Faithful readers know that the annual Pennwriters Conference in Pennsylvania is one of my yearly highlights. Back in 2020, local writers friends and I were stoked to travel to Lancaster, a six hour drive from Buffalo, to connect with other writer friends and laugh until our sides hurt. But, as you may have guessed, the conference turned virtual and instead of jumping on beds, we jumped onto a video chat after the Friday night Read & Critique and exchanged lockdown stories. Things were virtual again in 2021, and while I enjoyed our ridiculous group chats, I missed the sound of my friends’ laughter, missed seeing their smiles after a successful pitch session, missed the energy that comes from a room full of creative people.
So when the opportunity came up to travel to Lancaster for an in person conference this past weekend, I didn’t hesitate. My friend Joy and I were chosen to teach a class on healthy habits for busy writers, and my faithful travel buddy Adrienne (we attended the conference together in 2018) was game for the trip. Unfortunately for this busy writer, the timing wasn’t great. Both boys were scheduled for their first soccer tournament of the season, and my husband had to work all weekend. My parents had only just arrived back from Florida, and my mother-in-law was recovering from COVID. It was like the universe didn’t want me to go.
But I went anyway. I wanted to see my friends and hoped the positive energy would help get me back on track with my writing. The conference was great. I loved seeing people I hadn’t seen in person since 2019 – actually giving them a hug and sharing unfiltered laughter. Our class was a hit, I learned some new strategies, and I got positive feedback on my new novel beginning. On the last night, my friends and I enjoyed a wonderful dinner at my favorite Lancaster vegan restaurant, Root, followed by the social.
That’s where things began to go downhill. Terrible pain kept me awake for most of the night, and by 5am I knew something was very wrong. Adrienne and I decided to leave early, packed up our things, and headed home. While I considered stopping at an urgent care in Pennsylvania, I decided it made the most sense to get home where I would be near my family and Adrienne could go back to hers. Bless her heart, she drove the entire way while I moaned in the passenger seat. I was nauseous and in the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. (Up until that moment, the award for worst pain went to a ruptured ovarian cyst in 2014.) We arrived at the ER around 1:30, where I waited with hubby for several more hours before being seen. Finally, after a CT scan, the prognosis came as little shock to others in the room who had experienced it (hubby and the attending nurse): kidney stone.
Thankfully, I appear to be on the mend and will be seeing a specialist later today. I’ve been examining the reason behind it, (aside from my initial reaction which I’ll admit is irrational – that the universe was punishing me for doing something for myself) and have discovered many of the items in my diet may be problematic. I eat a plant-based diet and drink mostly water and tea, but things like raw spinach, nuts, and soy are high in oxalates, which can cause kidney stones. I’ve been feeling pretty down about it the last few days, as I think about cutting back on some of my favorite foods (I laughed with the nurse, telling him I will probably be the only person who insists they can’t possibly give up spinach!) and I hope to find a nutritionist who can help me navigate the next steps. In the meantime, I was thrilled to find out on Sunday night, after returning from my nine hour stay at the ER, that my poem Bruised (featured in Time won’t give me time) won first place in the In Other Words Contest. I wrote a few other poems during the weekend, including my first slam poem, and I plan to find some in person readings where I can share them in public. Maybe even submit to a magazine and see what happens. Despite the way things ended, I am happy I went to the conference and look forward to next year’s.
Unfortunately, while we were away, there was a horrendous tragedy in my hometown – a local grocery store was ambushed in a racist attack and several innocent people were killed and injured. We are the city of good neighbors, a place where people can count on the kindness of strangers to help dig them out of a snow bank, a place recognized all over for its die hard sports fans and namesake food. I am heartbroken by the events of this past weekend and don’t understand how someone can hold so much hate. My heart aches for the families of those lost, and for the members of our community as we struggle to move forward. Buffalo is strong and resilient and full of hope. We have come together to help each other, as a city of good neighbors must, and we will seek justice and peace.
Sending love to all, far and near. ❤