My Two Cents (Subtitle: Are You F’ing Kidding Me? Five Vignettes) (Sub-Subtitle: Releasing My Inner Karen)

Please, Mr. Postman

As you know, I love getting mail. I was not cheered however by Monday’s special delivery– yet another bill from my husband’s hospital system for yet another in what will be a life-long string of medical appointments. Wendy’s health tip of the day: Do NOT get run over by a truck. You’re welcome!

If I’ve said it once, well, I have said it to fifteen different billing service agents by now, “I simply don’t know to make you understand that none, not one, not one single bill should ever have been or should be submitted to my personal health insurance provider.” Tammy, my October billing service BFF even called me back to say she’d “taken care of it.” You guys, she called me back!! Now I don’t want to call Tammy a liar–honestly in the years since the accident, she was the most compassionate, kind billing rep I’d encountered–but ultimately, she too failed.

Sandra answered the phone Monday but passed me up the food chain at my request. I wasn’t one bit Karen-y; I was polite and acknowledged that Sandra wasn’t to blame, nor was I going to holler at her–I just needed help. Sandra felt that my status was concerning enough to reach Team Leader or Supervisor status. Yay, me! So yesterday’s “fix” (uh-oh, this is the second use of fake-y quotation marks and we’re only in the third paragraph here, so buckle your seat belts, y’all) was attended by Team Leader Kevin. Kevin opened with “What you need to do is” whereby I curtly, though not rudely, intercepted his script with what I knew his script to be–call the workers comp agent (YOU have her number–I gave it to you in October and before that in August, and before that. . .), call Patient Registration (did that thrice), clarify workers compensation insurance upon check-in with each individual provider (did that about 638 times so far), blah, blah, blah. I said he was the fifteenth billing representative to whom I’ve spoken since the accident. Kevin says he fixed it. Now I don’t want to call Kevin a liar, but if sweet Tammy’s magic went kaput, well Team Leader Kevin, you’re no Tammy.

You may be wondering why I get so worked up over this. Well, it’s because my husband’s care needs will extend throughout the remainder of his life, his entire life! I’m old, but I’m not that old, and I just don’t think I want to be arguing with billing when I’m 80. Ha! Like I’m gonna make it to 80.

Puh-leeeeeeeze, Mr. Postman

After thirty-nine minutes with Kevin, et al, on the phone, I opened the next envelope in the stack, this one from the credit union holding our home equity line of credit. We finally paid of 2016’s kitchen remodel with a lump payment. Unbeknownst to us, the credit union required us to pay another $16.81 in some bullshit fee, but whatever, fine, we paid it. THEN this:

A bill for $.02. Two pennies. Two cents of some bullshit LATE fee for our bullshit $16.81 we thought we had paid off on top of the $21.40 you see here. I called customer service, but it wasn’t worth the 22 minutes of my life to wait on hold. They. Sent. Us. A. Bill. For. Two. Cents. Y’all.

The Brake Job

Because The Screwed Over Job doesn’t really have that catchy ring to it. I took my car in for routine maintenance yesterday. The car was due for an oil change, tire rotation, change of air filters, and I asked for new windshield wiper blades to be installed. When I arrived to retrieve my beloved SUV, the service advisor showed me an invoice for $323. Natually, I was all, “what the fuck?” and the service advisor tossed the four-page invoice my direction. Leafing through it, I noticed a service I did not request. “What did you do that cost $159?” to which he stated (eyes averted, that sneaky bastard) that they disassembled and lubed all the brake components. I said that I hadn’t OK’ed that, that the online B-Maintenance Minder did not include a brake job on my version of the HondaLink app. And then I DID unleash my ugliest inner Karen, saying, not quietly, “DAMN. I would NEVER have requested this for a car I’m LEASING and for only one more year.” His reply, again avoiding all eye contact? “Sorry, ma’am.”

I unleashed sooooooooo many f-words once I got into my car, every noun/verb/adjective/adverb/interjection form of the f-word? I covered it. My local dealership probably doesn’t actually care about my “complete satisfaction” as they expressed in their text to me. Not buying it, especially since they haven’t responded since I shared my disappointment.

Let the Wendy/Karen v. Honda Corporate Customer Service battle commence. I should probably enter the arena while I’m still mad about it, and they did send me the link to my survey, so they started it. But I’m gonna finish it.

SLP Professional Development

After the Honda debacle, I tuned into a professional development session offered as a semi-annual series of one-hour webinars. It’s great because they’re free, and while I present PD to my district colleagues all the time, I don’t accrue PD hours needed to renew my certification as the purveyor of info. These webinars are mostly light and practical, intended to be immediately implement-able in therapy, and I find that I’m able to pull out a gem or two from each of these sessions.

Not this one. Nope. Within the first twenty-four minutes, and yeah, I counted because I was already pretty pissed off Monday, within the first half of her session, the presenter made three disparaging remarks about more experienced SLPs. I was livid! And I was done. I’ve also presented on the very topic she was, so hers wasn’t new information to me. I let the webinar play because I wanted my freebie credit, yes, but also because I wanted to provide feedback.

When the presenter made three age-related negatively-slanted comments within the first 24 minutes, I admit that I was turned off and tuned out for most of the rest.  I’m a veteran SLP in a leadership role, and I present to a diverse group of SLPs routinely, including on this topic.  I respect my audience, making no assumptions based on experience or lack thereof. I did not find X’s “if you’re Generation Z, you might need to have someone explain the meme,” “17 years is more than most of us have even practiced” and “experienced SLPs are less likely to consult practice research” comments funny or accurate. X, I urge you to reconsider your tone–if you meant to be funny, it did not necessarily translate.

Remember that scene in the film Fried Green Tomatoes, when Kathy Bates slams into a parking space “stolen” by some young brats? She says something like, “Sorry, girls, I’m older and have better insurance.” Preach.

As a presenter, I would want to know if I was offending audience members. A few years back after I presented something, a good friend called me to remind me to check my tone. I’ve never forgotten the lesson. So my feedback wasn’t all Karen-rage; truly, I would want to know, I’d want to do better. I hope the presenter takes it to heart. I can do humor that tries and fails, but I can’t do arrogance.

Parental Controls

My Monday workday was terrific, but the hours between 4:00 and 9:00 evoked lots of curse words, anxiety, and I’ll even admit to some rage. I’m not saying my coping mechanisms are effective y’all. But instead of drinking or throwing something at the wall, I wanted to cap off my shit evening with a fun TV show. I began watching The Sex Lives of College Girls over the weekend, and knew that a quick half hour of their lives would happily distract me from mine.

But no. HBO Max would not allow me to override the Parental Controls which I don’t even have set anymore, HBO!!! So I was blocked from watching an over-18 show by some random app who obviously doesn’t know about my grey hair and advanced nighttime anti-wrinkle serum.

I wanted to cry. And if you think that sounds like an immature, unhealthy, unhinged type of response to not getting to watch a television show, you are 100% right.

Unplugging and restarting my TV did the trick, and allowed me to shake loose the day’s dirt. If only we could unplug the rest of our lives and reboot them when they’re problematic. Wouldn’t that be swell? It would. I ended this dreck of a Monday with Parents’ Weekend at Essex College. I got the laugh and happy distraction I needed to slough off the ugly and start Tuesday in the least Karen-ish way possible.

Bring It

Here we sit on the very cusp of a new year, still/again raging with COVID-related uncertainty, but still, what’s perceived by many as the most hopeful night there is, New Year’s Eve.

The only thing that’s predictable these days is my continued stand against New Year’s resolutions. I don’t make resolutions, or even pretend anymore! Most years, I’m out before noon, and that’s just defeatist. Real, but defeatist. So my hope?

My hope is that the New Year’s Day snowfall predicted in my corner of the world delivers. It would be super-amazing-fantastically awesome if, unlike our Christmas Eve festivities, our New Year’s Day festivities included electric power to our home. Yep. The moment my uncle and aunt arrived for, and thankfully WITH dinner Christmas Eve, our power went out and remained out until, and I swear, until my aunt said, “Well, we should probably get going” after six hours in the dark. So I hope our power grid holds.

I hope my children will be able to return to in-person learning in January. Based on what I’m reading, I’m among a very small minority of educators who want teaching occur in person. I’m a full-on COVID-believer, so this doesn’t come from some whacko flat-Earth point of view, I just feel my children learn better and enjoy better mental and emotional health when in school with classmates. I understand that might not happen, but that doesn’t mean I can’t hope for it, right?

I hope my big kid gets one more really important to him college acceptance letter, the ONE upon which every other college visit and future choice is pinned. He has four incredible options already, so he can’t lose really.

GoodReads provided this little visual of some of the books I’ve read and the Pic Collage app created the visual.

I hope I continue my reading blitz. Somehow it ended up that I completed 62 books again this year, which is the exact same number I read during 2020. Weird, huh? I’m finishing up a book about memory, and feeling much less frightened about the decaying state of affairs in my hippocampus. It’s enough being the family’s executive functioning, more than enough. Way more than enough. I’d begun to doubt my ability to manage, but his new information gives me hope. It’s not necessarily my memory that’s failing, it’s the attention. And there’s only so much to which I can attend (see above for being the family’s nerve center), so my brain doesn’t encode the minutiae it once did. It’s more complex than this, obviously, but it’s a start.

I hope I continue my yoga practice on a slightly more routine basis. I’m inconsistent at best, but like reading, yoga is something I get to do all by myself in peace and quiet. If it’s wrong to want to be alone, I don’t want to be right.

I hope my friend gets clear updates about her husband’s new and unwelcome long-haul type of medical diagnosis, and I hope her husband gets excellent care.

I hope I get to see my favorite band in concert in 2022. I have tickets, carried over for three years now, but even now who knows if this tour will come to fruition? It had gotten to a point that I infrequently even listened to Barenaked Ladies anymore these days, even with 2021’s new album release! They’ll probs pull my fan card after this admission here. I won’t be able to explain it well, but listening to them on the high rotation (read: constant) I had been for years made me miss them, miss concerts, miss my friends I’ve made because of them. For the first time ever, I felt sad listening to them–missing my constant auditory companions, missing the anticipation of shows, so not listening made me miss that part of my life less. Does that even make sense? So I hope for Barenaked Ladies concerts in 2022!

I hope my best friend’s move goes smoothly, and that our living in the same time zone for the first time since college means more together time. We’re already percolating the idea of a road trip (and by road trip I mean staying pretty close to home still because I fear being away too long), but still. A road trip?? It’ll be like college! Except with higher-quality food and beverage. And we’re way smarter now. Well, she is anyway!!

New Year’s Eve and July 4 are my least two favorite “holidays,” and yeah, I put the quotes around holidays here. I’ve just never been into either, but I always feel like I’m SUPPOSED TO be totally into it, and my disinterest and ennui mean I must be missing something. What am I missing??

If today’s your day (night), raise a glass to the hope of a new year and enjoy your celebration! I am the least optimistic person I know, but I’ll say it anyway: bring it, 2022. I’m about as ready as I get and I’m hoping 2022 is looking up. Happy New Year!

The Frequency Illusion

I recently wrote about how I was not sending Christmas cards. What’s that phenomenon where you what you talk about is suddenly everywhere? No, not the “my iPhone is eavesdropping on me” thing, but the neuropsychological construct that you begin to see something everywhere after your attention is called to it once? It’s not that those things weren’t there before, but our brains just never noticed them until we did, and then they’re everywhere?? It’s a thing. Can’t for the life of me remember what it’s called. Great story, Wend.

The point. *ahem* The point is that since broadcasting that I’d hit the pause button on sharing our annual dose of holly jolly via US Mail, I’ve noticed “I’m not sending Christmas cards” memes everywhere! OK, so they’re not actually everywhere, but I noticed one, and now I notice them all. If it’s meme-worthy, then not sending cards must be a rule instead of the exception these days. Look at me all setting the trend years ago, so ahead of the times.

You know, I have spent more on vodka during the pandemic than ever before. . .

Blowing the timeline for cards marking A Very COVID Christmas 2: Still Masked in 2021 provided occasion to walk through the early days of my blog. I wondered if I’d chronicled the first year I lost my card spark, and sure enough, learned that I stopped sending Christmas cards the year my son was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. Coincidence? I am sure not.

2015. 2015?? How can it be nearly seven years since that awful January diagnosis day? 2015 felt cruel and cold. I was rudderless, anchored by Barenaked Ladies concerts and this here little creative writing outlet. Though I was surrounded by friends and family who then showed me incredible kindness and support (and do still now), my holiday joy was tempered that year. Since THAT dreadful year, my husband was nearly killed in a catastrophic work accident, then, well, you remember the pandemic year? And now still a pandemic year?? Do you wonder why I’m a little glass half-empty Grinch-y? I sure don’t. I don’t wonder one bit.

2021 wasn’t my favorite orbit around the sun, but was it anyone’s? I mean, 2021 sucked less than 2020, so there’s that. And while most of the rest of the world reviles 2020 the most, I’m still super pissed about 2019, therefore (drum roll, please!) 2021 wins my contest of who’s not the worst of recent years. Yay, 2021! You’re not the worst!!

To be fair, 2021 offered some for reals bright spots. Like my big kid’s senior pictures (and a few college acceptance letters)–

Like my little kid’s football season–

Like spending a few responsibility-free days with my college friends–

Like “talking” to my BFF more often via the Marco Polo app and rediscovering classic photos, which I’d share if only my iPhone weren’t so old and dysfunctional. And if you are in fact listening to me, iPhone, maybe you decide to start downloading pictures, yeah? Thanks.

Like being awake for both the moon and sun rising over the Atlantic in Myrtle Beach. Our COVID spring break road trip took us to a South Carolina oceanside condo. We didn’t close the doors once–

Like celebrating the Milwaukee Bucks NBA Championship with a half million of our closest friends–

So, see? Even me, the eternal pessimist, found some literal and figurative sunshine in 2021.

If I were sending Christmas cards, they’d look a little like this and y’all would totally be on my list! You would!! Merry Christmas, dear readers. I wish you happiness, good health, and the love of family, friends, and friends who feel like family.

I wish lots of things–crazy dreams like eradication of COVID (and for that matter, eradication of muscular dystrophy, but unlike COVID, you can’t get a vaccine to protect you against MD). I wish for purpose toward the greater good and common sense among the masses, genuine care and compassion for one another, and accountability for people perpetrating truly terrible acts. But I’m not a kid and I know Santa’s elves can’t exactly wrap and put a big ol’ bow around the gift of human decency to place under my tree. Doesn’t mean I can’t wish for it though. Peace and love to you. I say this and mean it with complete sincerity.

What’s with the green lights?

Oh, and I had to look (and subsequently retitle this post). The seeing something everywhere once you finally notice it deal? It’s called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, also known as the Frequency Illusion or Recency Effect. I learned about it on The Happiness Lab, a podcast by Yale professor and psychologist Laurie Santos, whose online class I took and loved in 2020–I went to Yale, y’all!! OK, I didn’t exactly go to Yale. . . I think I heard about it there anyway (my memory’s not so hot anymore either, and I’m actually reading a book about memory, but that’s a topic for another time). Pay attention to how you notice things now. Like when you have lunch somewhere you’d never heard of, and then see advertising for it plastered across hotel shuttles on your way home from the very spot or see maroon colored Honda Passports everywhere you look. It’s not that the SUVs or signage weren’t there or the restaurant wasn’t there before, I just didn’t notice them, and then I did. Notice what you notice. . . Maybe some of my crazy Christmas wishes already are and/or can become reality if I simply were to attend to them and take notice.

Christmas Cards & Other Mail

Each year as I un-trim? de-trim? (take the ornaments and lights off) our Christmas tree and un-deck the halls, I pause to reread the Christmas cards we received during the holiday season. I pack them, along with the rest of the fa-la-la, content with the knowledge I’ll revisit them in another 11-1/2 months or so.

Sunday was the day I re-reread 2020’s cards. I just love receiving Christmas cards. Love the cards, the photos, the messages of the year’s glad tidings, the tradition, all of it.

The saying goes, ‘tis better to give than receive, and I wish I still loved sending them myself. I want to send cards again, or I suppose it’s more accurate to say that I want to want to send cards again. I want to love it like I did when the kids were small and every year previous, when I’d comb through the Hallmark stores to find the card with just the right amount of sass. When my kids were little, I reveled in sending out the cutest photo of the boys together featured on cutest card layout with the cutest template background Snapfish offered that season. Somewhere along the way though, I lost my enthusiasm. It had nothing to do with COVID even. For some reason, I’m feeling a full-on case of Scroogeism and skipping out again this year. When I was a good little blogger, writing with purpose and consistency, I think these pages took over my need to update via snail mail, but I’m not even a good little blogger anymore. It would seem that I need to come up with a more believable excuse.

Revisiting 2020’s COVID-infused Christmas messages though took me back. At this time last year we were fighting our way through the should-we-or-shouldn’t-we get together? for the holidays. Ultimately, 2020’s Christmas celebration was contained to the four of us in residence, zoning out on the ‘80s cinematic classics Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club. Such tradition! Already, a world before the vaccine seems like a history lesson, but only a very short time ago, we were canceling family traditions that had held for decades and lifetimes. Everything last year felt conditional and uncertain, and the sentiments expressed in the cards and letters we received reflected that unease, that tying to slap a happy face onto our collective isolation.

If you’re a card sender, please, please, please continue the tradition. To this day, the first thing I do upon my return home after my work day is check the mail. I love getting mail! In addition to the Christmas cards I so enjoy, this year I find myself sprinting to the mailbox to see if my son has received the college acceptance letter he’s so eagerly awaiting. Will the letter carrier deliver the big, non-folded letter kind of envelope with the big news he wants or the tri-fold business envelope with less welcome news? Time will tell.

I’m pleased to announce that even if he doesn’t gain entry into his dream school, so far he’s got three excellent Plans B, C, and D–three acceptances so far, and I happily anticipate his future scholarly endeavors. If you’d told me early in his diagnosis that I’d be writing about college acceptance one day, I’d not have believed you, so fantastical a notion that was. If you’d told me that my son one day would text me asking if muscular dystrophy precluded him from donating blood, I’d not have believed you, but that’s also on his agenda this week, and no, he doesn’t even need my permission anymore (though I do wish he’d make real good friends with this thing called an internet search engine. . . ). He’s accomplished so much more than I’d believed possible then, like reaching the age of majority for starters. My boy is an adult.

Maybe that’s what I write in the Christmas cards I’m (not) sending this year—that even amid the unbelievable circumstances in which we find ourselves these days, there is still something to believe in—a bright future when you see and feel dystopian, hope when you feel hopeless.

Sweet Sixteen

Yesterday was my younger son’s birthday, the sweetest of sweet sixteen-year-olds, that one. My delight in celebrating my kids’ birthdays far surpasses any excitement I could possibly muster for my own anymore. I can recall as if it were yesterday the overwhelming joy I barely contained when my big kid completed his inaugural orbit around the sun. Like the sun, I radiated, there is no other way to say it. I could not stop smiling, and it’s quite possible I glowed. I wanted everyone I encountered to know that my baby had turned one, like I had been part of this magical, unique experience no one else could possibly appreciate or understand, which I guess I was. It wasn’t as if I had accomplished anything really, though I guess keeping a tiny human alive for a year is something worth celebrating. High five, me! Nice job!

Anyway. . . my little one–I’ve said it with frequency and intensity: the world is a better place because he is in it. I mean that with all my heart.

For whatever reason yesterday, I found myself remembering two events I don’t much think about anymore. Between the births of my two sons, I was pregnant twice more. Neither pregnancy lasted terribly long. I miscarried early, twice. Women don’t talk about miscarriage often, but in fact, I was surprised to learn that 10-15 in 100 pregnancies are lost during a woman’s first trimester (statistic from marchofdimes.org). You’ll forgive me for not citing per the APA style guide, I mean no one’s grading me here on my own silly blog, which, sure, is not the same as saying no one’s judging me here on my own silly blog, but whatever, it’s OK.

Do women not speak about miscarriage because it occurs with the frequency with which it does?  Is it such a commonplace occurrence that it barely warrants mention?  I think not.  I can speak only for myself, but I can remember feeling much like I did on my big kid’s first birthday only in the saddest 180-degree possible way—my experience was so unique and special, I must be the only one who’d ever lost a pregnancy.  I must have been the only one because I never heard anyone in my circle of friends or coworkers discuss it.

No. It’s just so devastating that you can’t imagine finding the words or strength to talk about this profound loss in polite company. You love this baby so immediately and completely, even though this baby feels kind of theoretical so early on, I assure you it’s not. Your hopes and dreams for this baby begin to take shape the moment you learn you’re expecting. And then all of the sudden you’re not. You lose not only a baby, but that hope, that “I wonder if her eyes will be blue or brown, I wonder where she’ll go to college, I wonder if she’ll be funny.” The loss of a pregnancy is real and as painful as any, but women don’t talk much about them. Until much later, say, like 16-17 years later.

I don’t remember a great deal from this period in my life, mainly because I was busy chasing my toddler around, I rarely slept well or at all, and my hormones were hijacked. I wasn’t at my critical thinking best, it’s fair to say. But I do remember speaking to my body, willing it to hang on to those babies. Come on body, I’d say (not out loud, probably not, maybe not out loud), please hang in there. I want you to be here with me so badly, and I can’t wait to see you! I’d hold my abdomen, physically hugging my belly in a futile effort to coax her into picking me. When those maybe-baby girls didn’t pick me, I cried. A lot and hard. There were a couple days I didn’t want to get out of bed. It hurt physically a little and emotionally a lot. Sadness. Misery. Grief. Anguish. All of it.

I say “her” because I’m certain that each of those pregnancies, had they been viable, would have been baby girls.  I remember my doctor saying that when pregnancies end themselves this early on it’s likely due to the baby’s significant health problem or genetic abnormality.  After my older boy’s muscular dystrophy diagnosis, I became convinced that those two baby girls would have been affected by MD so profoundly that they knew how tough things would be on the outside, that by not choosing me they chose better.  I’m not saying there’s science here.  Obviously there is no way to know this.  I just know, you know?

My doc prescribed some heavy duty hormones while I continued to try to get and stay pregnant.  I wanted to barf pretty much 24/7 on an average day, so I knew immediately when I was pregnant again because then I REALLY wanted to barf.  Good times.  I sincerely didn’t think I was going to make it with #2.  Between the hormones and toddler chasing. . .  I was a mess. 

I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.  Unquestionably.  When #2 was visualized via ultrasound, and all his pieces and parts had been counted and measured and I hit the halfway point in my pregnancy, my doc said I could stop with the additional keep-him-in-there hormones.  I’d like to tell you that I felt immediate relief once I stopped the dosing.  I didn’t.  Honestly, I felt like puking up to and including the day he made his entrance into the world.  But I would do it all again, endure worse, way worse, whatever is the worst of the worst, just to make sure this baby could be born.

As flip as it may sound now, and I sincerely hope I don’t sound flip, I knew I was meant to be a boy mom. I’d convinced myself the universe, wrongly, had given me girls. I no longer felt that crushing, paralyzing sadness over those lost pregnancies.  I was fortunate to have been able to carry this baby full-term, so I didn’t have to suffer an empty crib, that unknowable, unfulfilled wish.  Unlike too, too many women who suffer the despair and/or depression miscarriage and loss usher in, I got the prize in the end.

And so did you. 

No one holds the future in their hands or can know what their child will ultimately be capable of and bring to the world, but I know with assured certainty that my child is meant for greatness. He may never be famous, so maybe he doesn’t play in the NFL or win elected office, so what? My son’s circle is small. He’s quiet and doesn’t let people in without careful consideration, but once you’re in, you’re in for life. His sphere of influence in this world may not be one on a global stage, but those lucky enough to be in his inner circle get a most remarkable gift.

My son got the most remarkable gift himself for his birthday. His best friend, his friend from the first day of four-year-old kindergarten, drew and had framed this picture of and for my son as a Pokémon trainer.

His BFF, artistically talented obviously, is also the brightest, most academically talented kid I know. But read these comments between them on his Instagram–that’s the stuff that tells me what really matters about their character. Take that, toxic masculinity! These two are both going to do great things in this world, one great and big and the other great and small, and I get a ticket to the show.

I knew I was meant to be a boy mom. I was meant to be my second baby’s mom–we need his kindness, his pure heart, his “he’s probably my favorite student” approach to school, his lean in to hug his mama. . . His “Love you too” to his best friend. I almost never think about the what might-have-beens anymore. Had either of those pregnancies come to term, we’d never have known this special boy, and the world needed this one. Happy birth day to me. Happy birthday to him.

Tech Support

I’m not entirely inept when it comes to technology. I’m the family’s primary troubleshooter, and can even support my colleagues in several work-related apps and interfaces, so I do OK. But every so often it’s necessary for me to make the call, and yesterday at work I did just that.

My “My Documents” folder keeps disappearing. I know the documents live there, because even though virtual education necessitated the shift to everything Google Drive and Google Classroom-based, I can locate them intermittently. I was given a specific task and a completion deadline so wanted to refer back to an older document I knew had everything I needed. I knew it had what I needed because I wrote it all those years ago, what goes around comes around and all that. So we are back to the future, as the saying goes, and I can’t find what I want.

I employ my rudimentary problem-solving mental decision tree kind of thing to no avail. In the interest of efficiency, I make the call, literally and figuratively, to allow the people whose job it actually is to assist me. The tech guy, who shall remain nameless only because I honestly can’t remember his name, takes over my computer remotely (sorcery, I tell ya!) and naturally, restores my access instantaneously. Cool! I’ve got what I need, and look forward to copying and pasting away!

He provides a few pointers to add to my problem-solving arsenal, and you know there are fake quotes around “problem-solving” here, and I’m glad to have a new trick in my back pocket. He goes on to tell me there are several steps I can follow to access some command prompt thingy which allows me to blah blah blah blah blah blah which will be able to tell me blah blah blah blah blah.

I’m out. Mentally, I’ve already said thanks and good-bye, but I’m not a total jerk, so I say in response, “I suppose I’m supposed to tell you that I want to learn how to do what you’re telling me, right?”

He politely and professionally gave me the out, saying that I did not, in fact, have to learn what he was telling me.

Me: So I can call you back next time and you’ll fix it for me, yes?

Him: Yeah, sure.

Me: OK, cool, thanks. I’ll call you if I need help. Out loud this time, thanks and good-bye.

It’s not that I’ve got a learning new things aversion. But I’ve got limited bandwidth these days. And here’s the thing I think many of us feel when we call tech support: We should know how to do all the things. We should know how to fix this. What if the tech support guy thinks I’m an idiot? We all have computers, so we all have some base of experience. We shouldn’t interrupt the tech support people; they’re busy helping others who really need tech help.

But here’s the real thing: I have a job. I’m a pretty good speech-language pathologist, and I’m sort of a tech support person for the SLPs with whom I work, just not literal tech support. I help colleagues think through their speech-language concerns and help them problem-solve. I wouldn’t call technology support for questions I have about service delivery for students or decision-making about eligibility for services. I wouldn’t call the tech guy when seeking evidence-based practices for a professional development presentation or when debating which fluency-enhancing strategy might work best for a student. That is absurd.

So why do I say no thanks to new technology information from the tech guy, risking exposing myself as a dope? Because it’s his job to help me. He’s the expert in his field as I’m expert in mine. It’s a small and weird thing to be pleased to have passed on, but I’m happy I did. It may represent the feeblest stab at empowerment, using the dullest of butter knife blades, but I said no and it felt just fine.

My favorite tech support guy, Jim, told another of my colleagues yesterday that I should be a celebrity. Now THAT is the kind of tech support I can get behind, y’all.

Public Service Announcement

Friends, I implore: Try really, really, REALLY hard not to get run over by a truck at work because the runaround you’re given by insurance carriers and billing agents even years post-accident will exhaust your wife to the point that she’s left little more than an enraged, cursing like a sailor, hollow shell of her former wise-cracking self.

Sometimes just putting it in writing and tossing it out to the universe is enough to rattle my cage of rage and move on.

You though? I hope you are having a marvelous Monday. For reals. I hope the sun is literally or metaphorically shining upon you and that people you call and email to help arrange medical care have the common courtesy to return those contact attempts. (OK, that last part might be a wee bit personal and specific to me and may suggest just a tiny bit that I’m not completely ready to move on, but as it’s been famously said, tomorrow is another day–a whole twenty-four hours ripe with the possibility of a return call or email–the anticipation is simply killing me.)

Sick Day

I got biffed by a pitcher yesterday, and long story short, I called in sick today.

Let me explain: Under Sunday’s picture-perfect, clear, sunny sky my husband and I met one of his brothers and his lovely, talented, brilliant, funny wife for brunch. Not that his brother’s not lovely or talented, you understand, but it just flows better describing her. Mark, you’re the best. And the luckiest. I digress. . .

We rarely go for brunch, so the al fresco meal and cocktails (because it’s legit to drink alcohol at brunch, you guys!) made for an ideal Sunday. And then one of the servers lost her grip on a carafe. From what I gathered, the pitcher bounced off a support post and into my shoulder before hitting the ground. I only got a little wet, so no biggie, and this poor server was horrified. I felt for her, I did, because it’s something I totally could see myself doing. And with my son now working in food service, I would want patrons to be kind to him in the event of a mishap. Also, I’m pretty nice just overall. I said it was no big thing, told her it was OK she didn’t hug me (she said she wanted to), and she comped my meal, so yay, free shrimp and grits.

Later yesterday, the Bloody Mary wore off and my shoulder began to throb. I was all, “No. You can’t seriously be in pain from that. You cannot seriously be to the point of ibuprofen and distraction.” But of course it turned out that I could 100% be to the point of ibuprofen and distraction. I barely slept last night, which probably I owe as much to the WTF is happening to me in my old age? incredulity as the physical discomfort. But mostly I think it’s the WTF is happening to me in my old age? I can be fierce and feel badass; alternately I can be annihilated by a beverage receptacle. If you’re wondering just what special kind of luck or talent it takes to get injured while dining, it’s exactly my kind of luck.

Welcome to 54, the age at which I feel just comfortable enough calling into work because I need a nap.

But of course, I won’t take that nap because I’m old enough to need it but not old enough to sleep during the daylight. I’ve already made tomorrow night’s dinner (white bean chili, so much yum) and tossed in a load of laundry because I feel guilty not being at work, so I’m compensating or some such nonsense by being industrious at home.

For the first time since my baby started high school, I watched the kids get in the car and drive off to school together this morning, and that made my breath hitch. My senior drives them to school. I have a high school senior. I have a high school sophomore. When did that happen? How did I get to be “I can retire after next school year” years old?? How did THAT happen?

At least hourly while I’m at work, I find myself checking in on the district’s COVID dashboard, hoping, hoping, hoping not to see cases reported at their school. My children need to be in school. I want them in school, so I find myself checking the COVID report with alarming (read OCD-like) regularity. The district has a formula for determining when enough COVID cases necessitate a move to “flexible scheduling,” and so far, my kids’ school remains fully open for in-person teaching and learning. And Radio and Drumline and Football. Thank stars. I was stunned to learn that many more colleagues than I’d expected around the district don’t want to be teaching in person and that some even refer to the pandemic as “the alleged COVID thing.” This is a subject for another day however. Actually it’s a subject I’ll probably let fester about.

Today though? Today is about delicious breakfast leftovers, an embarrassingly sore and aging shoulder, and visions of my not-babies heading off to school. *sniff*

Probably it’s better for the district that I’m out today because the seven computer mouse clicks and four minutes I spend daily on monitoring COVID closures really takes away from my productivity, so I’m doing them a favor. Nevermind that I never actually step away from my desk for my alleged “duty-free lunch” and that I answer texts/calls/emails before and after hours AND that I’m still super pissed that they docked me thousands of dollars when they disallowed my sick time use after my husband’s accident. Yep, still bitter about that. Y’all, I really know how to hold onto a grudge. Which reminds me–I have to forward the latest bill for my husband’s treatment to the Workers’ Compensation Insurer, because somehow, the hospital system cannot be made to understand that I’m not shelling out one thin dime for my husband’s post-accident care. Maybe I need some work on that holding a grudge thing. . .

If you’ve read this far, you’re likely wondering if that carafe had actually hit me in the head and not my shoulder. I’m a little all over the place, OK, a little more all over the place than usual. But I’m really tired, which is the whole reason behind even being able to ramble on here! Let’s be honest though–you don’t read my stream-of-consciousness blather for its linear, snap-crease narrative precision, do ya? Come on, we both know better than to expect better from me!

No Pun Intended

I think to me it’ll always feel like yesterday, but more than two years have passed since my husband’s near-fatal accident. There is not enough space on the internet for me to detail how distinctly un-fun and completely dispiriting I find working with the insurance carrier. “Working” is not the verb that captures our relationship, in fact it’s the diametric opposite. But whatever. You know what I mean.

Eleven months have elapsed since his facial reconstruction surgery, and after receiving non-answer upon non-answer upon straight-up ignore in response to our questions about continued treatment, finally and IN WRITING we received confirmation that he can receive Botox treatment to address the facial asymmetry resulting from the paralysis. Synkinesis is the word we were given to describe the faulty healing that occurred in his face. Just another in a long list of vocabulary words I never wanted to have to learn. . .

Synkinesis is involuntary facial movement that occurs with the voluntary movement of a different facial muscle group. As an example, but not precisely indicative of his particular mis-healing, synkinesis occurs when one smiles, and their eye crunches up or when one closes their eyes and their nose twitches. Get it? Remarkably, his facial nerves knitted new pathways after having been smashed and severed on the right side of his face, but they didn’t retrace the entirely correct pathway. It appears strange on the screen, “faulty healing,” but that is an accurate representation. His nerves regenerated and made connections, but the nerves didn’t all connect to the spots nature had originally intended.

(I believe) he’d waffled on having the Botox injections done as a direct result of those remotely-humanoid-appearing women of a certain age over-lifted and duckbill-plumped Real Housewives types. Plus, he’s a dude who worked in the trades. So, between indecision and insurance, honestly? It slipped my mind until yesterday when he mentioned today’s appointment.

“Hope your appointment goes smoothly,” I called to my husband as he scurried off to work this morning. I paused for the briefest of moments, realizing my ridiculous choice of words. I’m mild-to-moderately embarrassed to admit that I cackled, not real quietly (also, I hadn’t gotten dressed yet and may or may not have even brushed my teeth by then. All this is to explain that I was still a wee bit tired and easily amused. Ah, what an accidental comic I am!).

“Smoothly. Get it? Smooth?? Botox will make your face smooth again. Byeeeeeeeeeee.” It’s a wonder the man didn’t sprint right out of our bedroom. I mean, who would blame him??

The Dark Side

Yesterday was my boys’ first day of in-person school since March 13, 2020. Sunday morning my older son rose before dawn to join fellow Husky classmates at the literal dawn of their senior year. I can’t think of a sweeter metaphor for a big beginning such as the kick-off of senior year than watching the sun break the plane of dawn. Prior to last summer, I’d never made the point to do that, to watch day break over the waters of our very own Great Lake, and I’m glad my big kid did not wait as long as his mama did. He did not regret his decision, and you can see below why I haven’t either.

My last early visit.

Upon returning home, both kids animatedly reported to my husband and me their first day play-by-plays, and the general consensus was this: Theirs were good first days. Really, really good first days.

Eating dinner as a family of four is an increasingly rare occurrence as our sons have gotten older, engaging in activities and taking on responsibilities outside our home. Big kid DID get the job, and is working three to four evening shifts per week. He is enjoying his work, his workmates, and the CASH he’s earning! I do believe he physically sat up straighter after his first shift–I radiated bearing witness to his pride in a day of good, hard work. In addition to the older kid’s job, the younger kid has begun football practice. I’m ravenous by our late dinner time, and lately, I feel we have been a snacky, grab ‘n go family instead of a sit-down at the dining room table for the meat and potatoes meal foursome.

The first day of school merited a meat and potatoes kind of night. Shortly after digging in, my younger announces to the family that he’s brought home some extra laundry from football practice. Of course, I’m all, “Oh shoot, was I supposed to wash the jersey you wore for the scrimmage Friday night?” He’d returned his practice gear to school that morning, so my mind immediately leapt to what I’d missed, thinking he’d brought it back home, and that I needed to get my Oxi-Clean game on STAT.

Instead, from his pocket he sneaks out a gold-colored shirt, saying that his coach had given it to him to recognize his play in Friday night’s scrimmage. He referred to it as the “Dark Side” shirt, given to him because he played hard, so hard that his dark side came through (probably not his exact words, but I was already tearing up, so I may have missed something). I can’t define it more clearly, but it sounded to me like his coach thought that my baby had shown in that scrimmage another side of himself as a football player, maybe dug deeper, demonstrated a game-sense he’d not yet shown in practice.

My little one says the word is he can wear the jersey or keep it in his pocket. He’s decided to keep it in his pocket, keeping himself humble.

There are a hundred thousand ways to question your parental decision-making, a million more to second-guess and envision other scenarios about your coulda/shoulda/wouldas. Not this time. Not with this kid. He is a better human than I could even dream to be.

The “making up what kids have lost academically during the pandemic—they’re behind!” rhetoric being spewed as schools reopen this month is exhausting me. Maybe instead we celebrate that children emerged from an unprecedented lockdown mostly emotionally intact, how about that? I can’t bear the thought that my kids’ continued physical attendance in school isn’t a for-sure. Day One was exceptional, and I’m bursting with pride and joy. Let’s make sure there’s a Day Three, a Day Forty-two, a Day One Hundred Seventy-nine.