Wife And Mom

I want my own wife and/or mom.

Let me clarify. I am happily married, quite happily, so I am not actually shopping around for a different or additional spouse.  For me, one is not the loneliest number as it relates to the number of individuals to whom a person can be wed; it’s perfect for monogamists.  I already have a mom, but she lives four hours away, and in retirement has much better shit to do than babysit her half-century old daughter.  No.  What I really want is someone to manage my life–the calendar and remembering shit parts–the way I must, as the default setting, the wife and mom, for my family’s goings-on.  EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM!

I threw a complete fit last night when, upon arriving at #2’s football practice, he realized he’d left his practice jersey at home.  Through some miracle, he did manage to find and attach all seven pads in his practice pants.  I say miracle, because it’s happened that he has been temporarily unable to locate all seven, and forced to attend practice sans full equipment.  Football is NOT the game you want your kid to tough it out through.  Anyway, we arrive last night only to realize he’s missing his blue mesh jersey.  Naturally I have to go home to retrieve it.  Now we live minutes from the practice field, but the idea of having to remedy his forgetfulness made me flip my pony-tailed lid.

Slamming the car door (super mature), I immediately ring up my husband to ask if he sees the jersey laying around the kitchen  bitch about the grave injustices done to mothers, THIS mother in particular, but all women, because why not? I was on a tear.  “Why do I always have to be the one to fix everything?” I whined, and dropped an f-bomb for probably every tenth of a mile between practice and home.  When I pull up to our abode, I’m full-on toddler:  “Why am I the only one who knows anything about anything that goes on in this family?  Why can’t anyone else find their way to the calendar?  Or find anything?? Why can’t this child remember his uniform? He practices three days a week!  Jaysus.  Why can’t he pick up his shit and put it away??  Why does no one from the team know what time the game is on Saturday? Why do I have to take #1 to the high school placement test Thursday?  Why do you not even know #1 has his placement test Thursday??  whywhywhywhywhywhy. . .

“Just once!” I continued railing from the curb, “I would love for someone to say, ‘Hey, Wendy, did you remember to grab your lunch?’ or ‘Hey, Mom, don’t forget to pack your exercise gear for physical therapy’ or “Don’t forget to call Donna to get your lunch date on the calendar.’  But THAT will never happen.  Never.  No one would get anywhere and no bill would ever get paid, NOT ONE, if I didn’t take care of all this shit.”

I’m pretty sure the neighbors were all backing up real slow like, like you would, if well, if you were witness to this.  Pretty sure my tirade was entertaining for some.  A total confirmation for others.  And I’d like to think if there was one other mom among the throng (there was no throng), she’d have been all, “YEAH! You get ’em girl, moms unite!!!'” Because moms know exactly what I’m ranting about, don’t you, moms?

I returned to the practice field with a smile on my face and my idiot dog on his leash. “You’re lucky I love ya so much, punk” I whispered into that sweet boy’s face mask, tossing his jersey at him.

I never react properly. I’ve mentioned that time and again here, and if past behavior is any indicator of future performance, I am so screwed. I’m gonna try to limit my verbal tantrums (well, the ones in the front yard anyway). I mean, it’s not gonna help (past behavior being an indicator of future performance and all. . . My roommates ain’t a’ gonna get any better at making appointments, finding stuff. . . ).

I needed the outlet was all. I was, still am, upset over the mass shooting in Las Vegas.  Now there is a litany of legitimate whywhywhywhywhywhywhy none of us can begin to touch.  I was, in my inappropriate way, mourning Tom Petty’s passing.  Not an excuse for my rant, but kindling for the spark, as they say.

There’s enough ugly in the world right now. I want to be on the side of right, the side where if I left this world for Tom Petty’s great wide open tomorrow, that same imaginary throng of people would say that while I lived I was good. That I did good.  I’d want my kid to remember that I went home to get the jersey for him, so that he wouldn’t feel like an underequipped yutz out there.  I’d want my kid to remember that while we drove to his high school entrance exam (no pressure kid, but if you don’t get into your top two choices, we’re probably moving), instead of saying that which I obviously will not say, I let him choose songs and ever-so-calmly reassured him, “Do your best kid.  You’re one of the brightest kids I know, and I’ll never ask anything more than your best effort.”  I’d want my husband to remember that he told me he doesn’t at all believe I need anti-anxiety meds, that I am hilarious and he wouldn’t want to change one single thing about me.

PS–Just for fun, we agreed that my husband would remind me on my way out this morning to bring along my gym bag of clothes for physical therapy.  He said he would.  When I got home after PT, he grinned at me, maybe a little sheepishly, and said, “I didn’t remind you to bring your stuff this morning, did I?”  No, no, you didn’t.

But I made it there anyway.  Of course I did–I’m the mom.

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Apparently I’d Be A Good Funeral Director

Monday begins my twenty-seventh year as a speech-language pathologist.  I’m the rare freak in today’s world of work: I’ve had but one employer.  Early in my career, when I was even more broke than I am now, I provided speech therapy per diem under the employ of a handful of rehab agencies.  But for my “actual” job, my full-time gig, my paychecks have been funded by the same entity.  Twenty-seven years and not even a stinkin’ pin for my 25th anniversary.  A “thank you” would’ve been nice, sure, but whatevs, that’s probably not in the budget either.

Labor statistics startle me, and my observations in my own professional department leave me with the only conclusion to be made: Nobody sticks around anymore.  I wasn’t kidding when I labeled myself a freak.  I am.

Until recently, I’d given no consideration to engaging in any other kind of work.  The litany of skills I don’t possess is long, and my experience is narrow.  Plus, I’ve not felt a calling to shift careers.  I’m an excellent mentor for speech-language pathologists (see here if you don’t believe me), but my profession doesn’t support hired guns as mentors.  That gig is rather in-house supported in the various environs SLPs find themselves providing services.  I enjoy speech-language therapy, I do.  But what if I was actually meant to do and be something different?

I vowed to take a career inventory in 2017, and what better time to do that than the eve of back-to-school?  Today is my last alarm clock-free morning and my shoulder injury allows little sleep anyway, so let’s carpe this diem and discover what I might be better suited to do.  I created a fake persona, because really, what better way to enter the second half of my career years than under false pretense?  Nah, I did that just to avoid the spammy emails.  I was also (so far) unwilling to make any financial investment without proper vetting of these sites, so I’m not all-in trusting what I “learned” about myself in 100 online questions.  What I’ve received thus far isn’t a comprehensive list of jobs, but a collection of broad areas of strength, weakness, and attitudes about work.

Based on my response profile, judged to be valid and reliable, I’m supposed to be a writer.  Apparently I’m also well-suited to be a funeral director or involved in food service or the outdoors.  I am realistic, attentive, and investigative (not social?).  Any one of my co-workers can attest to my being realistic and attentive, and I suspect they want to beat me over the head for my workplace pragmatism and my vision of how we fit in our workplace “real world” (and when I say “fit in” I mean how at “our level” we must defer to every layer of higher administration, which kind of means “Shut up, Wendy.” And why am I so overusing the quotation marks and colons today???).  Investigative?  Not so sure about that one, although as an SLP, one often finds herself unraveling the mysteries of a child’s communicative weaknesses and creating a pathway toward competence.  I choose to believe I’m investigative after all.

I’m not a writer.  Nor am I involved in funerary responsibilities, food preparation, or the Parks Service.  Not yet anyway.

Monday I’ll drag my ass out of bed, carry my left arm and shoulder to the shower, and fire it up for my forty-sixth first day of school.  I am good at what I do, and the students and speech paths I support and mentor deserve nothing less.  I can’t help but wonder though, what if I could be good at or even better doing something different?  Those deep thoughts will likely percolate, then emerge here as I inch closer to my birthday–the round one, that really big one looming. . .  This is not a midlife crisis, you guys, unless I live to be one hundred.

But today?  Today we celebrate the end of my summer!  Once they finally drag their tween and teen butts out of bed, my middle schoolers and I are going to enjoy our day under the unseasonably cool, azure, perfect last day of summer vacation sky.

 

At The Intersection of Ellen & Clark

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The city of Niagara Falls, Ontario has either no clue whatsoever, or had the most serendipitous, visionary civil engineers naming their streets for weary families seeking their own good old fashioned family fun a la Clark and Ellen Griswold from the Vacation film franchise.

The Weir branch of the Griswold family tree’s road trip has reached its final destination: home sweet home. How I do love my family.  But I would consider dyeing my hair back to its natural color to be in a room all by myself for ten connected minutes.

We covered more than two thousand miles in nine days, traversing eight states and one Canadian province, sleeping in six different hotels with two still mostly happy kids, one still-solid marriage in our trusty ol’ Ford Edge.

The adventure was that–a true Griswoldian family adventure, but my retelling of it tastes a little like a flat Pepsi. Maybe I’m loopy from now three weeks of rotator cuff tear pained-induced sleep deprivation. I’m at a point I can’t recall how it feels to live agony-free. Juiced with ibuprofen though, I lived fully on this trip. I stepped out of my comfort zone, I took it all in–I remained patient with the kids always (they are GREAT kids 95% of the time), enjoying their enjoyment. I toasted with and sipped from the glass half-full, walked on the sunny side of the street and carpe-d the hell out of each diem.  Smiling through shoulder pain, sleeping too little, I was the model Ellen to Tom’s Clark.

Louisville, KY

The tour kicked off in a monsoon at the home of the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum.  Somewhere past Chicago and before Indianapolis, one boy expressed deep regret at maybe having left his bedroom fan oscillating when we left, while the other fretted over that possibility the entire time.  For a moment, I did consider turning around.  I did.  I’ve woken with my house on fire.  I didn’t especially enjoy that experience, so you can imagine I’d be in no hurry for a repeat.  No such (bad) luck after all; the fan had been turned off.

I made the boys promise they’d smile or minimally appease my requests for geeky tourist photos, and to my delight, they obliged.  Our story begins here with a four-story baseball bat, not quite smiling for the camera, but whaevs.  At least they looked in my direction.Nothing of note happened in Louisville, but the “city” in which our hotel was reserved felt like a scene straight out of Deliverance.  We stayed near Mammoth Cave National Park, and friends, near is not the same as in.  I begin with travel tip #1:  You get what you pay for, but it’s a hotly contested battle with travel tip #2 for that top position:  Location, location, location.

Mammoth Cave, KY

You should go there.  We scheduled the Historic Tour, two hours and two miles in duration.  The US Park System doesn’t mince words when its agents tell you it’s a strenuous trek that will make you lose your cookies if you suffer acrophobia or claustrophobia.  I experience neither, but will admit to feeling woozy and gelatinous looking down from high above. Number One Son led our family with me filing behind him, and I misted up three times I can remember, maybe a few more.  He worked like a beast of burden maneuvering through that cave system.  Yes, it’s all marked and lighted pathways, but crouching and squishing through Fat Man’s Misery and Tall Man’s Misery are required.  He managed this with muscular dystrophy–victory #1–AND wearing a splint for his still-broken collarbone.  I beamed with pride at his effort, but couldn’t help but wonder if he will ever be able to do something like this again.

Exiting the cave required a steep climb back to the visitor center, and though he was exhausted, he persevered up that hill.  Later, my husband told me he was struck at the contrast between #1 and #2 walking up that hill.  Our younger son is a rock; he was born with my curse–extremely contoured leg muscles–and is in excellent physical condition.  #1 has absolutely no muscle delineation.  It makes me sad when my husband has these moments of clarity re: MD.

Hi, I’m 12.  I posted a load of vacay photos on Facebook, but this is the shot that has gained the most attention.  I’m such an idiot–an idiot with a good sense of humor, sure, but still an idiot!

Cleveland, OH (Or That One Time I Lost My Son’s Passport)

Like music?  En route from Kentucky to Cleveland, my boys arm-farted Believer by Imagine Dragons in time and in tune.  My husband laughed himself to tears, and OK, so did I.  But do you really like music?  Have any interest in its history?  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame kicks ass, and you should go there.  Travel tip #3 reminds you not to let your freak flag fly while watching a movie about Journey and ELO’s Hall of Fame Induction.  ELO, you guys!!  Journey!!  These bands were the backbone of my middle and high school years.  To see the handwritten lyrics to Can’t Get It Out of My Head??  My head spun.

So we sat watching film, and as I do periodically (you may call it OCD, sure), I counted our passports.  One, two, three.  One, two, three.  One, two, three, holy shit!!!!!!  There’s supposed to be four.  Where is four??  I charged out of the little theater, dumped my purse out on the floor and promptly lost my shit.  Heart to beat out of my chest, sweaty, shaking, and wild-eyed to be sure, I bolted from there back to the parking structure and dialed the hotel we’d just left.  No, they didn’t have it.  Oooooohhhkay. . . breathe, Wendy.  I know that I had it yesterday because I count them periodically.  You may have heard I’m travel-OCD, and this little one, two, three, four confirms my status as a responsible parent.  I didn’t even care that I was a sweaty mess from my midday sprint or that the parking lot attendant threw me that “oh dear” glance before completely avoiding eye contact.  I recovered the missing passport, tented between the door and the door frame of the car.  No idea how it fell out or landed in such a fashion, but Canada, here we come!

My favorite part of the Hall wasn’t observing my personal faves though, but snapping a couple photos for my friend Jill who worships Mick Jagger, and finding a wall full of The Replacements memorabilia.  My husband positively glowed.

and also roll

Niagara Falls, ON

There’s something wrong with you if you’re not impressed with the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls, or Bridal Veil falls, especially when they’re illuminated at dark.  They’re gorgeous natural miracles.  Mother Nature has a few cool tricks up her sleeve, so you lay down the cash to hop a boat into the mist.  Touristy?  You betcha!  Cool?  That too!  Then you stroll across an impossibly high bridge back to the US (one, two, three, four passports, check!), hike to the bottom of the American Falls and dive into its hurricane.  Again you position yourself behind your son because it’s 1000 billion percent WET and slippery, and wonder if he will ever again be able to negotiate that catwalk.  You’re moved to tears that he’s made it this far, and no one even knows you’re crying because everyone is a billion percent wet, so it’s all good, yo.

Also, Tim Hortons are on every block.  Ooh!  And also, because this never happens in the US, you catch a dude in an outdoor cafe with an acoustic guitar strumming and singing Barenaked Ladies’ Brian Wilson, so you stop and you tell your kids you love Canada, and they roll their eyes only like 70% of the way back.

Toronto, ON

Toronto, I love you. Love! You!  But there are so many of you, and you each drive your own damn car to and from the city. I didn’t want to leave, and Jaysus, you wouldn’t let me–three hours to get through traffic making our way to oh-so-happenin’ Sudbury.  But while we were in your heart, my own heart quickened. City Hall, other-worldly delicious braised beef poutine at Fran’s, La Tour CN, Ripley’s Aquarium, the railway museum, random needles in the alley (what? I’m sure they were diabetics. . .), the Toronto Zoo, of course a Blue Jays game, and an impromptu coffee date with Katie, Torontonian and one of my #Ladiesladies! I regretted dragging her out of bed early, but that regret lasted only for a moment. I was so happy to see her.

Sudbury, ON

Sudbury was but a way station between Toronto and Mackinac Island, and our hotel was, um, dated?  Only intermittently and randomly updated?  But let us harken back to travel tip #1, something about getting what you pay for. . .

We did bypass a town called Moonstone toward Sudbury, and if you’re not a Barenaked Ladies fan, you wouldn’t care. That’s OK.  I care, and enjoyed a satisfied little smile as I drove. I had no idea this town was just off Highway 400, so seeing Moonstone on the exit sign, and knowing what the song carrying its title is about gave me a moment of quiet maternal contentment.

St. Ignace/Mackinac Island, MI

Through the miracle of international cellular data plans, I learned that my friend Bek had planned to bring her girls to Mackinaw City for the weekend.  I did some quick math, and determined we’d be there at the same time!  What a sweet surprise to enjoy a brief visit with my dear friend, another of the #Ladiesladies.

img_5063-1My husband was so pleased to meet her and her daughters, and I was goofy that some of my very favorite of all earth’s citizenry all got to meet, however brief our time was.

Our last two nights were spent overlooking Lake Huron.  We enjoyed fireworks of the explosive type along with the celestial type in the form of the Perseid Meteor shower.  It was a great place to sew up the adventure.  We ferried from the mainland to the island, and chose to sight-see by horse-drawn carriage. Tom and I went back and forth only briefly over the rent bikes vs. carriage route,  Medical evidence suggested the carriage was definitely the safer way around.  With #1’s arm in a sling, even renting a tandem could have spelled disaster at worst, and discomfort at best.  My shoulder was screaming too, so we ponied up (ba-dum-bum) for the carriage ride.  Fritz and Jeffrey were kind enough not to poop in the street during our carriage.  Fritz and Jeffrey are horses, you guys!  I’m sure.  Actually, upon hearing their names, I felt a little less stupid about my canine called Caleb!  The sun shone crystal clear all day, and we enjoyed the tour.

 

But it was time.

 

Nothing went wrong.

Nothing was terrible–I mean I found the passport and everything.  Nothing was less than smooth. But in terms of a great travel story?  Also, nothing.  We met good people, kindness was shown to us at every turn, and I’d happily revisit any one of the spots along the route.  My children were amazing.  Minus the 84.7 million fart references and short a few please-and-thank-yous, they were in total control.  In spite of marked trepidation leading up to this, and one minor panic in Toronto (I really had no recollection of having been there before. No, I mean I know I was there, but I had no idea about directions and navigation.  I felt like I was supposed to be the tour guide there, when all I knew was that I saw a concert at Massey Hall in 2015.  FYI, the lake is at the south end of the city.  Where I’m from, the great lake is eastward.  Very confusing at first.)  I so feared letting down my Clark, but I think we’re marking this one in the ‘W’ column.

Travel tip #4?  2000+ is a whole lot of frickin’ car miles, yo.

But you learn stuff.  Like you find out your younger son’s favorite kind of days are cloudy, and like you, believes that if the day begins cloudy or rainy, it had better stay that way.  You learn that you’re the more patient of the two parents when it comes to stupid boy stuff, but you love your husband all the more for jumping in, wrestling and instigating as much or more than his sons.  You learn that your son, over whom you fear daily that his loss of physical capacity will make a road trip insurmountable some day, carries more strength and endurance than you dreamed.  Every time you ask how he’s doing, even after some 20,000 steps, he replies, “I’m good” and your heart both bursts and dies a little.


Travel tip #5:  You can’t wait to get home, but you never want it to end.

 

Sunset.  Literally and figuratively.

I Couldn’t Stand Being Left Out

I mentioned last week that I didn’t believe I had substantively much to offer here these days.  I’m saving my blogself for “The Road Trip” which is to commence in T-minus three days.  After rerouting no fewer than fifty-three times, at last our hotels are booked, activities planned and purchased where that could be done prior to arrival, and Caleb the Wonderdog has visited his day care provider, AKA my husband’s brother and his family, to acclimate.  *pleasedon’twreckalltheirshitpleasedon’twreckalltheirshitpleasedon’twreckalltheirshit* 

I’m 82.4% certain that this adventure is going to be pretty cool, and only 17.6% (but often it feels exactly like 100%) that my failure will go down in the annals of family history as epic.

I’ve dubbed 2017’s summer The Summer of Appointments.  I cannot recall two consecutive days where I haven’t trotted one or both children to a symphony of piano lessons, a dentist, orthodontist, orthopedic surgeon, pediatrician, emergency room, physical therapist, imaging department, or sports medicine specialist appointment.  And that doesn’t even include baseball practice or games, and my children do NOT maintain freakishly overscheduled lives.  Despite having been fitted for an orthodontic retainer of my very own at MY AGE, I must have been feeling neglected, left out.  I wanted my very own orthopedic injury.  Kid #1 has a broken collarbone and Kid #2 has that separation in his bone growth plate, but what about me??  I want to be like the cool kids.  Daddy, I want an Oompa Loompa, I want an Oompa Loompa right now!

Somehow I’ve destroyed my rotator cuff.

And yeah, I say “somehow” because I have not the slightest inkling how the injury occurred, aside from just being old(er).  Naturally I blame the dog for having pulled fiercely when I walked him, because he’s a total jerk on his purple leash, and only walks decently, OK, really, like a canine prince on his Weiss Walkie leash.  His misbehavior is the most likely culprit, legit.  In the runner-up spot for destroying my shoulder is yoga, but I do not believe that my centering has taken me this far off-center.  I don’t.  I don’t know how I wake up one day having lost the capacity to move, but who am I to argue with nature?  It hurts.  Like makes-me-cry hurts when I engage in certain angles of movement.  Getting old and overuse is Bachelor #3 for etiology, but I just don’t wanna go there. Crap. 

A short list of things rendered excruciating by a wrecked rotator cuff:

  1. Sleeping.  Holy shit you guys, what I wouldn’t do to sleep on my side or belly.  Or not wake up yelping in pain.
  2. Walking the Wonderdog, although with the Weiss Walkie leash, it’s mostly OK.  I feel like the Weiss people should flip me a couple bucks for my endorsement here.  Right?
  3. Putting on or removing a bra.  I have preparatory tears as I consider retiring to bed tonight.
  4. Sitting erect.
  5. Typing on my laptop.  I hate this computer, but until this week it hasn’t inflicted physical pain, just emotional.
  6. Hold the phone.  This is not figurative language.  It hurts to hold my cell phone in my hand at the position and angle needed to you know, see it.
  7. Washing my hair (and washing the floor, but let’s not fool around here–I’m no more likely to wash the floor now than I was before).  Most hygiene tasks are complicated–shaving my underarms or applying deodorant leap to mind–and if you think that’s too much information, clearly you are new here.  Welcome. How are ya?
  8. Cutting food with a knife and stirring.  Also, cutting pizza hurts like hell.
  9. Eating.  But I like to eat, so I suck it up.
  10. Pretty much extending my arm more than about 40 degrees in any direction, crossing midline, raising my arm, and moving my neck to the left.  Super for driving. And being.

I’m a quirky kind of ambidextrous.  I consider myself a lefty because I write and eat with my left hand; I also bat and play tennis left-handed.  But I throw with my right hand, cut food with my right when I eat (but when I prepare food, the chef’s knife is in my left), and I use a right-handed scissors.  What I do with one hand I absolutely cannot do with the other though. Drat my quirky.  It’s my left shoulder that’s jacked up, so my body is so confused.  And so, so tired.  I’d donate my spleen to sleep longer than three connected hours. Do you even need a spleen?  Like a lot?

Boo-hoo, Wendy, put on a brave face, load up with ibuprofen, and keep moving.  I am.  Like my firstborn, I am badass with pain.  At my husband’s insistence however, I made an appointment with my general practitioner yesterday.  I say my husband made me, but when I am willing to go see a medical professional for myself, you know I’m one step from the grave.  I don’t go to the doctor unless it’s categorically necessary.  Quirky one, right here.  But I went, was sent for x-rays, and referred to an orthopedic/sports med doc of my very own.  My appointment with the orthopedist?  September 14.  I’ll be paralyzed or have descended into madness from lack of sleep by then, so I’m gonna have to trust WebMD for all my physical therapy needs.  (Also, I’m gonna totally possibly hijack my son’s PT appointment this morning and inundate my ballplayer’s therapist with “hypotheticals” about rotator cuff injuries which are totally in line with pitcher’s rehabs, so my questions won’t sound completely out of left field. It’ll be our little secret though, OK?)

After a star-studded June and July, the Explanation of Benefits statements from our health insurance carrier have begun to roll in, and give it up for Wendy! I only snot-cried like once.  I don’t get paid again until mid-September, such is the life of a public educator, so I’m not all summer eager-beavery about all the checks I am going to have to write.  The Summer of Appointments price tag will run upwards of $4,000 out of pocket.  Maybe that’s not a king’s ransom for you, in which case, you’re quite fortunate.  It’s not going to bankrupt us, but I can’t say it doesn’t sting.  Oh, and I have “good” insurance.

As I checked into my imaging appointment yesterday, the receptionist informed me that they required a $50 co-pay prior to my admittance, and the facade cracked.  The guy next to me was yelling at the woman checking him in about not broadcasting his address (you know how they ask you questions just specific enough to confirm you’re who you purport to be? “And Mrs. Weir, you still live on South Sesame Street?” or “Your phone number ends in 7777?”), and I needed a moment.  Just a quick moment to collect myself.  My eyes prickled from pain, but also from that feeling of “Stop it, weird over-reacty guy! I just want to get out of here, stop yelling at her!” I stared intently into my purse, searching for please-don’t-cry-right-this-second.  Found it!

I’m down, but not out. Never out. I’m the mom, ain’t no time for pain. I got some great mail this week, and mail you can touch and hold from a friend who always seems to know just what you need never fails to buoy my spirits. And my shoulder. 

In my mind, my two sons and I are lined up á la those see/hear/speak no evil monkeys, except we’re bandaged, casted, and splinted. I’m the short, hunched over one in the center.  A modern day visage of Larry, Moe, and Curly, us three. 

Ghost In The Graveyard

I slept poorly last night.  Three times I nodded off while reading my book, set my glasses and novel on the night stand, then promptly popped right back into full consciousness.  That hazy space between barely awake and bizarre dreams was highjacked by mom guilt, until mental exhaustion finally won out around 1:45 or so.  If cerebral activity could be measured in distance, I probably mentally marathoned last night.  Maybe ultramarathoned.

The kids went camping, cabin-ing to be precise, with my super cool friend whose bravery is a blog post all her own.  She drove her son, my two and two other boys to a riverside cabin in south central Wisconsin.  Being the “I love not camping” girl I am, I not-at-all subtly avoided volunteering to go with them. My husband got stuck covering second shift, and I was looking forward to some Saturday evening alone time–a little Meijer shopping junket, Orange Is The New Black (My heart is still not 100% into the fifth season though I really want still to loooooove it), and a dinner of popcorn, ice cream, and Blue Hawaiians.  My friend Jane texted me as I browsed health and beauty, did I want to hang out?  I replied with my dinner menu, confirming that I was entirely serious about “dinner.”  Unfazed by my blatant disregard for nutrition, she drove over anyway.

Chatting outside on our patio late Saturday, solving the world’s problems in the cool, evening breeze, Jane heard our landline ringing.  “Is that your landline?” she asked incredulously, like, “it’s cute you still have a landline” and I was like, “Oh, it’s 10:00 and our phone is ringing?  That can’t be good.”

It wasn’t.

I then grabbed my cell phone, which was set to Do Not Disturb mode, and noticed a call from the same number.  I didn’t want to be one of those, “Did you call this number?” people, because wrong numbers happen, you guys, but with a call to both my cell and home phone, I thought I’d better do some investigative work.  I called the number back.  My son answered, frantic.

They had been playing Ghost In the Graveyard, he whimpered.  “What I didn’t see was the tree stump” over which he tripped and was propelled into a tree.  It hurt really bad, and he had to stay inside while the other kids were sitting around the campfire making s’mores.  In perhaps my single worst parenting decision ever, and folks, there are several on my highlight reel, I asked if he was more hurt or disappointed.  I honestly believed he was more sad not to be in there with the rest of the guys, that he felt excluded, and that disappointment was more painful than the pain.

My son’s pain tolerance approaches the preternatural.  Muscular dystrophy means he falls a lot, crashes into things–walls, furniture, all of the things–more than your average klutz does, and he never complains.  I’ve seen him crash hard, get up and dust himself off, and keep plugging.  Thinking about how bad those incidents have to hurt makes me feel like I have to vomit sometimes.  It’s that kind of pain I see him endure with regularity.

I cried along with him on the phone, angry at muscular dystrophy for making him less agile and nimble, for taking away his ability to maneuver at speed of life.  I agreed, it sucks, kid.  It’s unfair.  No argument.   I talked him through some deep breathing via telephone, believed that hearing his mom’s voice and a few ibuprofen were calming enough to get him over the hump.  I did ask if he wanted me to come pick him up, which he considered then declined when the rest of the kids came back inside from the campfire.  Watching Ghostbusters, the original one, and receiving a s’more another kid made for him, was medicinal enough.

My friend got on the phone, confirmed that he could move his arm, and agreed with me that some of his pain could have stemmed from not being in there with the rest of the guys.  NOT that he didn’t smack the living hell out of his shoulder, ’cause oh, did he ever!  But did I need to come retrieve him?  Probably not.  I agreed.

How many ways could I have been wrong? Let’s start here.

My husband and I go pick him up last evening around 7 PM.  He’s clearly favoring his left arm, proceeding gingerly, but slings his backpack over his right shoulder, grabs his pillow, and lurches over to our car.  He has that boy with bruises/chicks dig scars false bravado, admitting though that his shoulder does hurt.  At home, I help him remove his shirt to get a look at the abrasions and bruises.  We–my husband, son and me–decide to call his pediatrician first thing in the morning.  The bruises are gonna be spectacular!  But then we notice a slant, real asymmetry in his shoulders, and I see his scapulae are not even.  Not at all.  “Did you brush your teeth today?” I inquired.  “No?  Let’s go do that.” Less than an hour after his return home, we cruise over to the emergency room.  They can take my $100 co-pay and tell me he’s fine, but I think he’s maybe less fine than I initially hoped, and I thought he should have fresh breath for the occasion.

I cannot say enough about the emergency medicine department at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.  We were the fourth family in line when we arrived to sign in last night.  In classic I’m such a jerk form, I texted my husband, “F-word.  There’s like 4 families ahead of us just to check in.  We won’t be out of here til tomorrow.”  The ER is where many uninsured families wind up for routine or urgent care needs.  A sign posted at the ER’s entry states that every child and family has the right to emergency care, regardless of ability to pay, insurance or Medicaid status, so the kids in front of us with maybe ear infections and coughs would be sure to get the care they needed.  Underserved and underinsured children populate probably 80% of the school district in which I work, so I understand how so many sick kids wind up in the ER rather than at a pediatrician’s office.  I don’t want to make any assumptions, but you can’t help but overhear the answers to the intake staff’s inquiries:  stomachache, cough, “not herself” were mentioned.  Urgent care issues to be sure.  But this is not a treatise on the status of  health care inequities in the US.  Many more learned people are writing about that very thing all over the internet these days.  Read those; they’re better.

I believe we’re in for the long haul–we brought books, phone chargers, and Tom even packed us snacks and sandwiches for our ER picnic.  But then I become reacquainted with the term triage.  Though I was unawares, the medical staff knew when we walked in what his diagnosis was; in hindsight, I recognize how they hurried us through.  From start to finish, we were in the ER for 75 minutes.  From “Date of birth, any allergies?” to “Your pictures are in.  Your clavicle is broken in two places” to “Call your pediatrician first thing in the morning” took only over an hour.

Broken bones put you ahead of ear infections in the triage conga line.  It’s really the only time you hope, but you don’t really hope for something more serious.  My son’s collarbone is broken in two places.  When the x-ray came in, I pulled a total Wendy:  “Holy crap, kid!!!”  And I got the giggles telling him he did a real number on his shoulder, all right, as we viewed his insides.  The breaks were unmistakable.  Unmistakable.  Like tectonic plates shifting up creating mountains unmistakable.  He laughed looking at the image too, but pretty quickly acknowledged, “I don’t know why I’m laughing.”  I believe we call it “nervous laughter” kid.  Funny/not funny/need a release/yeah, that’s it.

Though I didn’t relish the thought, I had to tell my friend that his collarbone was broken, and I knew she’d feel terrible.  She does.  It’s not her fault, not her anything, and she has always had a very squishy spot for my kid, for them both, which I love.  There ain’t no way I’d have taken four boys camping, and I am so happy she included mine.  Because kids love camping.  Me?  I love not camping.

The stripes are supposed to horizontal, not diagonal

 He made it thirteen-and-a-half years before visiting the ER, so hey kid, thanks for an amazing run!  It will be some time before I allow myself not to feel guilty for not hopping in the car Saturday night.  I apologized to him over and again as we walked back to the car from the ER–I should have intuited.  Aren’t moms supposed to sense this stuff?  How did I NOT know?  I would have driven to the ends of the earth to come and get you if I’d known it was a broken bone.  It will be some time before I figure out just how this immobilizer thing pieces together.  They don’t cast clavicles–so your ER visit is brief by comparison, but I have to assemble this contraption for him.  I’m terrified.  I can’t even wrap a gift decently, and I have to wrap up my kid’s arm and shoulder to protect him.  Aaaand I’m pukey again.

This kid?  He’s so tough.  He is tougher than you, I bet.  This pain should have just about knocked him out–it would have taken me down.  He told several ER staff what happened–they do that, several people ask several times to check for consistency of stories–and the crash went down exactly as I had imagined it did when we spoke on the phone Saturday night.  But I had no idea, NO IDEA, how much badass that kid had inside him.  He’s a rock star.

He’ll need some help, but it’s already been inspiring to watch him triumph over this immobilizer.  He works so hard when he is made to, and I never caught this perseverance in him until the MD diagnosis.  Today it’s all I see: strength over adversity.  I’ll probably have to help him shower, which he’s not super looking forward to, but we did share a little Barenaked Ladies moment over it:  “You think you’re so smart, but I’ve seen you naked, and I’ll probably see you naked it again.”  He laughed, maybe a little nervously, but genuinely too, which hurt him and stung me too.  The line is a lyric from the song Blame It On Me, and friends, I own that blame.

Broken hearts (mine) and broken bones (his)

Three Little Words

Not those three little words.  I present the three words no baseball mom ever wants to hear: Season. Ending. Injury.

OK, six: Little League Shoulder.

Little League Shoulder is a thing.  In the medical community, it’s scientifically known as proximal humeral epiphyseolysis. Little League Shoulder is caused by repetitive force across the growth plate ball end of the upper arm bone causing it to become irritated and sometimes widen, as you can see below.

 

Not long after opening day, during which he pitched his usual, consistent game, my son casually mentioned that he “threw out his arm” in gym class.  I actually chastised him a bit, scolding that he had no business gunning wiffle balls at such velocity in gym class.  I’m certain of a few things: 1) At 5′ 7″ he is by far the tallest, strongest kid in fifth grade, 2) He’s one of only two kids in his class who play organized ball and have any experience throwing an actual fastball, and 3) It’s something of a dick move to use an arm like his against classmates in a dodgeball-style playground game.  I’m not entirely sure I enlisted the phrase “dick move,” though I can’t exactly rule that out.

Shortly thereafter, he drifts into something of a batting slump.  He lacks the concealed-by-a-smiling-face-fire he’s usually possessed of at the plate, and strikes out a bunch.  A bunch.  A “good” outing maybe was a dink grounder that squeezed through or pop up.  His coach doesn’t have him pitch at that weekend’s tournament, and I’m relieved.  That Sunday, he lifted himself out of the slump by hitting one over the fence.  This is not the rarity it was at age 10, and though he’s eleven, he plays with 12-year-olds, many of whom look like they possibly drove to the games themselves after they shaved that morning.  Still, at age ten, eleven, twelve, a homer clears the dugout and lifts everyone’s, less the opposing pitcher’s, spirits.  It’s special.

He’s called to pitch again.  To say it was hard to watch is generous.  He was awful.  And I mean that with love.  He was awful.  My right-down-the-middle kid was skipping ’em a yard before the plate; he was sending air mail to Saskatchewan; he was walking in as many as hit him or as he hit with a pitch.  He looked befuddled by the lapse and felt like he was letting down his teammates.  He met the same fate the next time he was called to pitch, so thankfully his coach pulled him right quick that evening.  Last year, my kid was his coach’s go-to guy.  He was consistent, reliable, and for ten, quite unflappable.  Now?  He’s crumbling up there, looking to be on verge of tears at every throw.

He’s a giant, so he’s often the first baseman.  It’s a good fit for tall kids who mostly can catch the ball.  But they needed someone on third–a position he used to LOVE–so his coach sends him to play third.  He couldn’t make the throw to first.  Like not even close.  And we’re yelling at him to hustle, to get his head out of his butt, act like he’s got even a vague recollection of having played the game before.

And FINALLY, now like six weeks after the gym class incident, he admits what we surely know: I can’t throw.

So I take him to his pediatrician who has him go through a throwing motion, and she hears and sees the pop.  Not good, she observes.  She hypothesizes it’s a ligament problem, and refers us to sports medicine.  Sure, he can still play.  Give him ibuprofen before his games, slap some ice on afterward, and we’ll see what sports med turns up.  In the two weeks between those two appointments, he plays eleven games.  Plays conservatively, solidly at first base and has probably a .666 batting average during this run.  Maybe even .750.   My baby was en fuego.  He was.  And yeah, I’ll brag on him here because his bat was out of control.  You can’t help but smile when other teams’ coaches yell “back up!” to their outfielders.

Last Sunday he reveals that even tossing the ball around the horn between innings hurts, and his arm feels sore all the time.  *sigh*

I could sense that the sports medicine staff knew exactly what was wrong before he removed his shirt for the start of his functional assessment.  The x-rays confirmed “Little League Shoulder” and the doctor told my kid, “I really hate to be the bad guy here, but this is a season ending injury.   You cannot throw with an overhand motion until I clear you, and we’re looking at about 2-3 months before you’re back at full velocity.”  There were more words than that–the doc was an amiable and pretty cool guy, but that message was both the alpha and the omega.  My kid’s a junior power hitter, but even if you have but a passing acquaintance with baseball, you know that throwing is a rather key element in the game.  So no defense.

They described how physical therapy would play out, which made sense, and that REST and a follow-up x-ray was imperative before he could even begin PT. The doc asked if my son had any questions.  He stewed for a minute, but came back empty.  “You can’t throw” I said.  “You can’t play first even.  You can’t play defense.  Do you understand?”  He nodded that he did, and what did I do?  Yep.  Cried.  But only a little because I’m a badass baseball mom.

They remarked that his scapulae “winged out” a little, and I almost pooped my pants on the spot.  Naturally (well, naturally for crazy me) I jumped straight to FSHD, Facial-Scapular-Humeral Muscular Dystrophy.  Because during the past half hour I received not great news containing the words scapula and humerus.  And you guys?  I can’t even.  So I won’t.  Not today.

I spoke with his coach yesterday morning.  “Do you want the good news or the bad news first?” was my opener.  “Can he still hit?” was his reply, and I swear that kid (he’s 24 I think, and I don’t really think of him as a kid though I could totally be his mom) could not have chosen better words for me in that moment.  It made me laugh and warmed my heart to hear that his coach hoped his highest batting average hitter could keep hitting.  He has a soft spot for my kid, and though I know he’s not supposed to, I love that he does.  Pretty sure he had some notion about the shoulder thing anyway, having pitched through college himself before destroying his own shoulder.  Yeah, he can still hit.  You may have to tape his arm to his side in the dugout, but he’ll be there to finish out the season.

He’s part of a team, and you don’t quit on your team.

Maybe that is the moral of the story here–that you don’t quit on your team, you contribute in the ways you can.  Or maybe it’s that you REALLY have to tune in to your children, because they will NOT admit to the severity of a weakness if they think they might let you down.  Every time until the very end, when we or his coaches asked, my kid said he was fine.  “No, I’m OK” was his refrain until he really wasn’t–and really?  He wasn’t from the first moment he injured his arm. Eleven-year-olds don’t understand that childhood injuries can mean chronic pain as adults–how could they possibly?  Eleven-year-olds want to have fun, they want to hit the ball and cross home plate.

Please, whatever you do to send good will to the world?  Send up a little wish, prayer, intention, ray of light that the moral of the story isn’t that we were given an early sign of another form of neuromuscular disease.  I want to keep our record at .500 here.

 

 

 

Safe & Sound

My Number One Son is attending College for Kids this week, enrolled in an annual Young Writers’ Academy, which he loves.  On our commute yesterday morning, he asked after what I’d been writing lately, and I admitted to being in what you might call a slump.  “Why don’t you write about me going to camp?” was his helpful, if a bit egocentric, suggestion.  Turned out to be an effective prompt, so here we go.

The best week of the year.

The Muscular Dystrophy Association refers to camp as that, the best week of the year, and they deliver.  They over-deliver, in fact.  At registration, I was told the letter I wrote to the counselors was perfect, which may be (is definitely) shaded in overstatement, but I appreciated the compliment.  I received the most beautiful email from a couple whose son was taken from them in 2012 due to complications of Duchenne MD.  Through the miracle of Facebook, they were connected to this post, and took the time to contact me.  Early in my blogging career (go on with your bad self, girl), I thought it would be a miracle if I could connect with or help or support even one person, and these terrific parents told me I could check that off my list.  Yeah, tears were shed.

Thanks Wendy for your letters to the counselors. I cried reading it to my wife. This brought back many memories when we took our son Todd to MDA summer camp. . . Your words captured what we thought about the camp counselors, we always said thanks, but never really knew how to say more than just that. Your insight was very thoughtful. These young adults give up a week out of their summer to be big buddies to our kids. I always wondered if they truly ever knew what impact they had on so many kids and their families.

Oh my, oh my, oh my,  you are welcome.

I delivered the big kid to camp alone this year, as my husband stayed in the Wisconsin Dells with our younger son for day two of his baseball tournament.  I think going solo made drop-off easier for me this year.  I was responsible for getting all of the things he needed packed and ready and in the car, I had to get up at the crack of dawn and get all Google Mapped out to ensure an on time arrival, and I welcomed the busy-ness.  There’s much less time to wallow in contemplation when one is occupied with purpose.

Just having been there at Camp Wonderland before made the process less scary, more familiar this year too.  There was a moment of confusion, but just a blip at that, as the camp director called down for my kid’s counselor.  “Don’t leave this room until you talk to me again, OK?” Sarah asked, and who was I to wander?  I’m very good at following directions.  Minutes later–nothing but a typo causing the blip–my son was introduced to his counselor who happened to be wearing a YouTube tee shirt.  Bonding start to finish before we even got back to the car to unload!  Back up to Willow Cabin we drove for 2017’s best week of the year, where we unloaded in under 45 seconds thanks to a local chapter of a HOG (Harley Owner’s Group), ready to shuffle the kids’ belongings into the kids’ cabins.


As a mom, you kinda want this to drag out a little.  You kinda want time to linger, to check out the cabin, make face-name connections, learn who your kid will be tossing and turning with over the next five nights.  Instead, you keep your sunglasses on, aver in a surprisingly stable tone of voice well, it’s time, and demand that he bring it in for a hug.  In something of another surprise, your kid obliges with the hug and seems to mean it!   You turn, straighten your shoulders, exhale a too-long sigh, and resume a right-left-right-left cadence.  You only cry a little bit, and you turn around just once to catch that one last glimpse out of the corner of your eye, but you’re already too late.

But you’re OK.

And so is he.

He is better than OK, and you’re grateful in every conceivable way.  You’re also grateful in one especially weird way–you miss him less than you believe you should because you know, you KNOW!, he is where is meant to be.  He is home.  He’s home with the only other group of people who knows what and how he feels.  You miss him less than you should because part of you doesn’t want him to have to come to your home, his real-world home; you want that camp never to end for him.

The closing photo montage this year featured an acoustic version of the song Safe and Sound by Capital Cities.  How these people don’t cry their way through this presentation is nothing short of miraculous to me–I misted up immediately at that underlying message: camp is where our kids are safe and sound; that theme was not lost on me.  They are.  In closing, Sarah thanked families for trusting her, the counselors, and the medical staff.  That she could only imagine how terrifying that could be–to leave your child and trust that he or she will be OK.  Not me.  Never terrified.

Photo swiped from the MDA Southern Wisconsin Facebook page

Thank you for sending my kid to camp, my friends.  Thank you for hanging in with me every step of the way.  I lack the depth and breadth of vocabulary to express just how much you mean to me.  You will just have to trust me.

What Are You Good At?

Obviously I’m quite talented with the grammar, ending a sentence with a preposition in the title here and all.  *and a stunned hush falls over the crowd*  Despite this particular gaffe, somebody thought enough of me to purchase this card with a beautiful message of thanks inscribed within, and a fab swag bag to thank me for being her mentor this year.

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The fidget spinner was not part of the swag (because we are grown-ups), but some energizing bath & body products were. Also, my children never ever put anything away, so my house is a disaster.

I was having a conversation with my friends, the Ladies ladies, not long ago. Periodically we throw out a random question of the week just to see how the others respond. We are all friends, but we don’t get to spend much time together in the real world, so sometimes these questions illuminate and help us get to know one another better. I was bragging on my killer vodka pasta, which I’d made a few days earlier. I wrote that since I’m not really good at anything (crabbing again about my Grand Canyon-scale negative space vacuum of artistic skills) I was happy to have some creative outlet in the kitchen.

Now because they are my friends, the girls responded by telling me I was a talented writer, a good mom, and a good friend.  See, they are my friends. Of course they’re going to say that. And how I love them for their mendacity.  But the reality is my weak visual motor integration frustrates me, and this is not news to anyone who has read this blog before.  I asked the girls: So, what are you good at?

I thought for a while myself, and came up with a short list of things I considered myself good at.  I’m a good friend. I really am. I’m a good program support teacher. Thank goodness, ’cause they pay me for it and I’ve got 183 people who directly or indirectly rely on me to be good in my role. I’m a decent cook–tasty food, but not beautiful plates because, hello?? And I’m a good mentor.

Fortunately, my mentees agree. So it must be true!  For fourteen of the last 16 years, I have had the good fortune to have mentored brand-new speech-language pathologists.  They’ve taught me so much, more than I could ever hope to return to them.  As a group and individually, they’re exceptionally driven, high-achieving young women. Like they have never gotten a ‘B’ in grad school types of high-achieving young women. They’re bright, buoyant though generally seem to believe themselves as underperforming in their roles as school speech-language pathologists.  They are not underperforming.

The miracle is that they do facilitate progress with the district’s (city’s, state’s) most academically and communicatively challenged students. They improve the lives of kids in most desperate need. They do it with woefully inadequate resources and with too often inhospitable working conditions.  These young women work their butts off while feeling they’re not doing a good enough job, deflecting compliments and assigning credit to everyone around them but themselves. 

I do kick ass at work. I fail way more often than I succeed in getting what I believe our SLPs deserve and need though.  If I kick ass, it’s because I’m surrounded by equally (no, more) kick ass SLPs.  I don’t do status quo well, and I’m certain that my boss wants to throat punch me at least thrice weekly. But my boss is a lovely human who understands that my wanting the best for our SLPs and students underlies that tenacity.  Yes, tenacity. Because “pain in the ass” sounds just slightly less professional. 

So thank you, Lenaya, for the gift. The stuff, yes, (the happy notes are SO me!) but the gift of time with you this year. It was I who received the gift this year. Watching you grow in skill and confidence, and measuring the progress you made happen in those small people was my distinct pleasure.  Thank you for reminding me that I still have a few tricks up my sleeve. Thanks for telling me you considered me a rock star.  YOU kick ass. 

Best. Card. Ever.  

What are you good at?

Home Invasion

You probably think I live in a war zone.  Between the murder of my friend’s father last October and what I’m about to tell you, you might think, “Wow, she is really tough.”  Alternately, you might think, “Wow, she is really stupid.”  You get to pick.  Editor’s note:  she is both.

Two Thursdays back, I sat at my computer reading up on the latest neighborhood shenanigans on the Next Door app.  This headline stopped me in my tracks:

It’s about ten blocks from where we live, so yeah,  “Armed Robbery In My House” grabs you by the front of your shirt with both hands and slams you into the wall.  It’s the kind of header meant to grab your attention, and it did just that.  I read the victim’s story, and felt for myself, my neighborhood, not scared but sad.  He further described in vivid detail the attack, his injuries, and resolution; at that time, any resolution was in its infancy.  I got to thinking, “Wow, that was really close to Matt’s house,” before I connected the dots:  It WAS Matt’s house.  It was Matt.  We are not brother-and-sister close, but he’s the kind of guy everyone knows and likes.  His record album collection makes me googly-eyed, and he knows a little bit of something about everything. He’s one of the good guys.

I sent him a Facebook message telling him how sorry I was, and asked if I could bring him something (soft) to eat or maybe help clean up his house.  I’ll never win awards for housekeeping, but when your friend’s house is covered with his own blood, you figure you could probably step up to the plate for him.  He responded by asking me to bring him lunch, and I was happy to be able to do something.

Wendy’s Meals on Wheels pulled up, and I was expecting an eggplant-colored face to greet me.  He looked better than I was expecting to be perfectly honest, but you are never prepared to see a stitched-up perfect circle embedded into your friend’s cheekbone.  That circle?  Just happened to be the size of the shotgun barrel used to shove him to the ground.  It’s not my story to tell, so I won’t go into greater depth, but a few weeks later it’s still very much weighing on me.  It is not my story to tell, but it is my concern.  It’s my sadness at this violent, brazen attack on my friend in our neighborhood.  What the hell, world?  When did things get so far off-track?  Why?

Responses to his posting ranged from expressions of friendship, admiration of his bravery, concern, and sympathy to “you need to get a big dog” to “I teach a concealed carry class, won’t you join us?”  A person shouldn’t need to have a big dog to protect himself!  A person shouldn’t have to feel she or he needs a concealed handgun to hang out in her living room!  None of us should have to fear the nighttime, hell, we shouldn’t have to fear the daytime for that matter.

Writing the previous sentence, I understand that I sound a little white middle class-ish, blind-eye-ish.  I skim the daily paper’s headlines, but don’t watch the news anymore (because I like to be mostly sane), so I’m not unaware of the plight of citizens residing in warn-ravaged nations.  I have a roof over my head; I have electricity and running water, clothing and enough food, so I’m luckier than millions of others across the globe.  But every single day, every single day, I drive through and work in the toughest, most impoverished and violent neighborhoods in my city.  I don’t live it myself, but I get it via a guest’s immersion of sorts.  For twenty-six years I have worked in neighborhoods that would likely make most of you tinkle in your pants from fear even to dip a toe in.  I’ve met children and families living in extreme poverty, and they’ve welcomed me into their lives and homes, shown me hospitality and kindness.

I’ve also been harassed by city denizens.  I’ve been called a white bitch, a cracker, a wide array of clever/horrible/amusing/demeaning epithets simply for being there.  I’ve been told that since I am white, I have no business teaching children who are not.  But this is not a treatise on race relations, because poverty and violence don’t discriminate based on skin color.  The group of men who invaded my friend’s home consisted of African-American, Hispanic and white males, and I hate to perpetuate stereotypes. My lifetime of experiences has taught me that stereotypes can be far from accurate. And divisive. I’m done with divisiveness, and man I can’t wait for the politicians to catch up to me here. Anyway. 

My husband works for the city; one of his co-workers was shot while making a lift in a bucket truck.  He was shot by paint balls, thank the stars, but still, some joyriding cretin thought it’d be funny to shoot at a guy, scaring the crap out of him, just for kicks.  This is fun?  I must have a sophisticated sense of humor then, man.

I know enough to know I know nothing about how to fix this.  But, Little Mary Sunshine here wants this to be the last attack on someone I know.  I want this never to happen to my kids, my husband, a friend.  OK, I want this crap never to happen.  There.  I said it.  Pollyanna is screaming at you, criminals!  It’s not OK that it’s happening in the ‘hood, and that now that’s it’s closer to home, I’m suddenly queen of the block watch.  No.  It’s not OK that it’s happening anywhere.  That is the main idea here.

My friend’s physical injuries will heal. The hole in his floor can be patched or covered. But what about the loss of feeling safe in your very home? The loss of faith in basic human decency?

 

 

Awake And Alone

I rarely sleep in, even on a holiday weekend, and even when I desperately want to. A lovely upside to my special brand of insomnia is the solitude I cherish being the only one awake in a whisper-still house.  Deep thoughts run laps in my head as I walk laps with Caleb the Wonderdog or just sit, flipping through the morning news rag sipping black coffee.  We all know I’m no philosopher, more a random musings kind of girl. Here’s this morning’s dose of The Space Between Wendy’s Ears, developed as I dodged raindrops.  Even I’m unable to find the thread that binds these thoughts, and it’s from my neurons (mis)firing that they came.

You think it will be magical having several different species of birds nest in your pergola. And it is. Until several species of bird shit all over your patio furniture. And your grill. And your sweatshirt.

Even with contacts in, I can barely see my face in the mirror.  Just exactly how am I going to apply makeup for the second half of my lifetime?

How many more days of school do we have?  Twelve?  Thirteen??  Eleventy hundred??

Why does anomia strike at the most inopportune moment?  Most people never get to meet their idols.  I’ve met mine several times, still struck starry-eyed and never taken for granted, but my “Hi, I’m clever and not a complete loser” banter batting average is around .333.  Now, in baseball for reals, .333 represents consistency and excellent performance.  In talking with famous musicians, it’s close to epic fail.  Don’t ever ask your favorite singer how his “thing, um, knee, um, you know” is.  He’s a guy, and “thing” well, you can imagine. . .  and for the record, the Password is ACL.  Following up with, “I’m just gonna go over here and kill myself” is an entirely appropriate response.  Fortunately, my favorite singer has a sense of humor.  And by now they all probably recognize me for the idiot I am.  What I meant to say is Tyler, Jim, Ed, Kevin–thank you for taking the time after the show to talk with me.  Though my nervous chatter is random and sometimes cringe-worthy, you are professional and kind and funny, and you wouldn’t have to be.

Speaking of my favorite band, Barenaked Ladies, all of you, this one’s for you:  Most of my friends are going on The Rock Boat cruise with you next winter.  OK, super cool for you all, and yeah, given the choice, I’d cruise to the tropics mid-winter too.  But for those of us whose work does not allow time off except for summer?  I’d like to suggest a summer band camp as a cruise alternate.  Or a both/and.  Just throwin’ that out there.  Also, we’ll need to do something about the bugs.  The plan’s in its infancy obviously.

How many second and third jobs will I need to take on in order to feed these boys who refuse to stop growing?  My “little” one is taller than me now.  He’s eleven.

My dog is an ass.  He’s also riotously distracting, and I love his squishy face more each day.  Last night we were watching Vacation, and I just wanted to flip a couple hands of solitaire during the commercials.  My husband, not a skilled videographer, recorded this:

I’ve tried to cut down on artificial sweeteners because I saw an article on Facebook about the holes these chemicals leave in people’s grey matter.  I need all the help I can get these days, you guys.  Do I stay thin-ish or smart-ish?  That is the question.

Related:  Facebook is probs not the most reliable source of vetted, scientific research.

Also related:  The damage is done, sister.  You are not as smart as you once were.

When a day begins overcast and stormy, it should remain dark for the entire 24 hours (unless I’m going to an outdoor concert, in which case I will OCD-level monitor weather.com every three minutes until it returns the sunshine I need to see in the forecast).  On the average day, I’m disappointed when the weather clears though.  Half empty?  Half full?  Not sure what that says about my personality.

I really need to drag my butt to the store and get a new swimsuit top this weekend.

I really hope the bunnies don’t eat the pea shoots sprouting up.  After all these years, I totally get why Farmer McGregor was so passionate.

God, our yard sucks.  We KILL at snow removal, but the summer months don’t quite balance that equation.

How in fresh hell does a motorist lose control to such a degree that he lodges his car into a poor someone’s house 4 feel off the ground??  This is my life every day as I drive through the city for work.  Well, trying to avoid this is my life in the city everyday.


I definitely do not look forward to my son’s semi-annual neurology appointment Tuesday.  Twenty bucks says it’s cloudy and rainy.  It has been cloudy and rainy or snowy every single time I’ve strode through the doors of the Children’s Hospital Neurology Clinic.  And as I’ve established, it had better stay that way all day.  See above.

I cry over neurology appointments, but still have my sons around to complain about.  It’s Memorial Day weekend, and I crumble inside when people say, “Happy Memorial Day!”  It’s not a happy occasion; it is one more appropriately marked with solemnity and remembrance.  Thank you to the men and women whose very lives were sacrificed in service so that, among other things, I can ramble here on the internet.  And to your families?  Strength, peace, and only the warmest, happiest memories of your loved ones.  I cannot imagine a world without my children inhabiting it with me. Your hearts beat more strongly than mine.

Friends in the US, enjoy your Monday off, and take a moment to reflect on why you’re maybe sleeping late.  Friends from around the world, thanks for hanging in here with me.  It’s hard to keep up, I get it.  Turns out this is post #200.  I feel like this post both captures and under-represents me perfectly.  Happy bicentennial to me.  Or something.