Longest. Week. EVAR.

You ever have one of those weeks? You know, where you just get unexpectedly hit with…well, with a whole lot crap?

The week started off well. The Monday after a holiday break is never easy, but the Monday after an extended holiday break is brutal. Only, for me, this year, it wasn’t.

I got up at 6 a.m. I wrote for 90 minutes. I almost hit my daily writing goal (was maybe 100 words short). I got dressed for work, went into the office, and killed it. Stayed 30 minutes late to finish up a few things, then headed home, where I made zucchini soup and a tuna and white bean salad for dinner. I also made some “nutrient-dense” muffins for the rest of the week’s breakfasts.

Logged a little time with the husband, watched an episode of Doctor Who on Netflix, and then logged another twenty minutes or so of writing time, during which I beat my daily goal by 51 words. Afterward, I packed our lunches for the next day and nabbed a little more cuddle time with Joe before getting to bed at a decent hour.

All good things, right?

On Tuesday, I had a doctor’s appointment in PA. It’s about a 25-mile drive that takes less than 45 minutes to do when there’s no traffic. But on Tuesday, we had our first significant snow of the season. Joe decided to drive me; an hour later, we’d only made it about 2/3 of the way there. My morning decaf kicked in and I asked Joe to pull off at the first available exit so I could find a bathroom. He did, the brakes locked up, and we slo-mo skidded into a big ol’ HVAC truck. Here, see for yourself:

Crashed Car

So there was that.

Meanwhile, there was all of this Drama (capital “D” intended) with the tow guy that the state cops called to move our car out of a busy travel lane. I won’t bore you with the details but they took our smashed-up Fusion to a collision center in Chester, instead of the awesome Brandywine Body Shop (which is less than a mile from our house). And how the tow guy took off with our car but left us stranded on the side of the road, in the snow, and how we had to wait for over an hour for our rescue ride.

There were phone calls to AAA and State Farm and the Chester collision shop and our body shop and a million other people. There were problems with the rental car from Hertz, not the least of which included starting the car only to discover the low tire pressure warning light, calling the front desk to ask them to fix it, them telling me they couldn’t, and us having to seek assistance from a rival rental company’s techs across the lot.

Oh, yeah, that was a banner day, I tell you what.

But it really SHOULD have been a banner day, since Tuesday was when my new book, You First, was officially published. My first tween novel! My first novel period in five and a half years!

Picture Perfect

These arrived on Thursday. I literally squeed!

Wednesday was all about digging myself out from the hole I fell into with Tuesday’s shenanigans. Thursday was all about meetings – so many meetings, one right after another, my LEAST favorite kind of work day. It was topped off with the discovery that there was blood in my dog’s urine.


In my dog’s urine.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried. A lot.

And then chased this crying with a viewing of Parenthood, which made me cry even harder.

This morning, I called the vet first thing. They could see Scout. Did a clean urine catch with some Tupperware that is headed for the recycling bin. Drove him over to the vet’s office at 8 a.m. Came home to work. Around 10:30, got a call from the vet’s office pointing out that Scout is scheduled for a dental cleaning on Monday, and did I want them to do it today? Sure, I say. Let’s knock it out.

Around 3 o’clock start having anxiety about the dog. The first time he ever went under anesthesia was for neutering. He was really small and had a horrible reaction to the protocol they used. We almost lost him. So now whenever he needs anesthesia, I usually need a Valium. (Not really. But close.)

At 3:30, I can’t take it anymore; I call the vet for an update. They still haven’t done the cleaning OR run the urinalysis. Great. More anxiety. Call the body shop for an update on my car. It’s still in Chester. They got the collision center to release it but asked State Farm to get it towed. State Farm didn’t. Get a call from State Farm. They chastise me for not returning “several calls.” I check my cell. There is exactly ONE missed call from 1:39 p.m. yesterday.

When is this week going to end?

Not before there is more lecturing from State Farm. It’s interrupted by a call from the vet telling me that she wants to do some radiography on the dog. Great, do whatever you have to do, this dog is everything to me. He has to be healthy. HAS TO.

I cannot deal with one more thing going wrong this week. I really can’t.

At 5:02, I call the vet again. Earlier I was told the doctor needed to leave at 5. I’m worried that there have been no updates. They’re still working on Scout, the front desk chick tells me.

This can’t be good, I think.

At 5:12, the vet calls. I was right. The news isn’t good.

Scout has two sizable bladder stones. They should be removed as soon as possible. By a specialist.

I ask questions. A lot of questions. I’m supposed to be leaving town on Thursday, for Wendy’s and my annual birthday trip. I’ll be back on the 18th. Can I get the surgery done on the 19th?

Risky, the vet says. If the stones get much bigger, Scout’s body might try to pass them. This could mean a blockage. Will someone be home with him 24/7?

Emergency surgery it is. EXPENSIVE emergency surgery.

The first specialist center I call tells me my best bet is to bring him in tonight. He’ll hang out in a crate until someone is available to do the surgery. Since he’s stable, he’d be at the bottom of the triage list. The cost? Between $3,000 and $3,500.

I call the second specialist center. They have zero openings between now and Monday. They tell me to call UPenn. UPenn can’t even schedule an appointment until Monday. If I bring him in for an eval and his situation is deemed urgent enough, they’ll call in an emergency staff. That costs money. LOTS of money.

The first specialist center it is!

Joe gets home from work and I fill him in on everything. Then I go over to CareCredit to apply for financing to pay for my dog’s surgery. We’re approved, print out the paperwork, and head over to Banfield to pick up our groggy dog, all so we can deliver him to the next crate at the next vet center, where he’ll wait for someone to cut him open and remove these potentially dangerous bladder stones.

In the car, I hold Scout tight and start to cry. I’ve had so much loss in my life these past couple of years – I can’t lose him, too. The bladder stone surgery isn’t high-risk but it will require more anesthesia, and as I said, Scout doesn’t do well on anesthesia to begin with. This is what scares me more than anything.

We sign in at the animal ER and are taken back to an exam room. A nurse checks Scout’s vitals. All is well.

An hour goes by without seeing a doctor. Bad things happen at the animal ER. A stray that was hit by a car gets brought in. I can see the blood on its white fur. Another dog comes in having had seizures. We hear its owners sobbing.

Scout in Hiding

Scout hiding under the bench in the exam room. We’d brought him a toy for the crate wait.

Another twenty minutes goes by. Joe and I are both starving. It’s been almost seven hours since I’ve eaten and I’m out of water. There’s a Wawa two minutes down the street. I leave Joe there with Scout and make a quick food run.

I am gone at most 15 minutes. But in my absence Dr. Kelly comes to talk to Joe. Scout doesn’t need surgery, she says. The kind of stones he has can be dissolved by the special urinary food that he’s already on. He’s got a UTI, she says, and the UTI might have caused the two stones to form in the first place. Let’s clear up the UTI, do a culture to make sure we’ve diagnosed the right kind of bacteria, and keep an eye on his urine production. Then, in two to three months, we’ll do another round of X-rays to see if the stones have dissolved or not.

When Joe tells me this, I’m relieved. But I’m also kind of pissed. I’ve spent the past several hours in blind panic over my dog’s health. Needlessly, it turns out.

The doctor returns in another 20 minutes to talk to me. Everything she says contradicts what we were told by Banfield. She wants to do a culture on his bladder, for instance. I say, “Don’t you have to put him under to do that?” She says, “No, not at all.” But Banfield told me that they DO put dogs under for that.

Dr. Kelly takes Scout back to get the culture. I feel suddenly exhausted, like I could fall asleep right there on the exam room floor.

Scout is discharged a short while later. We go over the instructions with a nurse. He trots out of the emergency vet center and hops into the car looking happy. The mood in the car is infinitely lighter than that of the drive over.

We walk in our front door at 9:38 p.m. I feed Scout so I can give him his antibiotic. Then I change into my PJs and prepare for some much-needed couch cuddles with my two favorite men.


100 Things for Which I Am Grateful, Part 2.

I’m still feeling the gratitude! In addition to the 50 things I listed yesterday, I’m also grateful for:

51. My house (even though it needs some work, it’s served us well)

52. Heat

53. Hot water

54. Clean water

55. Air conditioning

56. Toilets

57. High-speed Internet

58. Being a woman

59. Being literate

60. Being a woman in a country that grants me the right to literacy

61. BOOKS (duh)

62. Photographs of my mom

63. Photographs of my childhood

64. The ocean

65. Airplanes

66. Anyone who will either drive you to or pick you up from the airport

67. Vacations

68. Best-friend birthday getaways

69. Puns

70. Joe’s kisses

71. Mornings when I can remember my dreams from the night before

72. Really good dreams, the kind you wish you could linger in longer

73. Uni-ball Vision fine point pens in black

74. Coupons

75. Free shipping

76. My savings account

77. My mad budgeting skills

78. Long skirts

79. The purple down-filled throw that keeps me warm in the living room

80. When the scale goes down

81. Twenty-plus years’ worth of music mixes (every single one of them deeply meaningful)

82. A cappella (and a ca-fellas)

83. My sense of humor

84. Times when Joe and I narrate our lives as if we were in a musical

85. Affordable season tickets to the DuPont Theatre

86. Restaurant Weeks in big cities

87. That the people at Soybean Asian Grille will always make me the pumpkin curry with chicken even when it’s not on the menu

88. Reese’s Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Eggs (and Pumpkins and Trees)

89. Philly soft pretzels

90. Whenever I find boneless skinless chicken breast for $1.99/lb.

91. Fireworks

92. My dog’s snorts (he’s got the best comic timing in the business!)

93. Caller ID

94. Shea butter (or, rather, my psoriatic skin is grateful for it)

95. Corrective eye wear

96. Every time Joe says, “I [bleep]ing love you, woman.”

97. How I feel after a good massage

98. Love

99. Second chances

100. New beginnings

[Read Part 1 (the first 50 things) here.]

100 Things for Which I Am Grateful, Part 1.

Inspired by a recent post on Mostly True Stories of K. Renae P. (which was inspired by a post on a blog she follows), I present to you my own list (also in no particular order):

1. My husband, Joe, who despite driving me crazy a lot of the time also manages to keep me sane (go figure)

2. Snuggles with Scout (a.k.a. the World’s Most Adorable Dog)

3. My friends, who have always been my family

4. My job at IRA, not only because I believe in the organization’s mission but also because I genuinely love the work that I do

5. My co-workers, who are some of the smartest, funniest, most creative people I know

6. The fact that people still want to pay me to write books

7. My editor, Kristen, who believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself

8. Friday dinners with the Rosens, especially when my cousin Josh is in town

9. My family in general

10. Weekends with Sadiepants

11. Writing dates with Carolee

12. Excellent health insurance coverage

13. Sync, the thing that allows me to make hands-free calls from my car (what did I ever do before it?)

14. Taylor Swift (don’t judge)

15. Facebook (ditto)

16. The Paderno World Cuisine Tri-Blade Plastic Spiral Vegetable Slicer (oodles of zoodles!)

17. My Koncis garlic press from IKEA (on sale this month for $2.99)

18. The Superior Auto mode on my camera (I want to be a world-class shutterbug but am not sure if I’ll ever get there)

19. My iPad

20. My iPhone

21. Google


23. Audiobooks in the car

24. Date nights with Jen and Brian

25. The Delicious Dishes

26. Fuzzy slipper socks

27. Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Rooibos tea


29. Smart, funny sitcoms like The Mindy Project and Parks & Rec

30. Smart, poignant and/or thought-provoking dramas like The Good Wife and Parenthood

31. My DVR

32. Friday night scrapbooking sessions with Wendy

33. Xyron sticker makers

34. The three years I spent as a Girl Scout co-leader

35. The time I had with Marian, even though it ended much, much too soon

36. Coupland Campers

37. The self-confidence I’ve managed to cultivate, even if it took me 38 years to get it

38. YNAB

39. Alton Brown

40. The fact that I can do 4o push ups (!)

41. Natural peanut butter

42. Grandpa Witmer’s Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter Mixer

43. My mentor and friend, Cruce Stark

44. My education

45. Online banking

46. Lip balm

47. K9 Advantix II

48. Tim Horton’s Decaf K-cups

49. Days I can sleep in

50. Nights I can stay up late

To be continued…

Strange things are afoot at the Purebread Deli.

The Purebread Deli & Cafe is this adorable, dog-themed coffee shop that also has really yummy sandwiches (all of which are named after dogs, naturally).  It’s a local chain, and there’s a location not far from my house. Even so, I don’t go there all that often. But I met an old friend from high school there for coffee a few weeks back, and tonight I was meeting a new friend for a hot beverage.

As I’m walking in – literally, walking in – I run into Ellen, a student from one of my creative writing classes at UD. She tells me that Michael, another student from that class, is parking the car. Then he comes in and it’s like OH HI and suddenly we’re having old home week at the Purebread Deli. He tells me that he and Ellen met in my class and fell in L-O-V-E because of that class. Which is totally adorable. I tell them that this summer, two students who took my class (but not at the same time) got married.

“Go teach a class!” Michael yells to me, as he goes to place his order.

“I make love connections!” I quip back.

So that’s a happy good thing, right? Right.

Later, as I’m lingering over hot beverage with the new friend, Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe” comes on over the sound system, and my own breath catches.

This is the song that I watched Joe’s aunt Brenda sob to at his uncle Tommy’s wedding, about nine months after their father (Joe’s grandfather) passed away.

This is the song I listened to the day I found out that Marian was gone.

This is the song that I played at my mother’s funeral, the one that nearly destroyed me that day.

Tonight, I stopped speaking, mid-sentence. I lost my entire train of thought. It took every ounce of willpower to keep myself from crying. Right there, in the middle of the adorable dog-themed coffee shop.

I kept it together.

But guess what? When the song ended, and the next one began, it was the exact same song. Only, this version was sung by a different artist.

It was a total WTF moment.

I said, “What, are they doing an encore?”

My conversational skills deteriorated after that.

You probably know this song, but in case you don’t, it’s below (lyrics included).

And while I wouldn’t call this a happy good thing – the two versions of “Just Breathe,” how utterly random – I wouldn’t call it a sad bad thing, either. It’s just…a thing.

It reminded me how, at the funeral, our officiant Metty said something that – up until that point – hadn’t clicked for me.

My mom died in her sleep. She stopped breathing. And the song I chose to play?

“Just Breathe.”