I were both afraid of the activity. And by afraid, I mean totally freaked out beyond belief to the point of paralysis. I absolutely dreaded having to clip her fingernails and toenails. I was convinced I’d accidentally clip off an imperative appendage or at the very least make her bleed. I pictured a slasher film with blood spurting and spewing everywhere. I got lightheaded at the thought of it. Come to think of it, I’m feeling a bit queasy now. She didn’t seem thrilled either… maybe she was reading my mind.

Back then, to get through it, I’d do all necessary clipping during nap time. She was relaxed. I was (almost) relaxed. We got through it together. At times, I’d skip the clipping altogether and use an emery board to file her nails instead. Once in a while, my husband would offer to do it for me but the thought of him doing it scared me even more. I’m a weirdo… I totally get that.

But even weirder? When Lyla turned 2, she started asking me to clip her nails. I was like, “Huh? You want me to do it?” She’d reply, “Please, Mommy, please!”

How could I turn her down?

There was a time in my life, a long time ago, when even the thought of someone else’s feet grossed me out. I certainly didn’t want to touch them. Ew. In fact, it took me an even longer time to let anyone touch mine. I did eventually develop a taste (for lack of a better word) for pedicures… most women eventually do, I imagine. There’s just something about being primped and pampered without having to move a muscle. It’s wonderful.

But one day, when I was pregnant and unable to reach my own toes, a spa technician cut me during a pedicure and that completely killed the relaxation… possibly forever. I still shutter and flinch at the thought of it.

So when Lyla asked me to clip her toenails, it freaked me out. What a little weirdo! But she’s my little weirdo so; somehow, I worked up the nerve and clipped away. I started out taking baby steps, no pun intended, by clipping just a teensy bit here and there. But the brave little thrill-seeker pushed me to clip more and more until her nails were actually, well, well-manicured.

I thought that was a once in a lifetime moment. No way would she make the same request again. Right? But then, a few days later, she asked again. And I obliged. And, since that first time, she now comes to me (at least) once a week and asks for her toddler mani/pedi from Mommy. And I’ve started to look forward to this, perhaps oddly untraditional, bonding time with her.

She points to a toe or a finger and says, “Clip this one!” Then she giggles as I clip and then she selects another. I’ve even learned to relax with it and, while I’m still very careful and meticulous with clipper in-hand, I’m no longer irrationally fearful of sneezing and accidentally cutting her arms and legs off. I even throw in a free foot massage, at no extra cost. She loves those, too.

These days, not only does she request her manis and pedis on a regular basis, but she also picks out her own lotions for her massages and she even lets me paint her nails, too. She’s turning into a bit of a diva while I’m turning into a self-proclaimed skillful nail technician.

So I confess…

I’ve developed a bit of a foot and hand fetish. But only with Lyla. I enjoy clipping, filing, massaging and painting her little fingers and toes. I cherish all of our special moments together and I look forward to someday taking her to a real spa and having “Mommy & Me” manis, pedis and massages together.

I love my little girl.

“OK, you can flush now!”


There are many words and phrases which surge me with feelings of joy. I am a word nerd, after all. And certain words and phrases cut through the melancholy and get right to the heart of the matter, blessing my life with smiles and laughter.

Every once in a while I like to post a list of my favorites (and least favorites). For example, hearing my husband say “I love you” or my daughter say “mommy” never cease to make me smile.

While hearing the word “peanuts” used in a sentence always makes me giggle, no matter the context. Go on, say it and see if you can keep a straight face. If you can, maybe your mind’s not as dirty as mine.

“That’s the best cupcake I’ve ever tasted” fills me with pride (if I was the baker of said cupcake) and “You were right” feels so damn good. “You can do it” suddenly invokes confidence while “Let’s do it” invokes, well, something else.

Certain words, like “Spring” and “Sunshine” and phrases like “Your child is beautiful” or “You’re my best friend” just have a certain… I don’t know what… but I know they make me feel happy. I have a very long ever-growing list of go-to words and phrases in my mind that just feel good to hear and make me feel suddenly optimistic. They are like little triggers of happiness.

Recently, my house had a problem. It was… how can I put this delicately? Constipated. Not the people in it but the house itself. We had a plumbing issue and the whole place was backed up.

We tried all the usual methods: Drano, plunger, prayer. But nothing worked. So we gave in and called a plumber. He came yesterday and even with his 90 foot (yowza!) snake, he couldn’t satisfy the situation. While he couldn’t get our pipes working properly, he didn’t charge us either (that probably only happens in Iowa) — Nope, not even for his time. Instead he recommended another plumber… one with an even longer, ah-em, snake.

After several days of rotten smells and nasty liquids (and other foul grossness) backing up from our pipes and flooding our laundry room, the man with the biggest snake I’ve ever seen worked his magic this morning and made me the happiest girl in the world when he added a new phrase to my list of favorites…

“OK, you can flush now!”

Another Thing About PKD


I recently caught a pretty gnarly case of the Flu. My whole family had it. Your whole family probably had it, too. Unfortunately, it’s been going around. In my house, my husband had it first and then I made the mistake of wishing it upon myself.

I said, “I wish I could take it away from you.”

I was being sincere, too. I really love him and if one of us had to be sick, I’d want it to be me. But the problem with wishing is that if you’re not specific enough, the funny little wish fairies like to play practical jokes. Sure, I got the Flu from him precisely as requested. But I got it after he was already done with it. That’s obviously not what I meant! Effing wish fairies! Oh well. No use crying over spilt wishes. But be careful what you wish for… alright?

The worst part, for me, wasn’t the Flu itself. Don’t get me wrong; that part sucked. Is it just me or does it seem like the Flu gets worse year after year? Bigger. Meaner. Stronger. Faster. It’s like the Flu is on steroids. Or maybe it’s being produced by Nike… or perhaps Gatorade would make more sense. I don’t know. But, like I said, the Flu wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was the kidney infection that the Flu caused.

All that vomiting and diarrhea (Yay! Nothing says Happy New Year like some quality toilet time) took its toll. I’d become pretty dehydrated. And the dehydration negatively affected my kidneys, possibly rupturing one or more of my cysts in the process. When kidneys lack water, they contract. For people with PKD, this causes the cysts to run out of space and press into one another, causing more cysts to form and rupturing some of the cysts which already exist. This causes blood to form in the kidneys, in turn, causing the kidney infection.

Ugh. Kidney infections, if you’ve never had one, are very painful. And they can be difficult to diagnose because the pain doesn’t always originate where you might expect. For example, while I regularly have some level of pain in my lower back and flank areas, where the kidneys are located, when the infections come on, I tend to get a severe pain in my upper stomach area. It’s an awful, debilitating pain that comes and goes and it has a childbirth-contractions-like quality. And much like the Flu, it arrives bearing gifts such as fever, chills and body aches.

At first, I just thought this was some sort of Super Flu (picture regular Flu but with a cape and tights). But soon, I couldn’t stand up. It didn’t take me long to realize what was happening. This isn’t my first PKD rodeo.

I can’t complain. It’s been awhile since I’d had an infection like this. But I’ve been through this before and I know the routine. During my kidney infection sabbatical, if you will, I started feeling invincible. I’ve almost allowed myself to forget altogether that I have this disease. Even though I’ve been drinking my gallon of water a day, as prescribed by my super awesome nephrologist, and I’ve been doing my best to stick to the rules and manage the situation through holistic methods, like yoga and positive energy, I’d somehow forgotten that there are times, like now, when a tougher, more hands-on approach is required.

Hands-down the most effective hands-on treatment for a kidney infection is the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin (AKA: Cipro). It gets into the kidneys and really kicks some kidney infection ass. So I’ve started my 14 days. It’s only a matter of time. Cipro comes with its own sucky side effects, but at least it gets rid of the kidney infection.

While I admit that this sucks (and oh boy does it suck!), I also know there are far worse things and far greater struggles. It’s just another one of those things in life that, while painful, eventually pass (much like gas or kidney stones or bad hair days). This is just a blip in the overall scheme of things. I say that to my friends and family when they’re having bad days or are dealing with issues, mistakes or crappy circumstances which are out of their control. It always seems to make them feel better. And it’s true.

So now I’m saying the same thing to myself.

This is just a blip. Nothing more and nothing less. That’s all. This too shall pass.

And would you look at that? I’m already starting to feel better.

Seeing the Good in Some Not-So-Good News

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I received some not-so-good news the other day regarding the current status of my kidneys. It wasn’t the worst news in the world, but it caught me off-guard and hit me pretty hard. For a moment there, I was down and out about it.

Thanks to some soul searching and a few punches in the arm from some very good friends, I’m feeling much better now.

Basically, my latest labs came back and there was a higher-than-usual amount of blood found in my kidneys. This is most likely a sign that some of my cysts ruptured. It sounds scary, and in a way it is, but it is also pretty standard stuff when it comes to Polycystic Kidney Disease.

I was told that I needed to make additional life changes in order to slow down the rate of my kidney digression. If my kidneys continue getting worse in the next 6 months, my doctor may want to put me on long-term, potentially permanent medication. Something you should know… I don’t like taking any medicine (cold medicine, Tylenol, anything) or putting any chemicals (aside from alcohol but that doesn’t count) into my body. And I hate the thought of being on medication permanently. It’s just not me.

None of this should have or would have upset me. Under normal circumstances, I would have waved my “Philly” finger (that’s the middle one for those not in the know) in the air and said “you’re not the boss of me!” then, I would have simply gone to one extreme or another to prove my doctor wrong. Because that’s what I do. But there was more to it.

The part that upset me was when my doctor said that if my kidneys get worse or if I go on the medication, then I wouldn’t be able to have more children.

To quote my husband, “Well, ain’t that the drizzling shits?!”

Now I could take the easy route and simply “say no to drugs” and hope for the best, but if my kidneys get worse I probably won’t be able to have more children anyway. My kidneys might not be able to handle it. This feels like one of those damned if I do, damned if I don’t situations. I hate those.

Now, the thing is, I have no idea whether or not I even want more children. I know that I love the one I have more than anything in the world. I know I wouldn’t trade her for all the tea in China (or chocolate in Switzerland, or anything else anywhere else for that matter). She is the second greatest thing that has ever happened to me.

But do I want more children? Now? Later? Someday?

Oh, I don’t know. But I do know that I don’t want to be told that I can’t.

So I’ve done some extreme soul searching. Well, first I had a bowl of ice cream to soothe my aching heart but when I quickly realized that wasn’t helping then I jumped right into the soul searching.

I cried… I ranted and raved… I meditated… I got over it.

I am not ready to make any huge life decisions. I’m not quite ready for a new kidney or another child. I’m not sure if or when I will be ready for either. If something changes or if one or the other happens to happen while I’m still trying to get ready, well then I’ll hurry up and get ready.

And, you’d better believe, I will embrace every change that comes my way and love my life and everything and everyone in it no matter what.

Of course, it probably goes without saying that, I’m not ready to give up. That’s not how I roll. So, instead, I’ll try harder because that’s what we do when we know that quality (and quantity) of life is the most important thing.

For the sake of my life and for the sake of those I love and who love me, I will make additional changes.

It’s not going to be easy. But it’s the least I can do, really.

What’s That Smell?

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For an entire afternoon, I searched for a very bad smell that seemed to be following me everywhere. It wasn’t until later when I realized…

Yep, it was me.

Isn’t that the worst? Deny if you must, but I’m sure we’ve all been there. Or been “it” for that matter.

Nobody wants to admit being the source of the bad smell. But it happens. So I feel obligated to admit it when it happens to me. I’m occasionally the bad smell. I might as well fess up. There have been times when I’ve skipped a shower, forgotten to apply deodorant or when I’ve passed the point of being able to deny a passing of gas or blame the person next to me – with a straight face anyway. So what? Bad smells happens to everyone!

And since becoming a mom, the smells are far worse than they used to be. I’ve smelled of sour milk, formula, strained peas, vomit, urine, day-old apple juice. Show me a mom who hasn’t?

But this time was worse. It was poop. Gross, I know! Let me explain…

My daughter is going through a pre-potty training phase where she often feels the urgency to rip her diaper off and run around. Ordinarily, this is adorable and funny. If watching a toddler run bear-butted and free, giggling in joy, doesn’t bring a smile to your face then you’re simply not human, or you’re probably not the child’s mommy anyway! Toddler tushies are priceless and, yes, I’ve taken photos and even video of my own toddler’s tush. I hold myself back from posting the pictures in any public forum, on FaceBook or showing them off to friends and strangers. But I have them and I plan to keep them. Someday I vow to embarrass her with them.

But this particular time wasn’t quite so adorable. This time, the diaper was full of poop when she tore it off and before I had a chance to stop it from happening it was already all over her, me, our clothes and everything else!

Of course we removed the soiled clothing, soaked, showered and scrubbed the poop off. Then while she napped (pooped from all the pooping, I guess), I scrubbed the floors and walls. Then I showered again.

It wasn’t until later – much, much later, when I realized I must have missed a spot. And, for the record, there’s no such thing as missing just a spot when the topic is poop because that “spot” followed us around all day. It was everywhere. To be honest, I did not think for a second that it was me. But it was.

While Lyla slept, I continued to clean and disinfect and even lit a candle and opened the windows to air out the place. When she woke up, we went for a long walk on the beach and every now and then I swore I still smelled it – when the wind was just right. I didn’t think much of it, thought it was my imagination rather than a real lingering smell. Later, we ran a few errands together and made a trip for groceries. I’d put the moment and the smell behind us. Or at least that’s what I thought. But in the supermarket, I smelled it again. And others smelled it too. I saw them scrunching their noses in the classic ‘what’s that smell?’ fashion. I scrunched mine back as if to say I smelled it too. Still not wanting to go back home post-poop-episode, we decided to grab a smoothie and a Happy Meal (Lyla loves fries, but who doesn’t?). I swore I smelled it in line, but ignorantly assumed it was someone else. Finally, after enough time had passed for the coast to clear, we went back home.

Then the doorbell rang. It was UPS ironically dropping off a shipment from diapers dot com.

I answered and I could tell immediately the UPS guy smelled it too. He didn’t even try to hide his expression as he literally turned his nose up at me. The smell must have smacked him right in the face when I opened the door. Or maybe he saw the actual spot. He didn’t say one way or the other so I still can’t be sure. Although unlikely, it’s entirely possible because as it turns out he came face to face with it. In fact, his face was almost as close to “it” as mine.

After signing for the package and shutting the door, I noticed the smell was still there. I must have missed a spot, I thought to myself. But where? It seemed to have been following me around all day. That could only mean one thing. It had to be on me.

That’s when I realized a teensy tiny speck of my child’s feces was on my glasses. It had been there the whole time. I’m not entirely sure how it got there or how I failed to notice it. It must have either splattered up onto the wire frame of my glasses (better there than in my eye!) or perhaps my daughter touched my glasses (better them than my face!) with her poopy hands while I focused on cleaning her up. I’d obviously removed them from my face prior to showering but didn’t even think about checking before putting them back on my face. Why would I? To my knowledge, I’ve never before had poop on my own glasses. But there’s a first time for everything, I guess.

So the spot I’d missed was literally right before (or beside) my eyes the entire time.

Next time I smell a bad smell, I’ll know to check there first!

Happy PKD Day!

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Today is PKD Day. March is Kidney Month. March 12th was World Kidney Day. This reminds me of how I like to celebrate my birthday. November 11th is my actual birthday, but every day when the clock says 11:11, I have mini celebrations. Then, come November, I like to celebrate all month long!

So why not celebrate my kidneys for a whole month too?

I have plenty to celebrate. After waiting a year to take the MRI I blogged about a few blogs ago, my results came back and my wonderful doctor said my kidneys look pretty much the same as they did a year ago! Mind you, they didn’t look great a year ago. They were already each three times the size of a “normal” kidney due to swelling and cyst growth. BUT, they haven’t gotten any worse, and I’m so happy!

I feel like I won the lottery! I’ve cried several times since hearing this news. The news means so much…

It means I have more time. More time to enjoy my current kidneys, even the left one – the one I complain about regularly (it has a tendency toward being a jerk). More time to do the things I want to do and enjoy my life in its current status with my current kidneys before having to think about the possible next step. Chances are strong that I will someday receive a donated kidney, quite possibly from a loved one. Kidney transplants do not frighten me. They are highly successful and highly necessary. But, I’d still like to put it off (for me and for my future donor) as long as possible. But if and when the time comes, I will not hesitate. I love life, and I will do whatever it takes to live.

It means that if my husband and I decide to have another baby, we can do so without worrying too much about whether or not my kidneys can handle it. Now, I have a little more faith in them. Of course, that road won’t be easy. It comes with complications worth discussing. Estrogen increases cyst growth, and getting knocked up releases a flood of estrogen. Kidney infections are typically treated with Cipro (Ciprofloxacin), a very strong antibiotic that’s a definite no-no for fetuses, preggos, infants and nursing mommies. If I was to get an infection along the way, and chances are that I’d get at least three, I’d have to be hospitalized and hooked up to an IV to treat the infection. It’s a lot to think about. We haven’t decided yet, but I’ll keep you posted.

It means that we’ve been doing something right. Research shows that water is important and on recommendation from my doctor, I’ve been drinking a gallon of water a day to flush and saturate my kidneys. Also, animal protein has been linked to harming the kidneys and speeding up cyst growth. So, originally, I switched to a 100% vegetarian lifestyle. After six months or so, my husband and I started incorporating fish and important meats, like bacon, back into our diet. Let me tell you, a little bacon really makes a veggie burger sing! Now, we’ve found our balance. We eat mostly veggies and fish, occasionally incorporating meats and poultries. It works for us. And (knock on wood) it seems to be working for my kidneys.

My husband, Jason, is a Godsend. He walks with me and holds my hand through all of the crazy things this crazy life brings. He has since the day we met. Since my first Walk for PKD last year, he has been wearing a yellow “Donate Life” bracelet. He never takes it off. He loves meat (He’s a man! Plus, he’s from Omaha!), but he didn’t hesitate to give it up with me, for me. Of course, I picture him binging on burgers and Slim Jims in his car on his way to work and whenever I’m not around, but that’s OK. In similar fashion, he’d previously supported every silly diet I did back before being diagnosed, from every detox diet to Atkins (very bad for kidney function by the way!), so why stop now? I’ve said it before and I’ll never stop saying it, my husband is the most amazing man on the planet! If it wasn’t for him… well, I don’t even want to think about it.

For people with Polycystic Kidney Disease, everyday is PKD Day. If you or your loved ones have a disease, any disease, you have it and are affected by it every day. Whether or not you have PKD, please celebrate with me this month. And, celebrate YOU and your life every day. Celebrate each and every opportunity you’ve been given. Celebrate your birthday, the month of your birth, the time you were born. Celebrate sunrise and sunset each and every day. Love your life and everyone in it.

We must appreciate the wonderful people in our lives and the time we have been given to spend with them. This life is a gift, a blessing, a miracle. However you choose to define it, it’s pretty stinkin’ awesome, and we have every reason and every right to celebrate.

So, happy PKD Day! Happy Every Day!

My Brother’s Penis


My brother accidentally uploaded a photo of his penis onto FaceBook. Need I say more?

OK, I needn’t but I will.

Yes, I’m actually blogging about my brother’s penis.

This is actually a relatively old story, since it happened late December (the 25th to be exact). But, I promised (or threatened) him that I’d eventually blog about it.

Well, Frank, your time has come (so to speak)!

Think of it as a Christmas story, if you will… It was (or ’twas) Christmas Day, and we had family over for dinner. My husband cooked a huge, yummy feast, as usual. We had just said the prayer (like good Catholics, we pray on Christmas, Easter… and Thanksgiving). We were stuffing our faces and chit-chatting. It was nice, but then again, I love all events that involve family and food. Then, out of nowhere and with no warning whatsoever, my brother brought up (not out, up… well, up isn’t much better, I guess) his penis. Not exactly your typical holiday dinner conversation, he told the tale of how his penis ended up on FaceBook.

He had very recently bought a new cell phone, and he was at home alone testing its features… by, uh, sexting (unfamiliar? look it up) with his girlfriend. At her request, he took a naughty picture of himself, and texted it to her… or at least he tried. It was meant to be a private communication between two consenting adults. Harmless fun, right?

Anyhoo, the photo somehow took a wrong turn somewhere in cyberspace and ended up on his FaceBook feed. Yep, right there on his wall, for all eyes to see, was a picture of my brother’s penis!!!

At first, he didn’t even know it was there. But then, how would he? He was obviously busy at the time. He didn’t even find out until later (how much later? Minutes? Hours? I’m not sure) when my best friend (Hi, Diana!) saw it and contacted him.

Not believing her own eyes, she assumed it was some sort of virus, a hacker’s penis perhaps, certainly not my brother’s. For a bit of back story, Diana and I have been friends since the 9th grade. She was my college roommate, my maid of honor. She’s family, like a sister. Therefore, my brother is like a brother to her. When you look at it that way, it’s almost like seeing her own brother’s penis! See how I managed to make an already icky story about my own brother’s penis that much ickier? You’re welcome. Being a ‘do the right thing’ kind of girl, rather than pretending it never happened or poking out her own eyes, she notified him discreetly via email to avoid any potentially awkward conversation.

Horrified, he rushed to remove the picture.

This story would’ve (and probably should’ve) ended there. But, then he had to go and tell me!

Of course, the awkward conversation started the moment I found out, and the end is nowhere in sight. Don’t look at me like that! He brought it up. The blog on the topic practically writes itself! In all fairness, Diana would have probably never told me. She wouldn’t have wanted to cause him any embarrassment. Had he not mentioned it to me, I would’ve never mentioned it to her and she would’ve kept it a secret (at least from me) forever.

I have to give her credit for that too because I would have told me immediately!! Heck, I’m telling YOU! Because funny stories should be shared, that’s why! It took all my willpower to keep it this long. In fairness, I called her the very next day after hearing my brother’s version of the story. I needed to get the rest of the story and I’d have called her sooner, but it was Christmas Day! I couldn’t have possibly waited any longer. I needed to tell someone, anyone, everyone. I had questions. I had comments. I had jokes!!

So, I called her, and said “Merry Christmas. So, I hear you saw my brother’s penis?!!”

Funnier still? She told me that someone else had actually seen it first and told her about it! Yes, that’s correct. She was not the first or the only person to see what she saw that day. Another mutual male (not mentioning any names but you know who you are) friend saw it too, and called her about it. So, two people definitely saw my brother’s penis posting. Well, two who we are aware of, but it seems that word gets around real fast when you post your parts online!

Personally, I never saw it. Thank you, God! If I had, I would probably be far too busy with therapy sessions to write this blog.

The best thing about having a relative (especially one with a great sense of humor, like my brother) accidentally post his penis online is the fun you can have with it. Hmm, that didn’t come out right, but I hope you get what I meant. Since then, I’ve started more sentences with “My brother’s penis” than any sister ever should. It’s been three months, and I still can’t stop talking about it. My brother’s penis is a hot topic!! It’s all the rage. It’s inspirational!

It’s impossible not to somehow work my brother’s penis into practically every conversation. Humor-wise, it may just be the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me and my family. Think of the endless joke possibilities! I bet your mind is already filling up with never ending innuendos. I’ve had so much fun with the one-liners, which often come to me at the strangest times.

There are far too many to list, but here’s a sample:

  • My brother told a story about his penis, and my poor mother nearly choked on it
  • I realize the topic may be a bit hard to swallow
  • But, it sure is fun to slip it in as a conversation starter
  • I’ve tried hard not to think about it, but it penetrates my thoughts and the ideas come so quickly
  • At first, it seemed like such a limp topic, but now it’s the climax of conversation
  • Realizing we’re discussing my brother’s penis, keep in mind that this was meant simply for play
  • And, please take a long, hard look at yourself (and your own brother’s penis) before judging me!

This has been huge fun. It’s been a ball, if you will. Until now, it’s been an inside joke amongst close family and a few friends. But, now you know. And, I must admit, it feels darn good sharing it with you.


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I get my second annual MRI of my kidneys tonight, and I’m scared.

It’s no ordinary MRI. If you’re a science-nerd, which I am only the latter half of, it’s a pretty cool test actually. When it’s done, I will have two very thorough 3-dimensional images of both my kidneys in all their polycystic glory to share with family and friends. Last year, I printed them out and physically showed everyone. I was like the chick showing off her brand new boob implants at her first post-surgical frat party. This year, I might even post them on Facebook (my kidneys, not my boobs).

Now, if you’re not a science-nerd, I must warn you that the images might turn your stomach, but that fact doesn’t make the results any less interesting. The test will show my kidney volumes and give some insight about my cysts, their quantity and quality (for lack of a better word). I had the first test done a year ago. It told me the then status of my kidneys. This one will tell my current status and, when compared to that one, my kidneys’ rate of digression. It should also give me a sneak peek into my future… or at least the future of my kidneys.

While I’ve been looking forward to this for a year, part of me doesn’t want to know. But, I need to know.

I say I’ve been looking forward to it, but the test itself is no fun. Laying flat on a table, strapped down, practically naked, inside a tube, alone, arms crossed above the head, claustrophobia sets in rather quickly. At least they let you select your own music. But choose carefully because you’ll be stuck with it. Last year, I requested the Grateful Dead but had to settle for the Doors. My advice: don’t settle for the Doors when you’re going to be confined inside a coffin-esque box. While I love the Doors, scary, depressing places, like coffins and MRI machines, are probably not their best venue.

Here come the instructions. Stay still. Don’t swallow. Breathe in. Hold it. Hold it. Hold it. Exhale. Repeat on command for approximately 45 minutes – longer if I accidentally breathe or swallow or move ever so slightly when told not to do so.

Why does my nose always itch during times like these?? Also, why is it so damn cold in here? This paper nightgown isn’t doing a thing for that situation! And, why must the machine scream at me? This was already scary enough without the sound of metal scraping metal. It sounds like a car accident. Are you sure this thing is safe? That reminds me. Why exactly did the tech ask if I have any metal in my body? I quickly responded, “No.” But, am I really sure? Oh God! And, I’ve had to pee from the moment they strapped me down. Yes, I went before I got here! Hello, I have kidney disease. I always have to pee. This process would be better if it included a pee break. Just one. That’s all I’m asking.

Finally, it’s over. Hurry up and get me out of this thing! Get dressed. Go home.

Then, there’s more waiting. After waiting a full year to take this test, it will take three more weeks to get the results. Three long agonizing weeks. Does anything take that long these days? Last year, I discovered that three weeks is the precise amount of time it takes to drive yourself completely insane, if you haven’t already driven yourself there long ago. Here we go again.

I have a few things to fill my time… toddler, writing, Zumba, toddler, writing, Zumba… There are other people, places and things too obviously that will fill my time (family, friends, work, sleep, school, yoga, meditation, compulsively reading my horoscope…), to distract me, and to help me through this. My family and friends are wonderful. They will help happily without even realizing they’re helping.

I have my life to live and for that I am extremely grateful, but the waiting for what I don’t yet know will always be there in the back of my mind.

I can do it.

I will do it.

Now, excuse me, I have to pee.

Nipple Cream Makes the Best Lip Balm

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I breastfed my daughter for six months.

One of the pros of breastfeeding, aside from the obvious good it does the baby, is saving money. Well, that’s what they say anyway. While this may have been true at one time, it’s hardly true today. My husband and I invested a small fortune in breastfeeding. From pumps to storage systems to special bras and bra inserts to all sorts of accessories (pads, creams, gels, ointments). We even bought something called a breast stool, which despite its name is actually for feet. Anyway, you name it and we had to have it.

I say “we” because he, my husband Jason, played a huge role in my ability to breastfeed our daughter. It sounds funny to say but without his support, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. From day one, I struggled. I struggled with latching and then unlatching. The pain was unbelievable. My nipples bled. They cracked. They bled more. I hung in there. My daughter bit me every time she nursed. The milk turned Pepto Bismol pink! Still, I hung in there. It was important to me. Jason knew that, and so it was important to him.

I’m obsessive by nature and a glutton for punishment (this explains many things in my life). Being together for 9+ years and counting, he obviously knows this about me. As always, he helped me every step of the way. He provided emotional and, at times, even physical support. During my third trimester, he took a breastfeeding class with me! When our baby arrived, he helped in every way imaginable. While he couldn’t do the main task for obvious mechanical reasons, of which we are both grateful, he did more than his fair share. At one point, I fell asleep while he worked the pump (get your mind out of the gutter, people!).

Then, a few months later, I got sick. I tried to ignore a fever for 30 days. I was hospitalized. While the doctors struggled to diagnose me (Polycystic Kidney Disease, we later learned), they treated me for every disease and ailment imaginable. It was like being on an episode of the TV show House. While they worked hard to figure out what was wrong with me, I continually slipped in and out of consciousness and fought the worst fever of my life. They were baffled by my symptoms, so I was quarantined – on lockdown in the infectious disease ward. Due to risk of illness and unidentified potentially contagious diseases, visitors were told not to touch me. My daughter, who was just 3 months old at the time, was not permitted to visit.

It was horrible.

I was determined to continue breastfeeding. Since I wasn’t allowed to see, hold or touch my baby, it was my strongest connection to her. So, from my hospital bed, I pumped and stored my milk every day. And, every night, when visiting hours ended, my husband drove the milk home to our daughter. For 6 days, I was poked, prodded and tested for everything under the sun. The cocktail of antibiotics, pain killers, fever reducers and blood thinners grew and grew. Each individually was “OK” for breastfeeding, they told me. But I was concerned.

“What about the combination?” I asked.

They were confused by my question. So, rather than risk it, I opted to pump and dump for fear my daughter would pay the price. In case you’re not familiar, pumping and dumping is pretty self explanatory. Pump the milk. Then dump it. It’s a method passed down from mommy to mommy, primarily so mommies can partake in the occasional cocktail. A good friend had told me about it during my pregnancy to sell me on breastfeeding. She had me at margarita.

It sounded easy enough, and I couldn’t wait to try it. Unfortunately, my first postpartum cocktail was in the hospital. And, my first experience with pumping and dumping was way outside the recreational happy hour context. In fact, it wasn’t happy at all. For me, it was heartbreaking. Aside from the aforementioned financial investment, breastfeeding also requires a huge emotional and mental commitment. Dumping milk that was meant to provide sustenance and nourishment for my baby? Well, it hurt far more than the biting ever could.

Many of my friends and family advised me to give up on breastfeeding altogether. It wasn’t worth the agony, they’d say. But, I wasn’t so sure. Trying to comfort me, they’d tell me I’d tried hard enough. Um, have we met? After being diagnosed with PKD and released from the hospital’s infectious disease ward, which I later learned was the worst place for a kidney patient with a compromised immune system, I continued to pump and dump for a full month before being able to get back into the game. But, I got there… because I’m obsessive, remember?

Then, a few months later, I got sick again. Stress. Fatigue. Dehydration. These things added up, and I eventually threw in the towel. Basically, I dried up. It certainly wasn’t for lack of trying. I was producing less than 4 ounces of milk in a whole day, while pumping every 2 hours around the clock, 7 days per week. I went from supplementing formula to supplementing breast milk. My body wasn’t cooperating and after an emotional rollercoaster, I finally gave up.

I had to admit to myself that I couldn’t continue physically. My body wouldn’t let me. It was hurting me more than it was helping my daughter. Sure, I could produce plenty of blood, sweat and tears but not milk?! Why?? What a joke!

I felt like a failure.

It may seem silly, but I had to forgive myself. Once I realized that my daughter was as healthy and happy as could be on formula as she was on breast milk, I felt better. I suddenly had more time to play with her and for other things like sleep! Eventually, the hormones shifted back into place, I was me again and I was able to truly appreciate all that I’d experienced as a new mother. Even though my original goal was to nurse my daughter for (at least) a full year, I was grateful for being able to have done it for as long as I did. Sure, it was painful and expensive but it was also wonderful while it lasted.

I eventually moved on to other obsessions. For example, I still refuse to accept the fact that we invested all that money for a mere six months. Come hell or high water, I’m going to get our money’s worth out of it!

This is the reason I currently use my breast stool when I need a boost to reach out-of-reach things, and why I occasionally use leftover Milk Screen alcohol test strips when I’ve had a few glasses of champagne. It’s why I know that breast pads make excellent coasters (they’re very absorbent & they stay put!) and that breast milk storage containers work just as well when freezing adult food. And, perhaps most valuable of all, it’s why I know that nipple cream makes the best lip balm!

I still haven’t found an alternate use for my breast pump yet, but I’m working on it.