The Melancholy Is Palpable


Subtitle: First World Problems

Sub-subtitle: COVID-19 Is Apparently Not A Youth Baseball Fan


Had the pandemic not hit, this week would have been my Super Bowl.  My Olympic Games.  My Most Wonderful Time of the Year.  Whatever your most favorite thing to do in the world is, that’s what this week would have been for me.  This week’s lineup included three Barenaked Ladies concerts, and what would have been my first solo overnight trip away from my family since “the accident.”  Woulda been meeting my BNL BFF Nikki in the front row in Indianapolis.  Woulda been the annual meeting of #ketchupandmustard.

Instead of heading down to Summerfest, I delivered my number two son to baseball practice last evening at the hour I would have likely been rifling through my closet and trying to calm my nerves so I could lay on my eyeliner evenly.  I can’t explain why I get nervous before a concert.  It’s not like I’m the one going on stage to perform, I get that.  But hey, I don’t get out much, and I want to look and feel decent–an increasingly challenging feat–while I celebrate with my favorite music seated among a few thousand of my closest friends. 

My kid’s baseball team practices far enough from home that it doesn’t pay to turn myself around back home, so I walk the nearby nature paths while he throws, bats, and runs.  As I walk (and as my brain functions as a matter of routine), random thoughts occur to me, and me being me, I give voice to those random nuggets.  Often, and to my great surprise, my friends are kind and/or patient enough to hear me out while I verbally vomit and whatever the text version of verbal vomit is.

I texted a friend last night something whiny about how walking around Brookfield and West Allis was almost as cool as being at my concert. . .  I pouted back through a few more text exchanges, and after the last of which was told that the melancholy was palpable.  Wouldn’t that be a great book title?  I’m no author, but it did inspire me to draft a little story here at long last.  I haven’t had much to say of late. 

I fully acknowledge that in the grand scheme of 2020, concert cancellation is not only the correct, safe route to take, but also it’s a first world kind of problem for me.  I mean, turn on the news!  Well, you can turn on the news. . .  I mean, mostly I don’t because in the internal battle to be sane or be informed, sane wins most days.  I’m less well-informed than I should be, but come at me if you’re gonna argue that sanity doesn’t matter especially now.  There is so much to be angry about, and I just can’t be angry all the time.  My point is that 2020 is a dumpster fire (a generous assessment, really), and with the health, safety, and well-being of us all, rescheduled concerts are not life or death matters for fans. Now for the artists and their support?  It could very well be. They’re losing money, or not making it anyway.  

A blinding headache woke me in the middle of the night, and it’s knocked me out most of today.  But I’m thankful for the medicine that cures my headaches, even if it does leave me feeling nauseated and hungover the rest of the day.  Recovering from this killer vise of a headache made me look to the sunny side of the street, so I’m trying not to be a complete ass about what COVID-19 has taken from my family and me–all of us!–and take note of little silver linings.  

Set your expectations real low, friends.  Real low.  I did say little silver linings.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation:  I mean, no one ever wants to visit the DOT, right?  My timing has sucked for most of my life, but it just might work out for my firstborn. . .  The Wisconsin DOT has temporarily waived the formal road test for prospective drivers.  Under new COVID-19 guidelines, kids under 18 need only to have completed Driver’s Education (check), 30 hours of practice driving with a licensed adult (check), and six Behind The Wheel sessions with a licensed instructor (5/6 complete).  Should the waiver hold another two weeks, my son can become a licensed driver without the stress of the road test.  Yeah, it’s a rite of passage, but no one ever wanted to take their test, right?

Eighth Grade Completion:  My little one completed eighth grade this year.  They don’t call it “graduation” in our district, because they reserve the word graduation for high school completion, to give students a goal to which they can aspire, I assume.  With schools closed, there could be no formal event, and there were technical difficulties with the Zoom “ceremony,” but he did complete–we’ve got the yard sign to prove it!  My baby does not complain, it’s just not in his nature, but surely he could have.  He, along with every other graduate (completer??) missed those important lasts–their last sports events, last awards ceremonies, last class trips, last days of ruling the school.  I assembled a video compilation of well-wishes submitted by nearly everyone I asked, and watching it alongside him was the best.  

Yard Sign

Grocery Store Cake Frosting/Cinnamon Rolls/Baking Bread/Cooking With My Kids:   You know that frosting is religion to me.  During lockdown, I finally found THE recipe for the kind of frosting that makes my teeth hurt and my toes curl.  You can put it on a cake, sure, but there are no rules saying you have to, so you can just have a batch on hand.  It’s delicious dip for pretzels and M&Ms, and fits perfectly on a spoon on its own.  In related news, the bread maker machine I’ve owned for nearly thirty years still works, and I’ve enjoyed our renewed acquaintance.  I didn’t surrender my quest when COVID broke and the end-of-days crews cleaned out supermarket supplies of yeast.  I make OK bread from scratch now, but my cinnamon rolls are nothing short of amazing.  AND I’ve mastered a cream cheese frosting recipe along with my grocery store white frosting.  My children told me that a full batch of frosting is too much for one pan of cinnamon rolls, and I’ve got nothing but to wonder just who are these weirdos speaking the words “too much frosting?”  I’ve enjoyed the kids’ company and “help” with meal prep, and have had the best conversations about their food memories.

Cinnamon Rolls

Baseball:  It would seem that COVID is not a fan of youth baseball.  As soon as the State of Wisconsin’s “safer at home” order was struck down by the Supreme Court, youth baseball opened up, so apparently youth baseball players are just naturally immune or the virus just steers clear of the dugout???  Travel baseball team owners and league and tournament directors provided volumes of guidelines the kids and families were to follow.  I can’t say that the guidelines are 100% enforced as they were developed by epidemiologists and public health experts, but it’s not a free-for-all either.  After a dreadful season last year, my number two son is back. To have heard my baby say “after my dad’s accident last year, I just couldn’t keep my head in the game,” broke my heart.  Shattered it.  He’s on a new team with a new batting stance, as fast around the bases as ever, and the best-best part?  He is having fun.  He smiles, he laughs.  His coaches believe in his strength, and in turn, he believes in it too.  My only gripe?  Who thought white uniform pants were a good idea for teenagers??  I mean!!

Eli Third to Home

Hiking around Lake Geneva:  Pre-pandemic, my husband arranged for us to spend the third week of June in Mexico.  After last year’s near-death experience, who, more than my husband, deserves a beach vacation?  (hint, it’s ME!)  The pandemic had other ideas about our getaway however, so we settled for a couple nights in a nearby lake town.  So instead of baking in the sun on the white sands of Cancun, my husband thought it’d be cool if we hiked around the lake.  Literally around the lake.  The perimeter of Geneva Lake is about 23 miles; it’s said that an “average” person in “average” condition can walk it in between 8-10 hours.  Well, color me average.  Have you ever walked for 8-1/2 hours?  IN A ROW??  Don’t.  It’s really dumb.  But it’s also really amazing, and I can say that I did it!!  Even more incredibly?  My husband did it.  Recall that just over one year ago, the trauma surgeon who stapled his skull together told us that most people with skull fractures as large as his don’t survive.  Well, he made it.  And continues to make it.  One of my favorite comments about our little endeavor came from a friend who said that people train for this, and we just do it.  Yeah, we do.  Determined was the word of the day.  The word of the next day was blisters.  Jaysus.  My feet looked like fresh cuts of meat.  So gross. 

Medical Appointments I Neglected In the Year Post-Accident:  Now that medical facilities have reopened, I made and kept one of the four appointments I was supposed to have made and kept last year.  It’s a start, people. 

Elective Surgeries:  Two of my nearest and dearest were able to schedule surgeries thought impossible back in March.  I’m happy and then some that both patients’ procedures were considered successful.  Love you!

Reading Like It’s My Job:  In dark days such as those we’re living this very moment, being transported to a different dimension, a different time or place is an escape I need.  I plow through some reads so quickly, I barely remember them a week later.  But that’s good, right?  To become immersed and distracted by character, time, and place that I’d rather be there than anywhere else AND forgo real-life sleep (OK, and forgo housework and maybe even sometimes my kids. . .) is time well spent.  

Little Messages of Hope: I’m super sentimental and dorky, and I loved all the messages of hope and community that neighbors created, especially early in isolation. My fave was a post-it left on my trash bin that proclaimed, “Everyone knows you’re the coolest person in Bay View.”  Well, obviously.

Namaste:  A few local yogis offered Zoom and Facebook Live yoga sessions.  For whatever reason, being “live” made it feel more real to me than watching some random yoga video, and I was happy to meet them on my mat.  Early in the quarantine, I practiced almost daily, and feel nothing but gratitude for Annie and Jess’s generosity.

She’s Awesome: I may not be attending live music events, but lots of musicians have been streaming home performances via Instagram or Facebook Live.  For a few months, my BNL friends connected virtually every Friday afternoon.  Ed Robertson, did you know I adore him and his band?, had ya heard? would play live from his cottage.  He played MY song a couple times early in his home concert series, and also played another song I requested.  Ed performed Take It Back at my request, and said that I was awesome.  And then I goofed like a moony teenager for a day or two, and even my husband was totally OK with this iteration of “I love Ed!”  Take It Back contains the lyric, “save me from a villainous imagination,” and you’re a damn genius if you can make that work in a pop song.  

Beach Glass:  Nearly every day since school was canceled, I’ve walked my idiot dog from my home to Lake Michigan.  I’ve walked about 750 miles in these fifteen weeks.  You think I’d be thin as a rail, wouldn’t you?  You’d be wrong.  But I feel good and what once seemed like a stupid-long, gonna-brag-about-it walk is now routine.  And I was able to walk for an entire day last week, which was a laughable idea pre-COVID.  So yeah, thanks pandemic. *insert eye roll*  I find the lake to be centering and calming.  If you asked me to define centered, I couldn’t; I just know that seeing the water brings a sense of peace and contentment, even in the crappiest of weather.  Back in March I began picking up shards of beach glass for no particular reason other than I thought it was pretty.  Upon my return home, I’d dump the glass into a dish, and I liked how it looked, so I left it on the counter.  The dish soon became insufficient to hold the glass, so I transferred the collection to a little Mason jar.  Soon enough again, I had to transfer my stash into a larger vessel and then an even bigger jar, and now they’re halfway to filling a decent-sized vase.  Some have chronicled the quarantine in photos, Snapchat Stories, or Instagram posts.  Me?  My quarantine story is told in the most beautiful, waterlogged shades of greens, blues, and even a couple reds.  And black and brown.  I do love my Rawr-Rawr.

Caleb Walking

What valuable, silver lining takeaways has the coronavirus provided you?  (And y’all, if you didn’t catch my tone here. . .)  Yeah, I’m melancholy.  Even with bright spots, and there are bright spots to be had, I’m just not shining bright like the sun these days.  Everyone hates 2020, but I’m still not quite over the hot mess 2019 was for me and our family!  Like most people I know though, I’m doing the best I can.  My kids’ fortitude during the lockdown though is beyond my wildest dreams.  They’re what keep me going, what give me hope.  

 

I Need Endings

You know how some people need to mark an occasion, to acknowledge the event in some formal, if formal even for just a moment, kind of way?  No?

Hi, I’m Wendy, and I’m the kind of person who needs to mark an occasion, to acknowledge events in some formal, if formal even for just a moment, kind of way.  I don’t know if this need is seated in some psychological obsessive tendency or maybe comes from something profoundly sad and terribly lacking in my personality inventory.  I really don’t, but I do know that I need endings.

Sentimental dork and easy-cryer that I am, I don’t especially like endings, but they’re inevitable, and I need that balance, closure, some equalizer like that.  I’m always the “Well, it’s the last time I’m going to be (wherever)” person.  I take a moment to study the scenery, take a mental snapshot, cross the real or imaginary threshold, and bid it goodbye.  Sometimes I even say the goodbyes aloud.  Aaaaand after writing that I’m thinking my need to mark endings is less healthy than I’d thought previously.  Anyway.

Friday is my last day of school this year.  I know what you’re thinking–that technically my last day of school was March 13.  That was the last day I was physically present at work, true, but many work days since the COVID-19-imposed quarantine have gone considerably longer than those worked when I was physically present in a school. Side note: working from one’s dining room table doesn’t allow one to “walk away” from work at the end of the day at all easily.  When things don’t go your way, you carry that crabby the too-short distance between the dining room and your kitchen–I’ve discovered that my work commute, while bonkers on the nerves some days, is actually quite therapeutic on most of them.  I downed fewer alcoholic beverages before being “safer at home,” begging the question, “Am I truly safer at home?” One personal discovery after another here in the zombie apocalypse. . .  *insert eye roll here*

Anyway.  I didn’t bid last school year its formal adieu because of my husband’s accident. I bolted from the building immediately upon hearing the news, and literally never looked back.  Pre-pandemic, I believed that last year would be the weirdest end-of-school-year I’d ever experience.  Ha!  Ha ha, said the universe!  You thought last year was weird, well, let me show you what 2020 has in store for you. . .

I’ve become a capable distance educator since we’ve been sent to our quarters.  I’ve created Google Classrooms, updated our department website, participated in too many Google Hangouts and Zoom meetings to inventory, uploaded, downloaded, created Boom cards, snail mailed, emailed, texted, and phoned families and colleagues.  Working in the fourth most impoverished city in US comes with a unique set of online learning challenges, chief among them: kids not having computers or internet access in their homes.  I miss my students’ faces and voices.  I appreciate that I’m still working though I haven’t loved all of it–I’m a social being and a job in communication sciences and disorders is a pretty social gig–but I’ve managed.

Shonda Rimes School

Every teacher meme you’ve seen about the challenges of immediate upheaval of every practice you’ve known?  Accurate.  Every meme about the challenges of teaching your own children while trying to work from home?  True!  And my kids are old enough to manage independently.  I can’t imagine working from home with children being any younger than my kids’ current ages.  I could do without the “I’m quarantining more perfectly than you are” meme wars though.  People, there’s enough uncertainty in the world–now is not the time for online vitriol.  I mean, not that any time is a good time for being mean, but I think you see where I’m going here.  Like the rest of the planet, we inhabitants are a bit off-balance. Be nice.

Anyway.  Anyway for the third time now in this short post. . .  I didn’t get to say goodbye to my school year my way.  Again.  How can the school year be done if I haven’t even tucked it in and said gnight?  I love the end of year “parties” we celebrate in Speech.  I love going out for lunch with my terrific coworkers–just like real professionals do, real grown-ups who also get to use the bathroom whenever they feel like it do–on the last day.  I love hearing and saying, “Have a good summer!”  I love cleaning off my desk, seeing a dust-free, clear desktop for about ten whole minutes, just sitting there soaking up the end until that bell rings one final time.

Not this year, I guess.

The ending I’m missing this year is nothing in comparison to what graduates of the Class of 2020 who watched rather than walked along to Pomp and Circumstance are missing.  There’s something really lovely and hopeful about graduation types of endings.  I remember well each of my four graduations.  I was invited to speak at two of my ceremonies, and while at the time petrified a little, I was cognizant enough of the honor bestowed upon me to be recognized in this way at such a big event.  Those days and events mattered to me, as they should and do to this year’s grads.  I’m really sorry they don’t get to walk.

Last May, I sat in the hospital cafeteria, signing off to the group of about 40 SLPs I support, saying something like “tell the ones you love that you love them, because you never know what can happen once you walk out that door.”  Never in my wildest dreams would I have dreamt that the final 1/3 of this school year would be canceled by pandemic, and the world being locked down has once again changed everything we thought we knew about going out that door. . .

I guess I’ll sign off this year with a similar reminder.  Continue to be safe, and take care of the people you love most in this world, including yourselves.  The pivot we’ve been forced to make as distance educators hasn’t been easy, but (and this comes as no surprise to me) my coworkers continue to rise to do what’s right for each other as colleagues as well as their students.  I’m proud to be among such impressive company.

Have a good summer!

Lucky Penny

I knew I’d be weird this week.  I mean, the whole world is weird right now, so our collective baseline for weird is completely jacked even to begin, right?  Even mid-pandemic, I’d venture to guess that my weird stands on its own.  I wish I wasn’t one of those people who formalize anniversary dates, but you don’t get to pick your quirks, do you?  Sumus quid sumus says my dad: we are what we are.

It’s totally cool if you stop reading right here.  I won’t know you left, and my feelings won’t be hurt or anything. . .  There’s nothing fun or funny whatsoever to be found in Volume 335 of my goof of a writing experiment here.  335??  Wow.  Proceed with caution is all I’m sayin’.


The skies last May 7 may have been clear and sunny, but that Tuesday was the darkest day I’ve known.  My husband and I woke up, probably just like we did any other day.  We got ourselves and our kids up and out the door probably like we did any other school and work day.  My Hamilton crazy was nearing frenzy-level because we (finally!) had tickets for Chicago’s Friday evening show, and I do obsess over music/artists/albums like few others I know.  Friday, the 10th was our wedding anniversary and we’d both taken off work to spend the day in Chicago, so everything on my phone was Chicago/Lin-Manuel Miranda/Hamilton Twitter notifications and Hamilton soundtrack.  I remember arriving at one of my schools for an IEP meeting, checking and then screen-shotting my notifications screen thinking, “Well, I guess my phone belongs to Lin-Manuel now,” and I was happy to hand it over to him.

This was the last picture I took before everything crashed.  Figuratively and literally.

I departed that school for another, ready for my afternoon of therapy.  It’s chronologically inaccurate, but my mind tells me I received the call from my supervisor around 2:45 PM.  My classroom phone never rings because I’m at this school only one half-day per week, and my student kinda laughed, saying something like, “Well you better answer that because no one ever calls you!”  I picked up to my department supervisor’s voice relaying the message that her supervisor contacted her in an effort to locate me because Central Services Human Resources had contacted him. “The City of Milwaukee called and said there’s been an accident. Does that mean anything to you?”  Uhhhhh, yeah, it does.  I escorted Emanuel back to class, then called another supervisor, my husband’s, who informed me that there had been an accident and Tom had been taken by ambulance to the hospital. I was instructed to meet him in the Emergency Department.

My cell phone doesn’t get a signal in my classroom, but as soon as I hit the parking lot, my phone was pinging off the charts.  Two hours worth of missed calls and voicemails stacked up, and texts started dumping in.  I didn’t recognize any of the numbers, but with the accident intel, I redialed the most recent random number as soon as I caught a signal.  My husband’s good friend answered, and I felt relieved, because I figured he’d fill me in, calm me down, you know?  I asked him if he knew what happened, and he matter-of-factly (read: possibly in shock?) replied, “Yeah, I ran him over.”  He apologized for wrecking our anniversary plans, said that Tom was fine, gonna be fine, that they’d taken him to the hospital, and then I heard someone in the background kinda tell him to shut up, which was OK I guess, because at that moment, I received a call from a number that looked business-y, lots of zeroes in the caller ID.

This random caller identified herself as Stacy from Froedtert Hospital, calling she said, at my husband’s request, telling me I needed to get to Froedtert’s Emergency Department as soon as possible.  Park in red-painted spots in Structure 3, they’re reserved for Emergency Department patients, she said, in the structure nearest the Emergency Department.  Your husband knew your phone number, and that’s a really good sign she said.  It was probably that statement–that he remembered my number and what a good sign it was–and that she repeated it three or four times, that first cued me into just how bad this might be.

Or maybe it was being met by hospital security, officers from the Milwaukee Police Department, the City safety supervisor, and a chaplain that finally punched me in the face.  And friends, let me tell you that you NEVER want to be greeted by cops and a representative of god after being told “There’s been an accident.”  I swear on the stars that I found a shiny penny just outside the doors, and pocketed it–the finding spare change in the street bit is a running “contest” between Tom and me.

It was hours before I was able to see him, or maybe not.  I know it felt like hours.  I’d been fed the “He knew your phone number and that’s a good sign” mantra so many times by then, I thought I’d snap.  But I wasn’t snappy.  I was pretty flat affect as I recall, kind of out-of-body-ish, aware I was part of this emergency room waiting area tableau, thinking this couldn’t possibly be ME living this version of real life.  Finally I said to the City guy, “You keep telling me this one thing is a good sign.  What aren’t you telling me?  How bad is he really?”

In the absence of information, the deep and illogical fears in my imagination coalesced into their own version of just-how-bad-is-it hell.  Convinced he was paralyzed, I couldn’t not ask if that was the result no one wanted to be the one to tell me.  I knew the City supervisor had seen him with his own eyes.  Eventually, and with something like an “I’m not a doctor, but. . .” caveat, he relented, relaying that Tom’s head had been bashed in pretty good, he had a pretty long cut (“cut” apparently is code for 9″ skull fracture covering eyebrow to temporal lobe), and he’d lost a lot of blood.  It was taking so long because they were doing lots of tests to make sure he would be OK.  Lots of tests.  “Lots of tests” is code for emergency facial trauma surgery to reattach the ear and surrounding flesh that had been torn from his head and stapling his skull along that enormous fault line.  To be fair, OK sure, there were lots of actual tests too; I saw his chart.

When I did finally see Tom, he was covered in blood.  Though conscious, he lay completely still.  “There is so much pain” were the first words he spoke, and that was the longest utterance he strung together over the next several days.  Like an idiot, I mentioned I’d found a penny outside the ER–like THAT was gonna lighten the mood or fix anything. . .  I stood there over him, “lucky” penny in my pocket, watching for movement, any movement that would contradict the paralysis I’d come to believe was our now-reality.  I vividly recall my internal race-monologue, “I need to ask I need to ask I need to ask I need to ask I don’t want to ask I don’t want to ask I do NOT want to ask this is the last minute of my life I don’t know he’s paralyzed and as soon as I ask I will have to know that he is paralyzed and I don’t want to know and right now I still don’t know so I can’t ask but I have to ask.”  I stood over him, looking with unseeing eyes for even the slightest movement in his legs.  I took a deep breath, steeled myself, and asked Jodi, the ED nurse, if he was paralyzed.  Her chirpy “Oh, no” perhaps elicited more tears than if her response had been the opposite.

I was booted from the ED after that brief reunion, then escorted to the family waiting area of the main hospital.  Being a guest of the City, I had a tour guide of sorts, and I did have an entourage.  I knew that my husband’s supervisors were handling me; I was aware even then that I was being “handled,” but I didn’t mind being handled.  Quite possibly I’d still be wandering the hospital if I hadn’t been directed and small-talked along that route.  All his supervisors, called by duty and I’d like to think a bit of compassion and human decency, along with a handful of his coworkers–really good guys, called by their professional respect for my husband, met in my private waiting area.  Needless to say, I wasn’t great company.  I had to get out of there, breathe, by myself, for a second.  I had to call my kids!  At some point I announced that I felt like the really bad host of a super shitty party.  Even on the worst day of my life, I made them laugh.  I’m sure it was their duty to laugh at the guy who’s probably gonna die’s wife’s pitiful wisecrack, but I appreciated one brief moment of something other than internal chaos.

Can you imagine what it’s like to call your children, telling them that their dad had been horrifically injured, and that they’re being picked up and delivered to the hospital?  Because, just in case he dies, kids, you’re gonna want to have seen him “one last time,” even if he is bathed in blood and swaddled in bandages.  Oh, and don’t watch the news tonight and don’t talk to reporters if anyone knocks on the door, OK?  Don’t imagine it.  Just don’t.  Imagine not taking them home yourself, promising them you’ll be home by 9.  9:30.  Hopefully 10.

Can you imagine having to search for your husband’s set of work keys, sifting through bags of the scissor-cut clothes he’d worn to work that day, all having been removed and bagged as “patient belongings,” still wet with his blood?  Don’t do that either.

This wasn’t even near the end of that first day.  The conversations I had with my people who showed up those first 24 hours are both crystalline and a blur.  I couldn’t sleep that night, and writing tells me how I feel, so I wrote a narrative I will never share.

I don’t know why I can’t stop reliving this hell on earth, or why I’m taking you down this macabre path with me.  I do know that my head’s gonna explode if I don’t write it down and try to unload it somewhere though.

One full year plus one extra leap year day post-May 7, I am not the same person I was before.  I miss my husband, my before husband. I miss before me.

If you remind me that it could have been worse?  Thanks, but I don’t need the reminder.  I know.  I do.  But it doesn’t mean that grief occurs only when you experience that total loss.  And it doesn’t mean that sadness doesn’t beat you upside the head when you least expect it. Or even when you do.  Grief and sadness paralyze too, in unmeasured ways and along timelines for which you’re unprepared.

Maybe that lucky penny was good for something.  All the good, all the miracles, all the unimaginable generosity and kindness the world has shown my husband, my children, and me that terrible first day and then the 365 that followed?  Beyond any words I could string together.  Sharing all of it though would amount to some type of betrayal to myself and to my people.  My people. You showed up.  You did everything I asked.  I will never be able to repay you for that.  And I know you’ll never ask.

 

 

 

Observations From My Saddle

Today is spring break in Wisconsin Gorgeous, with a capital G. Temperatures hit the mid-60s, skies are cloudless, shades of blue otherwise found only in an artist’s imagination, and spring flowers have begun to unfurl.

I had a real shit day yesterday, so felt determined not to repeat my sad, sulky disposition. I hopped on my bike, steering roughly east toward Lake Michigan, my head clear and my heart content.

I’m a rotten photographer with inadequate equipment, but this cliff is straight down, probably a couple hundred feet.

You can’t multitask while riding a bicycle. Well, I can’t anyway. I can only be present, and hope I remember the deep thoughts observations and random, ridiculous ideas tripping my neuronal connections. I don’t listen to music while riding; I’m old school that way I guess, but I love the sound of my tires grooving and gears clicking. For whatever reason, music, otherwise my constant companion and savior, is an intrusion.

Here’s what I do remember:

  1. About every third car parked on any given street is a black GMC Acadia or Chevy Equinox/Traverse. Go ahead, try not to see one now.
  2. OR a serial killer panel van.
  3. Sighting an elderly man in a sleeveless tee shirt is not the rare event you’d think.
  4. That moment you realize a bug flew into your mouth is as disgusting as ever.
  5. Worse actually, because given that we are in the midst of a global pandemic, you can’t really spit it out. Or shouldn’t anyway.
  6. The memory of having swallowed the bug stays with you a lot longer than the action.
  7. Despite walking 3-wide on a reasonably and appropriately narrow recreational path, people still seem genuinely startled when you holler “On your left” to alert them to your intent to pass.
  8. What you really think, but of course don’t say is, “On your left, you flippin’ twit.” Eye rolling is implied.
  9. Your kid is totally adorbs, and I know you’re “documenting the quarantine” for your Instagram feed and all, sure. But if you park your fucking stroller in the middle of the path, in the middle of a 90-degree turn that follows a massive climb, we all think mean thoughts about you. I really tried not to use the f-word here, but, trust me that it’s warranted.
  10. People still say hi as you pass them, and I LOVE that. That acknowledgment has always been and continues to me one of my benchmarks of how decent a human you are. Even as we observe social distancing, most of us make an effort to smile, nod, or wave.

Today is a better day.

An MDA Kind of Week

I received an email from a member of our Milwaukee area Muscular Dystrophy Association chapter last week, checking in on our family after our tumultuous 2019.  To say that a black cloud has followed us the last year is not high drama.  Even my most optimistic, glass is always half-full friend recently allowed that maybe my family was due to catch a break, and that is saying something because Nicole is exactly the ray of sunshine everyone needs in their life.  Anyway, the MDA was kind enough to wish us well while also checking in to remind me that the annual Muscle Walk team registration had opened.

Our family has participated in the annual fund raising event annually since my son’s 2015 diagnosis.  You’ve helped me raise over $10,000 to support kids and families affected by muscle disease, including the incredibly near and dear to my heart summer camps.  I’m still a bit stunned that I asked, because I HATED asking, and even more stunned and humbled that you answered.  Our walk team was consistently among the top five fund-raising teams in the Milwaukee area, a statistic I’m proud to notch.

COVID-19’s global takeover has changed everything we know about how we navigate our 2020 world, but even if not for pandemic, we wouldn’t be participating in this year’s walk.  I responded to her inquiry by circling back to the accident.  Honestly, every damn thing in my life since May 7 just relates back to May 7 anyway.  I told her that when my husband was injured and in the months after, we were incredibly fortunate to have had people from all corners of our world take care of us.  People fed us, cooked meals, and/or bought gift cards or groceries for us.  People sent us money to help bridge the gap so we could pay our bills.  I just didn’t feel the time was right for me to ask those very same people to support our fundraising for the MDA this year.  Our friends, family, and neighbors had done so much for us, and I felt that to ask any more this close to the accident was beyond my comfort zone.  It took a good three or four rereads of my email draft before I could summon the strength of my one little index finger to hit “send.”

And then I wanted to throw up because I felt I was letting them down.

Later that very day, I received another email from the national MDA organization containing the news that this year’s MDA camps had been canceled. Given the state of the world, news of its cancellation was not exactly “news.”  Many kids suffering muscle disease endure accompanying systemic health problems, compromised respiratory and immune systems surely among them.  Nobody’s going anywhere these days, least of all kids with multiple health needs and the crew of volunteer medical and counselor staff needed to support a camp such as what the MDA produces.

My son had elected not to attend camp this summer.  He is close to aging out of camp, and he barely acknowledges he’s got the disease (a topic for another day), but more directly had hopes of a summer job on top of his volunteer gig.  Actually it’s probably more closely aligned with his “Who, me?” stance on this progressive, ugly disease.  I’m not sad that he chose not to attend camp, but I understand well the disappointment and sadness many kids and families are expressing with camp having been shut down.  Camp touts itself as the kids’ “best week of the year,” and I know that to be true with my whole heart.


I’ve enrolled in a course–gotta do something productive these days!, and one of the required activities was to complete an assessment about your perception of your character.  More on this to come, but my number one character strength based on my responses was kindness–doing favors and good deeds for others; helping them; taking care of them.  I can’t say it’s wholly accurate, but I do know for sure what kindness looks like.  It’s not what I see when I look in the mirror, but in the reflection of the people I see around me.

Be safe.  Be patient.  Be kind.

And in a totally random non-sequitur, check out the colors in these downtown murals.  Since part of our “home schooling” has been a classroom behind the wheel of a car, I’ve been able to view the city from the passenger’s seat.  It’s terrifying and reassuring at once that my kid insists on driving through downtown and other densely peopled areas of the city as he logs practice hours.  He seeks the experience, and I see the city from a new, beautiful perspective.

Getting Picked Last For The Zombie Apocalypse Team

If toilet paper and fresh meat supplies are any indicator, society is near end of days.  I’ve probably said aloud “armageddon,” “eerily quiet,” and “apocalypse” more during the last week than in my lifetime previous, and I studied The Walking Dead like it was my job, and also I talk a real lot. 

I’m not in health care, nor am I anyone’s news source, so I’m not here to peddle “How to Survive the Pandemic” advice.  There is nothing cute or funny about global pandemic.  The indescribable burden on health care providers and grocery store personnel alone leaves me exhausted even to think about their experiences.  But if I were giving advice?  I’d say simply this: be nicer.  I’ve tried to be extra polite and extra kind to the many, many providers’ offices who’ve called to cancel our family’s many, many medical/dental/surgical/therapeutic appointments.  I’ve gone out of my way, and I don’t mean just ’cause of social distancing, to be kind to anyone I’ve encountered publicly.  Which, I guess the sum total of my public goings-on have occurred at the grocery store, so I’ve let harried people line up in front of me or grab that slab of bacon.  It’s cool.  I’ve not completely lost my shit when my brand new car had to be returned to the dealership for service. TWICE.  ‘Cause what can you do?  

Beyond acting like a decent human, I don’t know exactly what we can do, but I do have some thoughts on what you could maybe not do.  Please cease and desist the frenzied hoarding.  The opportunistic MLMers trying to sell me and the world their ultra-hygienic, specially-formulated soaps and household cleaning products or recruit people who, because of this virus, are now unexpectedly out of work?  Stop it.  Please fucking wash your hands as a matter of routine anyway.  Get and stay informed by members of the medical and scientific communities.  Read that book you’ve had on your nightstand since forever.  Do that!

In our home, we have enough, but we surely don’t have the bunker of supplies that the bulk of nightly news-watching humanity apparently believes will be necessary to survive these 3-4 weeks (or 8-20 weeks, depending on which news source you follow) of self-quarantine.  thumbnail_IMG_1810

I hate this the most, that my kids are worried.  Much as they might grouse about homework, they’re missing school.  They’re missing their normal.  They want answers I can’t provide.  I’m honest with them, honest as I can be with the knowledge I’ve got, but I don’t want them to live in fear.  They have endured enough, thank you very much.

I carry no real skills into the zombie apocalypse.  I’ve already been kicked off someone’s team, or to be more accurate, have not been selected.  Playground rules, you guys, I get it.  I got a vague, conditional agreement from someone to sorta watch my back, but who knows. . .  I bring so little to the table.  My visual-motor integration is a known factor of zero; it’s a hilarity to those who know me.  I am not what the kids these days are calling a “maker.”  I can’t sew.  I’d suck at designing a fortress (or a tree house, or a lean-to. or a pile of sticks. . .).  I can’t build a fire.  I have no experience with firearms.  There’s just not much use here in dystopia for someone who recalls the lyrics to every song she’s ever heard or has quick smart-ass timing. 

But I’m physically strong.  To look at me, you might not believe it, but for someone my age I’m scrappier than you’d think, even if I do plaster on a full face of makeup just to sit inside my house day after day.  I joke that I don’t, but I do possess a strong will.  Sure, I cave on lots of things, a fact to which certain of you can attest 100%, but when it really counts, I can be counted on.  If this last year didn’t fucking break me, neither will this damn virus.  I’m a really good and loyal friend.  I can make you laugh and remind you that I love you and make you understand that even when you’re down, you matter so much, and I’ll hammer at you about how much we need you around, how my world is a much more complete place with you in it–even if it is at the prescribed social distance of six feet.  I can cook well and bake decently, so I’ll show you I love you by feeding you–it’s one of the ways you’ll know you’re on MY zombie team.  I’m nice just because and I know a little about a lot.  I’ll listen to your secrets and I’ll keep them.  We’ll need that after the armageddon, don’t you think?

Along a different thread in my life, and after I’d defined myself by the roles I play for others at home and at work, a friend responded with yeah?  But who are you for YOU?  I think my initial response was, “Well, shit,” but maybe that paragraph above is today’s answer.  I do what I can.

Do what you can. Broadway stars have given kids whose high school musicals were canceled the opportunity for them to be heard.  Can you imagine some high schooler getting Twitter love from the likes of Lin-Manuel Miranda?  Last evening, Ed Robertson, my favorite singer in all the world (we know, Wendy. . .), went live on Instagram.  Like the rest of the world, he’s holed up with his family doing the social distancing thing, but he took an hour to share music with his fans. How this man can play guitar and sing lyrics while reading everyone’s comments in the feed demonstrates a level of multi-tasking simply beyond my comprehension.  He used what he had to raise money for responders to this hideous virus, and made fans happy, if just for an hour.  My friend Nikki said she laughed really hard at something he’d said, and realized how long it had been since she laughed.  That was one sobering statement to read, because Nikki’s hilarious.  Just ask her!  

We are facing serious stuff, you guys.  Allow for the seriousness and heed it, but also look for the light.  Be safe, and be as good as it is in your nature to be.  Better.  xoxo

 

 

Turbo Tax

At last, a tax refund. And all it took was a $40,000 drop in income to finally, finally get a tax refund.

It’s (not) funny how things in our post-accident life reveal themselves.  By most barometers, 2019 was not especially kind to our family.  The Accident was the star of the shit show obviously.  First and foremost, my husband didn’t die, so I’m reluctant to complain about the accident.  Early on, one of the rehabilitation physicians said to Tom, and it was so accurate and pointed that I engraved it into my memory: “You’re lucky.  I’m not saying you’re lucky your buddy backed over you with that truck, but that you emerged from it with as much intact as you have is extremely lucky.”  Early on, I said that any complaint I would lodge flies in the face of the “he didn’t die” lottery ticket we cashed in.

So I’ve kept complaints to myself  OK, kept them to my closest friends and my poor coworkers, cursed by their proximity to me, but even then I censor and heavily edit myself.  But there are legit complaints I could file to the deaf ears of no one in particular.  You wouldn’t want to trade places with me, right?  I mean really.

What’s less obvious are the latent effects of the accident–slides and differences you couldn’t possibly have conjured up when your days and nights were spent in the ICU hoping against hope that your husband would simply just stay alive.  Slides and differences like your kids’ tanking grades and sports performance, spending inordinate parcels of time sorting through insurance documentation and waiting on return calls I know aren’t coming, becoming a hermit first by necessity and then by choice, having to delay jury duty only to later get seated on a jury for a homicide case, realizing you never ever, ever stop worrying anymore.

Preparing our taxes this year provided a sobering butt-kicking.  Taxes always suck.  No way around that, and we always end up paying in, waiting til April 15 to file and separate our cash from our savings account.  Super suck.  Last January, I began chunking out an extra amount in withholding so this January’s hit wouldn’t feel quite so lethal.  What a non-issue that ended up being!  A side-by-side analysis compared our taxable income between 2018 and 2019 and revealed a $40,000 discrepancy.  Forty.  Thousand.  Dollars.  Maybe that’s not substantial to everyone, but it is to us.  I actually laughed out loud when that screen came up on Turbo Tax, because what else could I do?  How the hell did we manage??  Between the almost eight days my employer docked me (still real pissy about that, yep) and several months’ worth of Tom’s payroll “vacay,” along with there no longer being overtime pay for him, the numbers told quite a story.

But we did manage.  He did receive injury pay, and we had legions of people who fed and funded us over the summer.  And honestly, still?  When I think about the kindness and generosity of our people, I cry tears of gratitude.  You really do wish you had the people we have in our lives, you guys. We didn’t get through this alone. Aren’t getting through this (present tense) alone. The bottom-line discrepancy from one year to the next wasn’t the full $40K, but it was, my friends, quite a lot of bank for a couple public employees.

The big reveal wasn’t for me the year’s diminished income and it wasn’t the massive tax refund we are mercifully getting!  I anticipated a substantial change in our tax situation, all things considered.  The lasting effects of his full-body throttle mean he won’t be returning to the same job classification.  He liked his job, liked the guys he spent his days with.  And it’s garbage that his job’s been sorta taken from him.  It’s garbage that my kids struggled and have had to watch me meltdown, repeatedly and rather unprettily.  Our family’s income will be affected for my husband’s employable future–the no-overtime pay thing is gonna continue forever and that’s garbage too.

But because of the experience, I’ve also been given an opportunity, so not everything is garbage.  One of Tom’s ICU nurses is studying ICU delirium, and has asked for my perspective.  She noticed me writing in a notebook (writing tells me how I feel) while I lived bedside in the ICU, and we’ve kept in touch.  I hope that what happened to my husband would never happen to another single human being, but bad stuff doesn’t quit, and we don’t own all the sadness.  Maybe something we picked up in this ordeal can help another patient in the future, and that is exactly the opposite of garbage.

My Life In Texts, Vol. 2.0

It’s been a while here, friends.  I’m in the midst of an epic writer’s block with a big ol’ order of zero motivation on the side.  Any subject I’d ramble on about these days I’ve done to death already.  I recognize in my conversations with friends and coworkers how I’ve become very one-note.  Accident blah-blah-blah, work blah-blah-blah, muscular dystrophy blah-blah-blah.  Blah.  Maybe it’s just this hideously dreary time of year?  Winter can barely even be bothered to rear its ugly head in any assertive fashion–a dusting of snow here and there, temps in the 30s and 40s.  Even Mother Nature is all meh.

Being one-note is one thing, and being aware of it adds a level of well, shit.   I want to write and write well, but manufacturing the time to accomplish that is no small feat as we settle into the wonder years.  We are in the process of buying a new car, and can’t even get to the dealership because of the kids’ nightly after-school activities.  No lie, one or more family members has something going each and every night for two straight weeks.  You really are left to wonder just where the hell the time goes!  I love, love, love that the boys have music and sports and am fully committed to their rehearsals and practices–it’s what good parents do, right?  But the transportation hither and yon cuts into my connected think time.  And, keepin’ it real?  The acme of my “think time” has long passed.

In the absence of substance, I’ll give ya an updated installment of My Life In Texts, where I at least periodically hit a high note, and when I miss, my friends positively crush it!  You can find the first version of a text-filled post by clicking here.

 

Hoping to avoid human interaction while walking the dog in the early AM and running into my stunning neighbor, Kathie.

When someone does someone else’s work for her and that person trash-talks it, commenting that “Well, you tried.” Yeah, well YOU DIDN’T!!

I think we can all agree that whatever my friend thought was more important couldn’t possibly be.

Totally eavesdrop-worthy.  I should have brought popcorn. I caught the whole tale, and while it left me with no cliffhanger, there was just a bit of a twist at the ending.

When my bro and sis-in-law visited last fall, we enjoyed some killer brunch at Toast, whose mugs are my perfect size.  My brother seems to believe I lead a life of petty restaurant theft.

It really is.

Your drunk poet.  Get your asses to Cincinnati or to your grocers’ freezer for Graeters Ice Cream, you guys.  I am not overstating the magnificence of their chocolate ganache roll-ups.

I’m not the cheeriest gal in the office, but there was that one day when I was the fourth cheeriest instead of fifth.  #squadgoals

Antonio Brown getting cut by the Patriots early last season.  My bro called the signing AND the release.

Don’t text and drive, kids.  And hell yeah, I’ve danced on tables

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When middle schoolers make exceptionally uninformed decisions.

I mean, they have a pool, so. . .

I can’t even state with any degree of confidence that I make a ton of valuable contributions at the opening bell for that matter anymore.

I didn’t say all the texts were fun.  As I read up some of my text threads, I was reminded of how much has changed–from nightmarish Emergency Medicine horror show to rehabilitation darling of Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Stick with brown, Wendy.

But a distant memory. . .

I included this for Sally’s response after I crashed and burned in spectacular fashion, spraining my ankle at Target Field.  Top 5 text messages of all time.

Cheers to our lord and savior, Lin-Manuel Miranda (thank Sally for that one too).  Hamilton.  Hamilton!  It is so damn good.

My coworkers visited me at the hospital while Tom was in neurosurgery.  I’d “slept” at the hospital the night before at his request, so wasn’t at my fresh, daisies and rainbows-scented best.  Not my finest hour.

It was bizarre how I sought balance with the most gruesome details of my husband’s many medical diagnoses and intensive care.

Not super coherent and I talk too much.  Probably I should have that printed on a tee shirt.

Colorblind

Sometimes I almost forget my baby is colorblind.  Being colorblind does not mean that he sees the world in black and white, a common misconception, but his world looks much different than the world looks to most people.

When he was very small, we used to play a game called Cariboo.  Cariboo has since become the hottest of speech pathology commodities, and the two games I’ve got in our basement will someday fund my kids’ college tuition.  Riiiiiiiiight.  Like speech-pathologists have this fancy, lucrative career where money is no object.  Most years, I have to fully fund my stash of materials and supplies, so nobody in the speech therapy game is getting rich enough to pay what I want for my coveted Cariboo games.  Anyway. . .  Cariboo is an early education game targeting preacadmic skills such as letter naming, shape recognition and naming, color identification and the like. My kid always struggled with the green and red cards, so that was our first clue.

I remember observing a game of I Spy he played in speech therapy.  I didn’t get to many of those preschool sessions because I work full time, so was I able to take him to the university clinic just once.  I observed him with his therapist, Ms. Christie, whom he LOVED, and who is now my colleague, as it happens.  Ms. Christie had cards hidden around the room, and E was supposed to employ fluency-enhancing speech behaviors in the construct of “I spy something that is red” or “I spy something that you can throw” for example.  Everything he spied was purple or brown.  Ms. Christie did not have cards with any brown or purple items on them.

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OK, maybe this sweet combo should have been a clue, but he was three and we exploring the idea of letting our kids make their own choices!

We took him for a vision exam when he was in kindergarten, not strictly due to the suspected colorblindness, but we were picking up on soft signs around the house and then a school vision screening strongly suggested we should.  Shortly thereafter, he was fitted with his first pair of glasses, and I cried real tears when he, for the first time, understood that trees had individual leaves and not a green blob on their branches.  Did you know a bunch of grapes is comprised of literally a bunch of grapes?  Of course you did, but he didn’t.  He saw a blob.

Colorblindness isn’t terrifically handicapping, but he does experience periodic frustration, to be sure.  We tell his teachers about it every fall–if a test has a “Measure the green line” or “What is the perimeter of the red trapezoid?” he’s at a distinct disadvantage, so it matters.  Otherwise though, he’s learned what I call the Crayola 8.  He has learned by association that classic red is red and classic purple is purple for example, but shades of anything in between are a wild guess.  “Mom, where’s my grey shirt?” could return something that’s neon, high-vis yellow, aqua, forest green, or if we’re lucky, actually grey.

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This shot of the bench was the only photo I took today. My kid is the giant on the end, and next to him is his best friend. They’ve been best friends since their first day of 4-year-old kindergarten, and his BFF today was finally able to get in the game after a nasty ankle fracture the first football game of the year. This boy, who I love right along with my own, has shown up for every single practice and game since getting hurt. Knowing he can’t play, but showing up for his teammates says to me everything you need to know about his character. Every one of us should be so lucky as to have a friend (and a friend’s mom) like my son has.

At his basketball game this morning, colorblindness was handicapping.

His team’s jerseys are black, and the opponents were wearing a crimson shade, burgundy, maroon, whatever you prefer.  He approached me at halftime, which you JUST DON’T DO, his face completely serious.  “Mom, I’m having a hard time today.  I can’t tell whose jerseys are whose, they all look alike to me.”  It was the most unexpected thing to hear, and it’s not like I forget he can’t see color accurately, but yeah, you kinda forget until it’s in your face.  It hadn’t occurred to me that his coach would need to know, and there you have it, another lesson learned.  He got back in the game, but didn’t get a ton of playing time in the second half.  That’s OK though–he might not have anyway.  The good guys and girls came home with the W in a game delayed thirty minutes by snow.  Can’t play without a ref or official scorekeeper, you know.

Legally, my boy cannot be an electrician like his dad, he can’t be a commercial driver or a pilot, and I guess it’s some bizarre relief to know he’ll never be a called to defuse a bomb.  And though it’s not profoundly life-altering, I was reminded that colorblindness is a little life-altering.

I see those widely shared videos of boys and men, for colorblindness occurs primarily in males, who are gifted with those colorblind codebreaker glasses, and feel like the world’s shittiest parent.  Universally, when these guys see how the world truly appears in its glorious rainbow of color, they shed serious tears, like ugly cry tears.  They’re shocked.  They appear stunned to the point of disbelief.  I wonder if they wear their glasses constantly.  I wonder if they feel cheated when they’re removed.   I wonder if they’ll ever develop contact lenses with this technology.  I wonder how much they cost. . .

Beep Beep

And then one day, that baby they handed you sixteen-some years ago starts driver’s ed.

When families add a driver, parents kid about skyrocketing insurance rates and their utter lack of faith in their teen’s ability to drive responsibly or safely, sure.  Most parents don’t have to consult with their teen’s neurologist about whether their kid needs to identify himself as a person with a disability when it comes to driving.  It’s been quite some time since I’ve written about muscular dystrophy.  My kid’s recent appointment did not suggest decline and his care team felt that he could commence driving without incident.  Yay for 90% of me (100% for him) and holy crap, my kid’s learning to drive for the other 10%.

I once believed that I’d never live another moment that wasn’t consumed by my grief or sadness over my kid’s diagnosis.  Funny how managing another massive health status change (ya know, getting run over by a truck as an example) kicked MD from my front and center.  It’s not that I’ve forgotten my ol’ pal muscular dystrophy–it’s lurking always, lying in wait just around the corner ready to cuff me upside the head.  MD hangs back sidestage, while I wonder now how I’ll ever live another moment not consumed by the accident and its considerable aftermath.

At our most recent speech pathology department meeting, a guest presenter spoke to us about flexibility and resiliency. The professional development section was designed not for me personally as its title might suggest, but rather to help speech-language pathologists more effectively serve neurodiverse students.  If that’s a new word for you, neurodiverse has come to include people with diagnoses similar to what many people consider autism spectrum disorders and/or individuals with significant emotional or behavior disabilities.  The presentation was meant to better my practice, but me being me, I made some of it personal.

The older I get, the less flexible I want to have to be. My job however is one that requires me to at times drop everything and run across town to cover a last minute meeting or evaluate a student and write a meaningful education plan with two days’ lead time. I used to mind that less than I do now.  I do it of course, not only because it’s my job, but also because I’m committed to my career and maintaining what I’d like to believe is a solid reputation. I enjoy predictability more than I’d thought. Hmm.

The dictionary tells me that a resilient person is one who is able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions, see also “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”  I was feeling all, “Damn, if I’ve learned nothing else from 2019 it’s that I’m one badass, resilient woman.” Then I read more carefully, noting those sticky, tricky adverbs quickly and easily.

My employer has finally terminated its blood-letting.  After twenty weeks, I’ve “paid back” the couple thousand dollars they withheld from me when I (fucking naively) applied for FMLA instead of calling in sick the days after Tom’s accident.  Still, I have over 1500 sick hours accrued, an account balance that’ll grow or hold steady until I die retire. Still, not one person, no one from any department from payroll to employee relations, has had the common fucking decency to contact me directly about it.  I bet if I worked at Apple or Dunder Mifflin or McDonald’s, someone would have at least had the decency and integrity to call me with a howdy heads-up.  I thought I’d be done feeling bitter once I received a regular paycheck, but you know what?  Still fucking bitter.  You can tell because I used the f-word three times in this one paragraph.  Bitter, not resilient.

Super scattershot post, but there is a theme.  Well, in my head anyway there is a central thread, and it’s maybe this:  Most of us are fortunate enough that we don’t have to be taught flexibility and resilience in an explicit manner, so what, that makes us lucky?  All of us lucky ones though, some of the time, have that flexibility and resilience tested.

Navigating our world compels us to be flexible.  The world forces us to build resiliency, because the alternative to carrying on in the face of adversity is surrender.  Surrender though feels intoxicating, like a warm, lavender-scented bubble bath from which you never want even your pinky toe to emerge.  But you can’t surrender.  People need you, and even if you don’t feel like being needed, you don’t get to pick, so surrender isn’t an option.  Then your kid starts to drive, which for the average parent is unnerving.  For the parent of a kid with a disability, it’s a bit more than that.

And there you are: grinding forward, a fake-it-til-you-make-it expression fixed on your face. Flexibility and resilience. I got ’em.


The drummer from one of my favorite bands passed away last week.  Neil Peart, Rush’s wizard of percussion and lyrics, succumbed to brain cancer.  Rush was my first favorite Canadian band.  Their music was my constant companion during middle and high school, and more than just occasionally played here still.  My big kid became a fan too, inspired to play bass by their music, spinning my old vinyl records on his school radio station.  I was stunned by the news, and days later, still feel a pang.  I never met the man, but I will miss him. His music has been important to me.  Nothing whatsoever to do with the “theme” of this post, and I use the word “theme” loosely, but writing tells me how I feel, and I miss Neil.