tattoos and Tumorfest

I decided this morning that in honor of Year 3 I’m going to start typing with both hands again. So this could take a while.

All dressed up and nothing to do but have brain surgery. August 7, 2009

This last Sunday marked 2 years since I had my first brain surgery.  According to my mom, I talked to her after that surgery was over, but I don’t have any memory of that. I vividly remember being in the pre-op room the morning of the first surgery. My cousin Mark and my mom were there with me.

Dr. Mitha marked the spot.

Then it’s really a blur until I had my nurse Brian on 6N at St. Joseph’s Hospital. That was around the 5th week after the first surgery. I Rip-Van-Winkled the end of Summer 2009. So August 7th is my New Year’s Day.

Spa Day at St. Joseph's Hospital, courtesy of my mom.

In honor of the start of Year 3, I threw myself a little party. Invited some folks over for a potluck in the small parking lot (I know – classy) in front of my building. I called it Tumorfest, which is actually sort of incorrect. Tumorfest is the name Madalaine gave to our 4-day exodus from Arizona. Madalaine, my childhood neighbor, flew to Arizona from San Diego to Phoenix to help my mom drive us back to Corvallis when I was released from the nursing home. So I’m repurposing the name. The original Tumorfest involved holy water from Two Strike Park, zombies streaming out of the Bakersfield Walmart, Denny’s manners, Bono, and a lot of laughing. Tumorfest 2011 involved sangria, friends, sidewalk chalk, a chihuahua, and a lot of gratitude. It was an excellent way to spend a day.

The Madalaine and I rock the Denny's manners on the original Tumorfest.

Tumorfest 2011 - me with my friend Jaqui and the painting she made for me from a photo I took in Hawaii last summer.

Tumorfest! August 7, 2011

Earlier that day, I went to the tattoo parlor with my mom. I was getting the mockingbird from the cover of the paperback edition of To Kill a Mockingbird added to my TKAM pocket watch tattoo that I got with my mom for her birthday in September.

In my dad's writing it says, "One does not love breathing." - my favorite quote from the book. Many thanks to Denise at High Priestess for my rad tattoo.

The other tattoo I got is a tradition I started last year. And it’s what I was planning to write about in the first place. Before my medical drama, a friend gave me the idea of choosing a word as a theme for the year instead of a resolution. I decided to do that for the years after my medical drama. For Year 1, I chose the word “new” because I thought it would be a good way to stay neutral about the changes in my life. Like using a walker wasn’t good or bad, It was just new.

I love words and word tattoos, so I decided that I wanted to keep a record of these words because they would end up being a road map of how I lived my life post-stroke. My friend Robyn has started a collection of small symbols tattooed on her calf that represent important events in her life. Inspired by that, I decided that on my New Year’s Day I’d get my outgoing word tattooed on my back going down my spine. The next piece is something I’m so glad that I thought of – I decided that I’d ask someone who was involved in that word that year to write my word out and I’d get it tattooed in their handwriting.

Lafcadio guards the words.

My friend Emily wrote “new” and my daughter’s grandma Vickie (it’s complicated) wrote “gratitude” and I think that they look great. My word for Year 3 is “experience” because I feel like the direct work on my recovery is done, and now it’s time for me to live and have experiences. Also, as I near 40, I’ve discovered that I really enjoy experience as a personality trait in others.

So I’m experiencing life, and here in the first days I wonder who will end up being the logical choice to write my word for me a year from now, and why. I’ll leave you with a line from the end of Lafcadio:

“And he didn’t really know what was going to happen to him,                             but he did know that something was going to happen,                                 because something always does, doesn’t it?”                                                                                                                                                     – Shel Silverstein


2 responses to “tattoos and Tumorfest

  1. first of all: capital letters! i usually skip them myself, but they now they will remind me of how precious they can be.
    2nd, i hate the pictures of Tumorfest ’11. cuz i’m not in them.
    3rd, experience is a big-ass loaded word. and reading this blog post, i realize that it’s not merely about the past: it’s a threat for the future. a dare; a challenge; an opportunity. as a noun, experience is passive. as a verb, it’s scary and exciting. if anyone can make the most out of a word, it’s you. i’m looking forward to what you do experience in 2012 (and i hope some part of it involves me, unlike the past year).

  2. i hope it involves you too! thanks for helping me process my word. yeah, i like the multiple meanings.

    typing with two hands is hard! and i find that i’ve grown to like no caps. when i first started typing after the stroke, i realized that i was going to have to give something up – caps or punctuation. i decided that punctuation meant more. when i explained my choice to my beloved high school english teacher, he agreed. so i think that i’ll challenge myself to use two hands sometimes (like right now), and leave the show-off caps to things like job applications.

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