Bullies (a.ka. questionable parenting)

As a formerly fat kid (as in, formerly a kid, but still fat), I have a less-than-friendly take on dealing with bullies. I realize sometimes this doesn’t make me the best mother. Take this conversation for example:

O: [tells the story of a boy saying a marginally mean remark to her] I don’t know why he said that.

Me: What a little jerk.

Me: [realizing that wasn’t an acceptable answer] Kids can be mean sometimes, but try not to let it bother you. None of is it true and they are just trying to get a reaction out of you.

O: Yeah, [last year’s teacher] told us how to respond to bullies. He said, “If someone says that you have an ugly shirt say, ‘Thanks! That is the look I was going for!”’

Me: If someone told me I had an ugly shirt I would say, “Not as ugly as your face!” [damn. . . quickly backtrack to some of that “don’t let it bother you” stuff]

Merry Christmas!

20131215_111751-TWINKLEHappy Holidays from the Playfully Tacky family.

We are cozy at home and enjoying our tree with its sparkly lights. Fans of the traditional tree, ours is covered in family ornaments from the past thirty years.

I hope you are having a wonderful day.
Whether it is special or just a Wednesday, it deserves to rock.

My favorite. . . holiday music

It isn’t Friday favorites, but I’m going to go ahead and finish my holiday music posts with my favorite songs. You can catch these on repeat at any given moment in my house.

Otis Redding – White Christmas (1967)

Bing Crosby – Mele Kalikimaka (Hawaiian Christmas Song)

Percy Faith – We Need a Little Christmas

On My Bookshelf

The Johnstown Flood by David McCulloughjohnstown

From The history of civil engineering may sound boring, but in David McCullough’s hands it is, well, riveting. His award-winning histories of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Panama Canal were preceded by this account of the disastrous dam failure that drowned Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in 1889. Written while the last survivors of the flood were still alive, McCullough’s narrative weaves the stories of the town, the wealthy men who owned the dam, and the forces of nature into a seamless whole. His account is unforgettable: “The wave kept on coming straight toward him, heading for the very heart of the city. Stores, houses, trees, everything was going down in front of it, and the closer it came, the bigger it seemed to grow…. The height of the wall of water was at least thirty-six feet at the center…. The drowning and devastation of the city took just about ten minutes.” A powerful, definitive book, and a tribute to the thousands who died in America’s worst inland flood. –Mary Ellen Curtin

Confession: I’ve never finished a book by David McCullough (until this one). Are you going to take my historian card away? His books are good, but feel bloated to me and I lose interest about halfway through. This one is shorter and – helpful for me – I listened to the audiobook. A very interesting story about an event I knew little of.

Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses by Bess LovejoyimagesCAYLO1UJ

From But for some of the most influential figures in history, death marked the start of a new adventure. The famous deceased have been stolen, burned, sold, pickled, frozen, stuffed, impersonated, and even filed away in a lawyer’s office. Their fingers, teeth, toes, arms, legs, skulls, hearts, lungs, and nether regions have embarked on voyages that crisscross the globe and stretch the imagination. Counterfeiters tried to steal Lincoln’s corpse. Einstein’s brain went on a cross-country road trip. And after Lord Horatio Nelson perished at Trafalgar, his sailors submerged him in brandy—which they drank. From Mozart to Hitler, Rest in Pieces connects the lives of the famous dead to the hilarious and horrifying adventures of their corpses, and traces the evolution of cultural attitudes toward death.

A fun, easy read. This is the kind of thing I love. I think the book could have used some photographs though; it would be nice to see some of these odd gravesites Lovejoy writes about. I bought this book because I – rightly – thought I would like to add it to my collection. This may have been a mistake. The book is tall and about half the width of a traditional book (maybe to resemble a coffin?). The shape made is awkward to hold with one hand while curled up on the couch with cocoa in the other hand. It might have been a better choice for me to get the ebook. [I read this one for my Facebook book club, The Swashbooklers.]

Two Whole Cakes: How to Stop Dieting and Learn to Love Your Body by Lesley KinzelTwo_Whole_Cakes_large

From In the age of The Biggest Loser and the “war on obesity,” we’re pressured to conform to certain body standards at any cost. Sure, everyone should eat right and get exercise, but what if you do that and you still don’t fit into the clothes at the mall? In Two Whole Cakes, Fatshionista extraordinaire Lesley Kinzel tells stories, gives advice, and challenges stereotypes about being and feeling fat. Kinzel says no to diet fads and pills, shows by example how to stop hating your body, celebrates self-acceptance at any size, and urges you to finally accept the truth: your body is not a tragedy!

Lesley Kinzel has been on my radar for a while – all the way back to my goth auction sites and Livejournal days. I meant to buy this book when it first came out, but I procrastinated as usual. I’m happy to have added it to my collection now though, to support Kinzel if nothing else. A great read about size acceptance and body politics.


I-Heart-Moustaches-TShirts_largeOur daughter turns eleven today and we had a moustache birthday party last weekend. I can’t believe that it is true, so I’m going to contribute to my denial by sharing some of the weird things she said as I kid. I kept track of these for a short time when she was in preschool/kindergarten.

O: [singing down the hallway] Daddy has a wiener!
Dad: Where did you hear that?
O: From my friend who is the most popular girl in school.

O: [yelling] Come in here and turn me something on that isn’t the damn old news!

O: Did you watch the thing to see who won to be president?
Mom: We didn’t elect the president yet; that was just the debate.
O: Yeah, they argued. [gestures with hands to indicate back and forth] But they tied so now they have to do it again.

O: [astonished after watching a commercial] Rachel Ray is going on vacation and—-guess what!—-we can join her!

O: Everything I’m saying to you is a sentence.

O: [to her cousin] I’m gifted.
Cousin: Uh-huh.
O: That means I’m smarter than you.

O: That television isn’t on.
Mom: Yeah.
O: Maybe it’s a clapper. [claps in an effort to turn on the television]

Mom: Do you know that I love your daddy?
O: Yeah.
Dad: Do you know that I love your mommy more than anything?
O: What about cake?

O: My finger tastes good because of the play-dough.

My median sternotomy and thymectomy: Part V – Home

When I was preparing for the surgery, my surgeon explained that I would not have as much pain and difficulty since I was young. At first, I couldn’t understand why I was in so much pain and getting passed in the hallway by elderly patients with their iv poles. A little talk with the nurses (with the exception of one dud, I liked all of my nurses), cleared up the confusion a bit. They explained that while my recovery period would like be a breeze in comparison to elderly patients, their experiences over the years pointed towards more pain for younger patients post-surgery. One older nurse in particular told me that she often had 80 year-old patients just needing Tylenol when they left the hospital and 30 year-old patients leaving with strong prescriptions. Gee, thanks surgeon. You could have explained a little better.

I left the hospital with hydrocodone and I needed to take it pretty much every four hours consistently. The drive home was similar to any surgery – bumps were painful, but I made it. I wasn’t able to sit on my couch when I first got home; it is a low, modern sectional and I couldn’t get back up off it at first without pain. My husband moved a recliner from the little man’s room into the living room and it became my seat, dining room table, and bed for the next few days.

Sleeping flat was still out of the question when I came home. If I ended up “too flat” (and that changed from day to day), I had pain from the pulling on my incision, interior pain, and the sensation that I had a big metal plate sitting on my chest. I didn’t sleep well, but I slept a lot. At first, the pain meds knocked me out. Then they started to give me insomnia (not to mention constipation) and my sleep schedule somewhat flipped. After a little bit in the recliner, I moved onto my couch, but still propped up into a leaning position. All I wanted to do was curl up on my side or – better yet! – on my stomach. I was stuck on my back for a month before I started to have a little more flexibility in sleeping positions. Even when I could sleep in a flatter position and moved back into my bed, it was helpful to elevate my arms a bit so they didn’t pull at my incision.

I could not do anything for myself. Not anything. I wasn’t allowed to lift anything heavier than five pounds. I don’t know if you have noticed, but everything is heavier than five pounds. I think my peppermint mocha this morning may have been heavier than five pounds. Need a glass of milk? Ask someone. Need to open a heavy door? Ask someone. Need to open a tough jar? Ask someone. Feel like you are useless and want to do some chores? Too bad, sit back down.

Range of motion was also a problem. I couldn’t really stretch to pick anything up or put on my clothes. I left the hospital without my compression bra on, but it only took a couple of hours to realize that was a mistake (again, boobs are heavy). I had my husband help me into a sports bra. It is pretty difficult for another person to put a piece of tight clothing on you when you can’t put your arms up hardly any. Even when my range of motion improved, I kept getting stuck in situations I couldn’t get out of. One night, I tried to put on this tight long sleeved shirt. I got stuck. Even though I could put on other shirts by myself, I didn’t have the strength to stretch the shirt onto my arms. Go figure. I put my socks on by myself two weeks post-surgery. It was a facebook-worthy moment.

I also got out of the house for the first time two weeks post-surgery. That was the first time I felt comfortable riding in the car. My pillow stayed with me at all times for coughing, getting up, and difficult movements. Eventually, I picked out a nicer small pillow that I didn’t mind carrying around in public. It is still on my couch today. When I felt more comfortable leaving the house, fatigue was a big problem. I had to carefully plan so I wouldn’t get stuck in the back of Wal-Mart without the strength to keep going.

During recovery, I had regular appointments with my surgeon. At the first appointment I had an x-ray to make sure the bone was healing properly. Since everything looked okay, this was the only post-surgery x-ray I needed. Aside from that, the appointments were mostly to check my incision and to make sure I was doing enough activities, but not too many activities. Delicate balance and all.

Speaking of the incision – my scar is right in the middle of my chest and starts a couple of inches above my boobs. It is about eight inches long with three small spots underneath from the drains. It is not pretty. Overall, my scar spread and is wider than expected. Also, the very top of my incision did not heal properly. It scabbed over and the scab fell off early revealing a dent. It looked like someone put their thumb on my chest, pressed down and rotated into a circle. Basically, it was still healing, but now had to steal from the bottom up. When I got out of the shower in the morning, I had to lean over to let the water run out of it. I wore a band aid over it until it was completely healed. Now the top of my scar spreads into a quarter-sized circle. I may decide to see a plastic surgeon about it in the future.

I went back to work after two months, although I did work a few hours a week at home for a couple of weeks first. I still couldn’t pick much up and the fatigue was a problem, but it was nice to be back to normal.

One year post surgery: My scar is still slightly red. My sternum stopped hurting when I coughed/sneezed/hiccupped/twisted my body about six months ago. It stopped aching when the weather changed about two months ago and now only does it occasionally. I still have some soreness with the muscles in my upper chest and shoulders, but this is likely more about my scoliosis and the surgery instead of just the surgery.

My median sternotomy and thymectomy: Part IV – Hospital, cont.

I’m not going to try to do a day-by-day run-down of the rest of my time in the hospital, just some of my overall impressions and thoughts. I stayed in the hospital for 5 days total. Every day was better than the last, but every day sucked.

Respiratory: Respiratory therapists starting coming in to check on me regularly almost immediately. I was tasked with blowing into my little spirometer every hour I was awake to slowly get my lung capacity back up. Deep breaths followed by coughs. The coughs hurt. This is the part of a sternotomy that everyone seems to be aware of – hugging a pillow tight to your chest while coughing. That pillow, man . . . it is a necessity. So, the coughing. It hurt. Anything that moved that part of my body hurt and I could feel my bone slightly grinding if I didn’t have the pillow tight enough. Plus, all of my chest muscles hurt. It almost felt like they had been ripped apart. Huh, imagine that.

Getting up: I got out of bed on the morning after surgery. The nurse removed my catheter and my only requirement was to get to the bathroom and try to pee. It was hard at first. Standing up straight was difficult. I had a nurse on one side and a family member on the other to make sure I didn’t fall. After the first day, I just needed someone next to me as a precaution, but at first their support was extremely important. The first walk, as I reached the bathroom, I felt the need to cough. I managed to squeak out, “I need to cough. This is going to hurt bad, right?” to the nurse before coughing. And then screamed. I actually screamed. I’ve never felt pain like that. I was embarrassed that I screamed, but I just wasn’t expecting the pain. It is hard to describe; the best way I can explain it is like being stabbed from the inside every time I coughed. Once I knew what to expect, it was better, I guess. It still hurt like a bitch – for a long time, long after I came home – but I didn’t get caught off guard again.

Sitting up and walking: After I got out of bed for the first time, I was encouraged to sit up and walk around more and more. I had a spare wheelchair in my room and would use it as makeshift walker. Eventually, I started going on walks down the hallway and at some point, my mom started pushing the wheelchair for emergencies as I walked beside it. [I should mention – my husband got sick while I was in the hospital. I had to kick him out when he said he felt like throwing up and my mom stepped in for her turn as caretaker for a couple of days.] I didn’t really like sitting in a chair. It was very difficult to get back out of the chair I had in my room, so I mostly just used the side of my bed. By the fourth day, I could move back and forth to the bathroom without any support or extra precautions. I found the best way to get out of bed was to move the top part forward as much as possible. I then could be sitting straight up and slowly work my legs off of the side. This was a surprise to me – I didn’t really have the ability to rotate my upper body, so just swinging my legs off the side normally wasn’t an option. It took some work to figure it out. That was a bit shocking for me; something that I did every day without a second thought was now a carefully orchestrated process.

Eating: My appetite didn’t return to normal until the third or fourth day, but I started eating some on the second. I nibbled mostly. The toradol I needed for my stomach made my mouth extremely dry and I remember laughing hysterically [ouch!] with my mom as it took me nearly five minutes and half a glass of water to chew and swallow a bite of biscuit. There were no restrictions on what I ate.

Drains: The small drains came out on day two. The big chest drain came out on day three. That chest drain was awkward – I had to load the bubbly thing up into my wheelchair when I wanted to walk around. I hated the feeling of it moving around inside my body. I had already learned from the internet that removing the big drain wasn’t exactly painful, but was very uncomfortable. I held my mom’s hand and the surgeon just pretty much pulled it out in one swoop. It felt like most of my inside was going to come with it, but it didn’t of course. Once it was over, I had no pain or problem with any of my drain sites.

Bathing: I couldn’t take a bath until my last day in the hospital, so it was sponge bath city for me. I’m sure some of the elderly patients on the ward needed help from a nurse for this, but I was mobile enough to make due with just family and my private areas covered. I didn’t feel yucky, but my hair was a mess. I needed a headband from the gift shop to be presentable. I suggest bringing a hat.

TMI, bathroom time (you may want to skip this): I had great difficult wiping myself after using the bathroom. My range of motion was severely limited and I couldn’t rotate my body at all. I had to ask for help from the nurses every single time. You can imagine how embarrassing and degrading this was. Eventually, on the very last day (don’t know why no one else thought to show me earlier), a nurse showed me how to increase my range of motion by leaning forward and slightly squatting. It was very helpful. Not 100%, as I’m fat and that got in the way, but helpful.

More holiday music

Wrecking Ball Parody (Deck the Halls by Dave and Brian)
From Youtube: The official music video release of Dave and Brian’s Christmas Parody of Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” called “Deck the Halls.”

Angels We Have Heard On High – Pentatonix

Do you watch The Sing Off? You should. It isn’t bloated like other music shows (Idol and Voice, I’m looking at you), plus you will discover awesome groups like Pentatonix.