Sunday, November 4th Today is the day. Last week was a challenging time in our home. I experienced my first ever mantaper. It’s like the man-flu but worse. On Monday, Brad was convinced he had a stress fracture or maybe shin splints. Tuesday, he thought he might have a hernia or at the very least a severe muscle strain in his abdomen. By Wednesday the pain moved into his back…maybe his siatic nerve??? The lost wallet count was up to 37 midweek. On Thursday, his cold symptoms were so unbearable that he started downing cough medicine and hot tea. We finally made it to Friday when the outfit discussions started combined with race pace plans. He asked me no less than 18 questions before I opened my eyes in the morning…what do you think about….? What if I….? Should I wear…? Saturday, all bets were off with 24 hours left before the race. He spent the better part of the afternoon getting the perfect flat selfie. He started in the living room, then the hallway and ended up in the girls’ room so he could use their bunk beds for a better vantage point. Once everything was laid out, he decided he needed to wash his kit and set it up again, fresh.
At 4am he woke up, showered, made coffee, did jumping jacks in the living room and searched for his left glove for the next 45 minutes before grabbing an extra pair of socks instead. I drove him to Fort Wadsworth and dropped him on the side of the road before heading back to Jersey.
At 8:30am, I met Brad’s parents and his aunt at the bakery. I was in charge of the cheering plan for the day. I drove everyone in and found parking a block away from our post-race rendezvous point…a dive bar on Amsterdam and 81st Street. The four of us walked across town to 5th Ave. It was empty when we arrived. We had an hour to wait before the elite women passed. As we took our position at barricades, just above mile marker 17, Hillary texted to say she came in early and she just happened to be a half a block away from us.
Hillary and I were glued to our phones waiting on Roberta updates. Our friend was running with the elite women. The excitement was palpable when we saw the pace cars come over the hill and head towards us. Roberta sped past us, doing her best to make marathon running look effortless. Watching Shalane, Molly, Des and Allie run by was like having front row seats to the red carpet event. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any friends running with the elite men so it was a little lackluster when they flew by. We were entertained counting the number of Nike 4%’s represented in the elite field.
I told Brad we would be positioned at 101st St. but we chose to stay at 85th instead. I was worried he wouldn’t see us. Amazingly enough, he did and he stopped for a second to tell us it was getting hard. After he jogged away, we headed back across town to 1st Ave so we could spot him again around mile 23 of his race. We found a spot at the top of the park and nestled in. I got to cheer for Mauricio, Tony, Ingrid and Dan as they raced by us. Brad stopped as he passed. He didn’t have much energy left to finish the last two miles. His legs were cramping. In all his race planning, my only hard stop was, ‘just don’t DNF.’ I think it’s hard for runners who were once collegiate superstars to be anything less than great and there is a tendency among them to walk off the course and ‘save their legs.’ I couldn’t be more proud of Brad for sticking with it through all 26.2 miles and finishing his first marathon in a very respectable amount of time…just under 3:30.
The Barkets and I walked across the park and waited at the bar until Brad arrived an hour later. The NYC Marathon is a special form of torture. Runners have to walk almost two miles after they finish the race to get out of the park. We stationed ourselves two blocks away from his exit point. The ride out of the city was easy. We were back home just before 4pm, 12 hours after Brad and I started on this adventure. I was almost as proud of my successful cheering logistics plan as I was of Brad’s finish. Last month, I didn’t think I would be well enough to make it into the city on race day. My goal was to be in a comfortable position to cheer for the Philly Marathon coming up at the end of November. I’m thrilled I was able to walk back and forth across town, pain free and be there for Brad’s marathon debut.
Monday, November 5th As a small business owner, I tried, for a long time, to be apolitical. I wanted to appeal to the widest audience possible and not alienate any group of people. When I took over the bakery space on Walnut Street in 2012 there was a framed picture of President Obama hanging in the retail area. It was one of the first things I removed.
In June 2015 when the Supreme Court declared gay marriage legal in all 50 states, the joy felt all over America was incredible. I never thought of this as a partisan issue but rather a basic human right. I made rainbow ‘Love Wins’ doughnuts to celebrate. Minutes after posting the first picture of the doughnuts on Instagram, I quickly realized not everyone shares my beliefs. I started receiving hate mail from groups across the country. A woman from Caldwell, NJ said she was organizing a protest to take place outside of my bakery.
I had to block users on Facebook & Instagram. I spent the better part of the next day reporting hate speech on both platforms. I reported two people to the local police department because I felt their threats were real.
I stood behind my convictions and continued to make the “Love Wins” Doughnut throughout the month of June and every June thereafter to celebrate Pride Month. I continued to refrain from any other political doughnut messages throughout the 2016 election cycle. When the results came in and my kids were laying on the kitchen floor sobbing because they were sincerely fearful of what would happen to our country under the new regime, I lied to them and told them it would be okay even though I didn’t believe it myself. I wanted to be in control of something when I felt l like everything else in life was on a rollercoaster barreling out of control. I made doughnuts that looked like the poop emoji and posted a picture with the caption “Having a bad day? Maybe a little chocolate can cheer you up” . It wasn’t overtly political but everyone got the message. Then came more hate mail, more blocked social media users, more hours spent reporting threats.
In January, I went a step further. The Woman’s March was being organized. Again, I felt this was about basic human rights and not one political party. The buses were leaving Montclair at 3am to head down to DC. I decided to open the bakery at 3am and offer free coffee to anyone getting on a bus. I made pink ‘kitty’ doughnuts for the occasion. One of the buses contacted the bakery to ask if we could make sandwiches for the passengers. We decided to offer bagged lunches to everyone and charged just enough to cover our cost. Over 400 lunches were ordered. Customers volunteered to help assemble sandwiches at 2am!!! It was one of the most spectacular displays of kindness and generosity I’ve witnessed since opening the bakery…an outpouring of love against hate.
The next month, I made doughnuts that looked like people. They were all different skin tones and hair colors. I donated $1 from the sale of each doughnut to the ACLU. The bakery raised over $2000!!! Again, I thought the ACLU was about protecting fundamental human rights across party lines but it didn’t stop the hate mail from rolling in.
In August, Tina Fey’s Saturday Night Live “sheetcaking” skit aired. She encouraged anyone unhappy with the current politics to stay inside and eat sheet cake. I couldn’t NOT make cake. It was the best national campaign to support your local baker, EVER. The public pushback to my American Flag cakes was not what I expected. Some groups viewed Fey’s message as anti-semitic and racist because she was influencing people to ignore the problems with the system and rather than protesting the upcoming white suprematist rally, stay home and eat cake. New messages of hate filled my inbox. One of my employees walked out and threatened to bomb the bakery on her twitter account. Another police report was filed.
Throughout everything, I tried to straddle the line and send vague political messages without taking a side. Shortly after Brad and I started dating, before he knew what happens when a doughnut goes viral (like the time Mindy Kaling’s post about my doughnuts crashed my instagram feed) he sent me a pic of the next day’s Daily News cover that had been leaked to the press. He remembered seeing images of my poop doughnuts and thought it looked familiar.
I sent a text message to Carolyn, ‘too bad we can’t make these in the morning.’ She told me we could if we had chocolate ganache but it would have to be made now, at 10pm, in order to set in time. I went to the bakery in my pajamas and mixed a batch of chocolate ganache. The plans were laid.
When I posted pictures the next day, media outlets started calling from MSNBC to the local news and everything in between. Brad was in awe of the audience participation on Instagram. It was a great collaborative effort from the staff and the first time my message became very clear. My conservative Dad called. He said it was a bold move but ‘if you know your audience….’ One would think by now, all the negative users had been blocked already but there was still more hate mail flowing through the gates.
Now it’s the eve of election day. The staff and I discussed our options. We decided to bring back the Pink ‘Kitty’ Doughnuts we made for Women’s March and only use blue sprinkle on the doughnuts that would normally have rainbow sprinkles. We plan to give free coffee and doughnut holes to anyone who votes. Here’s hoping….
Tuesday, November 6th Everyone is anxious about the midterm elections. I woke up at 5am to attend Adrienne’s class at Architect Studios to work off some of my nervous energy only it’s not the midterms that had my stomach in knots today. I had my 12 week post-surgical follow-up appointment at 8am.
I was able to drive myself to the hospital this morning. At my last visit, six weeks ago, I still wasn’t cleared to drive and I was using crutches to walk. The doctor had instructed me to work up to walking without the crutches over the span of time between my appointments. I’ve been walking unassisted for five weeks now.
After I checked in, I was sent to radiology for yet another series of x-rays. Each time, it gets easier. After the first of five films, the x-ray technician went into the back to see if she got a proper image. I heard her say ‘Jesus, that’s a lot of hardware!’ before she returned to take the next angle.
Once my x-rays were complete, I returned to the orthopedist’s office and waited for Dr. Adams to tell me the news. I feared something shifted in my pelvis. What if I need another surgery because the last one wasn’t quite right??? Or worse, what if he told me I couldn’t run again based on the results?
When he came in to evaluate my progress, he remarked at how effortless it looked when I was walking down the hall. He asked me to balance on my left leg, then the right. He wanted to see me do a squat on both legs followed by a single leg squat on each side. He was smiling from ear to ear. He told me I’ve surpassed the progress he sees in most patients that are six months post-op. He was in awe of how far I’ve come in less than three months.
He reviewed my x-rays with me. He said the bone recovery is complete. My pelvis should remain the same from this point forward. I have slightly less cartilage separating the ball and socket on my left side than on my right, which will always be this way. I have an increased risk of developing arthritis because of my injury. He explained why I continue to have a lack of sensation in my hip. There is a nerve that runs along the muscles located on top of the hip. The muscles and the nerve had to be moved to access the joint during the surgery. It takes time for the nerve to recover. It could be a few more weeks or it could be years before I regain sensation.
Finally, he asked if I had anymore questions and I mustered the courage to ask, ‘can I run again?’ He said, as far as he’s concerned, I’ve made a full recovery and I can resume all normal activities, including running. My pelvis is intact and it can handle the impact. I couldn’t hold back the tears of joy. Who knows if my new construction will be able to serve as a foundation for all the miles I hope to build over the years to come but at least I know I have the opportunity to try, once again.
Wednesday, November 7th Jessica was supposed to leave for Arizona this week, but when her son broke his foot on the playground, she decided to cancel her trip. I’m certainly not happy she didn’t get to go on vacation but I’m glad she was around to help manage the sea of staffing issues at the bakery.
Since opening the second Montclair Bread Co retail location, we’ve been publicizing job openings to cover the additional hours of operation. I am continually amazed by the number of moms, dads, aunts, teachers and ‘friends of the family,’ who think it is proper job seeking etiquette to enter my establishment, sans son, daughter, niece, nephew, teenager and try to get this person hired. How could I possibly put someone on the payroll who can’t speak for themselves??? If a young person has any hope of being a responsible adult in the near future, they should, at the very minimum, be able to reach out on their own. They should also be able to follow-up on their own and not depend on friends and relatives to do the nudging for them. If they check all the boxes and manage to secure employment on their own, all communication with the employer should come from him/her and not his/her guardian.
Since working with teenagers, I’ve gotten more texts from parents than I can count, informing me why their son/daughter can’t come to work. When we fired someone for giving food away to her friends, I received a lengthy email from Dad about how distraught she was and how we obviously made a poor decision. Shockingly, she didn’t tell him about the theft when she told him we fired her. I am running a business, not a playground. There are rules.
In the last week, I’ve had two teenagers oversleep and miss their 7am opening shifts. One teenager “forgot” about a lacrosse tournament the day before it was happening and NEEDED the Saturday off even though three other teenagers already asked for this particular day off, weeks in advance, following the proper guidelines for making the request. One teenager can’t work two weeks from now because he/she is required to attend a funeral that just happens to be during a four day weekend. Who dies with three week’s notice??? Last weekend someone had to take an “unexpected family vacation,” and called out an hour before their shift was scheduled to start to let us know.
On Saturday, four hours after a no-call, no-show, the culprit texted to say “between work, school and a hundred other things going on,” she/he is “just mentally exhausted,” and will not be coming in for today’s shift or the rest of the shifts they are scheduled for in the next two weeks. This is after she asked for as many hours as possible because she needed to save money. I’m assuming these employees come from families who let them quit name-your-after-school-activity because it’s not fun anymore.
This drama doesn’t count the call outs we have to cover from the responsible staff members who are actually sick and can’t come to work. It doesn’t account for the vacation time we need to cover for the people who gave us an adequate amount of notice.
In the last week, we lost three employees to ‘it doesn’t fit in my social calendar anymore.’ I sent a message to the entire retail team, begging them to help cover the shifts so that Jessica could get the fuck out of the bakery for a few days and preserve a tiny bit of mental sanity before she has a nervous breakdown. When someone doesn’t work the shift they are scheduled for, it negatively impacts the entire team and I think the remaining survivors are starting to understand.
Remarkably, everyone came together to help. High school students picked up 5:30am weekday opening shifts before school! Other students worked together to break up shifts and share the responsibility. Everyone shuffled their schedules to cover every unmanned hour. A couple people needed to have shifts covered next week. They worked with the rest of the team to get them covered without involving Jessica. We promoted two people to shift supervisors because they displayed such maturity and professionalism throughout all of this unrest.
Thankfully, the small handful of dedicated, responsible people who make it work, keep the bakery running. I have 17 year olds who think cleaning is fun. A couple teenagers were so excited about watching me make croissants that I scheduled them to help me so they can learn the craft for themselves. One of the students stepped up after my accident to take over all the kid’s baking classes on the schedule. She did so well, we scheduled more classes for her to teach on her own.
My baking team rarely misses a day and when someone needs to take time off, they all come together to bridge the gap. They start working at 12:30am, every single day, and stay until the last baguette is out of the oven. The bakery is bustling with activity at 3am, doughnuts are frying, breads are baking, doughs are mixing, orders are being packed. They are truly a remarkable bunch.
Thursday, November 8th The kids only had two days of school this week. Two weeks ago, the Board of Ed decided to close schools on Tuesday for Election Day, even though it was originally a school day. I’m not sure why this was a last minute decision. The candidates have been campaigning for at least two years but the school board only figured out that there would be a conflict two weeks ago. To add insult to injury, election day is the same week as the NJ Teacher’s Convention meaning the kids are home on Thursday and Friday too. A full week of school is a rarity in the fall.
Josie went to a pop-up art camp for the day. She was due for some time away from her brothers. The boys spent the morning at the bakery in the office with Jessie while I went to PT. Keegan played Fortnight with his friends and Mac asked Jessie a million questions. She said she should start commentating her activities to avoid 1000 ‘what are you doing’s?’.
The boys both had appointments with the dentist at noon. I knew it would be a tight turn around between PT and their scheduled visit. Jessie agreed to chauffeur the boys and I met them at the dentist’s office as soon as I got back. Once everyone’s teeth were in good shape, the boys and I went to the park to kill some time before we picked up Josie. I sat on a park bench while the boys played. A girl appeared and and asked her mom, who was sitting next to me, what she was eating. The mom showed her daughter she was just chewing gum. She didn’t have any food. The girl responded, “oh, I smelled doughnuts.” Oops! None of us can go anywhere without taking the bakery along.
It would have been an action packed day, if it ended there, but this was only the start. When the kids and I got back to the bakery at 2:30pm, we had to start the croissant production, a six hour process. Keegan retreated to the office. Mac and Josie stayed to help me.
The lamination process is repetitive. It starts with 6-8 trays of dough and the same number of trays of butter. The first step is to “lock-in” the butter or essentially, encase the butter in the dough. Then the dough block is rolled out and folded before moving to the next dough block. I put each block on a rack in order. When the last one is finished, I go back to the top for more rolling and folding. This repeats 3-4 times depending on the type of dough. Only then can the dough be rolled out and shaped into croissants.
Josie jumped in and locked the butter into the dough while I worked on the first round of rolling and folding. It’s hard for me to realize her potential. She has matured so quickly. I’m still stuck in second grade. She can handle virtually every task I give her and in most cases, better than the adults I’ve asked to do the same.
When it was time to shape the dough into the finished product, Mac stepped in to help. Alex and Kate stopped by before their evening run. I told the kids we were going to try to finish all six dough packets before the duo returned.
When I was little, my grandfather got home from work every day at 5:30pm on the dot. My grandmother and I would play a game called ‘Beat the Pop.’ I helped her clean up the house, set the table and have dinner ready before he got home. I still set tangible time goals for myself with virtually every task I start. This time, we were trying to beat Alex and Kate.
We rolled out four trays of dough for chocolate croissants. Mac and Josie filled each square with two bars of chocolate before wrapping them up and placing them on the trays. Then the kids worked together to shape tiny logs of almond paste to seal inside our almond croissants. They stayed focused and worked fast. We put the last almond croissant on the tray just as Alex and Kate walked in the door. With Josie and Mac’s help, I was able to cut over an hour off the standard production time.
Keegan rejoined us to help pack up our things and return home to start cooking dinner. By 8pm we were all sufficiently exhausted. There was not one single complaint when I said it was bedtime. I think I fell asleep at 8:05pm.
Friday, November 9th I woke up at 5am to go to Sarah’s class at Architect Studios. Every time I go down the steps in the morning, I remember how difficult it was to take each step six weeks ago. I needed to have someone to spot me and help with my crutches or I couldn’t make it to the front door. Now, I’m waking up hours before anyone else in the house to speed down the stairs and take an interval class with weights, cardio and agility at 5am.
After my winning appointment with the surgeon on Tuesday and six minutes of running at PT this week, I’ve thought a lot about how I made it this far. When I strained my peroneal tendon (it’s located in your lower leg…not to be confused with ‘perineum’ which is located in an entirely different place) a couple years ago, I wasn’t able to run for more than 12 weeks. Granted, I was never completely immobile, I just couldn’t run. Now, with a shattered pelvis and enough hardware to fill the aisles of Home Depot, I’m returning to running 11 weeks in.
It would have been easy to stay in the hospital bed. The doctors said I could. I wanted to move. I wanted to go home. The doctors gave me a list of restrictions. I heeded their advice and did what I was permitted to the fullest of my potential at the time.
Each step of the way, I kept moving. The more I moved, the better I felt even though it was difficult and painful at times. The less drugs I took, the easier it was to move. I became more mentally aware and less tired.
I wish I had a special formula to share that everyone could use to recover faster from injuries. In truth, I don’t know why I’ve come this far, this fast. I don’t have a clear concept of what’s ahead of schedule and what’s taking too long because I’ve never recovered from a shattered pelvis before. I don’t feel any more or less determined than at any other point in my life. I refuse to sit still and feel sorry for myself. Instead, I just keep forward momentum and take recovery one day at a time.
Part of this quick recovery is undoubtedly attributed to my cheerleading squad. There is nothing more motivating than having a whole community of runners, customers, staff, family and friends celebrating every new achievement.
Saturday, November 10th I trust Dr. Mayes implicitly. I trust that he will challenge me to go outside of my comfort zone while staying inside the constraints of what my recovery progression allows. I rarely ask to do more. After running for six minutes at my last PT session, I worked up the courage to ask if I was allowed to run on the road. I specifically wanted to run with the Fueled by Doughnuts group this morning. I asked if I could run for one minute followed by a four minute rest, six times. He made my day when he told me I could run for one minute followed by a three minute rest, seven times!
When I was getting ready to leave the house and trying to figure out what to wear to stay warm enough during the three minute walk and not be too hot during the one minute run, Josie and Mac asked if they could run too. The last time I ran with Josie was during her Girls on the Run 5K which was 47 minutes of sheer hell. If I ever experience that level of whining again in my lifetime, it will be too soon. However, I knew Josie completed a two mile walk/run Mary Rose when she was nine months pregnant, six-ish months ago. I agreed to let her come along. Brad made bet with Mac. If Mac completed the seven minutes of running, Brad would give him $2. If he didn’t finish, he would owe Brad $2. This is by far, the best way to incentivize Malachi.
At 8am, the club gathered for the group run. There was a group running 10 miles and another running 6 miles. Even though she was recovering from a non-training related fall and she was a little black and blue, Yana came to support me and run by my side for my first steps back on pavement. Hillary, Barbara and Mary Rose also joined us.
I chose a two mile loop that didn’t include the giant hill going up Claremont Ave but rather stayed mostly flat and free of heavy traffic. As much as these choices were precautionary to keep the kids safe, they were also caveats set up by Dr. Mayes. As we worked through the series of walking and running, physically it felt remarkably boring, just as Dr. Mayes said it should. Mentally, I was floating on clouds.
The thing I miss most about running is being able to connect with the group, especially this particular group of ladies. These woman have been by my side for every climb up to the top of Highland Ave, for every 20 mile training run, for every speed workout before the sunrise. We have shared so many miles together and through the miles we’ve developed unbreakable bonds. When I can’t run with them, I feel like a giant piece of my life is missing but it’s not about the endurance or the cardio workout, it’s about the friendships. Sure, we can spend time together off-road but there’s something about running that creates an safe space to talk candidly about life…relationships, work, kids, goals, bodily functions…there’s nothing off limits. It’s like therapy but a lot more fun.
Being able to share this run with my friends and have my kids by my side has been the highlight of my recovery so far. Josie and Mac stuck with me through all seven minutes of running. Mac collected his $2 from Brad. Josie was able to ensure I didn’t get hurt. She’s still my most fastidious nurse even though I no longer need one.
I have a long way to go before I can start piling on miles again. For now, I’m content to have another piece of my normal life back.
I’ve thought a lot about the lifespan of this blog. When will it be complete? My goal is to keep it going for 52 weeks, full circle from the time of the accident. I’m sure nothing will be as exciting as coming home from the hospital, taking my first step without crutches, getting back on my bike or running for the first time but I would like to document the small progressions throughout my training journey in the year to come. I don’t know what lies ahead. I don’t know if my new hip will tolerate 3 miles let alone another 26.2 miles. For now, I’m grateful for each new day and each step forward.