The Literal Grapes of Wrath

2019 sucks. It has been a hard year and it’s only April, so if that’s any indication of how the next 8 months are going to go, I will just go throw myself off a bridge right now and save myself the trouble. Obviously, I wouldn’t really do that, but God almighty, it’s been rough these last four months.

I am by no means a superstitious person, but I’m tracking all of this horrendous bad luck to New Year’s Eve. As part of Spanish tradition, we eat 12 grapes in the last 12 seconds of the year on this night; starting at 11:59:48, if you get all 12 grapes down, you are supposed to have good luck all 12 months of the new year. In the past, I of course have not been able to eat all 12, and some years I’ve eaten them all and didn’t win the lottery or anything. There was one year where my mom bought grapes that were the circumference of silver dollars, and needless to say, we all almost choked and got nowhere near finishing 12 grapes. We’ve done this every year, even on years when we’re apart or at a party somewhere (yes, I’ve taken a sandwich baggie of 12 grapes over to people’s houses for NYE parties). You just don’t break tradition.

This year, Timmy and I celebrated at our home in St. Pete after a winter break of driving all over the place, like always. We began December with a trip to the Bahamas with our good friends who were escaping the Chicago winter. I ended up having a 24 hour stomach bug the last day there.

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Then over the winter break in Atlanta, I had a terrible cold and needed my weight in Sudafed and went through 2 boxes of tissues. We took a quick trip to NC with our good friends Mathew and Lucie and enjoyed a lot of time with family.

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Then NYE came upon us when that terrible thing happened and it’s been a rapid descent into hell on earth since then.

Timmy and I both do the grapes tradition on NYE. Usually I can at least get them in my mouth, if not fully swallowed and digested, which is close enough. This year, I wasn’t able to get 4 down. They were just sitting in the sandwich bag, mocking me. I immediately said (after swallowing the 8 I had been able to eat), “Shit, I’m going to have a really bad 4-months in 2019!” 

No truer words have ever been spoken in the history of ever.

A few weeks into January, I got a concussion. I was in our work break room, moving food for an event from the freezer to the fridge when I stood up and my head went right into the bottom of the freezer door. I’m almost passed out and immediately felt nauseated. The next day, I had a conference in DC. My second day of the conference, I started to slur my words, speak slowly, and had basically no ability to focus or concentrate, so I made my way to the ER. 45 minutes later, I was diagnosed with a head injury (no shit) and was discharged. That lovely bill came later and with insurance, I (now my worker’s compensation) owe nearly $700…for 45 minutes. Insane. I did get to see some of my friends so there was a wonderful upside to that trip, but the conference was kind of a bust. 

The next few weeks, we were able to see some friends at Disney and Anna Maria, and finally got to see Hamilton for Timmy’s birthday (which totally lived up to the hype, it was that incredible). Honestly, I’ve been so underwater this semester from working full time, teaching class, and taking 6 credits online, I can’t really remember many details from visiting with our friends in the first place. Add in that concussion, and let’s just say it was all really fun.

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I recovered over the next few weeks and in February, nearly a month to the day of the first concussion, I got yet another concussion.

I’m not kidding you. Timmy and I were attempting to go paddleboarding but it was an extremely windy day. I was on the driver’s side of the car when Timmy tried to lift the top paddleboard off my car and the wind took it from there, right into the backside of my head. In what should’ve been complete whiplash, I fell to the ground and couldn’t really move much. A kind stranger witnessed the whole thing, and while Timmy rushed to secure back the paddleboards so they didn’t fly off again, she stayed with me and eventually helped me walk back, very shakily, to the car. I didn’t have to go to the ER then because I was still recovering from the first concussion, so any additional symptoms would’ve been same ole same ole at that point.

My immediate reaction on the car ride home was, “God, I don’t want to be dumb.” After all the concussions and CTE news, I was and am still pretty concerned that after surviving an entire childhood with no concussions, I have had 3 in 6 years (2 from paddleboards, oddly enough). I can’t deal with memory loss, lowered intelligence, and random bursts of anger, y’all, I got stuff to accomplish!

Then the last Monday of February, which was the beginning of Spring Wellness Week, a week of wellness-related events that I’m completely responsible for, I woke up at 3 am with what I thought was food poisoning. As the day wore on and I was unable to go to work, I realized that something about this was different.

If you’ve ever had food poisoning, you know it’ll be gone in 24 hours and it has you wishing for death. A trip anywhere other than the bathroom is not to be attempted nor could it be without you vomiting and/or shitting your pants. However, I ended up in the ER again for what we think now was a stomach virus that had me in tears, doubled over in pain from muscle spasms in my upper abdomen due to all the heaving and purging. The entire week after, I couldn’t eat anything but bland foods and soup (which I can’t stand) and my intestines were so distended, I looked 5 months pregnant.

All of this should’ve been enough, right? Like any normal person would’ve been greatly affected by just one of these things happening, let alone all 3 in 2 months.

But I’m not done yet.

Two weeks later, we went to Panama with my entire family for spring break. We were able to see so much of my dad’s side there, and honestly it was a great trip. The timing was horrendous though because I had been spending most Sundays up until then back in my office, trying to catch up on schoolwork, and Timmy really needed to be in the states for his work. But all in all, throw in hotel upgrades in Panama City and again in Buenaventura (this time, to a 4 bedroom villa that could’ve housed everyone), it really was a super fun time.

We took a 9-hour tour that took us on a boat on the Panama Canal, fed some monkeys on Monkey Island, saw the Fort of San Lorenzo, walked across one of the locks of the Panama Canal, and witnessed a large ship crossing through the Agua Clara locks of the Canal. I remember when I was much younger watching the Panama Canal ship crossing and not really being super into it, but now as an adult, that thing is an engineering marvel and really interesting to see in person.

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The rest of March passed by hitting my allergies HARD. I have never bought so much Sudafed (and I’m talking the meth-making kind), Mucinex, and tissues IN MY LIFE COLLECTIVELY than in the last 6 months. I couldn’t breathe, sleep was a distant memory, I was sneezing every 5 minutes, and then the drainage…Oh the drainage.

Then April hit, and the shitstorm just kept rolling. I am on Marco Polo with a bunch of my grad school girlfriends and while they were all marveling at my ridiculous string of bad luck, I told them, “What’s the worst that can happen from here on out? A bone break?”

OMG I WAS SO WRONG.

Two weeks ago, someone hacked my Amazon account and reloaded my gift card balance using my credit card to $100, no doubt to use the gift card balance themselves. I caught this, and Amazon removed it. I went on a few days later after changing my password and bought a few things, not realizing that those items had been charged to my newly uploaded gift card balance AGAIN. Apparently, they rehacked my account after the password change, but I used up the balance before they could.

Then, I woke up last Tuesday morning to 25 emails from Amazon, each thanking me for purchasing Playstation gift cards in various amounts from $25 to $50 through the night, totaling almost $400 worth of charges. Even though this dumbass dude (and yes, I’m saying it’s a man) used my Decatur billing address AND the fact that I’ve never purchased anything Playstation related in the close to 15 years I’ve been on Amazon, the dude got his gift cards and spent the amounts quickly because you receive the redemption codes upon purchase.

Another thing this asshole did was use my account to upload trade-in items. I guess when you trade-in items on Amazon, you get paid immediately for them, which is what he used to transfer to my gift card balance and used them right away. I started getting emails saying that I had 16 days to send in the trade-in items, but guess what…I don’t actually have any of those items. So I had to spend an entire morning with Amazon, making sure my account was labeled as unauthorized use, and closed down temporarily for 2 days, after which I could create a new password and start using it again.

I have to admit, the hacker used a brilliant tactic to ensure that he got free stuff and never had it tracked back to him because guess what is nonrefundable on Amazon? Gift cards and gaming purchases!

At this point, I’m sure you’re thinking, “God damn Victoria, that’s enough! I hope your string of bad luck has ended!”

BUT YOU WOULD BE WRONG.

Last Thursday, while Timmy was traveling for work, I was really really wanting ice cream so I got in my car with Floyd to satisfy my late evening craving. As soon as I started the car, I, without thinking, reached down to close the garage door as I was backing out. Yes, I have sensors to stop the door, but my tires hadn’t reached them yet. By the time I realized what I had done and quickly put my car in forward drive, the garage door clipped the top of my car and bent the bottom panel, pulling the door off the tracks.

Almost about to cry, I thought to myself, “Fuck it. I already broke it. Ice cream, I’m coming for you!”

The next day, I had one of those national garage companies come to give me an estimate, and as soon as I saw these young, smug, white dudes walk up, I knew they were going to tell me I needed a new garage door. They quoted me $1000 for a new door that would’ve looked nothing like Timmy’s garage door, which obviously wouldn’t have worked, especially because of our HOA. So in essence, they were telling me I needed to pay $2000 for 2 new garage doors. I told them no, and as soon as they left, I called this other guy I had used once before when I bent the upper panel of my garage door (it was right after we moved in. Again, my fault, because I didn’t park my car in far enough). He came 1 hour later, fixed it in 1 hour and it was $175.

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My quick thinking at least saved me from a moronic sales pitch. I like to imagine that without 2 concussions, I would never have broken the door in the first place, so let’s leave it at that.

I left my Amazon account alone for nearly 6 days, and then I changed my password this Monday. Lo and behold, not even 5 hours later, during my evening class, I got an email thanking me for the $10 Xbox gift card purchase and redemption I had done! So yet, again, I had to spend more time with Amazon doing the exact same thing as before.

Suffice it to say, I haven’t gone on Amazon since.

April, you have 2 more weeks. GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER. These grapes of wrath have taken their toll on me, and I’m the most overwhelmed, moody, and stressed I’ve ever been in my life (wedding planning not included bc I wasn’t also hit with a bunch of medical issues during it). Like I said, I’m not superstitious, but 4 grapes not eaten, 4 horrific months of 2019…there has to be a connection and I’m over it.

I turn 36 in two and a half weeks, and all I’m wishing for at this point is no more head injuries. Happy. birthday. to. me.

♥, VB

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The Horror of Today

I would say 75% of my friends on Facebook are parents. I know because all I see are a never ending parade of pictures of them with their children every time I’m online. Pictures of teeth lost, of birthdays and swim lessons and first and last days of school. Memories and love all documented for the world to see.

Now, I’m not assuming that many of them don’t care about what’s going on because of their lack of comment on FB. However, the lack of commentary in a public forum on the abhorrent practice that is going on right now is concerning enough. One would think that something as relatable as having a family would be something that could unite parents into doing what’s best for the child.

I’m not a parent and I’m quite frankly sick to my stomach.

Lately, I literally cannot decide what I need to be more outraged by with this current administration and I’m starting to get pretty fatigued, as I’m sure you all are. But we can’t just stop caring, especially when it’s as fundamentally a human rights violation as SEPARATING PARENTS AND THEIR CHILDREN. Whatever you believe on immigration and the rights of immigrants, this practice is WRONG. Christian-defined wrong, Islamic-defined wrong, Judaism-defined wrong, ALL RELIGIONS-defined wrong.

There is no middle ground here on deciding the morality of this practice. IT IS WRONG.

Dozens of “Families Belong Together” rallies are planned for Thursday, June 14, to protest the Trump administration’s practice of separating children from their parents at the US-Mexico border. Above, a rally on June 1 in Manhattan. Spencer Platt/Getty Images 

The fact that something that is also fundamental to our country, like separation of church and state, is also being ignored by this current administration is killing me. How dare our Attorney General use the Bible to justify any piece of this atrocious practice. HOW DARE ANY OF YOU TRY TO JUSTIFY THIS BY SAYING IT’S ABOUT DEMOCRATS AND LOOPHOLES IN POLICY AND RELIGION AND IT’S JUST ENFORCEMENT OF LAW.

Seriously, Fuck You.

I’m getting to the point where I’m feeling ready to shut down entirely. I’m sensing that depressive fog start to take shape and hover over my body and when that happens in full, there is no hope, no fun, just a vast sense of nothingness. I’m clinging to my job like there’s no tomorrow because at least through my work, I get to help, I get to connect students to their community, and I get to see first hand how knowledge can change lives.

If you’re a parent, I hope that you stop to think about if you had been born a different race, a different SES, in a different country with a different language, how separating your child from you could damage everything and everyone. I hope just as a human being you can and want to put yourselves fully in someone else’s shoes to understand their struggles and challenges. The ability to do that is called empathy, and the world could use much more of it.

We have survived as a human species this long because of our ability and desire to co-exist. Our earth is absolutely not going to be around forever because we’ve clearly already destroyed that. I hate to think our collective recognition and appreciation of our shared humanity is also on its way to extinction. Some of my colleagues, friends, and loved ones are rightly horrified about the state of current events and want to do something, anything to help. But my main concern is that not everyone is as deeply enraged as they should be.

I thought we were all better than this.

♥, VB

Surgeries for Old People in Young Bodies

If you like feet, then you’re really going to like this post. If not, sorry but just skip right through to the end.

God, I’m too young to have this much damage going on in my body. I have talked a lot on this blog about my chronic back pain and the never-ending search for relief, including pain management, MRIs (I just went through old paperwork and since 2011 I’ve had 6 MRIs on my back ALONE…that can’t be good, right?), yoga, PT, chiropractors, heat, ice, acupuncture pressure pads…it sucks. It’s stuff that as a former athlete you know is going to come your way, but no matter what, you’re really never prepared for how much mental energy it takes to deal with on a daily basis.

When I was younger, from ballet to basketball, I sprained my ankle nearly 14 times. Around my mid 20s, it had gotten to the point that I was wearing a brace daily because of the weakness and constant pain. No orthopedist could tell what was wrong because on the MRIs, I had no scar tissue. Well, it turns out I had continuously stretched out the ligament but hadn’t torn it in years. It wouldn’t even swell anymore when I would sprain it.

All the years spent overcompensating on my left leg had left my right leg with underdeveloped muscles and general weakness throughout. I still struggle with this today, which is no doubt why my back pain persists so much. For close to 15 years, my gait, how I stand, sit, everything was affected by my ankle sprains and over-strengthening of just my left leg.

I finally met with a podiatrist who correctly diagnosed my issues and boom, we had a plan. I had reconstructive right ankle surgery in January of 2011 and that was a GNARLY surgery to heal from. I was in crutches for 3 weeks and a walking boot for 3 more weeks, and it still took WELL over a year for me to move around almost normally.

That surgery was life changing, and all thanks goes to Dr. Camasta at Village Podiatry. The surgery took my pain away, allowed me to really pursue exercise full throttle without having to hold back.

No don’t get too far ahead of me. I still can’t put my right foot flat without some discomfort in Warrior 1, over 7 years later because it seems the ligament was put back together and overtightened. But that surgery was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

As the years go on, other things start to fall apart, much quicker than expected. I’ve had bunions since my pointe shoe days destroyed the normal shape of my feet. They never really hurt and never bothered me except aesthetically. But in the last 4 years, the pain came on and got worse as the days went by. My left in particular became more and more deformed and was constantly in throbbing pain. I decided this past year was the final year with that hideous, malformed, and painful bunion.

I’m 34 by the way, not 60.

Here’s the before picture (I warn you, it’s bad):

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Calcium deposits and all. The blood underneath my big toenail was from when I dropped a full paint can during our renovation period last year. It was super fun and not painful in the least.

That bunion was so painful. My big toe was starting to go behind the other toes which is definitely not a good sign. It wore holes in shoes, the nerve was being compressed between the bone and skin, and it was just fugly. Once again, a podiatrist entered and changed my life last August.

I was terrified for this surgery, honestly. All I’ve ever heard is how painful the surgery and recovery is, and oh god, I have such a low pain threshold…I just knew I was in for hell. I also don’t do well under general anesthesia as I get VERY nauseated. Did it happen again where I was vomiting in recovery because they didn’t give me enough anti-nausea medication? You betcha!

Lo and behold, my doctor, Dr. Gary Katz was a godsend. I only took 2 pain pills the day after surgery and never again after that. Not a single shock of pain, nothing, nada. He was a wizard.

Every week I had to go back to change out the wrapping, which was worth it because that meant I could have a walking boot immediately after the 1st week and for nearly 7 weeks after (thanks Hurricane Irma). I didn’t need crutches this time, I could drive since it wasn’t my driving foot, and the walking boot meant that I could exercise and move around freely-ish.

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the day of surgery, Aug 3, 2017

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my surgeon had jokes for me to discover

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after the initial splint was removed

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hello bruising, 2 weeks later

It was night and day. The pain was finally gone, and every week got better and better.

I returned to have the pin removed in December and that was it. No mas follow ups, nothing. I’m free.

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These days, it aches a bit when I stretch it, but that’s to be expected. I recovered about 10x faster than after my ankle surgery and no doubt, it’s what really caused my back to go nuts. I’m now down to 1x/week for PT and working daily (sometimes hourly) on strengthening the hell out of my right leg. It’s a work in progress. Slowly but surely, I’m eradicating pain where I can and doing what I can to alleviate it where there’s no sure path.

Today is a good day when I think of how far I’ve come.

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Now go and enjoy lunch!

♥, VB

 

No, I Didn’t Forget I Had a Blog

It is laughable how terrible I’ve been at updating this thing.

I’ve been stepping away from using FB more and more ever since I rejoined last year after close to a 9 month hiatus. It just sucks. I’ve had to hide so many people now: the majority of my extreme right-wing friends — the ones who keep posting about how gun control is the same as “giving our rights away” (complete effing nonsense); the ones who keep posting about Rodan & Fields/Plexus/stupid ass diets that don’t work; the ones who keep posting pictures of their half-naked bodies in an attempt to get compliments but who claim modesty and humility (EITHER STOP DOING THIS OR JUST CALL IT WHAT IT IS); the ones who go on just to start fights with anyone who doesn’t 100% agree with their political views.

This is just exhausting and no longer fun to look at. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I miss the days when it was just all weddings and babies and football posts.

So instead, I’ve been living my life on Instagram and/or offline as fully as I can. We’ve been having so much fun as a couple lately, ever since NYE (WHICH WAS 3 MONTHS AGO) and I don’t see this train stopping anytime soon. Life has been busy, as per usual, what with my full time job, 2 classes that I teach Monday and Wednesday evenings, supervising 3 part-time student employees, completing my Wellness Coaching certification, and getting ready to hire a full-time employee whom I will be supervising starting this summer. Whew.

We’ve been busy on the weekends living it up in FL, which has included the purchase of a new sectional couch (“HELL YES!” says my back), some pool days during an unusually hot February, a Beer and Bacon Fest, an extremely awesome day of surprises for Timmy’s 35th birthday which included a wine making class and an escape room (which we won with only 38 seconds left on the clock!), Phantom of the Opera tickets (where I def cried), a quick trip to Miami that resulted in no pool days but 1 long spa day for me while Timmy worked a conference, and lots of trips to Disney World.

I’ve hit Disney 3 times since January (which as you know is my favorite place on earth, and no, I won’t apologize for it). It actually comes in handy when your family comes to town for spring break and you’ve got the skinny on how to plan out your days and paths at any given Disney park (you’re welcome familia). Which is exactly what happened last week, my first spring break I’ve taken off in 5 years.

God that was fun. I couldn’t wait to see Disney through my nieces’ eyes, the magic of it all. What I didn’t expect was their willingness to wait in 2+ hour lines which we didn’t do because eff that. But all in all, we hit every ride (almost) and the whole family had the best time ever. It was also maybe the fastest week in the history of ever.

The one thing I’ve been struggling with since last October is my chronic, never ending, mind-erasing back pain. Around the time I got rid of my walking boot after my bunionectomy last August, my back decided to go haywire and destroy my emotional stability. I couldn’t do anything without severe pain that would take my breath away for nearly 5 months.

I decided after my last facet injections in January didn’t work that I would try anything, and I meant ANYTHING. There have been a few days at the beginning of this year where I just couldn’t take it anymore. Timmy would have to help me get up from a sitting or lying down position or pick something off the floor or help me put socks/pants on. I was immobile many, many days and hysterically sad about it the other days. I broke down, cried nonstop, and fell into a hole of despair and hopelessness that my pain would get any better, that I could have a normal life, that I would ever be pain-free.

In short, I was completely miserable.

I got an epidural in February which reduced my pain from super crazy intense to a dull 24-hour bother. I started going to cryotherapy, which at the time I thought helped, but I haven’t gone in about a month and I feel no difference (= it was probably mentally helpful). It is as cold as you think, if not colder, and every time my legs would turn a bright lobster-shade of red, and it hurt the skin on my thighs like whoa. If that’s the beginning stages of hypothermia, then I have a new respect for people who go hiking in crazy cold places.

I started seeing a chiropractor (which I still believe that the adjustments are nonsense) but the TENS treatment, massage, ultrasound and physical therapy 3x/week have been making a difference. I’ve only worked out once since my injection because I’m terrified to do so. The last few times I worked out in January, my lower back muscles seized up and I was immobile the rest of the day. So I’m doing things at a slower pace, trying to remind myself to slow down and be patient (which is my opposite nature, so you can see how this would be difficult for me to do).

I should be released from physical therapy this week, so wish me luck as I try to regain a new sense of normalcy and control over my life. I now have a standing desk at work, and that’s been a game changer. Help me stay patient and calm as I try to integrate exercise back into my life.

That’s all for now. There are still some HUGE changes in my life on the horizon, so stay tuned for all the insanity that will start to happen around here in the next few weeks!

♥, VB

Hi There

Long time, no talk to. I just wanted to stop by and say hi and say I’m sorry for being MIA here. It’s not you, it’s me. It was 2017, it was politics, it was anxiety, it was exhaustion, it was everything. I had and still have a lot to say about the things that transpired last year, but whenever I sat down at my blog to write, I found myself tired. Unmotivated to share. Unwilling to talk.

Believe me, I had those conversations in person, but not often and not with everyone, because honestly, I just didn’t have the stamina. There was so much about last year that bothered and hurt me and kept me so angry and scared. Personally, it was a wonderful year; I taught my two classes, had a lot of fun with family and friends, and really cemented my bond with my husband after a shaky first year of marriage.

But the world, man, the world just grinded me in its teeth and I felt all the negative emotions.

I donated, I read, I got off of social media for about 8 months (except for Instagram). I did the small things I could to keep my sanity, but every time I even briefly looked at CNN or Washington Post or NY Times or BBC, I just felt my resolve crumble and I would have to build myself up all over again. So I just stayed focused on my small world and turned inwards.

I know the cycle of life pretty well by now: personally and professionally, those waves usually don’t coincide because when one is up, the other is down. Not so this past year! My relationship with Timmy made amazing strides forward and now I can finally see what people mean when they say marriage is fun. It is now and it’s definitely something I treasure more than anything. Professionally, I made even more strides towards my overall career goals, and as soon as I felt myself start to lag or bore with my routine, fate intervened and has provided me with even more amazing pathways.

I won’t share it all right now because it hasn’t all transpired and I don’t want to jinx myself, but let’s just say, if things go the way I would like (and have planned for), god, 2018 may be my best year ever, which is hard to say after my 30th year.

So I guess what I wanted to say is I’m sorry I cut you out. It really wasn’t you, it was me. And in 2018, I’m going to use this blog how it was intended: to fill you in on our lives in FL, and the quirky, ridiculous, fun, infuriating, amazing things that happen to Timmy, Floyd, and I on a constant basis. Stay tuned my friends, and let’s make 2018 a fantastic year (which let’s face it, after 2017, can we say there’s no where else but up?)

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♥, VB