Saturday, December 31, 2011

year of the kidney

I'm big on year end wrap ups. My birthday is in June and I do it then too—looking back at all that's happened in a 12 month arc. A year can be fleeting on one hand but 365 days is a vast amount of time. In that vein, 5 minutes can change your life. As a person to whom life doesn't come easily, who's spent years struggling with self-doubt and anxiety, who questions, worries, has spent way too much time frozen in fear, looking at the bigger picture helps.

I'm often amazing at what my life actually is, as opposed to how it feels from the inside.

This was the year of the kidney. From last Christmas season when I found out I was a match, through 6 months of exhaustive and extensive testing, endless waiting, more postponements than anyone can possibly imagine handling. There was my very first surgery in June—walking into the hospital as a profoundly healthy person, shuffling out swollen, drugged, in pain, my center shaken to the core. Months of recuperation, of moving slowly, of feeling like I'd never feel like myself. More than any of the above there was the emotion of it all. First and foremost, fear it wouldn't work and that my brother wouldn't be ok. Then there was fear I'd fall apart and not be able to handle it. Fear I'd have a breakdown. Fear I'd be that less than 1% of donors who'd die on the table. Fear I wouldn't make it back to where I was. There was also elation—finding out I could donate, getting clean bills of health from all the testing, the quiet joy of the voicemail saying surgery was on, hearing Dave was ok when I was in recovery, seeing him looking so great 2 days later.

In fact every time I see him my heart fills for a moment knowing what I did made how he's doing possible.

My family was amazing throughout. I can't imagine sending a parent or a child off to surgery they don't need. Iz's 1000 paper cranes and Jack's kidney warrior are 2 of the most precious gifts a person could ever hope to receive. Jon offered to be tested if I wasn't a match. I am married to the menschiest of mensches.

The ability to write almost every day about what I was going through, to share the experience, to hear from people who'd been through this before and share insights with those starting the donation path kept me sane.

I doubted my sanity many times this year. I thought I lost my creativity. I've felt (and have been feeling) that the best is behind me and that the next half of my life is just downhill coasting.

But on the last day of this year I have to look back and give myself credit for doing something so important, so substantial, so amazing that it's way bigger than me. And to give myself time and space to heal on all levels.

2011 was the year of the kidney. And it was a game changer. I'm starting to see I just haven't figured it all out yet. As for 2012? I'm hoping for a bit less drama.

Friday, December 23, 2011


A year ago today I found out I was a match for Dave. My life changed. Both our lives changed. Just about every step of this journey wrought major stuff, whether invasive testing, award-winning anxiety, stress that goes with endless waiting, the utter joy when something worked in our favor, epic frustration, the mind-blowing fear of the unknown. Every anniversary makes me stop and pause and remember. And be grateful for how things worked out. But aside from the actual transplant itself, I think this anniversary is the most profound.

The two weeks preceding were a waiting I’d never experienced before, except perhaps when wondering if my amnio for Jack would be ok. But chances were it would be—it was more of a formality because of my age. This was a total crapshoot. We had a better shot than a random person off the street, but there were no guarantees. And I wasn’t completely sure which way I wanted it to go. Of course I wanted to be able to donate but I can’t say that I was 100% committed. I didn’t know what to expect. I’d never had surgery. We didn’t know if his body could handle it. And should all work out, there were no guarantees the kidney would stick. I’m not good with unknowns and this was staring down a chasm of nothing but.

I knew it would be a showdown with anxiety although from that vantage point I had no idea how all-encompassing it would be. But on the other hand, if I wasn’t a match, then what? Someone’s well-being was in my hands. His future, his health, his life depended on me. And that was out of my hands too. It’s not like I could study and do well on a test. It was all about biology—the blood and tissue types I was born with.

I wasn’t sure how I’d handle either outcome. The invasiveness of organ donation. The disappointment of not being able to help.

A year ago today, when I took my phone out of my pocket I saw a voicemail from the transplant coordinator. I didn’t think of her as mine yet. Part of me wasn’t ready to listen so I walked a few blocks, trying to breathe deep and clear my mind for was next. She said, “Good news!” and proceeding to talk about tissue and blood cross matching and next steps. I couldn’t quite process it. My hands were shaking. I started to cry. I was relieved. First. That I’d be able to do something. That Dave could hope. That perhaps he’d find a road to healthy or at least healthier. And then joy washed over me. I was jumping out of my skin excited. I couldn’t wait to tell him only he wasn’t responding to texts or answering his phone.

He was nonchalant when I got ahold of him moments later. It took a long time to truly understand and accept how profoundly different this experience was for the two of us. Throughout the next six months it was rare to find us feeling the same thing at the same time. And that was part of the process too. Acceptance. Understanding. Tolerance.

A year ago today my kidney became my brother’s. I didn’t think of it as mine anymore. It was something I was housing until it got to be where it was supposed to be.

What a gift to look back from this place of knowing it all worked out and that he’s better now than anyone could have imagined. I’m crying as I write this. Sometimes, rarely really, my heart breaks wide open and I know what an amazing thing I did. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

a little synchronicity goes a long way

I'm a big fan of synchronicity. I love order. Making sense of things. The bigger picture. That's my design side—take all sorts of unrelated stuff and finding and/or creating common threads and structure.

I love that the transplant was 6 months to the day I was first tested. I love that the surgery was 6.6.11, a date with a lot of balance. And in the twisted world of Elissa Stein numerology (I assign all sorts of random significance to numbers), the sixes were great as both my and Iz's birthdays are in June (the 6th month). 6 minus 1 equals 5, which equals May, the month Jack and Jon were born in. And 6 plus 1 is seven, which is considered a lucky number, plus Jack was born on the 7th. Good all around.

Logical? No. Except in my head. Which leads me to . . .

Yesterday Dave and I traveled out to Three Kings Tattoo in Brooklyn for a consultation with the one artist I've found (after lots and lots of research) whose work completely blew me away. We went over the too many reference images I'd brought and talked about what it was I'm looking for. Her next available date was January 12. We booked an appointment at 1. It was enough to groove to that:

1.12.12@1 - balance and symmetry all over the place. Then this morning I looked back on my calendar to see what was going on a year ago, that date.

Turns out it was my first visit to the nephrologist after finding out I was a match. My first anxiety attack since I'd started meds the spring before. 4 hours of consults and conversations with my transplant coordinator, nephrologist, social worker, advocate and then time logged at the lab for 9 more vials of blood to be drawn.

It was a day that stretched me into places I hadn't been before, forced to confront issues almost too much to grapple with.

1.12.11 was one of the most intense, challenging, nerve-wracking, soul-searching, terrifying days of my life. I'm thinking getting my thank you tattoo on 1.12.12 will be an awesome way of celebrating all that's gone on in the past year.

Thanks Dave. And Annie.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


It's been six months and a day since I donated my kidney. I feel healthy, fine, stable, more grounded than I did for a long time even before the whole transplant journey started. I've been off Lexapro for a couple of months and while I'd been terrified to stop, I feel much better now than I did before.

I've been at yoga four days in a row, generally practicing up front instead of hiding in the back. My current haircut's a good one. The drama of NYC high school applications is on the back burner for now. At the moment, except for the last minute pressure of holiday gifts, life is relatively mellow. I gave up coffee—decaf—a few weeks ago and the hot chocolate I'd been substituting every day this week.

I'm writing this on my one day old mini macbook air. And I have any number of creative, intriguing, challenging projects I could dive into and make happen. 

So why am I so miserable?

The fatness that ruled my life for so many years is back. Could be the residue of all the half and half and sugared drinks I'd been living on. Could be some serious pms kicking my butt. My period's late and I'm bursting out of my skin. Could be that it's all in my head. I spent years in this place of feeling so badly about myself I'd create reasons to beat myself up.

I'm just not sure why I'm back here.

A significant part is that I'm not accomplishing anything, not in the way I had been for so many years. I started writing books before Iz was born and have had projects in the works on some level from then until FLOW. In the 2 years since that came out? Nothing. Except for parenting and volunteering and sporadic design work and donating an organ. Nothing creative to sink my teeth into, to get lost in, to research and shape and explore.

I could write the graphic novel/movie that Iz is so desperate for me to work on. I could develop the kidney book/one woman show a friend of mine has graciously offered to direct. I could work on the documentary series another wants to partner with me on. I could pull together the advertising book that Iz and I brainstormed the other day. I could delve into the yoga book that so many think is a great idea. I could redo my website. Rebuild my design business. There are so many viable ideas sitting in front of me to choose from.

But, I can't. 

I can't do anything. I bought this laptop as an impetus to start again. To make a statement to the universe that I'm ready to have my life back. My creativity back. The part of me that flows, that gets lost in the zone, that has ideas sparking to life day and night. 

I don't want to be this person anymore. The one who lives in grey shapeless t-shirts. Who has nothing interesting to say. Who's jealous of other people's apartments, jobs, clothes, vacations, relatives, skin, thinness. 

What I should be is proud of all I've done. Instead, I'm feeling like a loser for all that I'm not.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

6 months out

6 months ago today my brother got his new kidney.

To celebrate this auspicious event we met for Vegan Treats in the east village this afternoon—he had cheesecake, I had death by chocolate.

He booked a consultation for my thank you tattoo, with an artist in Brooklyn we both think is terrific.

Our respective kidneys are working hard and doing great.

I was thinking today that I am nothing but grateful that I was able to give Dave a kidney. To be able to help was a tremendous gift.

Thanks bro.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

a kidney moment

Last week I had my 6 month post op visit with my surgeon. Everything looked great. He was super impressed with how my scars are healing, with how my life's gotten back to where it was, that my blood pressure was back down to normal range. I went for blood tests, my first in months, and asked that he let me know my creatinine level - an indicator of kidney function. Healthy for a woman is .5 to 1.1 and I wanted to be under 1.  Not that this is something I can control but there you go. 

I got an email that it was .9. Perfectly respectable. Higher than it was when I had two kidneys on the job but I'm not in any way complaining. I posted it on Facebook and my brother responded that our levels matched - he was .9 as well. 

It was a moment. 

Knowing these two kidneys, my current and my former were working at the same level blew me away. Enough time has passed that the transplant and all that we went through is hard to remember. How sick he was. How scared I was. How tenuous the entire situation was. From this place I know many didn't think it would work.

But here we are. With two healthy kidneys chugging along and doing the same job. In different bodies. 

Moments like those I believe in miracles.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

losing track of thankful

It is so easy in the chaos of  regular life to forget the bigger picture, to be overwhelmed by the daily grind.

To lose track of thankful.

At the moment I'm fraying at the edges. It's been an intense fall and at times I've felt like I'm barely surviving. It's often easier  to keep my head down and just skim the insanity. Finding space, opening my eyes to what's beyond feels almost impossible when I'm stretched so incredibly thin.

But, there is so much in my life to be thankful for that a slight shift in perspective brings it into focus.

My life has been usurped by school tours and tutors and testing and unbelievable stress. But we get to live in NYC where there are great options out there and I know, deep down, that wherever Iz and Jack end up will be fine.

I spend more time picking poop up off the street than I every could have imagined but Moo and Gracie are the most remarkable creatures and I can't imagine a life without that pure, delicious love.

I've been dealing with a torn rotator cuff and chronic pain. But, I'm healing and at 47+ am in the best shape I've ever been in.

Not a day goes by without whining or complaining from someone. Drama. Bickering. Full scale battles happen far more often than I wish they would. But it's my family. I would do anything and everything for them.

My design career stalled and I can't seem to get it started again. But, I'm working on my first monologue, to perform in public, and am taking on a producer role in new projects.

Not everyone I know is in a good healthy place. But, they're still here.

And while I went through voluntary surgery, have 4 new scars on my abdomen, can't take Advil anymore, gave up salt, am down a kidney, I radically, amazingly changed my brother's life. I still hold onto that being a true miracle.

I am thankful beyond thankful for that opportunity, for that transplant, for being able to help. For the remarkable people in my life. For the city I live in. For the time to volunteer. For the opportunity to reinvent myself yet again.

For the ability to step back. And to be thankful.

Monday, November 21, 2011

living by committee

Right now just about every single aspect of my life is ruled by someone else.

From the dogs needing to be walked in the morning to timing Jack at night while he reads, there is barely a moment when someone else's needs aren't coming first.

This morning even my car managed to usurp work time—I got downstairs to do alternate side parking and found the battery completely dead. Instead of working I spent hours dealing with roadside assistance. Even that was a challenge as ATT has dead spots on my street so I couldn't even get help while sitting in my car.

I just spent the last 10 minutes searching for missing yoyo accessories that the dogs thought were toys, much to Jack's utter frustration. And now, I've got to write with my legs up on my desk so Gracie can lie across them, frantically chewing a bone. At least I'm hoping it's a bone.

Last night I was a slave to apple support as for some unknown reason iTunes can't play the Wizard of Oz.

Before that the emotionally careening teen in my house was having a day.

My surgeon's office just called asking if I could come in early tomorrow which means I can't make the knitting club meeting that I organized and can't take Jack to school.

This morning someone asked me about ads for the yearbook and I didn't even know what school they were talking about.

I turned on my laptop and found a desktop littered with someone else's files and a calendar issue I can't resolve.

Jack's yoyo is broken and my new unexpected project is to research how it can be fixed.

My life is all about everyone else at the moment but rarely about me.

Most of the time I can handle it but right now my edges are fraying. But, instead of curling up in the corner with a book, which is what I'd really like to do I have to feed the dogs, make sure homework's done, complete the NYC high school application with Iz, fix that yoyo, find dinner for kids, finish an invitation and review a postcard for work, pick up shipping supplies at the stationery store. I'm sure there's plenty more I'm blocking and even more than will come up. Like ordering shoes for Iz, which I did while I was writing this and dealing with amazon about her kindle that arrived 2 days ago and already broke.

Usually I find some light at the end of the tunnel with these, but that's not happening today.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

late blooming

Last week were auditions for Jack's 5th grade play, which is a huge event for all involved. We've been through this before. Iz had decided from the time she saw her first PS41 in kindergarten that she wanted to be a lead when she had her chance. So did just about every other girl in her class. Much to my surprise (shock), she won the role of Lina Lamont in "Singin' in the Rain." I'd never really heard her sing before and had absolutely no idea she had spot on comedic timing. She was brilliant in her part—watching her sparkle on stage, the audience drowning her out with laughter, her face glowing at the impromptu standing ovation she got when she walked out to take a bow? Priceless moments from a Mastercard commercial.

Jack, on the other hand, decided he wanted to go the crew route. He was fine, excited in fact, about participating backstage and keeping a low profile. But it seems every single student has to do a dance audition and he rocked his. So much so that he's reconsidering being in the cast.

For many reasons, I'm blown away.

When Jack was younger he couldn't balance on one foot. Couldn't catch a ball. Couldn't run well. His coordination was, well, it wasn't. He'd been diagnosed with sensory integration issues and started OT and PT before he was 4. He'd had speech issues as well and was in therapy for that too. It was almost like systems in his body didn't really understand what they were supposed to do and he had to work so damn hard to master things most little boys took for granted. Along with the above he had a host of strange health issues, none of which were permanent, but often took ages to get to the bottom of. Digestive problems, febrile seizures, severe allergic reactions—we spent much of his childhood at doctor appointments, evaluations, therapy.

And so as he mastered riding on his rip stick, snowboarding, reading above grade level, becoming a leader amongst his friends, I appreciated all the more what it took for him to get to those places.

Someone recently called him a late-bloomer.

He's ten.

I think, these days, we have such ridiculously high expectations of what our children should be doing that we forget that they're kids. Just kids. When I was ten I rode my bike to visit friends, made pom pom animals and painted on rocks. Read like crazy and played with stuffed animals. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt there is no way at that age I could have done the things he's doing now, with the confidence and sense of ownership he's discovered.

It's different to be a kid these days. While part of me wonders if all the pressure to accomplish so much is a healthy thing, another part watches in awe at what he can do.

As for the play, whether he's opening a curtain or dancing in front of one, I'll be watching with tears in my eyes at the experience he's having.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

me, from different points of view

Yesterday, after wearing my PTA president hat at a school tour I got a compliment so thoughtful my heart swelled. I'd spoken in front of a large group of prospective parents and students and someone in the administration noted that not only am I a great speaker: poised, confident, able to make the audience feel both comfortable and welcome, I am a great mother. She hoped she be as good a mom when she has kids one day. That I am engaged, present, a remarkable role model. I said I happen to have great kids. She said they were great because of me. 

I then met a friend for coffee who called me a needy drama queen. 

And that was not an inaccurate observation. At times, rarely these days but it still comes out, I can be. 

Later that night, at dinner with friends, we were talking family angst. It's rare that someone can top me when it comes to dysfunction and this was no exception. I know, as I openly shared how I can now separate and let go that I was being judged as heartless, cold. Detached. I can be that too. My life has taught me that lesson. 

I also spent part of the day working on my kidney project.  That one act changed the way many see me. While I'm  the same person I was before, I chose to save a life and that's an amazingly brave, selfless thing to do. I still have trouble owning that about myself but those 4 red incisions on my abdomen are a constant reminder. 

All these disparate pieces. All these experiences. All these scars have made me into someone I never could have imagined I'd be. And yet, sometimes I'm still wracked with insecurity, with feeling like a failure, a loser, that I haven't accomplished enough, done enough, am good enough. If only I'd followed a more conventional path. Had greater professional success. Tried harder, dug deeper, pushed more. 

As I'm standing on the edge of reinventing myself into what I don't know, I wonder if I'll be able to do it again. 

Or maybe, worrying about it is just the drama queen desperate to be heard. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

saying no to drugs

(actually, it's saying no to meds, but that wasn't as catchy a title)

It's been just about a month since I swallowed my last dose of Lexapro, after a year and a half of taking it religiously every single morning. And stopping was almost as terrifying as starting. But, much to my surprise, I'm finding myself stronger, more cohesive, more integrated, more capable than I've been in longer than I can remember.

Medication always terrified me. It was about losing control in any way. Having a chemical alter how I felt, what I thought, how I acted was a far worse thought than the benefits that might be achieved. Even nighttime cold medicine made me nervous—drifting off into a Benadryl haze I'd consciously try to fight the effects so that I wouldn't fall asleep to never wake up, an irrational but real fear. Whenever prescribed something for pain, after childbirth, after an exposed nerve in a tooth, after kidney surgery, I'd never take a full dose. The hurt was almost easier to handle than the fears that went along with meds.

But a year and a half ago I started cracking. Both my brother and sister were spiraling downward, not nearly to the rock bottoms they'd both hit over the summer and into that fall, but things for both of them were getting out of control. Both were struggling with issues beyond my help, one physical, one psychological, and for long stretches of time I wasn't sure either would survive. It was getting hard for me to get out of bed, to accomplish anything beyond the bare minimum, to be in my normally glass half full mindset. I started to panic. I was afraid to pick Jack up at school, that I'd fall apart in the yard and not be able to get it together. Sitting in my car during alternate side parking mornings, I'd feel so trapped I couldn't breathe. Anxiety is my kryptonite. More terrifying and destructive than anything else out there.

I couldn't talk to anyone about what I was feeling. As if putting it into the world I'd crack faster.

Finally, I opened up to a friend and started sobbing. At a table in the window of a busy restaurant on 6th Avenue. Just saying it out loud, once, made me realize how fragile I'd become. I knew I couldn't live like that anymore. I knew I needed help.

The idea of help though was as scary as the panic that was now a constant companion.

I started taking Lexapro, in spite of scanning every single rant about how life destroying it could be posted on message boards and in online forums. I could quote side effects of strangers. I intimately knew how people reacted, gained weight, felt more anxious than less, lost interest in sex. I couldn't stop reading, for hours on end, even though it did nothing but make me feel worse.

In the end, the meds worked. It wasn't as if all bad feelings were washed away but I wasn't panicking all the time. Life got brighter. I started taking subways again. Talking to people. Being social. Eventually I realized the constant fear of a breakdown had quietly slipped away. And I was able to cope with all the life threatening illness surrounding me.

As I was settling into this new, medicated mindset, my kidney donor journey began. I know that without meds I never would've been able to handle the stress, the fears, the pressure, the unknowns. It's not that I wasn't freaking out on a regular basis, but that leveling off of emotions kept me from completely losing my mind.

I was vaguely aware, as I was going through tests and exams and the endless waiting that the meds also shut down my creativity, my drive, my energy that sometimes borders on frenetic. That was my fuel but that wasn't the person I needed to be then.

Turns out I couldn't maintain that forever. After surgery, after healing, after settling back into myself, I knew more and more I wasn't myself. That a vital part of me was being kept in check. But, I was terrified, petrified, to let go of this medical crutch. What if I stopped taking drugs and I was worse than before. Anxiety ramped up. I started panicking again and that was a new rock bottom. If I was freaking on meds, what would happen when, if, I went off? But, at the same time, I was subconsciously weaning myself, often forgetting to take them when I first woke up.

I made the decision at the end of the summer to cut down. So slowly it must have been almost imperceptible to my body.

I survived.

The less I took the more drive I had. Ideas started popping into my head. I'd forgotten that's how I used to be all the time. I started crying more. It was almost impossible to cry on meds, but as they left my system, I'd tear up more quickly than I ever had.

I started putting ideas together for a kidney book. And sobbed as I read through the blog I'd written almost daily through the experience.

All the while still unnerved about the breakdown I'd thought was imminent.

Turns out I'm stronger on the other side of this tunnel. Anxiety will always be a part of me, but I have tools to handle it better. I don't want to be that person anymore, crippled by the thoughts in my head that are nothing but that, made up mindsets that have the power to paralyze but aren't real.

Life without Lexapro is a different kind of living, feeling, experiencing. And I'm finally ready to jump back in.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

riding the waves

At the moment I'm sitting in a public atrium on Wall Street. Right in front of me is the weekly NYC yoyo club meet up. Behind the spinning discs and neon strings are extras for the final battle scene in the new Batman movie, waiting for their scene to start shooting. Across the way is an Occupy Wall Street organizational meeting with 20 or 30 people in a circle sharing information and ideas. 

15 minutes ago, in search of snacks for a hungry child (and me) I was wondering streets that alternated between deserted and preparing for a cinematic battle. Skyscrapers cutting off almost all sun, patches of blue glancing off mirrored facades. 

25 minutes ago a random text to an old friend led to passes to the 9/11 Memorial. 

An hour and a half ago I walked down subway steps only to find I'd forgotten my wallet. 

3 hours ago every network in my apartment failed and I fought back absolute frustration and tears staring down tech problems I don't know how to solve. Hey, I don't even know what the problems are. 

4 hours ago my brother and I spent far too much time on speakerphone with Daisy at TiVo and managed to accomplish nothing. Except drive ourselves crazy. 

5 hours ago I was just finishing a yoga class. 

7 or so hours ago I was writing out morning pages as the puppies wrestled on top of me. 

So far this day has been utterly frustrating, completely  inspirational, filled with urban beauty, parental pride, personal exasperation, apartment angst, exploring new neighborhoods, boundless love, technology hell, embarrassing hair, and a quiet satisfaction. 

I have to give that last one a shout out. The transplant was 5 months ago today. Iz asked me if that was a memorable anniversary and I realized that every single day my brother is out in the world with a healthy kidney is memorable.  Of course the time we spent together today was aggregating to no end. But, that is incomparable to what the alternative could've been. 

I'm learning, slowly, to ride the waves, to hold it together when they're crashing over my head, to appreciate the moments of calm, to revel in streams of sun reflecting off the water and not let go when storms are ripping me apart. 

After all this I'm thinking an Arrested Development marathon will be a great way to end this day. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

a fork in the creative road

Ideas are smacking me so hard in the head, I'm feeling dizzy at times. I've had 4 or 5 flashes of what to write today and at this point I'm curious as to what trajectory this blog post will take and where it'll end up. I kind of love these pieces - they unfold and lead me somewhere unexpected. 

Last night I was struck by yet more synchronicity and signs about where I should be focusing. While checking blog stats (yes I do this) I saw someone had check out a post from just over a year ago, a post about my brother and sister, who were both just out of the hospital and how I was feeling helpless, hopeless, frustrated watching them suffer. I desperately wanted to make them better, to radically change things, but I was powerless to do anything but be a support system. 

The post ended with me knowing that should there ever be anything I could do, of course I'd do it. 

A month later my brother asked me to be tested. 6 months after that I drastically, dramatically, positively changed his life. I've been wondering if a book about our kidney would be worth exploring and then I realized what a truly profound story it is. To choose to save someone's life. And have it work? Inspiration is a great launch pad. 

Which led me to my next potential blog post: for the love of drama. As soon as positive wraps its warm arms around me and holds me tight, doubt comes creeping softly in. I start spinning negative and last night, as my dad and stepmother, whom I haven't spoken to in almost a year, took hold of my thoughts, I was able to more clearly see just what my destructive process is. It doesn't have to be new drama. It doesn't have to be in the moment. I can dredge up pain and angst from years back to beat myself up with. And, I've learned, the most debilitating kind is focusing on not being wanted. Rejection, for whatever reason, is my kryptonite. 

I have to say that again: rejection is my kryptonite. Or, to push it even farther, fear of rejection. Of not being important, acknowledged, of being pushed out, ignored, marginalized. 

Whew. I can spend copious amounts of time and energy blaming other people. And then blaming myself. That place isn't easy for me to get out of. It's comfortable - as I've often said, there's comfort in the discomfort. 

And then, this morning as I was blasting my stereo in the car, listening through a genius playlist based on my new anthem, I heard this:

And what it all boils down to
Is that no one's really got it figured out just yet
'Cause I've got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is playing a piano

And what it all comes down to my dear friends, yeah
Is that everything is just fine fine fine
'Cause I've got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is hailing a taxi cab - Alanis Morissette

Yup. No one's figured it out just yet. But everything is fine. 

Everything is fine. 

As I'm getting back to myself, post book mania/Lexapro/kidney anxiety, these swings, these bursts, these flashes are feeling more and more comfortable. Intense yes but damn, to feel like myself again is awe inspiring. For a long time I forgot what that felt like. For a long time I was afraid that feeling like me meant falling apart. But maybe, I'm finally learning, that to be me is to accept all there is - the creativity, the drama, the anxiety, the fear of rejection - and to treat myself with acceptance and kindness regardless of where my thoughts and feelings are spinning. 

Hmmm. This feels like a good place to stop for today. Love Shack just came on. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I have a theme

Nope, not a dream (although I'm sure I could conjure some interesting things up here), but a theme. A theme, as in theme song. I'm trying it on, trying it out, as I start this new road back to myself. After starting The Artist's Way last week, I've been looking for synchronicity, potential pathways, changing my point of view.

One of the exercises is to list 20 things you like to do and when you last did them. Listening to music was one of mine. Throughout my life I've always had anthems, or songs that powerfully resonated with what I was living through at that moment. I can't think of how many times I listened to Like a Rolling Stone while my parents were splitting up. Muddy Waters was the soundtrack of my art school portfolio. Traffic got me through FLOW.

But, I don't get to listen very much anymore. Living in an apartment where everyone is always in the same room, my background noise is reruns of The Office mixed with Jon Stewart, Assasin's Creed and an occasional Abba interlude. But lately, I keep coming back to this one song: Praise You, by Fat Boy Slim. Its positive power washes over me every single time I hear it..

Here's the synchronicity part: last night in a mind-blowing, thought-provoking, inside-looking yoga class, the teacher challenged everyone to let go of their stuff. The blame. The shame. To go deeper and appreciate and accept.

Which is what The Artist's Way is saying.

Which is how I'm starting to feel when I look at all I've accomplished and where I am.

"We've come a long long way together,
through the hard times and the good.
I have to celebrate you baby.
I have to praise you like I should."

Damn. Those words are ringing really true right now. For me. About me. I am proud of who I am. Of what I've done. Of all I've overcome. Of the person I've become. The writer, the mother, the volunteer, the donor, the designer, the friend, the partner, the support system, the motivator, the organizer, the inspiration.

We all deserve some of this. Some appreciation and acknowledgment of who we are. Of how we handle these crazy lives, the stresses we'd never imagined, the challenges that continue to show up.

A little praise goes a long way folks.

Try it.

(this post would not have been possible without Ashleigh Beyer and Emily Stone)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

just do it already

When I mentioned to Jack the other day that I was happy I'd started writing here again, he said: yeah, but if you took all the time you spent blogging and worked on a new book, you'd be done already. And it would be a good one.

Words of wisdom from a 10 year old - at least about the getting it done part.

And yet, I can't start. I'm not sure why. I know how to write a book. I've done it plenty of times before. Then again, every single other project I've worked on has had a subject that I could research, find images for, background about. I've spent countless hours scouring ebay for vintage ads and ephemera, trolling online for obscure facts to share with the world.

I'm not thinking about that kind of book this time.

Perhaps that's why I'm stuck here.

I want to write my kidney book. Or, I feel like I should. Even more honestly, I feel like I should feel like I should. It's now a part of my past. Would anyone be interested reading it? Would I be interested writing it? And if not, what? There are plenty of other ideas I could grasp onto and delve into, but nothing is calling to me. Compelling me. Screaming my name and making me make it real.

At least not today.

But just thinking about it is a really good first step.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

someone else's story

Today thousands and thousands of kids took the NYC specialized high school test.

Mine was one of them. After a morning of anime (emotional comfort food) followed by chocolate chip pancakes paired with a chocolate egg cream (actual comfort food), Iz and I headed downtown in a rare October storm. Sleeting as we headed down into the subway, hail pelting us on the other end, we slogged through slushy streets, past countless black umbrellas towards the test site. Shivering, she agreed to wear my purple scarf, soaking wet, she walked behind me as I tried to shelter her from the driving rain. We slowly walked up the slick steps to the footpath across the west side highway and that was it.

No adults allowed any further.

It was chaos, crowded, steamy and freezing at the same time. She moved ahead, quickly getting lost in the crush and suddenly she wasn't mine anymore. I couldn't help her,support her, protect her. She was heading into the most challenging test of her life completely on her own.

For specialized high schools this test is everything. These scores are the only entrance into these esteemed establishments. One test. 100 questions. 2 and a half hours on a snowy afternoon. GPA's don't count. There are no teacher recommendations, or extra curricular extra credit. Colds or hormones or broken bones don't matter either. Just this one score.

That's what I watched my child dive into, having no idea what to expect on the other side.

The crowd after the test was brutal. Parents crushed together in the freezing rain,umbrellas painfully poking into and backs shoulders as we waited. And waited.

And waited.

As the first couple of kids came out it was like watching celebrities navigating unexpected packs of paparazzi. They looked shell shocked, dazed, after having their brains stretched for hours, suddenly finding themselves thrust into a sea of anxious parents.

Finally, I saw her at the top of the stairs, looking pale and shaken.

I pushed through the crowd, shouting until she saw me. She'd forgotten her umbrella, her favorite black and white houndstooth, and was upset they wouldn't let her back in to get it.

It didn't matter. We could get another. And it didn't matter how she thought she did on the test. It didn't cross my mind to even ask. I was so proud of her, her strength, her poise, her self confidence. Her independence.

It doesn't matter where she goes to school. What does matter is the kind of person she is.

And she is remarkable.

She blew me away today.

But that's nothing new.

Friday, October 28, 2011

getting back

It's been almost 5 months since I donated a kidney. Almost 2 weeks since my final dose of Lexapro. Almost 2 years since my last book was published. And more time than I can remember since I've felt creativity wanting, or rather needing in my case, to take a front seat.

Even writing here isn't the walk in the park it had been for so long. Writing my kidney journey had purpose, meaning, a chronology—events to summarize and feelings to explore. Before that, it had been FLOW, and before that, fears of being a writer, or finding out I was just playing one on TV. I was almost never at a loss of what to say and every day, for almost two and a half years, I wrote here.

It's not that I'm empty. Maybe I'm not as willing to share as I'd been in the past. Maybe, for me, it's an event that spurs the exploration and baring of my soul in writing. Maybe it's because right now life is about everyone else and while there's plenty of stress and angst and unknowns, they're not really mine. I'm just herding others along their own burgeoning paths.

But, I want a path of mine own. Again. I know it's there. I'm just not sure which direction it will go in. I've never had a linear one. No clear direction, no clean cut next steps. I'm at a loss as to what to even think about doing next.

I started The Artist's Way this week - a 12 week book/course/set of exercises about discovering creativity. I'd done the program once before. 15 years ago. I did morning pages (writing 3 pages long hand as soon as you wake up in the morning) for more than 2 years. It was amazing, as I cracked open my new copy last Sunday night, at how much I've accomplished since then. I last read it before I'd written a book, before I had kids, as I was just beginning to be a designer. I was someone else back then. Scared. Timid. Fearful. Terrified I'd never amount to anything. That I'd never make an impact. That I'd never make things happen.

Years later, I have. I know how. I've created far more than I'd ever dreamed of. Had experiences that back then I never would have even contemplated.

I know how to get things done. Make things happen. Put ideas and projects out into the world.

But for me it's not ever about what I've done. Or what I'm going to do.

It's about what I'm doing. Now.

And I think I'm finally ready to start figuring that out.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

a drama filled yet delicious mother's day

"He broke my glasses!"

That was the scream that startled me awake at 7:20 this morning, by a child, not my own, as he burst into my bedroom. 

That wasn't the first time I was woken up, abruptly, this Mother's Day. At 1:30am three boys came storming into my room, again with no knocks, all sopping wet from a very full glass of water inadvertently tipped over. That accident required a stack of towels and a batch of dry blankets to cover the spillage. 

At 2, there  was the gasping rasp of, "I can't breathe," coming from the edge of my bed. What I thought was an allergy attack - again, not one of my own kids - turned out to be pure anxiety. As he feared his imminent death, I talked this child down through super hero chatter mixed with deep breathing exercises. His father arrived 20 minutes later. Amazingly, most of the other kids at Jack's first ever sleepover, slept through the melee. 

"He did it on purpose!" and "He's paying for a new pair!" were the second and third lines that pierced my now shattered REM cycle. 

The early morning wrestle had taken a turn for the worst. Of course it was an accident. Of course it was one of those unfortunate things that just happen. Of course it was all worked out and smoothed over, by Izzy no less, but not until after this poor boy's mom was woken up on Mother's Day with a shout-filled ranting phone call. 

I threw on clothes and ran downstairs with the dogs for an early morning walk. And that was my first gift - getting out of that pre-testosterone insanity. My second gift is sitting in the coffee shop across the street and writing this, while Jon went upstairs to deal. 

And here I sit, hair something out of a Flock of Seagulls video, clad in old jeans and the shirt I slept in, drinking Brazilian coffee that borders on heaven, grateful that I am a mother. 

Yesterday, as Jack told me repeatedly, he had the best birthday of his life. On a day that generally has at least one sobfest, he was happy from 6:20am, when he woke up to open gifts, to 12 at night when I shut down the lights. It was 10 years ago yesterday that he arrived on the planet and changed me forever. 

It was a week of moments I was so grateful for my children. Looking back there was not a single fight or meltdown. From either one. I don't know that that's ever happened. I met Iz on her post play rehearsal walks home from school so we could spend extra time together. Jack and I headed to Chinatown one afternoon, on a spontaneous search for a game he wanted. We survived their first week of rigorous testing at school that they handled with maturity and relative ease. 

Man do I love my children. And how I appreciate and enjoy (most of the time) watching them grow into themselves. I bask in the love they lavish on the two puppies who are now a part of our family. And I am proud of their empathy and concern for me and my brother as we go through these months of kidney confusion and unease. They are supportive and understanding and kind. 

I am beyond grateful for the remarkable man I've been married to for more than half my life. Without him this amazing life I have wouldn't be. And the people who call me mom wouldn't exist. 

I am grateful for my own mom, who has so much on her plate but is still here for me to call every day. She is far braver and stronger than she ever gives herself credit for. 

And I am grateful beyond for the people in my life who love and nurture, who support and teach. As one of my wise yoga goddesses Ali said in class the other day - you don't have to have children to be a mother. 

And so, love and blessings and heartfelt thanks to the many mothers in my life. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

creativity versus anxiety

I've been feeling that familiar clench in my jaw lately, that slight skin tingle, that too-much-going-on-in-my-head-at-the-same-time sensation.

I know this.

It's pre-anxiety attack anxiety.

Or, maybe, it's the need to create.

For the past year plus I haven't been immersed in a project. I haven't been compelled, driven, lost in something that's me but separate from my life.

I haven't had that place to go to escape from reality.

I haven't had deadlines and research and photos to search for.

Ideas to sell. Stories to tell.

Instead, that energy's gone to the dark side, mostly banished by medication, but cropping up as something evil, to be avoided at all costs.

Maybe, though, it's quietly shouting from the edges of my mind that it needs to be nurtured, not ignored, celebrated, not censured.

The problem is, I don't know how to dive in again. My last book burned me to a crisp, left me empty and beaten. I lost faith in the system. And faith in myself.

But there are glimmers, now that I'm recognizing them for what they are, that I need to jump back off the cliff.

I'm gasping for air here. No wonder I'm having trouble breathing.

My soul is disintegrating without that part of me being front and center. Or at least present and accounted for.

Part of me is ready to let go again. I feel it simmering.

It's time.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

when anxiety is an unwelcome houseguest

Anxiety has moved in. Without an invitation. It showed up yesterday and I'm thinking we'll be together, nonstop, for the next 3 weeks.

I know anxiety well. We've spent much of my life together. But now that I know what life is like without its constant presence, it's more intense when it shows up.

The clenched teeth, pit in my stomach, shaking hands. The jittery feeling that I'm going to crack at any moment.

The hyper-awareness.

The fear.

The dread.

I rationally know these are just feelings. Intellectually I'm sure that they can't destroy me. The realistic part of me is holding on to the fact I've come out on top of just about every anxiety smack down. But facing surgery in 3 weeks, with the host of unknowns this experience comes with, is fuel for anxiety's fire.

It's hard not to plunge deep into the dark side. To worry about freak accidents, about things going wrong. About blood clots, about never seeing my kids again. About kidney failure in my future.

About getting my period during surgery.

About death.

Anxiety is throwing everything it has at me. And it has quite the extensive arsenal.

It's even got other forces cooperating with it. The drive home from Vermont in a snowstorm. The news that someone in my family was just in the emergency room. That another one is sick and I'm blood test support.

It's almost impossible to breathe deep, to stay focused, to grasp on to calm as it skitters out of my range.

Anxiety used to be my creative fuel. I used to channel it to accomplish what I couldn't on my own. But I don't want that anymore.

I don't need that anymore.

Anxiety isn't welcome.

Now I just have to figure out how to kick it out.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

defining success

Yesterday, as I was telling someone about yogavotion, my newest project, they gave me a half-hearted thumb's up and said, "yeah, but what about WRINKLE?"

Good question. That was my go-to, post-FLOW, no-brainer project. I have hundreds of questionnaires stored on my hard drive. Great art. A substantial table of contents. A proposal would be a breeze to whip out—I used to thrive on that. And I know how to do this book, how to combine text, concepts, art to tell a visual story about a specific aspect of society and culture.

But, it didn't happen. Perhaps if FLOW had been more successful. Perhaps if that experience had been positive instead of fraught with hostility, anxiety, self-doubt.

Or, perhaps, I've moved on.

I had thought FLOW would make me a writer, a writer of a certain genre of books. I'd gain a reputation. I'd tackle new projects in the series with support of a publisher, an agent, an audience. The first part came true:

I am a writer.

I own it. I live it. What used to be close to impossible less than 2 years ago, now feels almost as effortless as design. Words flow now almost as easily as layouts do—they're just a different means of expression and communicating to me.

But the rest?

I'm far more grounded in reality than I've ever been about my path, my story, my success. And, what success really is.

I will never make huge amounts of money. In fact, it might not be likely that I'll even make good money again. The world is changing and what I'm good at isn't valued at the moment. I will never be a best-selling author. I don't see any sort of successful series in my future. I will never be an expert in a field, called on for talk show appearances and quotes in national publications.

I will never be high-powered.

I will never have a corner office, an assistant, a secretary.

I don't see royalty checks in my future. Or guest speaking. Or a summer house bought by the proceeds of the above.

I will never be a household name.

I could keep going here and mention I'll never be a rockstar or a painter or an astronaut, but none of those were ever even under consideration.

But, I have more love in my life than I would have ever imagined possible. There are times, watching my puppies play, my kids  groove together, that there isn't a smile big enough to express all that's in my heart.

At times I am transformed by gratitude. I cannot think of a single thing I want that I don't already have in abundance.

I can be present and am learning to let go of the past and the future. That's something I would have thought impossible but, here I am.

I am comfortable in my skin. Cellulite, wrinkled elbows, slightly drooping eyelids, now more than the rare grey hair, a solid size 8—it's truly fine.

I am healthy. I don't just think it, I've gone through extensive testing and so I know it. I'm physically healthy enough to contemplate elective surgery and give an organ away. And mentally healthy enough to be good with that decision.

I can knit a scarf that stops people in the street. I have friends who are happy to see me. I have family that accepts who I am and loves me for that, and sometimes in spite of that. I can finally do a head stand in the middle of a room.

By society's standards I don't know that people would label me a success. But by mine? I'm not doing too badly.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

february slump

Usually I hit the wall in February. The cold has worn me down. My neck is tired of being encased in sweaters. My skin is papery and dry. My poor sinuses have just about had enough.

I generally shut down and have often sunk into that dark tunnel of depression. For me, it's easiest to be pulled under when darkness runs things, when the light is thin and brittle, when it's easier to be home than anywhere else.

This February it's not as bad as usual. I'm not immersed in any major projects which keep me from sinking (that's been an effective way of holding myself together against an inevitable slump).

Could be the meds. Could be the kidney donation. Could be that my new business cards, the first thing I've created in far too long, are stunning and make me super happy. Could be that I started yet another blog that I want to turn into something more.

Could be that I'm not as closed off as I used to be. Writing has changed my life. Having a place to explore, to express, to process has been far more powerful than I ever could have imagined. A little over a year ago, writing was more stressful than just about anything I'd undertake. I did it, but struggled over every idea, every sentence, every phrase.

Now it flows.

Ideas. Words. Concepts. I don't know when I start, where I'll end up but when I get there, I'm there. And I generally feel an ease in my soul that wasn't there before.

What a gift. Today I am grateful for myself—for showing up instead of shutting down.

For living instead of existing.

For making the effort instead of hiding in the tunnel the way I did for far too long.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

how to pee in a cup

Turns out, I had no idea how much was involved to do it properly. Ladies out there, I'm hoping you know more than I did, but if there's even a smidge of doubt in your head, read on:

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

when stars align . . .

I'm starting a new project.

It's an idea I had years ago but was never sure quite how to put it all together. It seems though, that the stars were lining up behind the soggy NYC skies to hand me the way to make it all happen.

I've been empty for so long I'd almost forgotten what it's like to have ideas flow through me—words, images, concepts arrive for me to ponder. Examine. Explore.

I'm rusty. Out of practice. Scared that I won't be able to do it again.

But, I know how to do this.

And I'm thinking the universe is helping me out on this one by giving me a support system that is boundless.


I can't stop smiling.

I am in awe of how things can work because even if this project goes no further, the graciousness and love and belief that's been extended to me is profound. Beautiful.

I am lucky.

I am blessed.

I am grateful.

And that's what this project will be. The road I found, or that found me, and helped me get here—here being somewhere on my ongoing path. 

And how to share this with people who are curious but don't know what the next step is.

Monday, January 31, 2011

exceedingly grateful

Yet again, my big post today is about the kidney thing. I mentioned, quickly, that there are glimmers of creativity slowly creeping back.

They are.

I'm feeling the flow revving up.


For more that I'm grateful about, please read on:

kidney adventures

Sunday, January 30, 2011

advice from unlikely places

These days folks - so much is about, because of, inspired by my kidney story. And so, I'm love for you to read more:

the adventures of my kidney

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

when the past meets the present

(this post is up on my kidney blog but it's about far more than that experience so I thought a double post was worthwhile)

Yesterday I spent time talking to the 3 psychiatrists at the nephrologist's office about my eating disorder. I'd say we spent 8-10 minutes out of 45 on the topic. I gave them a brief timeline, an overview, insights on why I thought I developed anorexia, treatment I received, and  how I recovered to this point. 

Cramming more than a decade of pain, self-flagellation, disgust and frustration into mini-monologues was close to impossible. 

The hardest part though, and the summary I didn't pull off so well was how I got better. 

I am better. So much better. Better to the point that when the head inquisitor observed that I'm no longer thin and how did I handle that, I handled it. 

I had a fat moment or two this morning but was able to let it quickly go and enjoy my decaf mocha with whipped cream. 

I now know my body is my home. It's my responsibility to take care of it, respect it, cherish it, not punish it. I accept who and where I am (for the most part). It is what is. 

But how did I get here? To this reasonably healthy, sane place?

If I had hours to talk I don't know that's a question I have an answer to. 

Being a mother made me let go of so much. The illusion of control. The concept that my issues were all important and should take precedent over everything else. Anorexia is quite the selfish, egotistical disease. 

Going to art school and finding my voice after too many years of not having one. 

There's yoga. Finding space in my mind and learning I don't always have to spin out of control. Not to mention being stronger than I've ever been. Who would ever have thought that neurotic me would ever be able to float into a headstand in the middle of a room. 

Getting older. I'm finding age brings wisdom and acceptance. There are downsides but with this too, I'm learning to accept what is. 

But I think the biggest thing is that I'm grateful. Grateful I'm here. Grateful for my family, for where we live, for the life we've created. For the opportunities I've had and the ones I made happen. For the many amazing people in my life. For my delicious puppy. 

Grateful that I have a sense of humor that keeps me sane in the insanity. 

Grateful that I can give. 

Giving my kidney is a way to pay forward all I've been blessed with in my life. A thank you to the universe. A tip of the hat to the forces that be. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

overcoming Jewish superstitions

you can read about it on my kidney blog (where I'm trying to let go of old habits):

adventures of my kidney

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

rejecting rejection

As I was just walking to yoga, on this icy, wet, slush-filled morning, I was thinking about what to write about. I was thinking about how easy it is to say you're going to let go of what you know, how you (I'm talking me here) can understand, conceptualize, "get" it, but the reality of letting go is just about impossible. While contemplating this I was also pondering the negative spaces that take over me. How lost I can get in being angry, feeling slighted, ignored, hurt - whether it was intentional or not. I trend sensitive for those here who haven't noticed. I can spin things that happened or might possibly happen over and over. And over. As if there's a replay button in my brain that can select out my most painful moments and put them on high rotation.

I'm really good at making myself feel really bad.

As I wandered the aisles of the Container Store, gazing at tiny boxes and packs of tissue paper this deep, way deep, so deep realization hit me.

Perceived rejection has to be one of my first feelings.

Whoa. Perceived rejection.

Growing up healthy in a house with a very ill sibling meant I got less attention. Not maliciously. Not with awareness. But I was ok and he wasn't. Reasonable, rational, logical. But not really when you're less than three.

From that, from there I think I internalized not being important enough and became comfortable with, accepting of people treating me with a certain sense of disregard.

I seek out those relationships.

To be put at the bottom of someone's list of priorities is where I know I'm supposed to be.




This is a huge one for me.

Awareness is the first step.

Maybe this slight shift will help me to fight those ingrained tendencies and I can start letting go of something I never even thought of as a thing.

It is what is.

But I want it to be what was.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

letting go of what you know

Lately, this blog and my kidney adventures definitely mix and mingle.

Today was one of those days, should you care to pop over and read:

kidney adventures

Friday, January 14, 2011

surviving an anxiety attack

I just survived an anxiety attack, although, the way I'm feeling it could start back up at any moment. My hands are still shaking. There's a strange heat, tingling in my head. My jaw is clenched tight. My stomach is knotted.

Yup, it's still here. But I'm still not giving in.

It started in the supermarket. Standing on line with Jack I got dizzy for no reason. Scared. Panicky. I made it home, barely holding it together. And then, as I stood in the kitchen, the unease started. The knowing that I wouldn't be ok, that I was about to lose it, that I would fall apart at any moment.

I didn't.

But I thought I would.

I grabbed ice cubes out of the freezer and held them so tightly I could hear them cracking. That didn't stop anything (I'd heard that holding ice cubes would stop a panic attack). I held them up to my checks until it felt they were numb. That helped slightly.

I remembered what the transplant social worker had said the other day—that I had to look at my history and know that I always survive in the end. That, and that anxiety was a learned response from my earliest years.

I don't want to react to stress with anxiety attacks anymore. I hate this.

HATE this.

So much unknown, so much stress, so many things I've never dealt with are in my near future and I want to find a healthier way of dealing than this.

I will not fall apart. I'm stronger than this. I have to find a way to know that at my very center and not fall back into this dark place.

Or, maybe I've been having a hot flash.

All I can say is oy.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

the fringier part of me

Last night I was the first to arrive for dinner. It was my monthly book club which rarely talks books but manages to cover a vast range of other topics. I arrived at the restaurant, an old neighborhood standby that had recently relocated to a deserted stretch of 8th street. Not feeling like waiting outside in the cold, about to snow dark, I looked around to see if anything was open where I could browse for a few minutes.

Right next door was a piercing shop. Glancing in the window I recognized almost none of the shining bits and pieces but I ventured in. The man behind the counter took one look at middle aged me and looked back to his magazine. Apparently a funky vintage coat and cool boots don't make much of an impression.

Still, I walked the dimly lit gauntlet to the back of the store and asked if they had any nose jewelry. He glanced at me again, spotted the gold glimmer in my nostril, and pulled out a black velvet display studded with the tiniest of jewels.

He got friendlier as I asked about different options and which were easiest to change and why. I then screwed up courage to ask if he could explain how to get my own piercing out. There's a mysterious labyrinth living inside my nose that's a puzzle I afraid to attempt.

Excitedly he explained how to remove the u-shaped stud, even drawing a diagram to refer to. I then learned that should I buy something there, the salesperson would help me remove the old and insert the new.

I gave a secret moment of silence to those whose job it is to stick their fingers up other people's noses all day.

I saw what I want. A bezel cut tiny diamond set in white gold. Simple. Clean. Sparkly.

I'm thinking that should all my kidney testing go as planned, I'm treating myself to some new nose bling on the way home.