Sunday, September 25, 2016


I fell a few weeks ago walking around the block.  It would be a much better story if I said I was training for a half-marathon and was running so fast I pitched forward over the finish line like the women's 4x400 team at the Olympics to win gold.

But, alas, I was leisurely walking and stepped in a gap between someone's driveway and the sidewalk and lurched forward onto the ground.  I remember watching my hand as it stretched in front of me to brace my fall. Next thing I knew I was oh-so-slowly pulling myself up off the ground using the same outstretched hand to feel the blood on my lip that had smacked the pavement - all while I gingerly moved my banged-up knees.  I slowly made my way home and when I walked in the door Mark appropriately said, "It looks like you've been in a fight."

I put an ice pack on my lip, checked my front teeth for any cracks, cleaned my knees, and though I felt like having a good cry, did not thanks to a mom and three brothers who taught me long ago that being overly dramatic when injured is not a positive attribute.  As the day went on, though, my elbow started throbbing and I moved the ice pack off my lip and onto my arm.

At Sunday dinner that night I related my tale of woe to the kids who come every week for a family meal.  They could see the fat lip and the bloodied knees and when I winced when I tried to put my elbow on the table they said all the right things, but I am the mom after all, and sucking it up is #1 on the job description.  Even as banged up as I had gotten that day I managed to make most of our dinner for six so just how bad off could I be?

Every movement of my arm that week hurt and Mark said, "You probably jammed it."  I wasn't getting enough sympathy for my jammed arm as far as I was concerned.  I still went to work, I still made dinner (but left grocery shopping to my husband), I still threw towels in the washing machine even if it was at a slower pace and with one hand firmly on the handrail every time I went up and down the stairs.  At the following Sunday dinner my left arm was old news replaced by something else and when I put my elbow on the table without wincing that must have meant I was getting better. But if I dared to reach or lift with that banged-up appendage it hurt like crazy.  I kept dosing with Ibuprofen and icing it but after ten days of it not getting much better I finally made an appointment with the doctor.

When you go to a teaching medical center for your care you are often seen first by medical students - little Doogie Howsers that look like they are a week out of middle school.  They can either be incredibly enthusiastic about your problem or terribly nervous basket cases.  I got the former this time.  In the family med office I am sure that anything outside of a cold, allergies, or stomachache on the last appointment of the day must be a thrill for the medically young and eager.  My Dr. Doogie did all kinds of exercises on my arm and concluded that it was "probably jammed" but, thankfully, it was not his call to make but the real doctor who would come in after him.  The Real Doctor pushed his thumb into a few spots until he hit the magic one that brought tears to my eyes and said, "I think you just jammed it but I'm going to send you for an xray anyways.  Go get it and come back here and we'll look at it."

Thirty minutes later the three of us were looking at a picture of a fracture in the bone above my elbow and to these men in the room and the one at home I wanted to shout, "YOU GUYS AND YOUR JAMMING?  WELL, LOOKIE HERE.  I'VE BEEN INJURED. INJURED BAD."  This kind of hairline crack requires no cast (thank you thank you thank you) but a convalescence of babying it while it heals.  No lifting, no pushing, no vacuuming, no pulling, no pressure on it at all and a recheck in two weeks.

After I left the office I called my husband to report the findings gloat.  To tell him that once in awhile the Mrs. around this place gets knocked flat (literally) and it should come with a week off work, meals delivered and some kind of "B" team prayer chain. The next day I told Mallie Bee who looked a little stunned when I said that my fall had caused a fracture.  "Really," she said. "Really," I answered.

And then she spoke these words of pure gold, "I kind of think this family owes you an apology."

"Because this family thought I was faking?"

"Maybe.  Yeah."

I already knew that but I took that consideration of an apology and hid it in a secret place like the jewel that it was, so that the next time I take a hit and jam-who-knows-what I've got something to fall back on.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Surrender Dorothy

I am not the kind of person who handles change very well.  More specifically, I go kicking and screaming into change like a toddler having a meltdown.

In the years we've been married we've moved to three states, a studio apartment, a basement apartment overrun with roaches, a townhouse with wall-to-wall apple green carpet, a better townhouse, another townhouse that had no natural light, and our current home.  I always put on my cheerful face, so excited to be partaking in another "adventure in moving."  That face never lasted very long as my resentful face was longing to show itself to the world.  After the newness wore off, the pictures had been hung and the path to the nearest grocery store figured out, I would get pissy and stay that way for a good long time.  I didn't like having to make new friends, and after a couple of moves I figured out that the first woman in the neighborhood who knocked on my door to introduce herself to me was probably the craziest person one the block. Two experiences with that made me keep my guard up and ready.

The same goes for starting new jobs. I observe for a good long while and keep my eye firmly trained on the red EXIT sign.  When I'm done observing I start to look for reasons to leave, and since most jobs come with a gold mine of crazy and dysfunctional it's not hard to come up with a solid five excuses to bolt on any given day. 

My husband can attest that when I am in one of these transition periods (that can go on for months and months) that I'm a delightful peach to live with.  You would think that since I know that about myself that I would avoid job hopping but it's just the opposite.  I start getting antsy and bored and think I need to find some greener grass and off I go again.  When I find myself in another new environment I look around for somebody, anybody to blame but the finger only points back to me.

When we made our last, big move to Kansas I literally thought I was going to die.  I couldn't believe I was nowhere near water.  We moved from a place that was thirty miles from the White House to Kansas of all places. Who does that?  Whenever we would take the subway and get off at the Smithsonian stop, go up the escalator and see the Capitol I would gasp.  I probably gasped fifty times over those five years.  I never got tired of seeing that.  On the weekends we would leave early in the morning to drive to the Delaware Beach, Chincoteague Island, Annapolis.  When I got off the train when I worked in Chicago I walked two blocks to my building which was across the street from the Art Institute and a short walk to Lake Shore Drive.  Every day from my office I saw the water of Lake Michigan. 

Kansas seemed like a hard, waterless fall from the grace of where I had come from and there was no water to cool off, no red EXIT sign to point the way out.

At some point I finally surrendered, likely from exhaustion of the battle I had created in my own head.  I stopped comparing it to my imagined life somewhere else and let it stand on its own sturdy feet.  It faltered often but then it showed off its Flint Hills and I thought "okay this might work."  Or the limestone buildings of Kansas State University, the funky college town of Lawrence with its impromptu parade on a Saturday afternoon of people who want the governor ousted. The hokey roadside attraction of The World's Largest Prairie Dog.  Or the farmer not far from where we live who started planting sunflowers years ago as an experiment in biofuel that never panned out.  He kept planting, though, thousands of sunflowers.  Forty acres of sunflowers.

It took twenty four years but I found the sea in Kansas when the winds on its plains whispered to me to look elsewhere to find what I was missing.  That's when the dream that I dreamed of really did come true.