Hey, I’m alive! And my body mostly works!

by Janelle Hanchett

I really want to tell you all the things going on in great detail but these fucking pain medications remove my brain. I’m nodding off or irritable as hell or sitting here staring at a wall. This appears to be my full range of options.

Lies. All hail Netflix.

It’s like somebody has taken a thick sheet of fog and just stuck it over the parts of brain that feel things and produce thoughts. See? Even my metaphors suck. In other news, been seriously wondering how the hell artists made music and wrote books on opiates. HOW. It must have taken so much more work, to push through the fog, to power through the misery. It almost breaks my heart more, and I’m taking only a tiny portion of what an addict takes. HOW THE FUCK.

Anyway, I can’t formulate complex thoughts but I can probably just list random shit that’s happening. So let’s do that.

  1. For those of you who don’t follow me on social media, my back exploded (perhaps not the official term but it’s the one my surgeon used and it’s definitely what it felt like) into my spinal column, crushing the nerves running down my spine, resulting in a five-day hospital stay and emergency spinal surgery. I’m three weeks out now, and walking better, but still limp and my left leg is mostly numb and tingling, which is fun.
  2. It’s not actually fun.
  3. Because God is hilarious or things are just this way, we were in the final week of moving out of our house when I was admitted to the hospital. You know the hellish stage when you’re just gathering shit by the arm-full and throwing it into boxes thinking surely it will never end and there’s no hope ever anywhere? Yeah, Mac got to do that alone, while I was an hour away in the hospital.
  4. So when I got out, we were living in my mother’s house. That was strange.
  5. Also, I have to say, though I didn’t talk about it online really at all (another topic to discuss, probably), I had chronic back pain for about five years before this. It got worse every year and before the disc blew, I THOUGHT I was in the most pain I’d ever been in. And then it blew and I really understood what pain is. Anyway, a couple of weeks after the surgery, I got up and took a shower and got dressed and made my kids lunches then drove them to school and the pain I knew like air, the one I had to breathe through every day just to make it through my morning, the one that sometimes, randomly, brought me to sobs while my kids looked on and I felt like I just couldn’t to do it anymore, was gone. I put my socks on and my underwear on and bent down to help Arlo with his pants and it didn’t hurt. I sat in my car near the school parking lot and cried. Hope comes in the strangest ways, doesn’t it? That was the worst part of that pain: THERE WAS NO WAY OUT. And here I am, mostly out. There’s residual sciatica pain, but compared to how I lived before, gimme a fuckin break.
  6. We are selling the best, warmest, most perfect and cozy home we’ve ever had. It feels surreal and sort of nuts to walk away from a home like that. We knew it was too small when we bought it five years ago, yet somehow leaving it never felt real. And it’s breaking our hearts. A few days ago I went back there alone, to say goodbye, and I cried and kissed its walls and said “thank you,” and I looked at the walls that held my family. I could still feel us there, laughing and crying and yelling. It was where Arlo was born. It was where George was a toddler and Ava and Rocket became teenagers. It was where we held each other after my grandmother was murdered. It was where our dog died, and we wept again. But that home? Fuck. I never passed a day there wishing I wasn’t there. I never walked in and thought, “Oh, this place again.” It will always, always be our family’s home, and I imagine it will be the place we all remember when thinking of the wild, young, growing days of our family. “Thank you,” indeed.
  7. And yet, we look forward to what’s to come, and that’s getting so fucking real too. We have settled on living in Haarlem, which is about a fifteen-minute train ride from Amsterdam. We have the kids enrolled in schools there. IT IS SO FUCKING WEIRD THAT IT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING. Every now and then Mac and I look at each other and say, “Can you believe we’re really doing this?” It was a pipe-dream for so long. A fantasy. “Let’s move to Europe.”
  8. And now it’s real, but the details aren’t. Sure, we know what city we’re going to live in, but we don’t know much of anything else. He and I are going over there April 29 – May 8 to hopefully find housing and check out the schools in person, but holy hell. WE JUST SHOW UP AND THEN WE FILL OUT OUR APPLICATION FOR A RESIDENCY PERMIT WTF.
  9. That’s the process. Speaking of cool, weird shit, I’m doing two book events while we’re over there: One on May 3 in Amsterdam at the American Book Center and one on May 6 at the American Women’s Club in The Hague. Please, please come see Mac and me if you’re around.
  10. We are planning on leaving America in early July, and until then, we’re staying with my mom. She’s an absolute saint and we all get along, I mean, as much as families “get along,” but seven people in a three-bedroom house is rather interesting.
  11. The six-years of chronic pain culminating in a blown disc and subsequent surgery, the recovery, house-selling, transitional housing, move to the Netherlands, it’s all wild and weird and wonderful and what I’m learning – again, because sure as hell isn’t the first time – is that sometimes things have to blow up to be rebuilt. They just have to be fucking decimated before the new can rise. Someday when my head is clearer and I’ve had some space from it, I’ll write about all I’ve learned from this back injury, surgery, and recovery. I’ve spent my life powering through – just do it no matter what – and I’m pretty sure the lesson here for me is that I need to slow the hell down, listen to my body, accept help, take some fucking better care of my mind and body.
  12. Oh, and Rocket spent three weeks in Paris, visiting also Edinburgh and southern France. He watched Notre Dame burn, and met his new baby cousin. What a strange world all this is, huh?

I am so, so grateful for all your kind words and supportive messages. You really are the goddamn best and I feel it.

Here we go.

heavily medicated waiting for surgery. the filter is fixing a lot, here


this shit blew my mind.

FIX IT, motherfuckers goddamnit




The paperback version of my book comes out May 7!

So fucking excited to see a physical copy at a lower price ($13.54 most places).

There’s an interview in the back that you may find funny (I fuckin hope). I interviewed myself. I’ll share an excerpt in the next couple days. Wheeee.

(And if you liked my book, please please maybe mention it again to your people, and/or review it on Amazon or Goodreads. Books like mine, that don’t get much media attention, survive fully on word-of-mouth. Thank you thank you thank you.


  • Rosa

    “I’ve spent my life powering through – just do it no matter what – and I’m pretty sure the lesson here for me is that I need to slow the hell down, listen to my body, accept help, take some fucking better care of my mind and body.”

    Yep, me too… all of it.

    So I recently bought myself a rogue power rack with all the fixins. Squats and deadlifts baby… crossing my fingers heh.

    I am starting to make myself a priority again.

  • Claire

    Ahhh pleassee tell me if you swing by Zurich. I can’t believe we are leaving here after 5.5 years right when you arrive goddammmm!! Xxx

  • Lea

    I’m impatiently waiting for the paperback version of your book pre-ordered at my local bookstore in FEBRUARY – I literally can’t wait! They said it might come out in March (I now know it was wrong) so I went there two times already telling them to hurry up, as if this might change something, haha…

    I found this page some month ago and have already spent HOURS (that I should have been working, ouch) reading through your blog. Your writing is so many things, I can’t even put it into words (might not help that I’m no english native speaker). It’s honest, witty, dead-on, critical, wise and mostly so damn hilarious… Also your take on motherhood is, I don’t know, resonating with me.

    Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is thank you, thank you, thank you. You’re awesome.

    (Also would you please consider doing a book-event in Germany, maybe when you’ve settled in after your move? I already googled the distance to Amsterdam or The Hague but it’s just too far away… Until then I’ll continue to stalk your Instagram and read through old posts).

  • Anna

    “… sometimes things have to blow up to be rebuilt.”

    Oh, hell, Janelle, you nailed it. This, a thousand times, THIS! I’m sitting on the powder keg that is my life, I’ve been able to extinguish the fuse over and over again, but there’s not much of it (or me) left. This is hope and clarity and strength for when the boom comes.

  • Silke

    I visited Haarlem a couple of years ago when I visited my friend who lives in a small town nearby. You will love it there!

  • Peggy

    Bless you,Janelle. May you have a speedy recovery and a long happy life!
    It’s been a pleasure to watch you unfold.
    I loved your book,kindle version,and am awaiting the paperback.

  • Anneke Gaul

    I watched ND burn too so there you have it, we are not alone in this world even when we don’t know we have company. And Haarlem is a nice place. Best to you all.

  • Jennifer Wolfe

    Im so glad you can write about this and it hasn’t changed your mind about following your dreams. I am 100% sure that the Universe does this kind of catastrophic wake up call to people like us who don’t otherwise know how to slow down. It’s happened to me at least twice in my adult life and I now see it for what it was – a reminder to look at what I have every day and be grateful.

  • Daniela

    Not sure if you already said it, but I wonder, what is your motivation for the move? What are you aiming to get from Amsterdam that SF or Sacramento can’t provide? And did you pick Haarlem for new home because it might offer a kind of ‚Little New York‘ lifestyle but without NY prices and travel distances? Thanks for your input!

  • Katy

    I’ve been meaning to write something since I finished your book several months ago while I was on maternity leave but you know, two kids, full time work..just haven’t. Ive been reading your blog for 5 years, since my daughter was born. Mostly in the middle of the night while she nursed or one of us couldn’t sleep. THANK YOU for telling your story so publicly and for normalizing the shit that goes through my head (and all of our heads, really) on a daily basis. Thank you for being my Instagram-perfection antithesis and encouraging me to live more honestly and openly about the challenges of motherhood. I’m a social worker in a high school and also have provided support to moms with postpartum mental health challenges and I pretty much tell everyone I meet to read your blog and now your book. You did so much more than write your story…you’re a beacon to parents everywhere. I hope you keep recovering comfortable and quickly, and I can’t wait to watch your adventures from here.

  • Andrea

    I am so happy for you and your family!
    Btw, I live in Hannover, Germany (only aprox. 4 hours car ride from Haarlem), I am here if you need to take a break (cos you will fucking need a break once in a while 😉 )
    Much love to you all!

  • Liz

    I’m in the midst of what feels like things falling apart and I too needed the reminder that sometimes that’s what happens before it all gets better. Thanks again for sharing your life with us!

  • Véronique

    Hi Jannelle, I’m so so sorry to hear about your back, it sounds like total hell. But… Yeah! You’re coming to The Hague. I’m trying to juggle things so I can make it to see you in person! Warmly, Véronique