A Lesson from Option B

When my husband got sick four years ago, I read a book about grief that really stuck with me because grief is not just about someone dying. It can also be about the hardship you are going through when someone is ill. That book was Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. Over the holiday, my husband ended up in the hospital once again to undergo emergency surgery to clear up an infection that is running amuck due to his diabetes and Sjogren’s causing complications. As I navigated a week of text messages and phone calls from friends and family, I am reminded once again about the lesson that really stood out to me from their book.

Screenshot from the website for Option B

The website for Option B has been updated to include a message about resilience in the time of COVID, but that part I read years ago is still prominent today…when you ask what you can do or how you can help, you are putting the burden on the person experiencing the hardship. This week, I had many such text messages or phone calls. Honestly, I am exhausted. This hospital stay is a lot more nerve racking than previous ones because I can’t be there for my husband. Due to the COVID restrictions, there is a no visitor policy being reinforced. To make it even more stressful, he had to be transferred to a hospital out of state, almost two hours away because our local one was too rural to have the needed specialist on staff. They contacted nine hospitals before they found one that had the available surgeon and room in the hospital.

When my husband arrived at the hospital, the Emergency Department decided to do their own evaluation of his condition. So it would be another 36 hours from when he first went into the ER at our local hospital to when he received his surgery. Our local hospital let me stay in the ER with him until around 2am on Monday when they decided he needed to be transferred. So I was there to ask questions and advocate for him. At noon on Tuesday, he was transferred via ambulance to the bigger hospital. It took over two hours before I heard he had arrived, but I could not get any updates on his condition when I called the hospital. I knew how to access the patient portal for the lab reports and doctor notes, but when I called, I would be told there were no updates. Finally, I received a call that night from the surgeon that they would operate, but they did not know when that would be other than the next day, most likely in the morning.

Wednesday, I received a text from my husband that they were prepping him. He tried to do a video call, but my phone would not allow me to pick up the call and then he would not answer when I tried calling him back. I knew that he probably had been taken to the OR and it would be a while, but missing that call played on my anxiety. When I still had net heard anything after three hours, I started calling the hospital. I was transferred to the ER, but told he was not there and must still be in surgery, so they had no updates. The process repeated for hours. I couldn’t imagine the surgery taking that long because I was told it would be general anesthesia. So either something went wrong or the ball had been dropped. At my wits end, I tracked down the information on how to contact the nursing supervisor for the hospital since the patient advocates office was closed by this point. Within 20 min of speaking to the supervisor, I got an update that he was out of surgery and they were just waiting on a room to open. Apparently, he had been out of surgery for hours already. I hate that I had to “Karen” the situation by asking to speak to the supervisor, but it is what it is…

I updated friends and family through Facebook posts to keep them in the loop on what was happening. People offered prayers and thoughts, but there were some that offered to talk or to distract my son for a while. My landlord even offered to drop by the hospital or to lend a hand if needed. One friend sent me a giftcard to Grubhub so we wouldn’t have to worry about meals. Those offers were appreciated because if asked what they could do, my answer was nothing. I was sleep deprived, anxious, and stressed. The last thing I could think about was involving other people.

As I write this, my husband has undergone a second round in the OR. Still no word on when he can go home. Things have calmed down since the start of last week. My biggest strength is my son who has made sure we eat and even watch Supernatural to distract our brains from the waiting. It is probably similar to the mother-daughter study discussed in Option B. We are there for each other, so it lessons our anxiety.

So what is the lesson? Be there for each other and don’t leave things to ambiguity. Do what you can so the person feels like they have a semblance of control and a small piece of normality. We are still waiting, but things are getting better. I really appreciate my friends and family during this time. It is hard right now during COVID without things like non-COVID medical emergencies. Resiliency cannot happen alone. It is through community and support that we weather the things thrown at us.

Here is to a brighter year in 2021!

What a year!

There is still over a month left of 2020, but oh what a year it has been. There has been plenty of bad, but there has also been some good this year. My family has a lot to be thankful for this year.

What color have you been spending most of your time in?

I wish I could say that I have been living in the green zone from the above chart, but to be honest, I think I hover between yellow and orange. We have been in semi-quarantine since March. But oh so much has happened since that last day in the office…which I am pretty sure was a Friday the 13th!

In March, we had my husband’s SSDI hearing via phone conference. Our lawyer thought we should wait and reschedule for June, but my husband didn’t want to put it off any longer. There were technical difficulties which did not make the start any easier. It was about thirty minutes and it didn’t seem like the judge had many questions other than my husband’s income for 2017. He had started a new job that year, so the six months that he did work were equal to the previous year of part-time work and it really confused the judge that my husband had not been back to work since June 2017. When we were done, we didn’t know what to think, but out lawyer had a good feeling. About three weeks later our lawyer called me to say that they were approving the disability date. Honestly, for these past couple of months, I have been in shock that that journey was now over. I still didn’t believe it until the first monthly payment in July and was still nervous until we finally got the three years of retroactive payments for the three years that my husband had been going through the process of applying for disability. It is a very odd feeling to finally be able to pay off bills without a worry.

The SSDI journey is not the only one that concluded this year. Last week, I defended my dissertation for my doctorate. It was a success! I am officially a doctor (but not that kind of doctor)! I have a doctorate in Educational Leadership & Management with a concentration in Creativity and Innovation. I know this blog has been pretty silent lately and part of that is because I have been burnt out trying to conclude that chapter of my life. I kept telling people I would be a doctor by Christmas, I just wasn’t expecting before thanksgiving.

So what is next? I asked my son that question and he said I should take a break. He said no more classes or book deadlines. My husband doesn’t think I will sit still though. He thinks I will go for another degree. My professor thinks I should turn the dissertation into a book. One of my committee members told me that it is not the time to be humble and that I should strive to put myself out there (If you remember, one of my previous posts was about imposter syndrome).

My answer for what I would do was sleep. That is the only thing that I can think of right now. It has been a crazy couple of months and it feels like everything has been nonstop even working from home instead of commuting to the office. I took the last two days off and honestly, that is what I have been doing— sleeping! Maybe I will get to cleaning the house or baking cookies this weekend, but for now, I need to reset.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful that my family is safe and healthy. I am thankful that our long journeys are over and it is time to turn to a fresh new page. I don’t know what the future will hold, but it can wait for another day.

Hello there!

It has been months since I posted, but I needed to step back for a while. My dissertation is in the analyzing stage which means I am writing up all my research into the final drafts. We also just had my husband’s social security disability hearing. After three long years, we are hopeful for some good news in the next month. My leadership class jokes that I don’t sleep and I have to admit they are pretty close to the truth.

How are you hanging is there? Since we are in Maryland, we are currently sheltering in place. I am teleworking which is interesting. I teach virtually, so it is not much of a shift for me. However, with so many others also teleworking, the internet has been pretty unstable. My son is also just starting virtual schooling. We are still waiting to see what that will look like. It just started today and so far none of his teachers are fully ready. It looks like we are not going to have to worry about sticking to someone else’s schedule though. Thankfully, the days are nice, so even though we can’t go anywhere, it is comfortable to just be home. Today we had dinner on the deck and even spent time in the Swim Spa (it’s heated, so perfect all year long!).

There is no normal right now and if you try to fake that everything is normal, you are probably just going to add more stress. Take a moment to just sit and relax. Play music when cooking. Watch movies together with your family. Play a board game. Go for a walk with the dog. Set up a tent in your backyard…or even in the middle of your living room. You do you!

How are you going to remember these days? You can stress about them or you can use it to your advantage. Only you can say what will fuel your fire. If life is burning you out, then give yourself permission to take a break.

Just a happy boi enjoying the sun

Perfect Pesto Potato Pizza

When I was in high school, I used to spend my days at this small mall in Princeton. It had a Barnes and Noble and a movie theater. There was also a small pizza place that sold some interesting combinations. I was going through a limited meat phase, so usually opted for veggie pizza. They had a pesto and potato pizza that sounded interesting. It was so good. I wanted to try it again, but then the mall went under renovations and the pizza place was gone. For years, I said I was going to try and recreate it. So last night I finally did.

Family Pizza Night is a standard in our house even though it doesn’t have a strict schedule. If we are making pizza, then that means all three of us are making pizza. We buy the dough pre-made or sometimes my son will prep it for us. We have even made pizza on nights where he had a friend over. My husband usually tries to make a calzone with various results. So I decided that this would be the week we made pizza. I bought three packages of dough from Walmart through their grocery pickup service. Let’s just say that that service is a lifesaver. In and out in less than twenty minutes. I just wish they had same day pickup. The closest I can ever do is 24 hours, but it is way better service than I got at the nicer supermarket in the area, Harris Teeter. Plus it is free!

Last night was an experiment night. Usually, we do the standard pepperoni pizza. Maybe I do one with olives and peppers. This night I used some leftover pesto sauce I had still in the fridge. I thinly sliced a potato and voila! Perfect pesto potato pizza…try saying that three times fast.

I made a small personal pizza, but you could always adjust the recipe to make a larger pie. The coarse sea salt was a perfect touch because there were small pockets of flavor intensity. Yum!

So here is what I did:

Materials:

  • Pizza pan or large baking sheet
  • Rolling pin
  • Spreader/spatula
  • Knife
  • Potato peeler
  • Pizza cutter
  • Ingredients:
    • 1/2 package Pizza dough, pre-made
      1/4 cup Pesto sauce
      1 small Russet Potato
      1/4 cup Mozzarella cheese, shredded
      1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
      Olive oil
      Flour
      Garlic powder
      Sea salt, coarse ground
      Black pepper, coarse ground
      Italian seasoning

    Procedure:

    1. Let your dough sit out for at least 1 hour for it to come to room temperature.
    2. Peel potato and slice into thin slices. These slices should be almost translucent. The thicker they are, the longer it takes to cook and you run the risk of cooked crust and raw potato. Place slices in a bowl of water mixed with a dash of salt. This will prevent them from turning brown and oxidizing.
    3. Pre-heat oven to 450F.
    4. Once your dough is ready, flour a large flat surface. Take your dough and split it in half since you are only making a small pie. You can use the other half for another pie or even breadsticks. Roll your dough out into an oval or rectangle shape. It doesn’t have to be perfect, call it rustic!
    5. Once dough is rolled out, transfer to your pizza pan.
    6. Place dollops of pesto sauce on your dough and use your spreader to spread it out.
    7. Arrange your potato slices around your pie. Don’t overlap any of the pieces.
    8. Drizzle olive oil over your potato slices.
    9. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and garlic over your potatoes. The amount varies depending on your preference, but I recommend coarse ground sea salt and pepper.
    10. Sprinkle your cheeses over your pizza. Sprinkle Italian seasoning over the cheese. Again, the amount of seasoning you use depends on your preference, but remember that pesto already holds a lot of flavor.
    11. Place in oven for 15-20 minutes. You should start checking it at 15 minutes, crust should be slightly brown and the potatoes soft enough for a fork to pierce them.
    12. Let rest for at least 10min outside the oven to cool and then slice.

    What are your favorite non-traditional pizza toppings? Yes, I do like pineapple and ham. Bacon of course is better. Share in the comments.