Sunday Stromboli

As the Sunday school year comes to an end at First Unitarian Church of Providence, we have been taking some time to thank the Teachers. This morning we hosted a breakfast to thank them, talk about the school year and discuss plans for the future. As the RE Director’s Assistant, It was an obvious choice to have me help with the breakfast. 

And by help, that of course means, cook or bake something! I prefer savory items for breakfast so I was going to make a quiche. However, one of the parents’ volunteered to make one so I had to think of something else. I was out and about Saturday morning and while driving, an idea/recipe popped into my head. A breakfast Stromboli! 

I woke up early this morning and got busy. 

I took the pizza dough out & rolled out on a floured surface.  

I then placed the dough into a sheet pan I sprayed first with canola oil. I then squeezed some Dijon mustard onto the prepared dough. 

After spreading the mustard all around, I carefully placed about 1/2lb of sliced honey ham all over. 

I then sprinkled on some sliced cherry tomatoes, slivered red onions and chopped baby spinach. 


On top of the spinach I layered 1/4lb sliced Swiss cheese. 

I then carefully rolled the dough from one side to the other. Folding the edges at each end to avoid cheese oozing out. 

At this point I recommend you brush the top with an egg wash. I did not so my Stromboli, while cooked through, looked light on the outside rather than golden brown. I baked in a preheated 375degree oven for about 30min. Keep your eye on it. The bottom should be a nice golden color and the crust should not be “doughy”

Boy did this smell good!! I wrapped in tin foil and went off to church. Once it cooled off I placed it on a cutting board, sliced and arranged on a nice serving platter. 

The slices looked beautiful and were very scrumptious. If I was home, I’d probably stick my slices back in the oven just to “toast” them up a bit. No need for a doughy Stromboli in the middle. 

Pretty sure it was a hit with the teachers as there were only 2 slices left! Looks like I’ll add this made up Breakfast Stromboli to my Jen’s Dish repertoire.

I hope  your Sunday was savory, sweet and serene. 

Mixtup Love

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about love. How we fall into it, how we express it, how we fall out of it.

What if there is someone special in your life and you want to tell that person how you feel? You could say it with flowers. 593

You could say it with food: 001

You could say it in a card. But for me, I’d rather say it with music. Music hits the soul.

LOVE, LUST and even just a little bit of LIKE take us through a wide range of emotions. Those feelings are captured perfectly in a song.

It’s funny, I was thinking about this and then not long after I saw an interview Charlie Rose did with the utterly brilliant Lin-Manuel Miranda. Lin-Manuel was talking about his love of the Mixtape. As a side note, the fantastic Broadway hit, “Hamilton” started off as some what of a mixtape which has taken on a life of it’s own. Lin-Manuel told Charlie that he used to make and give all of the girls he liked Mixtapes. He carefully considered each and every song. As he reminded me, the genius of mixtapes is that you HAVE to play the songs in order. There is no skipping around, no “shuffling”. There is an arc to the songs. It starts out fun, free, hopeful, even. Then the 4th song. Well, the 4th song is KEY. It is the clincher. It says EVERYTHING. There should be an arc to the arrangement he said. A beginning, middle and end. I was so inspired I made one of my own. Ok, not on an actual tape, because they barely exist anymore!!!! I did however find a picture. 330px-Audio_cassette_tapes

I made a virtual mixtape. It was fun, emotional and challenging. Amazing,  it was not hard to find just the right songs to capture the wide range of emotions you have when someone pops into your life. I hope  you enjoy and feel inspired to make your own and share with that special someone. As for me, maybe that “someone” will read and listen…….

Remember, play in order…..

Big Bad Handsome Man: Imelda May

“Fire Bug” JD McPherson

My Heart’s Like a Kick Drum: The Avett Brothers

Misty: Ella Fitzgerald

The Very Thought of You: Sara Vaughn

Wrong to Love You: Chris Isaak

You Go Down Smooth: Lake Street Dive

Sail Away: David Gray

Just What I Needed: The Cars

Don’t Make Me Dream About You: Chris Isaak

Another Story: The Head and The Heart

Little Lion Man: Mumford and Sons

I’m Sorry: Hothouse Flowers

No One Is To Blame: Howard Jones

So there you have it. You can say it with candy IMG_1915

But I think the sentiment gets straight to the heart with a SONG………

Go make your own mixtape and send me the list. I wanna listen……

 

Out and About with Zoë: TGIF

We made it through another work and school week. Zoë and I were feeling pretty beat and tired. Friday nights are pizza nights in our house. We usually make our own and many times have friends over to enjoy our hand-thrown “pies”. Tonight, however, we felt like grabbing a slice ( or two) and then heading home to catch up on our favorite show: “The Amazing Race”. 

Where to go in Providence for the perfect slice? No question: Nice Slice Pizzeria located in the heart of Thayer St. 

  
It’s a tiny spot with cool graphics on the walls.  

You can order full pies to go, but I find it more fun to look at the different pies and order a few different slices. Depending on what strikes my fancy.

  
This night we went for the Steak and Bacon pizza with BBQ Sauce and a couple slices of cheese. 

They have a wide variety of sodas and iced teas to choose from. They even have an old-school favorite: RC Cola!!  

 
We snagged a window seat which allowed us the perfect viewpoint to people watch. Thayer St. is located in the heart of Brown University’s campus and close to RISD, so the street is constantly humming with students and such. 

While listening to Zoë fill me in on the latest 5th grade gossip, I realized I had never fully noticed Avon Cinema’s rooftop. It’s such a cool building.  

 
We realized we were so hungry we did not take any pictures of our pizza! It’s a crispy/chewy thin crust with just enough sauce and super flavorful toppings. It hits the spot.  

 
  
We’ll be back again soon!  

 

Easter Special

It was a quiet holiday weekend this year with my oldest in Philly finishing up her Freshman year. Zoë and I zipped up to NH to enjoy some ham with my Dad & Step-Mom. 

We arrived Saturday afternoon and within  20min I left Zoë with her Grandparents and headed to downtown Nashua for a nice catch up with an old friend. 

Over a Guinness at Peddler’s Pub.

 
And some “Irish Nachos”.  

 Not sure how Irish they were, but the chips were crunchy and homemade and topped with bacon. My friend and I did not appreciate the bleach smell permeating the perimeter of the bar. However, the conversation flowed as did the beer so we tried not to think about it. 

Back at the homestead, we enjoyed a yummy dinner of ravioli and salad. Then a fierce card game of “Kings in the Corner”. I’m not a huge card player, but this game is pretty easy to learn and competitive. 

Easter morning we were treated to my Step-Mom’s fabulous scrambled eggs. I don’t know how she does it or what her trick is, but her eggs come out fluffy and perfect every time. I can never duplicate the texture. I had mine with asparagus.  

 

Dinner was going to be served at 1pm. A quiet affair, just us 4. Before prep, my Step-Mom went off to church, Dad started the bourbon glaze for the ham. I sipped some coffee and watched the bluebird while Zoë hunted for eggs.  

 
   
   
Watermelon Peep before noon? Sure! 

Soon it was time for us all to gather in the kitchen to prep the Easter meal. My Dad baked a good sized (10lbs!) ham. He actually had a hard time finding a basic smoked ham. Most were ready to go heat and eat spiral hams. Expensive too! 

  
I made my requested Asparagus Gruyerè Tart: this recipe comes from my collection of “everyday FOOD”. That really cool little magazine Martha Stewart used to publish. Each issue had terrific, fresh, vibrant, easy recipes. It’s a shame it folded…

Here’s the recipe: 

Flour, for work surface

1sheet frozen puff pastry

5oz shredded Gruyerè cheese

1 1/2lbs medium or thick asparagus 

1Tbspn olive oil

Salt and Pepper

1.) Preheat oven to 400. On a floured surface, roll the pastry into a 16by10 inch rectangle. Place pastry on baking sheet. W/a sharp knife, lightly score the dough 1″ in from edges to mark a rectangle. Using a fork, pierce the dough inside the markings at half inch intervals. Bake until golden, about 15min.

2.) Remove the pastry shell from the oven, and sprinkle w/cheese. Trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell, arrange in a single layer over the cheese, alternating ends and tips. Brush with oil, and season w/salt and pepper. Bake until spears are tender, 20-25min.  

 
Truth be told my puff pastry had seen better days. I think it had been in my freezer a little too long. While it wasn’t perfect looking, it sure was scrumptious. 

I loved that we had our own responsibilities in the kitchen. Zoë took pics and made a video. With my tart baking, I made some gravy with the ham pan drippings. Drippings make the best gravy!!  

 
  
A simple menu but oh so scrumptious.  

   
The sweet potatoes were Rhode Island grown. I roasted with onion and shallot. Then added a nice drizzle of Vermont Maple Syrup.  

   
   
 
   
 
It wasn’t really warm and sunny but that didn’t keep us from a Sunday Easter stroll! Once our bellies had rested, we drove to my Cousin’s house. It’s a holiday tradition. Our large extended family gathers together for dessert and lots of hugs.  

 
Debbie makes her Trifle. Claire makes the Boston Creme Cake.  

 
And Katie made Congo Bars.  

 
Goodness! It was a small but scrumptious spread this Easter. Zoë packed up some goodies to go and we hit the road. Feeling so thankful for a wonderful family weekend, we drove back to Rhode Island and tucked ourselves into bed. 

Morning Reflection

Despite the snowfall earlier today; Spring is here. A time of renewal, rebirth and growth. This past Thursday I received news that I am still Cancer-free! Time to jump up and down….if only my hip didn’t hurt. I jumped up and down in my head believe me.

As I breathed a sigh of relief, I went on about my business, still feeling stuck on something. Dad was down to go to my Doc appt. with me and after pizza we had a good catch-up over a bit of whiskey.  

 
Nice, but did not quite clear the mind. I picked up our pizza and while waiting for it, the sky changed into a most amazing color and a rainbow appeared.  

 
A sign of hope? Or Perhaps my pot of gold is waiting for me to claim it. 

I certainly felt lighter, and less stuck. 

Zoë had a full social calendar this weekend, which kept me busy. I spent much of Saturday grocery shopping, cooking and baking which really calms me. I found my self less caught up in achieving closure and more caught up in how fabulous my chicken marinade was tasting. 

I noticed the spectacular blue Spring sky on Sunday.  

 The puffy soft pussy willows reminded me of Easter Sunday walks to the pond near my Grandmother’s house.  

 Coffee with a friend helped as well as noticing the bright yellow (soon to be covered in snow ) daffodils in my backyard.  

  

After dropping Zoë off to her Dad’s, I had a long overdue catch-up with my friend Lisa. We live close but had been seeing each other more on social media than real life. So glad we changed that. 

The evening came to an appropriate close with a reading of this spot on relevant article my Coffee friend sent. Entitled, “Embracing the Vernol Equinox.”

I especially loved this part: “It’s important to not see failure in these ventures but to see the courage that it takes to admit when something doesn’t work out as we hoped it would.”

“Sometimes the only choice we have is to simply let go and see what happens when we let it.”

This morning I made a yummy breakfast of scrambled eggs  

 
With veggies and ham.  

 While scrambling I was feeling thankful the snow was light and I did not need to shovel. 

Upon reflection, while sipping my coffee,  

 
I realized I felt lighter, happier. The wise words from friends, the small everyday observances all add up to a good day, a good life, where we may not always have the answers or closure we seek. But it is not always the end all be all. We have the power to clear our minds and find calm and happiness. 

I sat at my desk today and heard one of my all time faves. Let’s call it our song of the day: “You Can’t Get What You Want Till You Know…” By Joe Jackson: Sometimes you start feeling so lost and lonely. Then you’ll find it’s all been in your mind. 

 

Pork and Pain

It’s getting to be that time again. No, not the time when daffodils bloom, crocuses peek out from the ground and birds start chirping again. Not quite. It’s scan and checkup time! 

First up today, a trip to the Orthopedist. If you’ve been following this blog for a bit you know I’ve been having hip issues since July. Hip pain brought me in to see my primary who found the mass. When my Nurse Practitioner told me I had hip displaysia it ended up being overshadowed by the discovery of the mass. 

Since surgery, my post-op pain has dissapated and the hip pain has reared its ugly head. A recent MRI showed a tear in my right labrum. Now a trip to another Doc to deal with it. 

Today was the day. I had some spare time this morning and a pork butt waiting in the fridge. When I’m stressed or upset; cooking calms me. The thoughts flow in and out easily when I’m chopping onions and mincing garlic. I was nervous about this appointment so got to work in the kitchen. 

  
I coated a 3lb butt with salt and pepper and seared in a hot pan on all sides. After pulling the pork out, I sautéed sliced onion till translucent and then added a couple cloves of garlic that have been minced. To the pan I added 1/2 Tsp of Chili Powder and 1/4 Tsp of Cinnamon. Let the spices “toast” for a bit then add 1 cup of water. Scrape the bits on the bottom of the pan, add the pork and bring to a boil.  

 
Add all to the crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours.  

 
The aromas coming from my kitchen were wonderful. I thought, “Oh man, this is going to taste amazing!” I cleaned up in the kitchen, finished getting ready, took one last sip of coffee and headed out the door. 

I got to the Orthopedic practice and was told my Doc needed more pics of my hip. After a deep sigh and probably a groan, I followed the tech down the hall. She had me put on these snazzy blue shorts. I think they look great with my flats; don’t you?  

 
After manipulating my hip in uncomfortable directions, the tech brought me to the exam room. My Doc and a 4th yr Med student greeted me, asked me a range of appropriate diagnostic questions. He also manipulated my hip in uncomfortable positions and proceeded to tell me my main issue was not the tear but my Hip Displaysia, something I’ve probably had since birth or early childhood. I’ll have to admit the fact that my Doc looked like a hot So Cal surfer dude, softened the wincing pain in my hip a bit! 

In all seriousness, we looked at my scans, he carefully explained what I was looking at, laid out my options while I took notes. We decided a few months of physical therapy would be the best place to start. 

After making appointments I walked slowly back to my car, settled in, turned on the tunes and drove off to work.

It was a typically hectic Monday, but hey, I had Carnitas waiting for me at home! While driving home tonight I planned out my meal. I’d sauté strips of red and yellow pepper, shred some pork, scoop up some juices and place on top of a bed of crispy lettuce. I practically ran up the stairs when returned home. Anticipating that awesome aroma in my kitchen. I put the key in the door, turned the handle and walked in. “Gee, that’s odd. My kitchen does NOT smell scrumptious! What is going on?” I walked into my cooking nook, looked on the counter and realized…..I had never plugged in my slow cooker! Damn, now THAT is painful. #reallyslowcooking

Sunny Saturday

I’m finally starting to realize that the changes that occur in one’s life after Cancer can be subtle and slow. I’ll be honest, I did think a lightening bolt would appear in front of me with “instant change and instant improvement”. My impatience shining thru. I’ve also realized that it is time to experience life a bit more and maybe step outside my comfort zone a bit. 

On Friday, I sat at my desk amazed another full week back at work has gone by. I was so happy I’d have a paycheck as well. I want so happy when I looked in the mirror and thought my skin looked a bit dry and wished I could do more about it.

I noticed the Alayne White Spa was having a special “30 Minute Mask Blast” at a great price. I thought “This is perfect!” So I booked one for Saturday morning. I have not pampered myself long before my surgery and thought I really deserved to be . 

  
I woke up Saturday morn, made some tea and walked down to Elmgrove Ave in Providence to the lovely oasis.  

 
I checked in, was offered a glass of water and soaked in the scenery before being called in.  

 
   
 
Soon, Lindsey came out to greet me. I could not have asked for a nicer esthetician. She was warm and caring and confident with flawless skin(a great sign!). I took off my shoes and got on the table. Warm blankets were wrapped around me like a cocoon. Under each hand Lindsey placed a warm stone. I thought it was a perfect sign that my favorite Classical piece; Pachebel’s Canon, was playing in the background. I closed my eyes and relaxed. For the next 30min. I relished in the pampering while Lindsey lathered my face and virtually smoothed out my wrinkles(ok, one can only hope!).

Right before I was about to fall asleep from sheer relaxation, it was time to get up. Feeling all aglow, I read some affirmations, thanked the ladies profusely, booked another appointment, 

 and walked home with a hydrated smile on my face. 

I was relieved to walk in my apartment to see that Zoë had made herself some breakfast and was cleaning her room(!).  I’m sure our afternoon plans helped her to motivate herself. We were headed to Bryant University to see the Bryant Bulldogs,  Women’s Basketball team play Mount St. Mary’s. I had recently met one of the coaches, Mary McConnell; one of Bryant’s all-time greats. I was telling her that Zoë and her friends play basketball and cheerlead their school’s undefeated team. She invited us to the game.  

 
The girls were so excited and had their poster/programs at the ready. This was such an exciting game. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a live basketball game and these Lady Bulldogs did not dissapoint.  

 
  
While the band played, the team huddled, working out their plays, the girls were rapt in attention.  

 
Even the mascot was mesmerized and had his ball ready in case he was asked to make a free throw.  

  
The game had us on the edge of our seats down to the last buzzer. They won; 86-52. The girls rushed out ready to get some autographs.  

 

  
Thanks Coach, for an awesome experience. A wonderful opportunity for our girls to meet and watch some great role models.  

 
We look forward to catching the last home game of the season on Monday. Even though we didn’t play, we certainly worked up an appetite. My friend Pernille suggested we take the girls to The Creperie, a charming place tucked away off of Thayer St. in Providence. They serve up sweet and savory French crepes.  

 The girls ordered Nutella and Banana. They certainly helped themselves to the whipped cream. 

 
  
  
Pernille and I opted for savory crepes. Spinach, Feta, Red Onion and Tomato. Scrumptious.  

 
  
Feeling content, with full bellies, Zoë and I dropped our friends off at their house and we headed home. When she and I have a free night we catch up on our favorite shows on demand. Tonight’s special? “Project Runway AllStars”. Perfect for my budding fashion designer. While she cued up the tv, I made myself a cocktail.  

 
I started with a terrific key ingredient: pure Tangerine juice bottled  by the fabulous Fruitations craft soda and cocktail mixer. I filled a glass with ice, added some tequila, tangerine juice, a splash of orange juice,a squeeze of lime, and topped off with soda water. Perfect. 

Zoë and I put up our feet thinking about our fabulous fun day.  I look forward to getting out more as Spring knocks on our door. In Providence we have so many colleges and universities around us. So plenty of athletic games to watch, performances to take in, galleries to wander around in. We must take more advantage. It goes without saying we’ll enjoy more cozy cafes or divine diners, or fun food trucks. Stepping outside my comfort zone and experiencing more of life is now an essential part of my recovery. Look at the rewards!  

 

Seeking Answers

  
A couple Sunday’s ago, I trekked on over the fabulous RISD Museum to soak up some art before heading back to work. I needed to find some focus after being home for so long. It was a quiet Sunday in the museum so I made a beeline to my favorite piece. The large wooden Buddha. It sits serenely in it’s own room. I usually luck out and have him to myself for at least 5 minutes. I’ll be honest, I was seeking some answers. “To what?” You might ask. Gosh, many things. 

Many of us seek answers don’t we. We pour over our horoscopes, we go to psychics for a reading, we even ask the Magic Eight Ball….why? Will I? What will happen? 

Sometimes, many times perhaps, we don’t know the answers. As Dr. I answered when I asked why I had Cancer. “These things can just happen and we cannot explain why.” Really?! That’s all you got Doc? There are only so many things we have control over. Such as how long to let my cookies bake for:  

 If I don’t set the timer and forget about them they will burn. And then there are those things we don’t have control over. I’ll be honest, I thought after surgery I’d wake up enlightened and calm. Where shit just ‘Does not Bother Me”

A co-worker gave me that classic line, “everything happens for a reason.” (!!!) Well clearly I  did not wake up from surgery and gain patience as I would like to know, what is that reason? 

Perhaps it will come in time, the answers.  

 
I also thought after having Cancer, I’d catch a break. Life would be easier and not as complicated. Well it isn’t easier; Zoë recently had lice again(!! “Really universe? You want to throw this on me?”) I dealt with it of course but I really wanted to gnaw on some of my friend’s fabulous jerky,  

 
Or wallow in my frustration while enjoying a vegetarian sandwich from 7 Stars Bakery.  

 
I could learn to let go:  

 
And trust that the answers will come in time. Ok, life is still complicated. I’ll give myself a break, perhaps embrace the unknown. Put my hands together and just BREATHE.  

 

Cut It All Off

 If all goes well, I’ll be headed back to work on Monday. I can’t wait. I’m finally starting to feel like myself again and working will give me the boost I need. I’ve been going thru my wardrobe to see what fits and what I can wear to work……certainly not the fleece pants I’ve been living in for the past several weeks. Next, I needed to check my hair. Do I need a trim or a full on cut? Color or leave it? Frankly, I thought my Oncologist was going to recommend Chemo and if so, bye bye hair! I was worried. I have super thick hair. How would I feel if it all fell out or if it was super super short. It’s just hair after all right? It grows back! 

I thought of Annie Lennox who, at 61, with her famous super short do, is pretty damn kick ass. Have you seen her amazing performance at the 2015 Grammys where she and Hozier performed a mashup of ‘Take Me to Church/I Put a Spell on You? It was epic. She took US to church. 

Hair or no hair, it’s all about confidence. There is no Chemo expected in my immediate future so the hair stays. Since I’m headed back to work, I’m ready for a new do, a new, healthy, me. I called my hairdresser and made an appointment. 

Whenever I’m stressed, angry, or need a boost, I try to listen to music that will take my mind elsewhere and get me pumped up and in a better place. So yesterday, on my way to the Salon, I blasted these faves from a couple more kick-ass awesome musicians and ladies I admire: “Frederick” and “Dancing Barefoot” by the “punk poet laureate” Patti Smith and “Dog Days are Over” by the Rock and soulful Florence + the Machine.

Pumped up and ready for a change, a fresh start, a new and improved: “me”, I walked in to the salon and said: ” Cut it all Off!” It’s funny, after my clean bill of health(at least for the next 6mths), you’d think I’d say, “Don’t take much off! Only an inch.” But as Florence sings in Dog Days: ” You can’t carry it with you if you want to survive.” I was ready to cut, to shed a whole mess of ‘stuff’.  I showed my hairdresser, Anneli, a picture of a cut I liked. A modern look. 

 
After gabbing with her for an hour, I suddenly felt lighter. Anneli started sweeping up my hair and said; “Oh my goodness! Look how much hair we cut off!” It was just the boost I needed. 

Feeling fabulous, I picked up my youngest from school and took her to get her hair cut. She too was loving her new and improved hairdo so we thought we’d take a selfie.  

 
The picture of health? For now I’ll settle for happy. 

Meanwhile, Back at the M……

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Dec. 9, 2015

I’d like to say “I was wheeled into surgery and dreamt of Paris.” Or perhaps, this Plum Tart.001

Truthfully, I don’t remember a thing. “I was wheeled into surgery and a “second” later, I woke up in my sunny, private room (all of the rooms are private on this Orthopedic and Urology floor) on the 3rd floor of Miriam Hospital.” As the Nurses took out the oxygen tubes from my nose, I looked around at what I would be living in for the next 5 days or so.

Not bad. This TV was HUGE!!!!!

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I looked over and I could make out people looking at me. I knew it was probably my family and close friends but my head was fuzzy and it was such a blur. 003

Obviously I was under an anesthetic haze. Conversations were heard but not made out.

Time meant nothing. It seemed like the minute they got me on my bed and took out the oxygen and got me hooked up to my IV fluids and pain meds, they told me I had to get out of bed! Again, it was all a blur, but I distinctly remember my first Nurse; Sherry (one of many fabulous Nurses that took care of me) saying to me: “Ok, Jen, we’re gonna get out of bed now and have you sit up in the chair!” “Yea, right” I thought. I still had a chatheter in, the tubes and wires a jumble around me. The audience looked at me with a little bit of worry and a lot of encouragement. “I just want to sleep. Please go away.” words I thought, but could not express. Sherry sits herself on my bed, the Nursing Assistant pressed the button to make my bed rise (as if  that would make it easier!) (“UGH!! Put it down! UGH!!”) Someone got the chair ready, “Ok, here we go!” Says Sherry firmly, but kindly. Friends, I have to say, I just wanted to tell her to Fuck Off! but gosh darnit, she looked at me with such a kind face and said very quietly, but full of encouragement: “You can do this Jen!” “Damn, guess I gotta get my ass out of bed.” “Breathe Jen!” someone said. A very very important statement for all of you out there recovering from surgery or recovering from an injury or just plain sick. BREATHE!! Seriously, we tend to forget and hold in our breaths. Not good. BREATHE, BREATHE through the pain. It will make movement easier.

Woosh, I made it. Not really sure how, but willpower could have played a role. Oh my goodness I wanted to pass out and throw up at the same time. Thank god my friend Pernille was there to wipe my face over and over with a cool cloth.

I find it funny that I packed 2 bags for the hospital. In 1 I had, clothes and toiletries, in another I had about 6 sections of the NYTimes, a book, a magazine and a folder of blog stuff.) I did not touch any of it but my toothbrush!! You’d think I was going on vacation. Thank god for that humongous tv. I could not carry on a full conversation let alone concentrate on a book or blogging.

Another funny thing, before I went in for surgery, I told friends, “Ok, if you want to visit, you will have to sneak me in some good coffee from 7Stars!” Ha!! That is so very, very,599 funny as this is all that was “On The Menu” at Chez Miriam during my stay at this posh home away from home.  Ice-Chip Soaked Sponge Lollipops. They are all the rage in foodie circles.

Some friends brought things better than coffee. First off was their company. It was nice to have someone to talk to. There is only so much of Food Network one can take (Guy Fieri is on that channel way too much!!). Some visits were a complete surprise! Which was really, really nice. My friend Lisa brought me some cool nail polish.

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Katy brought me magazines, fancy ginger ale and gourmet saltine crackers. She knows me so well. She also delivered a get well packet of way cool foodie magazines and a broccoli cookbook from Jan at my fave kitchen store: Stock Culinary Goods

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That “comfy” bed grew to be very uncomfortable in no time. I think they do that on purpose as I was supposed to be moving around as much as I could tolerate. Gotta get the bowels moving/functioning. That handy catheter had been taken out my first morning. What a drag man. When getting into bed, you are strapped in, well no not really…. My legs were actually wrapped in a contraption that was plugged in and squeezed the legs off and on to prevent blood clots. While I understand why…it proved to be annoying. Just getting up to go to the bathroom was a production. I had to press the button for the nurse; “Hello, can I help you?” The front desk (which BTW was right outside my door!) answered…..”YEA< I GOTTA PEE!.” I did not actully say it like that, but I certainly felt like it. Friends, please don’t wait till the last minute. Don’t we tell our kids the very same thing? No I did not have an accident, but gosh I almost did! I soon learned the nurses do NOT come right when you need them. It takes a bit, they were very busy. Once they came, I had to have my legs unwrapped, then gather my cords and get help with the IV pole and then carefully walk to the bathroom. Once done, I had to call the nurse or the assistant back to help and measure my urine (I peed into a basket in the toilet). I know, that sounds so very glamorous doesn’t it? Want to be a nurse?

Bright and early at 6:30am, my nurse comes in and takes my vitals, gives me a Heparin shot and checks my med and fluid levels. Sometimes, afterwards, I’d fall asleep, only to wake up a short time later to see Dr. Lauren Bakios, a first year Urology Resident, sitting by my side. That first morning, it seemed like she was the Godfathermother, sitting quietly, till I awoke, ready to tell me something profound. Really she just wanted to check my incision and see how I was feeling and to tell me what my goals were for the day. She was young, but confident and serious and caring. She visited me every single day I was there! On my last day, I asked her if she ever had a day off. She chuckled……

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I couldn’t just look out the window all day or watch Ina Garten cook up a feast for her ever-adoring hubby.  I had GOALS! 618

In order to achieve the ultimate goal of going home, I needed to get up and go for daily walks around the ward (floor?). At first I needed help. One of my daily nurses or the very awesome nursing assistants helped me walk. I had to take that darn pole with me and try to stand up straight. Gosh the things we do everyday that we take for granted! Like walking. It was so hard at first, but I had to check off the boxes on my wipe board!! Oh that hallway was so long.

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At first I just walked to the elevator, then the window and eventually all around the floor, passing some really terrific photographs of local Providence and Rhode Island sites. It was Hannukah, so the Menorah’s were lit as well. 605

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One of the more memorable walks was when Dalila helped me. She was so very kind and sweet. We walked ever so slowly and carefully and I asked her where she was originally from as I did not recognize her accent. “Liberia” she said. “Oh! I said, did you come to America to get away from the war? “No, I actually moved to America before it broke out, but my children were there during the war.” She went on to tell me that her children made it out of Liberia safely and came to America to join her. She was so “proud of and impressed by” her children’s ability to move here and move beyond the memories of the awful experiences during the war and make a fresh start for themselves here in America. Her daughter for example, went on to attend Medical School and is now a researcher in a lab! I have to say, maybe it was the narcotic medicine I was on, making me super emotional, but Delila was delightful and had me in tears by the end of our walk. Did I mention that she held me up the entire way? I know maybe we should not play favorites, but I had my favorite nurses and nursing assistants. Delila was my fave assistant. One morning, she came in and helped me get ready for the morning. She gave me a new johnny, with fresh hot soapy cloths to wash up with. No what she did? Washed my back! Such a small gesture, but it was so comforting and warm and soothing. I was probably on my 3rd day of residency at Chez Miriam. My hair was oh so greasy, glamorous. Moving was still tentative, so to have someone not only help you wash up, but then put lotion on your back?! Simply wonderful and kind. Perhaps you could say it was part of her job, but not everyone did it.

Dr. I was a welcome sight. Like his residents, he came to see me just about everyday (Sunday he was off). He was always with his red cup full of hot chocolate, wearing his wide waled corduroys, his Doctor’s coat, with the sharpies, and his well worn LL Bean boat tote. After examining me, he made sure to remind me of my goals. “Listen, Dr. I, as much as I LOVE these lollipops, I was wondering when I can eat or drink?” “Well” he said. “I need you to pass gas a bunch of times first.” “I’m burping alot!! Does that count?” During surgery my belly area was pumped full of gas. Pretty sure I looked pregnant. I felt so huge. Anyway, said gas needed to come out. “No, I need you to fart freely” Ha!! He did not really say that, but that is what he meant…….Gotta find the humor in this serious situation, right?

On my first morning, I was resting in bed, and someone knocked on the door. It was a gentleman and he had a bouquet of flowers! What a welcome sight. My wonderful Step Sisters sent me the most beautiful bouquet. Made me smile through the pain(press the button!). 593

During my stay I was lucky enough to receive even more flowers from work, family and friends. The Nurses and Doctors said my room was like a beautiful garden and smelled like it too! It made everyone smile including me. 594

 

 

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My youngest daughter Zoe, drew me a beautiful picture for me to look at everyday. A get-well card that changed and got bigger, everyday.

My 3 little cheerleaders (Zoe and her 2 BFFs) came to visit regularly. I know it was rough on Zoe (and her friends) to see me on those first few days. It can’t be easy to see your Mom in bed, hooked up to an IV and not talking much (a rarity for me!!) and clearly being physically in pain. She was worried I would not make it home. However, I looked better each and every day. A big part of that was due to such great support from the girls and my friends and family. In between visits from my friends and family, I kept up my walks, graduating from the walker and having help pushing the pole around, to just me pushing the pole. I was so proud when I could tell my Doctor’s that I walked 4 times!!!

As proud as I was that I was able to get up and around without much help , I dreaded some of the work I had to do. Like using this contraption. 602

Some of the nurses either did not ask me if I used it yet or did not quite know how to use it. It is to build up your lung strength and capacity. Something super important after any kind of abdominal surgery (even after a C-section). I have asthma so this is a very important but difficult task for me. You have to breathe in slowly, hold it and then slowly release. You do not want the round disc to be in the frowny face area. One of the nurses came in and told me that I could breathe up to any number. However….Dr. Brito came in one day early on and pushed that yellow line right up there. “This. Is where you need to be. ” he stated, pointing to the yellow line, just under 1500. “You’re kidding me right now Doc! That is way too hard and hurts!” “No, not kidding Jen, its important. you need to get your strength up in order to go home.” UGHHHHHH. I also wanted to tell him to F-Off but he too was so kind and earnest, I did not have the heart.

Every morning at least one of my Docs (Dr. Bakios, Dr. Rocker, Dr. Brito and Dr. I) (and sometimes all of them) reminded me that in order to drink and eat safely, I needed to pass gas……One day, towards the end of my stay…..I got out of bed and “Let one RIP!!” I seriously have never been so happy to fart so long and loud. I called my nurse in and proudly told her my great news. “I farted!!!” Sounding just like a 6 year old. She promptly took some notes and promised to let me know if I could start drinking water. What were they worried about? Your body not being able to keep anything down and reflexively throwing it up. Let me tell you, throwing up was not going to be an option considering coughing hurt like brimfire and holy hell.

Finally,603 on Saturday, after 3 straight days living on IV fluids and sponge lollipops, I was granted a lunch of liquids! I started with lunch and was only able to manage water and broth. The picture above was dinner! Oh friends, let us have a conversation about hospital food and nutrition. Not tonight I mean, but a good long discussion about it at some point. This tray irritated me. I have not had anything to eat or drink in days, my system probably is not gonna be able to handle much. Here we have sugar, sugar, sugar and more sugar. Oh and some caffeine. As much as I love coffee and need love to drink it everyday, I could not today. Oh here is some more sugar in case you need some for your tea, and salt! For your broth which is probably salty enough! Also, what a waste right? Who in the world would have all of this? You know they will just throw out what I don’t touch. 604

The broth hit the spot,600

but did not last long in my body. It was an unpleasant experience that did not get me excited for solids the next day.

I was happy however, when the Nutrition Assistant, (the folks who deliver the food to the rooms) came in the next morning, delivered the Sunday paper and sat down to go over my menu for the day. “Oh good!” I said. “Let’s see what you’ve got.” He sat down with the menu on his clip board and started naming off my choices, strarting with breakfast. “Scrambled eggs, french toast, bagel with cream cheese, oatmeal, juice, coffee, tea etc..” “Oh my goodness.” I stared at him blankly. “How about I bring you a variety?” “Ok,” I said, “I’ll take scrambled eggs, toast and oatmeal. Oh and coffee please!” “Lunch?” He recites off various sandwiches. Everything just sounded too heavy and too much. So I opted for Chicken Soup. “Ok, now dinner, here are your choices…..” All I could here was macaroni and cheese and more dishes with gravy and cheese and lots and lots of heavy dishes. “Dude, I’m discouraged. I have not eaten in days. My sensitive, slightly lactose-intolerant body is not gonna be able to handle macaroni and cheese or salisbury steak and gravy and mashed potatoes!” I think he felt bad. I also think he is good at his job as he went off menu for me! “Well, Jen, I can offer you grilled chicken or grilled salmon, some steamed veggies like green beans and maybe some rice?” Love this guy. I ordered the salmon, green beans and rice. I appreciated the personal approach to my nutrition.

Sunday, my last full day at the hospital (Or at least I was hoping it was)!! Time for breakfast. 609

Sigh, I managed a sip of coffee and toast. The eggs? I normally love scrambled eggs, but on this morning, the smell alone made me gag. I covered them up quickly. I quietly ate my boring white toast (I was actually happy just to eat) and managed a small sip of coffee and that was it. Next up, LUNCH>612

Not bad Miriam Hospital cafeteria, not bad at all. I managed to keep it all in too! Progress.

Zoe came by to visit and had to check out my bed while I was walking around my room. 613

Dinner arrived. I almost forgot to tell you I had a salad with my entree. The Nutrition guy gave me my requested oil and vinegar (also not on the “menu”), and personally mixed it together before he brought it up. 615

The salad was delicious. No iceberg lettuce in sight! My entree was also delicious. The salmon was a tad bit overcooked, but still very tasty. I was happy and ate it all. 616

Monday morning arrived. After my nurse came in, I got up and moved around and let a big one rip. I happily announced it to Dr. I when he came in. In addition to passing gas, another prerequisite to going home, was to have a “successful” bowel movement. A challenge that I eventually accomplished. He said, he would talk to the nurses and have them keep checking me all morning and that I could most likely go home. Dr. Brito came in later on and talked to me about going home,  and I asked him a bunch of questions like why did he choose Urology? He let me know he did not want to be a general surgeon. He wanted to the opportunity to follow a patient from diagnosis to surgery to post op to full recovery. Full care from beginning to end. I also told him how impressed I was that there seemed to be so many female Urology residents. He said within his group, it is about 50% women. WOO HOO!!

Ah, time to go home. What a week. So many experiences. Constant beeping of the pole ( the empty IV bag, or the battery was low) and waiting for the very busy nurses to come in. Having my IV position on arm changed 3 times due to extreme pain and discomfort. Edema on my hip from the oh so uncomfortable v-shaped bed. All in all, the stated negative experiences were few and far between. It was an experience made all the more manageable, by the awesome staff on the 3rd floor. All of whom I would like to thank:

Dr. Joseph Iannotti, Dr. Joseph Brito, Dr. Katie Rocker (you do ROCK!), Dr. Lauren Bakios. You all were very patient with me answering all of my questions and explaining my surgery in plain english, and what I need to do to get better.

The Nurses and the Nursing Assistants who hold everyone up. You are the strength of the floor and you are all awesome in your own ways. Kat, Kate, Kiara, Liz, Kara, Alexa, Aimee, Sherry, Rachel, Matt, Dalila, Brittney, Jenn and Leara. Big smooches and very special thanks to my faves Sherry and Dalila who came in to give me a big hug and say goodbye as my Parents and I were packing up to go.

All things considered, I had a very postive experience at The Miriam Hospital and would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone.