2018: Journal of a Malcontent

A Bathroom stall at a restaurant had chalkboard walls! How fun! A lot of people wrote declarations of eternal love and drew flowers. I offered a bit of levity.

A Bathroom stall at a restaurant had chalkboard walls! How fun! A lot of people wrote declarations of eternal love and drew flowers. I offered a bit of levity.

Thanksgiving is this week, and I’ve so much to be thankful for. Blah blah blah.

2018 was irritating. I am falling apart. Physically speaking, I mean. Instead of another saccharine Thanksgiving post (and truly – so much to be thankful for!), I’d like to share some of the crappier aspects of year 40.

I’ll be thankful on Thursday.

2018 in a nutshell …


An Ariana Grande song pops up on my carefully curated R.E.M. Pandora station. Later that same week, I find my Toad the Wet Sprocket CD, which had been missing since around 1997. So, January is pretty much a wash.


Five minutes into a flight from Miami, the man next to me spills his coffee, which ruins my book and seeps down the side of my seat, saturating the underside of my jeans. The man is very kind and full of remorse, but apologies don’t make my butt any less wet.


I have a calcium deposit in my rotator cuff. Every time I see the orthopedist, he reminds me that the deposit is the consistency of toothpaste. It feels like the consistency of glass, and an x-ray shows it has caused a tear in one of the tendons. The pain is excruciating. I make the bold decision to remove the calcium surgically because, quite frankly, I can’t take it anymore. And I have a high tolerance for pain. At least, that’s what I tell people to sound tough and cool.

The orthopedist sends me to get an MRI. My appointment is the last of the evening, and John encourages me to drive to the radiology clinic in his brand-new car, a standard VW GTI with heated seats. (Heated seats!) He even preheats the seats before I get into the car.

Halfway there, I decide the seats are a bit too warm, but it’s my first time in the car, and I don’t know where the seat-heater control is. Also, I’m shifting gears with my left hand because my right shoulder protests movement, and the whole ride is uncomfortable. I arrive at the radiologist flustered, having stalled the car about four times, and with a very sweaty back.

Except for radiology, all the offices within the medical building are closed, and the place is devoid of people. The facility’s wheelchairs are haphazardly strewn across the hall leading to the door of the radiologist. I weave through them, feeling like the guy who wakes up in the hospital after the zombie apocalypse has already begun.

The radiologist asks if there’s any metal in my body and what type of music would I like to listen to? I say no and classical, please. He gives me a headset, and a Muzak rendition of Meatloaf’s I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That) plays on a loop for twenty-three minutes straight.

In the MRI tube, I spend my time devising the best means of escape in case of a zombie apocalypse, carefully considering whether-or-not the wheelchairs in front of the door will be a boon or a detriment in said situation.

I arrive home later with a sweaty back, proud I only stalled the car twice.


My shoulder surgery is put on indefinite hold when I lose my appendix.

One snowy April day in a Rochester, NY emergency department, I spend seven hours writhing in pain while puking into a Tupperware container. I implore the powers-that-be for pain medication stronger than Advil, which is the mediocre stuff they’ve been hawking. And remember – I have a high tolerance for pain.

They ignore me. A man walks in and has a seizure before he even registers his name, and they wheel him off on a gurney.

John says faking a seizure would not be a good idea.

My friend Kim thinks it could work.

Growing up, I thought appendicitis was a big deal, probably because of Madeline, the English orphan who not only lacked parents, but ended up lacking an appendix, too. That book contained a lot of hand-wringing.

My doctor is nonplussed about my rogue appendix. He sends me for an x-ray, determines my appendix is a grotesque size because of infection, and tells me I’m low on magnesium and need to absorb an IV bag full of it before my surgery, scheduled first thing the next morning.

They did finally give me morphine.

I don’t know if I should be on some sort of magnesium supplement. I probably should have asked.


I find out Chris Cornell died. I call John immediately.

Holly: Chris Cornell is dead.

John: Yeah, he died like a year ago.

Holly: No one told me.

John: …

To honor Chris Cornell, I create a playlist I call “The 90’s Angst Playlist” which contains some Pearl Jam, Fiona Apple, Stone Temple Pilots, the Pixies, Garbage, R.E.M., Soundgarden, and the entire The Last of the Mohicans soundtrack. But no Nirvana. I always thought Nirvana was overrated. I tell this to John, and it causes an enormous rift in our marriage.


I find an unfamiliar shiny silver earring in John’s car. I confront him.

Holly: Whose, pray tell, IS THIS? Because it’s not mine.

(He examines it.)

John: This is a fishing lure.

(Long pause.)

Holly: Why on earth would anyone wear a fishing lure as an earring?

John: …


The kids are home for summer vacation. I work from home. These circumstances are not mutually conducive.

One week, the calendar indicates an ortho appointment, so I dutifully take my kids to get their braces tightened. The receptionist tells us we're not on the schedule. Turns out I had an appointment with the orthopedist, not orthodontist. (Because of my shoulder, which is still a problem.)

The whole month is horrible … just horrible.


We take the kids to the ocean! Within twenty-four hours, despite semi-frequent re-application of SPF 70, they become so sunburned it’s painful to even look at them. (Except for Ben, who’s brown as a biscuit and blonde as an albino. He’s really quite striking.) Caleb’s eyes are nearly swollen shut.

We go home a day early.


Ella throws a fit in the car, so I turn back to speak with her and end up rear-ending the lady in front of me. When I get home, I immediately submit a claim with my insurance company. Apparently, there were follow-up questions, and the insurance company called me several times during the day. But I ignore my home phone. I don’t know why we still have a landline. John and I argue about it.

John: In case of a global catastrophe, if cell phones don’t work, we’ll have a landline!

Holly: But none of our family or friends has a landline anymore, so who would we get a hold of? The police? If there's a catastrophe of global proportion, they’re not going to help us.

John: …

One day of ignoring Geico’s phone calls infuriates the husband of the woman whose car I hit, and HE SHOWS UP AT MY HOUSE. I’m not even kidding. I’m not home, so he talks with Danny, who didn’t realize I’d been in a car accident. The man leaves me a strange note accusing me of evading my responsibility and urging me to contact the insurance company RIGHT AWAY because his wife wants to get her car fixed ASAP. I understand that it’s challenging to drive around with a slightly dented rear bumper. But coming to my house? Confronting my children? I’m livid.


I fall in trouble with the law after I tell the husband of the woman whose car I hit that if he ever steps foot on my property again, I will cut his heart out with a spoon. Then I show him the spoon. Then I pepper-spray his face and run away, laughing maniacally.

I called this “defending my family.” The police called it “assault.” Whatever.


I fall down the stairs at my in-laws’ house and bruise or crack my tailbone – x-ray is inconclusive – and now I have to sit on a donut-shaped pillow all the time and ice my tailbone on a regular basis WHICH IS EASIER SAID THAN DONE, and my daughter, who runs without a filter, keeps telling people I broke my butt, and DEAR GOD WHEN WILL THIS YEAR END?


Here we are on the cusp of December. I'm sure it will be a fantastic month.

I'm not sure how to end this post.

Holly: I'm not sure how to end this sad, sad post.

John: Well, at least the Sabres are doing well. You should write that.

Holly: …