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Miracle Baby

It all started when I was 3 days old. I was what they called a Blue Baby. I know what you are thinking, and no, ‘Blue Baby’ is not a new brand of ice cream in your local freezer aisle, but an actual description of the color I was when I was born.  I’ll go ahead and answer your next obvious question brewing in your noggin: No, I am not blue anymore. Due to the fact that I am now breathing properly, I graciously aged into a more natural shade of human. Certainly, for aesthetic reasons, if I could of been able to stay the color blue while adding adequate breathing in the equation, I would of tried to keep the hue. I mean, how great would that of been if I could of strolled around town like I was a real life Smurf? The stories I would have! Alas, here I am now. I am not a Smurf, nor an Avatar, but just a normal girl with the faint story of once being blue. My parents say that I am a miracle. I suppose I should act like that title was bothersome while I grew up, but it was pretty much the highlight of my adolescence. There is just something about being told you are a miracle that really helps your confidence during awkward growing pains. While explaining to me that I was their miracle, this meant to me I was not just a blessing, because all children are blessings, but I was even more that that. Basically, in my parents eyes, I came to the conclusion that I am the equivalent of the parted Red Sea, wine turned into water, or an actual working ice cream machine at McDonald’s. I’m a miracle, peasants!  I learned quickly as a kid that this could work in my favor if used correctly. Whenever I was in trouble at home, I whipped my miracle baby status out so fast. Even worse, my parents took the bait every time! Anytime I brought home a bad progress report, I could just mention my birth complications to them and watch them weep as if I was standing there still blue like the day I was born.

So why was I born blue? Other than my mom listening to a ton of Fiona Apple while I was in the womb, it was most likely because of the heart defect I was born with. I had a heart condition that was causing my blood to leak into my lungs making me a lovely yet terrifying shade of ‘baby blue’. This was sad, yet also super ironic.  It is strange we even have a color named ‘baby blue’ because if you’ve ever seen that shade, it is exactly or very near the same shade as ‘sky blue’. It makes you think which one was named first but I like to imagine someone was looking up in the sky and thinking “wow the sky today looks just like my son did when he was born”, but I digress. So, basically I had a rare heart condition that needed surgery immediately after it was discovered. A Coronary Artery Fistula is not as fun to have as it is to say. It’s almost as if Cardiologists intricately named diseases in the heart as to soften the blow if you have it like “yeah I might die, but listen how smart I sound saying it!”. My odds were less than 50% survival during surgery, but even worse odds if we didn’t attempt to fix it right away.  Thus at three days old, as I was carted into the operating suite, I was officially a case study for the Texas Children’s Cardiology wing. Since my chest was still only cartilage, they cut me open with surgical scissors, fixed my heart, and sewed me back together like I was a freaking Build-a-Bear. By the way, I stand by that reference and  I hope you’ve all been to a Build-a-Bear Shop once in your life. Regardless of age, it’s a great way to spend an hour at the mall instead of pigging out on millions of free samples at the food court. They are in most malls, so pop in next time but don’t get one of those voice boxes you can put in the bear. You will regret that if your dog figures out which leg to bite to get him to talk. Anyways, after a few weeks in the hospital recovering, my Coronary Artery Fistula was fixed and I was good to go home.

Of course, that whole account I just described is all coming from what I’ve been told about my experience. By the time I could walk, talk, and learn what I had, I was just left with a scar and a story from my parents. It is almost not fair to have such a scar without a memory. This must be how Harry Potter felt his whole life before he found out what had happened to his forehead. Do people rather not remember how they achieved some of their scars or is remembering the part that strengthens you the most? Or is it the scar itself? No, I’m just thinking Harry Potter again. I always felt like my heart surgery scar was more my parents story and I just wear it for them as a nice gesture like I did all the 90’s floral jumpers my mom bought me from Sears. It’s an odd feeling to have a scar on your body that seemed to have affected others more than yourself. I do not have memories of sitting in the waiting room for hours worrying if I’m still alive or not, but my parents do. They seem to never forget any part of that experience.

Growing up from my point of view, it was almost as if I never had a heart problem for how much the issue was fixed before I was at age to remember anything.  My family and I would check up on my ticker once a year with a full cardiology stress test, but everything always came back just dandy.  Stress test days were always a blast for me because it would be a full day of my parents treating me like an absolute gift from heaven as they inwardly worried they would get unfortunate news throughout my many tests and scans that they fortunately never would receive.  Then, I would get a Mcflurry, because the machines in the McDonald’s at Texas Children’s always worked—Thank You, Jesus.

Around the age of 12-13, we relaxed on the yearly visits.  Although clearly flattering for me, my parents had so much anxiety for the whole month before the appointments. It seemed silly to keep checking when everything was always fine. When we slowed down a little on the monitoring, the fear that they would have to relive any memories finally seemed to stop haunting my parents. Not only could they finally relax, but I could too. Then, I realized something terrible about myself. I’m a shmuck.

It turns out, I was already hooked on the attention I had gotten from that experience I don’t even remember. Sometimes, I needed my parent’s worry to get through the mundane times when I felt pretty mediocre and average. It didn’t matter if I was grounded, or slacking in school, at the end of the day if my heart history was brought up, I could see that the big picture was still there. They are just happy I’m alive. It’s selfish, but it always made me feel special to see them worry over something I have no recollection ever going through. Anytime I had to do an Echocardiogram, they would be in a panic via cellphone texting me every other moment to hear results. I just sat there looking at my phone all smug and reassured that I’m still wanted alive. I hope I’m not the only miracle baby that does this for immediate gratification, so I’m just going to assume Baby Jessica still texts her parents every time she’s near a well like “Hey Dad, I just walked past a well, I didn’t fall in though! Just keeping you posted! Xoxo”. When I would update them with the good results of my scan, they would always respond like it was the biggest relief and just another miracle that I was blessed with even though it had been over two decades since I had my heart surgery. It seems selfish and it was, but I think I needed their relief and celebration increasingly more as I progressed in my 20’s. Other than staying alive without any effort on my part whatsoever, I didn’t feel much of a success in life. I left college, I had a guy break up with me because I had dirty dishes in my sink, and I moved all the way to California because I wanted to live by water. I didn’t ‘have my ducks together’ as the kids these days say, but I was becoming more in touch with myself.

So there I am in the Kaiser Permanente doctors office getting my Echocardiogram for my new California doctor and I was feeling oddly strong. For the first time, I was ready to not rope the parents in the routine appointment. I realized my selfish confidence kick was not worth my parents stressing all day. Echocardiograms do not take long, but they are pretty awkward. You have to lay there without a bra and let the nurse move around a wand on you with this sticky jelly, and then she leaves. Then, you are just left there buttoning yourself back up and thinking ‘how the heck am I the one paying for this?’ while you wait for her to come back with the positive results. So this particular time there was a mirror adjacent to where I was sitting. I used the opportunity to finish my make up since I did not have enough red lights to safely apply my mascara. I pulled out my maybeline and got to work on my lashes while my mom texted me asking how my day was so far. I saw the text but took the time to double coat both lash sets, put my mascara back in my bag and then I replied to her. “Doing well so far. I just finished an EKG at doctors office. I’m still waiting for the results..”. I just can’t help myself. I added the extra dot for dramatic effect. She replied with “well, let me know….”.

She used even more dots than I did which meant she was super worried. I knew The nurse was on her way with the same good test results I always get, so although I broke my initial goal, at least my mom would only have to worry for 5 or so more minutes before I confirm to her that everything is fine like always. She then sent me “What time was your appointment?” I didn’t respond back to her and instead pulled out my lipstick and started applying that on my bottom lip and then the top.

I started to wonder if it’s been longer of a wait than usual. It had been 3 years since my last echocardiogram, so I couldn’t remember what the norm was. I then pulled out my lip gloss because I had been looking at my reflection and my lipstick almost made me look too much like a 90’s sitcom girlfriend on Seinfeld, and not one that gets a multi-episode deal, but one that it’s in two scenes tops doing some quirk Jerry can’t stand, so he never sees her again. After I put my gloss back in my bag, I was just staring at myself in the reflection thinking I needed a hair cut and what is taking this nurse so freaking long.

Finally, the nurse came back in.

When I saw her face, everything change. She said the doctor will be here in 10 minutes and that they need to talk to me about my results. She said my Echocardiogram read abnormal. Then she just left me there again as if I was someone that could handle things rationally.

There I was, sitting in my chair adjacent to the mirror, just looking at my dumb reflection with fresh mascara streaming down my face. I know I should of tried to hold it together a tad longer as if my whole world wasn’t just flipped on it’s tail, but this was the biggest shock of my life.

All I knew at that time was that they found an ‘abnormality’, but all I could think about is how absolutely dumb I was to ever think this wasn’t my story. 27 years I have done these stupid tests, and nothing! I’m always clear and now all of the sudden I move to freaking California, not even by the gosh darn water because apparently you have to own a record company to afford beach property here, and I have an abnormal echocardiogram

The feeling is the strangest. When the doctor finally walked in, she casually said she knew she had to come see me when she heard my age. Apparently my echocardiogram resembled one of someone in their late 50’s, not a 27 year old brat like myself. The worst part was that was all she could really tell me. I needed to set up an appointment with a cardiologist to do a full x-ray to see what the abnormality might be.

For the next week as I waited for my appointment, I was a freaking mess. I didn’t like being a miracle baby anymore because apparently this thing comes with struggles and stress I didn’t sign up for.

My parents weren’t doing great either and it turns out I didn’t enjoy telling them about my abnormality at all. It was the worst feeling to have to bring back up one of their hardest memories and tell them it might be still going on. It also turned out, I didn’t enjoy being conscious this time around one bit! At one hand I’m worried about my parents and their stress and on the other hand, it’s my freaking heart that’s attached to MY body. For some reason, I didn’t really understand that until then. However in my defense, apparently my heart is one of a 57 year olds so I’m sometimes convinced my dad switched hearts with me while I slept or something.

Heartapalooza was finally here. I had a days worth of appointments to do starting with my x-ray, another EKG, and then closing out the festival, my new cardiologist headlining my diagnoses. He performed some great hits but closed out with that I had a dilated aortic root.

The upside is, I have a new fancy set of words I can say to sound smart, but the downside is it’s a current thing that is happening to me. He tells me we will monitor it and he will see me in six months. Six months? This I can’t compute. The first go around, they discovered it, I had surgery a day later, and then I grew up to be a healthy and self centered young woman. This time I just have to sit it out?

I sat it out and after six months my dilated aortic root has stayed the same size. This is a good thing because the worry was if it was getting large in a rapid amount of time, now we know it’s not. What’s my life like now? A lot of what it’s always been. I feel #blessed that I have a heart that never gives up, I go on with my life, and I don’t dwell. The only thing that has changed drastically is my outlook on my story. Would I of liked to of known when I was growing up that my heart stuff was going to be an ongoing thing? Sure, it would of softened the blow, but at least I had the #blessing to get to have a childhood without much worry. I never cared, and I don’t regret that at all.

I learned now that cardiologists tell the parents of congenital heart babies that although the problem is fixed, it may be a lifetime of upkeep. Whether it’s a crappy reason, I’m glad to be part of the reason new parents are being more informed. Each day I wake up now, I am more in touch with my #blessing of being alive.

I’m not a miracle baby anymore, but still a miracle and also still a baby.<<<<<<<

Adult Disney Do’s, Plus Instagram

Disney Do’s for Adults

As a somewhat adult that enjoys going to Disneyland and Disney World, I do not relate to the classic ‘Adult at Disney’ itineraries I find online. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some prime rib and specialty saunas, but I feel like spending my time doing that at Disney rather than revisiting all of my most memorial Disney activities I loved as a kid is the last nail in the coffin of my youth. When I come to Disney, I want to feel exactly like I did as a kid, but without my mom keeping me from falling off the rails in the Splash Mountain waiting line. Unlike my mother was at my age, I don’t have a clumsy kid I have to watch over constantly in Magic Kingdom. I’m a childless lady-child and I am here sans child and sans sanity. I am here to be an interesting example of how to be an adult while I stuff my face with fried food, accidentally walk through the lanes already sectioned off for the incoming parades, and lose my Fast Pass minutes before they are accepting my time frame. I am here to not sweat the small stuff and have a youthful blast. I am at Disney. Here are my tips on how to rock your inner child at Disney Parks, but use your adult status to give your inner child the unsupervised dangerous Disney visit they always wanted. We are here to have fun and fun we shall have!

Spend Time On Main Street

Main Street sometimes gets the role of being essentially the theme park hallway to the rides deeper in the park, but trust me, you will remember your time strolling through this whimsical entryway. Take some time in Main Street to check out all of the little secret finds, like the silhouette store that makes vintage art by showcasing the profile of your face! It’s random, fun and a great new way to be full of yourself on vacation. Don’t worry what others think and hang by yourself on Main Street! Do all the things you had wanted to try on Main Street, but worried it was too kiddie. You will be surprised at how much the cast members go out of their way to entertain you. I once just sat on one of those fake porches they use in the filler scenes of any classic ‘ABC Sitcom Family Goes to Disney’ episode, and not even five minutes later I was being serenaded by the Dapper Dans. It was really dandy. Take my advice and go be super weird on Main Street. Really, be very weird. You don’t have to worry about anyone judging because everyone else in Main Street is letting their quirky flag fly as well. Go take pictures on the train, but don’t hop on board, stay in Main Street. Get someone to take a picture of you holding all those balloons inside of bigger balloons they always have in bulk near the center of the street, but then don’t buy the balloon until later. Get a corndog instead because if it’s not edible or a Victorian style portrait, don’t buy it during regular park hours. This is just an outline of what you can do, but there really is nothing like walking through it all with a portrait of your own profile, eating a corn dog, but still saying no to the photographer trying to sell you on a snapshot in front of the castle. Sorry Jimmy from Georgia, I spent my daily money on a cardboard cutting of the side of my face. I have no regrets, but maybe tomorrow.

Have No Shame At The Character Breakfast

Let’s be real: Chances are if you are at a character breakfast without kids, you waited some sweet time to get in. Once you are in, make that time worth it and milk it like your trip depends on it! Yeah, you aren’t 5 years old anymore, but who says you can’t get your John Hancock from Cinderella? Bring your autograph book, take your selfies with Daisy, and try the Mickey waffles. You are never too old to hold up the line for your table at a Disney character breakfast. I once had a 20 minute discussion with the Mad Hatter about the series finale of LOST. He stayed in character the whole time. Unlike the kiddos in the booth next to you, you paid for this experience, so live it up!

Ditch Your Best Friend and Make Single Riders Your BFF

Now that you are in an adult body, you do not need a chaperone on the rides anymore. Why do I have to have my vacation buddy sitting next to me while I ride The Haunted Mansion? If it’s five minutes to ride it ‘Single Rider’ and 30 minutes to ride it with us sitting next to each other..boy, bye. I’ll see you at the end and we can have a great chat over any differences in our experience. I once did single rider at California Adventure Park and sat next to Guy Pierce. That was the day I discovered how great that option is. You ride the ride with your celebrity stranger, you get off, and then you go brag to your friends how much more unique your adventure was than theirs as they vow to never believe your very true celebrity ferris wheel story. It happened.

Ditch The Line Wait Apps

I know they are tempting, but just remember when you see on your app that Space Mountain is a ten minute wait, so does EVERYONE else that has it too. By the time you make it to Tomorrowland with all the traffic that is marching the same direction you are, it might actually be tomorrow. Stick to the old fashion style of catching the surprisingly short lines along your walk. There is no reason to hop around the park like frogger. You do not have kids you have to appease, so go against the current.

Be A Picky Eater

Like children, us Disney adults have a very distinct palette: themed colorful food. Regardless of what you get to eat, it will cost you on average at least $10-15 a plate, so do not waste it on normal food you can get anywhere. There is no shame in holding out for your Disney food goals. Don’t feel high maintenance when the group decides it’s lunch time and you see nothing Instagram worthy in your radius. Tell them you are holding out for the foods on your must eat list. Eat the Matterhorn macaroon! Find the Star Wars Burger! Say to your friend that doesn’t get it ‘Listen Chloe, I know somehow you manage to never eat in public but I am at Disney and darn it, I want that Dole Whip that everyone is Pinteresting about!’

Be the little kid that only ate chicken fingers his whole adolescence, but instead of chicken fingers, your lady-child self will only eat things that are either an uncharacteristically large version of a food or an uncharacteristically small version of a food but nothing in between! If you didn’t post a picture of a tiny little french macaron in the shape of Mickey Mouse, or a Goofy shaped soft pretzel the size of your head, how are we even supposed to believe you went to Disneyland?

Take mid day naps

Just because you don’t have a nap time anymore, does not mean you shouldn’t partake in the mid day Disney snooze. Whether you are 9 months old or 90 years old, you will all get cranky if in the sun too long. Listen to your body and if it says ‘hotel break’, go for it. You might not even need a nap, but just a nice quiet hour where you can eat your secret caramel apple in peace because we both know you stopped at the candy shop on your way to your room. We can all act like those caramel apples ‘look like they are just too much sugar’ but we all know we are grabbing one the second the group splits up for a rest hour. Go get your giant Minnie Mouse Caramel Apple, go back to your room, and zombie out to the ‘5 Disney Must Do’s’ program on constant repeat on your resort TV. You may spend your time making fun of the host until you realize ‘Hey, I’ve watched this 6 times in a row and I enjoyed it every time’, but when anyone comes in the room, you will say it’s on because you can’t find the remote. Then you will turn off the tv, hide any evidence of your Minnie Apple binge and go back to the park for a nice round two of rides for the day. You are ready for it, you had a good rest.

They Have Dog Boarding

This is brilliant because I don’t go anywhere without my dog. He was the talk of the town, Downtown Disney to be specific. They do not do overnight boarding, but if you don’t want your dog bored in the hotel all day, he can stay at the Disney Kennel! It’s a very cute and loving set up and even though boarding is boarding, I could see Butters could tell the Disney difference. Two paws up!

Actually Watch The Fireworks

We have all heard the rumor that the rides are less empty during the shows. That’s the problem: We have all heard it! Since we adults all know of this trick, it unfortunately isn’t a trick anymore, and more of a way to get stuck in a long line AND miss the fireworks. So instead of going with the new and hip herd, stop and watch the show. Why must we ditch the best fireworks show in all the land? Grab yourself a cookie from the bakery, watch the pretty lights flash in the sky, and make believe you’re that kid at the end of every Disney World commercial that says ‘wow’ at the fireworks while sitting on her dad’s shoulder. Reflect on your day as you marvel at the sky and all the wonders of the world. You reflect on your Disney vacation and you think to yourself: ‘How the heck do I not have a commercial agent?’