Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Addiction Development

I can be impulsive. And forgetful. Maybe even a little obsessive. I might fall in like with a television series during the premier episode, then forget it ever existed before the next episode a week later. I can watch a day-long marathon of an entire season and not recognize the show's title if someone asked me about it the next day.

In my 'normal life' -- the one that I lived all the way up until October 22, 2011 when I sustained a compound fracture of the tibia and fibula in my left leg -- I rarely watched TV. I was on the go constantly, zipping between a full-time job, roller derby practice, derby marketing committee work that often consumed as many hours as a part-time job, taking care of Moose and sort of taking care of the house, and spastically bouncing between belly dance workshops, photography, writing, jewelry design and fabrication, occasional sewing of dance costumes, and far too many hours on the computer playing Scrabble and wasting time on facebook. It was a lot, but probably not as much as my friends with husbands and kids. The time I don't spend maintaining romantic and familial relationships is more self-absorbed time for me. It's a swell life. Really. At least that is what I keep telling myself.

After leg surgery at 1:00 am on October 23, I was checked in to a lovely hospital room. It had a pair of unmatched curtains that circled the bed for "privacy" and simultaneously blocked the view of the clock and the postage-stamp sized TV mounted on the wall. The TV was so small it was impossible to read the station ID, news crawls, sports scores or any other text that may be posted during a show. It was really fun when I was watching a show and the staff would draw my curtain to provide privacy for the person coming into or out of the room from the next bed and then neglect to re-open them, cutting me off from all stimulus and information in the room, and most importantly, the tiny TV.

The hospital drugs were great at blocking pain, and when combined with a steady stream of staff taking my blood pressure and temperature hourly, pretty much ensured I was wiped out and sleeping a lot. I couldn't hold my eyes open enough to read a book or magazine and could barely remain awake when visitors stopped in. The hospital time is mostly a fuzzy blur punctuated with panicked moments of losing my phone in the bedsheets that had been removed because my incision had drained through the dressings and all over the bed, and the heart-pounding moments of hobbling with the walker a full two feet to the bedside commode while being humbled by needing a nurse's assistance to pee.

After leaving the hospital, I was lodged at my friend Wendy's for a week, set up in her son's room and queen of the couch -- leg elevated on a pile of towels, watching regular TV and on-demand runs of entire seasons of shows. Wendy has great cable, with lots of movie channels and the ability to save shows and view on demand, sharply contrasting with my cheap one-step-above-basic package.

In four weeks convalescing at my own home, I have watched more TV than in the full four years leading up to now. We're talking marathons of Project Runway, Project Accessory, The Sopranos, America's Next Top Model and Millionaire Matchmaker, almost all of which made me cry at some point, due to feeling like a giant raw nerve. There were at least two solid weeks of daily doses of a different season of Project Runway (3:00) and On the Road with Austin and Santino (4:30). These are in addition to the movies. I decided to make a list of all the movies I watched during my home recovery incarceration that I could recall. The list currently stands at 21 movies, including 3 DVDs from my meager video holdings. At approximately two hours per movie, that is a few hours of staring at a box. The TV veiwing would begin daily within five minutes of clocking out of the company laptop remote desktop time clock. Weekends are free-for-all during my waking hours.

And since Thanksgiving night, my eyeballs have been exposed to something I have not only avoided watching for most of my adult life but actually ridiculed and mocked -- Christmas movies. Sappy, hopeful, tear-jerking, freeking Christmas movies where cranky, crotchedy, often childless working females (hmmm... sounds like me) always find true love on Christmas Eve and no later than Christmas Day. My previous aversion to the genre makes what has happened recently even more surprising. I have watched (i.e. cried through) at least eight Christmas-themed movies in five days. The only one that didn't pull a tear was Scrooged, probably because I was also reading email while that one was on.

This new affinity comes as a great shock to me. Since moving to Tennessee, where I have spent maybe three Christmases in my own home in ten years, I have not been much of a Christmas person. While I have an attic full of decorations, accumulated from decades of ceiling scraping trees in New England homes, I usually don't up put any decoratios any more. Really, why bother? My life is different, and I am usually elsewhere on Christmas, enjoying someone else's decorations and traditions. Decorating my house is just a bunch of work on my end that nobody else will see. And this year I can't actually get into the attic on my own. Asking for help is out of the question, as I am very particular about my decorations. I am afraid whoever might be helping would want to kill me.

When I realized I was trolling the channel guide consciously seeking Christmas movies and making mental notes about upcoming premier presentations on Hallmark and Lifetime, I panicked. It occurred to me that this thing is starting to feel like some sort of addiction. This may require an intervention. Or medication. Or my own Christmas miracle.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


When it was time for my first follow-up appointment with the orthopedic surgeon, three days after being discharged from the hospital, my derby wife / nursemaid / angel / savior/ comedy team partner Wendy and I headed out. Our destination was the Gateway Medical Center complex comprised of the hospital and its cleverly named adjoining office building, “Medical Office Building 1.” Seriously. They even invested in metal letters on the facade to spell it out. It looks like they need a nice big donation from some local philanthropist so they can have a better name for that building. Anyone?  At least this time I was arriving at the center in a personal vehicle and not an ambulance.

Our hospital is an attractive structure. The first time I saw it at night, illuminated by the dramatic and expertly placed architectural lighting, it reminded me of the castle in the Emerald City of Oz or my first view of Foxwoods Casino rising up grand and beautiful in the middle of nothing, or in this case, a tobacco field. The building gives great face, its majestic facade attracting the eye of drivers on the nearby interstate. Strategically located between exits on I-24 which runs past it (so close you can almost touch it), you can't actually reach it directly from the interstate -- you need to know the magical labyrinth of side and back roads, and not become flustered by Dunlop Lane when it suddenly dead-ends at Ted Crozier Blvd, resulting in a panic-inducing moment for the uninitiated, as the hospital's address IS on Dunlop Lane, and when approaching fom the mall, drivers are suddenly faced with the orange and white striped road barrier signifying the road is no more, and beyond it, a farm field. It requires a right turn, then a left at the next light, and it's on the road again. Maybe it's part of a diabolical master plan to become a major player in the cardiac field -- boost the treatment numbers with all the extra walk-in traffic for cardiac events incurred while trying to visit a Gateway patient or a specialist in Medical Building One. Fortunately, we knew exactly where to go.

We had a plan. Wendy would drop me off at the building, park the car, then accompany me to the second floor suite housing my surgeon's office. Once I was settled, she would head out to an appointment of her own and return when she was done.

The first obstacle we encountered was the door, which is not the rare and exotic hands-free automatically opening door like those generally found at exclusive locations like Kroger, Walgreen's, WalMart or any number of other places accessed by intact and impaired people alike. These doors, set in an expansive wall of glass, require human intervention for activation, which is really a special touch when one is separated from life by say, a walker, or is juggling crutches. Don't be shy, just hippity-hop on up and give that big handle a yank. Beyond that door was a vestibule featuring a lovely weather matt not secured to the floor and perfect for tripping up those walker legs and that one good foot before reaching another glass wall with another door demanding a personal relationship for operation. We fought our way through the doors into the lobby where I hobbled to the first bench I saw, conveniently located immediately inside the second set of doors and parked myself and my high-speed, high-tech walker while Wendy went to park the car.

From my perch on a lovely upholstered bench, I surveyed the battlefield. The use of stone, glass and wood gave a wonderful textural feel to the large open area. Medical office doors dotted the walls around the lobby. A wide wooden staircase sat about three-fourths of the way into the lobby. There were framed color photos of beautiful nature scenes hung on the walls. Perhaps the most interesting detail was the placement of the elevators to the upper floors – unobtrusively tucked (in other words, practically hidden) neatly on the back wall at the furthest possible point from the entrance, a distance of approximately one mile according to my narcotic-medicated, walker-hobbling self. The distance from the bench to the elevators was downright frightening. For the past three days a round-trip trek of maybe 30 feet from the couch to the bathroom and back resulted in sufficient fatigue so as to require a nap. The estimate is probably way off, because I really have no sense of distance, but relatively speaking, I now needed to cross the equivalent of a continent the size of North America to advance to the next phase of this real-life game quest to reach Suite 210. Game on.

Upon reaching the second level of the building, we took a right out of the elevator and were faced with a corridor roughly the length of the Appalachian Trail, though absent the hills, wildlife and shrubbery. Wendy was ahead of me, scouting our magical destination, and I called out to her that I needed to rest. There were people behind me, who I motioned to go past me as I paused, forearms resting on the top bar of the walker, breathing heavily from all the one-legged hopping. Wendy called back over her shoulder, “Quit your bitching and keep moving,” which cracked me up and nearly caused bladder failure. When she picked me up from the hospital on Tuesday to transport me to her house, Wendy kidded that she was going to play Kathy Bates’ role in Misery, and occasionally we slipped into a little spiel. The comic relief provided when she discovered we were not alone in that hallway was enough to propel me down its never-ending expanse. Unfortunately, the reward at the end of the hallway was yet another forever-long hallway. Very video game-esque, these corridors.

After some 30 days of weary travel, we finally entered the waiting room of the Orthopedic and Spinal Surgery office. There were several people already there, at least half of them sporting the same trendy Bledsoe Boot that I was wearing, prompting chitchat about the latest fall footwear. Being my first office visit, there was at least a ream of paperwork to deal with, including checklists of symptoms, medical history, and the rules of the office appointments and payment expectations. The main directive I remembered receiving from the doctor at my discharge from the hospital was to keep my foot elevated. There was good reason to follow this order, as my foot throbbed and felt like it would explode any time it was not propped and elevated. I looked around the waiting room for a footstool, but there were none, nor were there any low tables. The chairs had wooden arms separating them, so it was not possible to just turn and hoist a leg on an adjoining chair, restaurant booth style. My leg was pounding in agony after the grueling journey from the car to the office and felt like it really would explode without immediate elevation. I asked the receptionist for a wastebasket, storage tub, or anything else that could be used to prop my leg. A stepstool with shiny white paint was produced. Except for the part where the boot kept slipping on the slick, painted surface, it was suitable. Could I really be the first compound fractured tibia-fibula patient in this practice who was trying to follow the doctor's directive? This building was attractic, but its loveliness carried a harsh penalty for the visitors.

Before she headed out for her own appointment, Wendy requested a wheelchair for our trip out of the office. I think she knew she'd have to carry me otherwise. And the surprising news from the Orthopedic and Spinal office staff -- they didn't have a wheelchair, and would have to go next door to the hospital to borrow one. Thankfully, they did, or our exit from the bulding could have been a catastrophe of epic proportions. Heck, after fighting with the weight of the seven-foot tall solid wood door to the restroom we both needed to use before leaving, we barely got out of the there intact. I'm not claiming to have the strength of Wonder Woman here, but seriously, I have no idea how the more frail, elderly patients even make it in or out of that office building. I said as much to the office nurses. I also pointed out to the doctor that the building was pretty, but the architect either seemed to have completely neglected to consider who would be using it, or had a very cruel sense of humor.

During my second visit there, while completing a patient satisfaction survey, I politely suggested in the "Additional Comments" section that they "move to a smaller office building with fewer obstacles, as weakened, hobbled patients are exhausted by the time they reached the second-floor suite. Or maybe it's just me." Just a thought.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Show Time

Sometimes the time stated for an event is really the time it will begin and other times it is a rough guideline. At work, day after day, I plan my workflow around those times my name appears on the meetings posted on the company calendar. If the meeting or conference call involves a client, it will likely begin close to on-time. If it’s an internal planning meeting, it’s anyone’s guess, but those are usually rescheduled before they actually happen. The rescheduling record for one of my internal meetings is currently at six, but the average is three or four time shifts before it happens.

It seems the trick to ensure an internal meeting won’t happen is to actually prepare for it by reviewing project notes and statuses, creating an agenda, making copies of documents under discussion. Likewise, the rare failure to prepare for a particular meeting almost guarantees that will be the one meeting of the year that is called exactly on time, the first time scheduled.

When it comes to events scheduled outside work, the same thing sometimes happens. Sure, the event description and ticket for a show have a start time listed, but is it REALLY the start time, or just number dumped into a mandatory computer field in order to proceed to the next step? Some shows start nowhere near the stated time, while others are excruciating in their punctuality. Two recent examples come to mind.

I saw the Raconteurs at their sold-out show at Ryman Auditorium in September. The show time was listed at 7:30. The opening act was not announced in advance, so it wasn’t obvious if there would be none, one, or maybe more. I have been to a couple shows that had no opener and started on time, and trust me, there were some aggravated late arrivals 45 minutes or an hour after the start. My friend and I hustled to Nashville after work, and were in our designated pew seats on time, along with a fraction of the rest of the audience sprinkled throughout the place. At 7:30 on the dot, the first band walked onto that famous  stage, picked up their instruments, and began playing. According to the Ryman website, the maximum seating capacity is 2,362. According to my estimate, there were about a thousand people missing some great stuff on that stage from 7:30 to 8:00.

Many of the other attendees were still in the forever-long merchandise line that began in the lower lobby and snaked up the staircase with the cast iron decorative panels (cast by Clarksville Foundry for the 1994 restoration, but I digress and show off my knowledge of odd and random things). The merch line continued across the upper lobby to the back table. There were also significantly shorter and faster-moving multiple snack and beverage lines. I wondered what could be worth spending more money on AND missing out on the entertainment for which one had already forked over ticket money, but not enough to get in line and check it out.

I popped out for a beer run after the first act, whose name was completely unintelligible and sounded like “Bwaaawperelrk -- from St. Louis, Missouri!” They were fun -- a 1920s or 30s suited-wardrobe look, a dude with a giant bass, and another alternating between playing a washboard and a harmonica! The lobby and mezzanine outside the concert hall were still packed with all those people in their various lines.

More seats were filled by the second opening act, whose name was “Mwwblahjkreppl -- from Nashville, Tennessee!” Another fun band with poor speaking skills. Just before the headliners took the stage, the lobby traffic had finally all moved to the auditorium, many attendees clutching their newly acquired concert treasures. I asked the people around me if they knew either of the bands. Nobody knew the first band’s name, which was a shame, because I really liked them and might even buy their stuff now that I’ve heard it. I mean, who doesn’t like some kick-ass harmonica or washboard music for the ride to work?!?!? People around us knew the second band was called Jeff the Brotherhood.

The Raconteurs were amazing and everything I hoped to hear, and it ended at a decent hour (defined by me as, I can actually get some sleep before it’s time to get up again for work, and if it wasn’t a weeknight, I’d be all about going out somewhere for a while). We headed back the ‘Ville and real life with timetables and alarm clocks prepared for too early awakenings.

Exactly a month later, I had a ticket to the (also) sold-out Beats Antique show at 12th & Porter. The advertised show time was 9:00, with doors opening at 8:00. It was general admission, which means the free-for-all to stake out a real estate claim in whatever seating, leaning or standing in the middle of the floor opportunities exist when one crosses the threshold. In spite of my going from “it’s too early to leave” to “crap, now I’m late!” in the blink of an eye, I managed to somehow stop for gas, get to Nashville, find the club, drive around the block three times and finally give up and get brave and park in a lot in a space missing a “permit only” sign, and be the second person in line awaiting the designated door opening time and “will call” ticket pickup.

The advertised magical hour of the door opening came. And passed. The line grew behind me, and stretched around the corner of the building. After what felt like forever, a cute dude in a knit beanie came out and started checking names off the will call ticket list and another dude verified IDs and issued wristbands. Then we waited some more. Fortunately, it was nice out -- a lovely autumn evening. There was sidewalk chatter about how much money the place was losing in drink sales, which we would all surely be buying if we were inside instead of out, and how, if *WE* ran things, there would be snacks served to the people in line, or at the very least, a food truck on the street selling grub to those of us who had barely a mere handful of Fritos for “supper” before driving to Nashville.

When they finally let us inside after what felt like forever but was probably 45 minutes after they’d checked us in, my new temporary, situational best friends (the gal in front of me in line, and the three tribal belly dancers from Cookeville behind me) and I scored the seats in the front of the balcony with the perfect view of the stage.  And then we waited. And waited some more. The crowd filled in below us, and soon it was, in my dad’s eloquent words, “packed asshole to belly button.” I was so glad I was not trapped in it.

Some time after 10:00 (who knowsl how long, but it felt like forever), a guy in jeans and a tee shirt came on stage. All the listings for the show had said Beats Antique and “TBA” -- so there was no clue provided about an opener except that there was one. Apparently, this was finally the time it would be announced. The dude introduced himself and it sounded like he said “Augie from Los Angeles.” He said his name a few more times during his whatever you call it when a  guy makes cool sounds for 45 minutes with  a laptop and a keyboard and a thing with square buttons -- gig? performance? opening act time slot? Anyway, each time he said who he is, it sounded a little different and was never clear except for the LA part, but with a sort of an “Ah” and “Ee” sound in it. Why do so many musicians fail to enunciate so we can actually understand the name of their bands or themselves? Do everyone a favor -- speak clearly!! Please. Okay?

The opening guy from LA said something else several times that struck me as odd... He said “Thank you Nashville for coming out here so early.” Huh? Dude, I don’t think WE were EARLY. Is “at the time the ticket said the show would start” now early? More like all y’all were LATE. Maybe it’s a west coast thing? But you’re welcome. I guess. And thanks for noticing.

During the performance by the headliners they thanked “R. D. from LA” a couple times -- clearly, thank goodness, and I finally had the name. Sheesh. Why was it so hard? Get the crap out of your mouth performers at a mic. Speak so we can understand who you are. Unless, of course, you don’t care that we know who you are, only where you are from. The show was great, again proving that there is more to Music City than just country music. Thank goodness.

After the show, even though it was a Friday night and theoretically I could stay out as late as I wanted, the only thingI really wanted was to get to the car and be home. I was really tired from a week of extra stress at work that wore me out, and I had attended the show alone, which felt like about as much solo personal nightclub bravery as I needed for one night. I left the club as quickly as I could, given there was a line of hundreds of people barely moving ahead of me -- all  attempting the same thing. After being absorbed into the crowd, I realized I had neglected to even say goodbye to the gals with whom I had spent the past four hours of quality time joking around with on the sidewalk and sitting in the balcony. Sorry gals. Maybe we’ll run into each other another night, on another sidewalk while waiting for the doors to open for another show.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Charming Shoes

One seemingly ordinary weekend afternoon, I went shopping, which was actually a bit out of the ordinary for me.  My girly-girl card may be confiscated and cut to pieces for this, but I generally don’t enjoy shopping. In fact, the word “detest” comes to mind. This may be shocking news to any who remember me from my recreational shopping days when I shopped three or four times a week. Back then, I was trying to get out of the house and away from a husband. I thought buying things would fill the emptiness in me. I know better now. 

For one thing, I know I already have far too much stuff. I could probably hang a banner outside my house and have enough clothing and housewares to run a little shop for a month or two. For another, beyond the quarterly pest treatments at the house and two random visits by the cute guy who used to live next door, I rarely have people over. This means there is no sense of needing to impress anyone. No need for the latest and greatest kitchen gadget, toothbrush holder, scented candle or hostessing outfit. In the nearly four years I have lived in my house, I’ve had exactly two parties, so it’s not like I am competing for the Martha Stewart home entertainment award. Fact: New Year’s Eve 2011 will be the fourth anniversary of the same bottle of champagne living in the lower right bin of the refrigerator.

Given my absence of house guests, already excessive wardrobe, and lack of need concerning basic living accoutrements, why would I invest my precious time and risk the potential of being hypnotized by some retailer’s Muzak system lulling me into shelling out money I don’t have for things I don’t need?

Like I was saying, it was unusual that I was shopping. The place I was shopping, however, was completely usual for me -- Goodwill. People thinkI am kidding whenI say it, but Goodwill is my first choice for shopping in Clarksville. Yes, the mall here is THAT pathetic and overstocked with disposable clothes clearly intended for one wearing as evidenced by their propensity to disintegrate in the washer the first time through. The TJ Maxx in Clarksville is the smallest I’ve seen in the five American cities resided in during my adult life. Since the flood of May 2010 there has been no Opry Mills with my beloved Gap and Nine West Outlet stores, so yes, shopping here stinks and I am almost exclusively a Goodwill gal.

This one particular day, I must have had a lot of time on my hands, because I was wandering all over the place, way beyond the usual skirts and tops for work section, and the “I don’t really need more jeans but these are cute and only $8” rack, and and even paid attention to the shoes, a category I tend to ignore because I already have some decent hookups for inexpensive shoes.

If you know me, you might have guessed that there is a tiny chance I have too many pairs of shoes to count. I have not figured out how to make the abacus go that high,  or maybe I just don’t want to know. The last time I took an inventory (many residential moves ago), I had 150 pairs of footwear (including specialty footwear like snow boots and hiking boots, but not counting super specialty footwear like ski boots). Family members vowed to never again help me move my household due to my excessive holdings of books, clothing and footwear. Ignorance may be bliss on this one, unless I can convert the unworn footwear to cold cash.

But there I was, cruising the shoe racks, when I spotted them. Amazing blue croc-textured shoes with squared toes, bearing a garish orange price tag proclaiming the price to be $5. It was a plunge into instant adoration. With me and retail, the lower the price, the deeper the love.  A wistful sigh escaped my lips. Or maybe it was a gasp. I stroked the uppers and examined the soles which were barely sullied by asphalt or gravel and still seemed perilously slippery. The pale gray, pristine insoles still had cushiony cushions. The black heels bore hardly a nick nor a scuff. I was swooning. Somehow, I tore myself away and walked halfway to the checkout to clear my head. Even from half a store away, I heard the shoes whisper my name.

And suddenly, a vision of a tall, handsome, muscular man in nicely fitting dark-dyed jeans and vintage-styled, hipster shirt burst into my head. This stunner of a man, worthy of a magazine cover and as yet unknown to me, was the perfect accessory for these shoes. I returned to the shoe rack. I snatched up the shoes.  As I walked to the checkout, clutching the shoes to my bosom, I imagined the dates I would go on with the the beautiful shoes and the handsome man I didn’t happen to know yet.  And I bought them.

Here’s the good part -- they are men’s shoes. Size 10. In my date fantasy, the handsome and charming imaginary prince is wearing the shoes. It will take a special guy to pull off wearing these shoes, and that is the guy I want.

So now I have a pair of shoes, but there is no man in my real life (yet) who can fill them. But I have an idea ... a quest!  A reverse Cinderella type thing. I will find the man who fits the shoes. Granted, it will be kind of weird asking men I only recently met what size shoe they wear, and they might get a little creeped out when I pull out my pair of blue mens shoes and ask them to put them on and walk around for me. Sure, some might think I am a total whack job. But think of the stories! I can chronicle my journey for the man to fill the shoes, they can tell their buddies about the nutcase running around with the blue shoes. Everybody wins! Especially me, when I find the right man to fill the shoes.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Final Straw

This weekend may have marked a turning point. The final straw that broke this camel’s emotional back has been added to the load.

While I was frolicking by a river in Tennessee watching cardboard boat races and attending a festival in my stupid, lonely, self-absorbed little life, deliberately crowded with activity in an attempt to fill the vast, emotional emptiness, my sister was in Massachusetts receiving the shocking blow of the sudden death of her father-in-law. While I was wondering about the monumental things in my day, like whether or not the cute guy would be at the beer store and if the weather would remain nice for the rest of the festival, my mom was watching my three nieces until such time as my sister and her husband could collect them to deliver the devastating news about Pepe.

And when, save for the distance of half a country, I could be there helping in any number of ways big and small -- like watching the kids, holding a hand, making dinner, running errands or whatever it is that might need doing -- I am sitting alone (because even when surrounded by people, I am alone and that is just a fact of my life), feeling as isolated and helpless and useless to my people as I have ever been these past ten years.

When my grandmother learned she had cancer again, I was in Tennessee working a meaningless part-time job (it was all I could find) and angrily going through the motions in the marriage that was deteriorating around me -- that same marriage that I let take me so far from my family (and thus, some of the anger). My sister and Mom were dealing with ongoing doctor visits and stress and medication that may or may not be taken correctly by a stubborn woman who wanted things on her terms which meant no nursing home and a flat out refusal to live with my sister and the kids, because she didn’t want to change her lifestyle and/or be “a burden on anyone.”  They took care of Mummu and juggled their schedules and kept me from stressing about things I couldn’t help with by not telling me what was going on. When I finally got parts of the story, I tenderly cultivated a weighty crop of guilt over being the one who left and is no longer around to be helpful.

When Mummu was close to what everyone feared was the end, I finally got the awful story and swooped up to Massachusetts in time to see her in a medicated coma in the hospital, and that night she passed away and then we were making funeral plans. After a few days of actually being there for my family, I was gone again, returning to whatever trivial crap it is that I do on a regular basis.

Any time something happens back home -- whether good, bad, or indifferent -- I get the edited, condensed, sanitized version. There is little (or nothing) I can do to help with the coping or celebrating of it, anyway. This is how we function and half a country is a pretty big distance to cover, and while the florists would have us believe otherwise, lovely flowers do not really deliver all that much.

This weekend, it has hit me harder than ever that this is not the life I want. While never established that it was ever the life I ‘wanted,’ it’s definitely the one I allowed to happen. I chose to leave my family to move away with a husband, because it felt adventurous and seemed like what a new wife should do and it was logical to move into a house he already owned. When we split up four years ago it made sense to take a minute to catch my breath while I figured out what would come next. Yes, it was the perfect time for going home to family, and there were people who were surprised I didn’t, but the “back” in “going back home” tasted like neediness, weakness, failure and defeat, and that is not a stew I enjoy. I am supposed to be the strong and self-sufficient one, a false construct erected entirely to justify myself to myself.

And the fact remains, in four years, I really haven’t started breathing again and I definitely haven’t done any figuring. The only conscious thing I’ve done is (over)fill my life with activity so I don’t have time to deal with the hard stuff like coping with my ever present loneliness; finding a new job and selling a house  in a bad economy; moving 1,200 miles on my own; letting myself feel what it’s like to be human; or even cleaning the house.

But it’s time to get real and do it. I am tired of not being there. I want to hug my sister, brother-in-law and nieces so much right now it is a physical pain, and my arms are not long enough to do it from here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bottom Feeding

On Sunday, as I was driving to WalMart, the store I love to hate -- but the only place in Clarksville selling my favorite flavor of ramen and therefore a necessary undertaking -- I noticed a person on the side of the road in front of Pier 1, holding a double stacked sign about Borders Bookstore’s closing sale -- with savings of 50% to 70%. It is more accurate to say this person was wielding the sign like a giant shield and hiding behind it, as if anticipating a barrage of incoming firepower, or more likely afraid of being seen by someone they knew in the traffic at the intersection. I’m not sure holding a sign outside a mall entrance would be my favorite job either. But it’s a job, right? And lately they are pretty hard to come by, I don’t care what the highly-paid big economists declare about economic recovery. I have seen nothing of the sort.

National economy aside, the point is I was headed somewhere else, saw the sign, and changed course into the mall at the next entrance. The sign holder accomplished his or her purpose. Marketing objective fulfilled.

I hadn’t been to Borders in months, so I felt a little guilty showing up for the closing sale. The place was more packed with shoppers than I ever saw it in regular times. It brought tears to my eyes.  I figured many of us were occasional shoppers bottom feeding off the going out of business sale. It made me sad, because if this many people shopped there on a regular basis, maybe they wouldn’t be closing. Then, to make myself feel better,  I rationalized my own presence -- it’s not my fault a single hard cover book costs the equivalent of my weekly grocery budget and the only time books feel affordable is at a half-off sale. If things weren't so expensive or if I made more money maybe I could afford to be something more lofty than a bottom feeder.

Instead of strolling the grocery section of WalMart for my weekly supply of $1 frozen microwave dinners for lunch, granola bars for breakfast, and tomato paste to finish off my spaghetti sauce already in progress, I spent over an hour browsing the racks at Borders. Even the bookcases and fixtures were for sale. I fantasized about having one of the really tall wall units with the rolling ladder, and how that might FINALLY provide enough room for all my books. It was a lovely reverie, but then I woke up and remembered where I live, the height of my ceilings and size of my rooms, the reality that I really do plan to move someday, and that $600 for a rolling wooden ladder is NOT the wisest alternate use of September’s mortgage payment and I should send it to Bank of America as planned, thus keeping the book collection dry for another month, though still “organized” in piles on far too many horizontal surfaces.

In my wanderings, I picked up books -- eight, to be precise, at saving of 50% and 60% depending upon genre -- plus a blank journal, an installment in the graphic novel series I’ve been reading for the past year, two magazines (70% off) and a new pair of reading glasses in the strength recommended by the eye doctor at my recent $300 eye exam (including 6 months worth of contact lenses) which is unfortunately not covered by my $200 a month health coverage. About halfway through my hunting and gathering of books with titles as varied as  “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to World Religions (Fourth Edition);” “Becoming a Life Change Artist: 7 Creative Skills to Reinvent Yourself at Any Stage of Life;” and “Crazy Aunt Purl’s Drunk, Divorced & Covered in Cat Hair: True Life Misadventures of a 30-Something Who Learned to Knit After He Split;” and somewhere in the law book section strategically located next to the books about sex, the figure $100 popped into my head. I don’t know where it came from, or how it landed in my cranium, but after it arrived there I thought, “Ok, this little side trip is going to be the equivalent of the month’s grocery budget.” Maybe that's when I should have visited the financial management section.

Standing there at the intersection of books about legal defense and wills and “Secrets of a Call Girl” and the Illustrated Kama Sutra, I considered the sum of $100 and what it represented -- the number of hours at my desk ... the slightly more than two tanks of gas to get me to that desk and everywhere else for a two week period  ... three months derby league dues plus a six-pack of pricey beer ... a third of the current cost of a round-trip plane ticket home. And then I said “screw it,” yes, out loud ... followed by a silent “I have a VISA card, what’s another $100 owed on top of the seven grand piled up in the three-and-a-half years since my divorce?” It’s that sort of thinking that got me back into credit card debt in the first place. But I kept shopping, grabbing a novel featuring a Jack Russell Terrier (half Moose!) and two books based in New England -- a novel set in colonial Andover, and “The Gardner Heist -- The true story of the world’s largest unsolved art theft;” a craft book about recycling wool sweaters into new creations .... another graphic novel, this one from the biography section. On the way to the register, I grabbed a copy of Cesar Milan’s magazine and one on Gothic Style and Beauty.  No, I am not going goth .... it just amused me there was an entire glossy, full-color magazine about goth style and the challenges it can present in the workplace. The topic matter interested me as much as the expense undertaken for color ... I mean, really ... most of the pages are black! But hey, the red lipstick and tattoo ink really pop in the photos. I was proud of myself for completely avoiding the Self Help section, where I have already 'invested' far too much money on books telling me all the new and modern ways in which I am defective.

My total at the register? $100.01. Seriously. Almost dead on the money of my random price, save for one cent. I would actually have been under the amount if not for standing in line waiting and eyeballing those reading glasses at half-off. And then it was off to Walmart to stock up on that ramen I’ll be eating for a good long time, thanks to my spontaneous shopping trip, because even though it was on the credit card, I'll pay extra when I send in the payment. (At least that's what I tell myself now.) Bottom feeding at the bookstore means bottom feeding in the nutrition chain. But my soul will be nourished for a while with all these new books.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Butt Kickin'

Ahhh, hindsight. If I could just roll back the day by 6 or 7 hours. But the daisy chain of decisions really begins a few days earlier when I returned from vacation.

I was excited to see my fur baby Moose. I thought about him the whole ride from the airport (an extended drive from Nashville due to getting lost), imagining him on the other side of the front door, just like when I get home from work each day. Unfortunately, I have to fantasize that he was happy to see me, as there was no greeting upon my entry to the house. Heck, I couldn’t even find him. In spite of me calling his name, he failed to appear or even utter a sound. I started to think he was on an outing with his dog sitter.

Turned out he was shut in the bathroom and being as quiet as a statue. When I let him out, he slunk directly to the couch, hopped into the corner, buried himself in the pillows and cowered and trembled as if expecting something very bad to happen. I don’t ever hit him, so his occasional fearful behavior mystifies me. I know most of his signals and behavior -- the way he stands next to the office chair and looks at me when he wants to go out; how his eyes shift to the direction of the treat jar when he wants a cookie; the route he takes down the hall and into the living room when he needs to go out versus the detour through the kitchen when he is attempting to extort a treat; his growing agitation as I dress for work each morning, which he knows means I am leaving soon.

I calmed, petted and hugged him on the couch, as much for myself as for him, because I missed the little guy. That’s when I noticed the rash covering his belly from his throat to his neutered boy parts. His sensitive skin requires special food, oatmeal shampoo and conditioner. He has Benadryl for allergies and when he is sneezing a lot. He has sprays and ointments and gels to soothe his practically bald belly skin. Yes, he’s got some maintenance issues. But I’ve never seen his skin look like this.

Over the next couple days, it improved to a smaller area of pink. And worsened to a larger red area. And improved again. And worsened. By Friday at noon, I had decided to take him to the vet Saturday morning. It was hugely improved by the time I got home from work, so I decided to re-evaluate in the morning. Saturday morning he got me up at 8, and it seemed we were in the clear -- the rash had remained pink and minimized for a solid 14 hours. I opted out of the vet trip, drank coffee, continued unpacking (yes, I’ve been home for a couple days by now, but really, what is the rush?). I went shopping and to lunch with Caitlin. When I got home three hours past the vet’s closing time, I witnessed the folly of my decision.

I took Moose outside (he seems to like company -- or an audience -- when he pees) and he splayed himself on the ground and dragged his belly across the grass, dirt, rocks, sticks, whatever was there. His belly skin, (when I could finally get a look at it) was dark, splotchy red again. Back inside, he laid himself on the floor in the office, pushing and pulling himself along the carpeting. A Benadryl tablet, oatmeal shampoo bath, Cortisone 10 ointment treatment and 1.5 hours later, he was back to dragging his belly on every surface he can find.

I feel horrible. If I had stuck to the plan, I might at least know what the problem is. Every time he looks at me with his tender brown eyes I feel guilty -- like I gave him the rash myself.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Unusual Day

Very little about Saturday was normal. But it was fun. And weird.

It began with waking up with a friend and his six-year old at the house.  We’d gone to sushi dinner at Kohana Friday night, then played video games and drank beers and hung out. No, the six-year old did not drink beer, just the alleged adults, but the three of us took turns playing Xbox games at which I am horrible. It was reminiscent of the year we were housemates and routinely enjoyed such scenes of domestic pleasure. This particular morning, the big dude was still sleeping, and I was hanging with the youngling who was demonstrating his superior control of the Xbox controllers, narrating what each button and trigger and toggle does (“See, it can jump”) and asking me if I had it yet. He’d witnessed my total ineptitude in Portals 2 the previous night and was determined to set me on the path to video game mastery by offering me the game’s instruction sheet and showing me where the controller information is printed. He wasn't up to see my improvement in Black Ops or whatever it was that came next.
My awesome derby teammate the singer-songwriter /artist /hair goddess freshened up my color and cut, and gave me loose curls which must have looked amazing, because as I walked through the mall in search of a belt to go with the killer belt buckle from my favorite thrift store, it felt like people were looking at me. I can be a little paranoid and was analyzing the gazes ... thankfully, they were more of the “uh-huh, not bad” kind of look, as opposed to the “what on earth was she thinking leaving the house looking like that?” kind of look. In the movie running in my head, I was the star of a hair product commercial. bathed in glorious soft lighting, hair bouncing in carefully choreographed slow motion, handsome men in designer suits walking by giving a wink. In reality, the guys were dressed in baggy-ass basketball shorts and jerseys with thick, gaudy chains or droopy butt jeans and tee shirts, but it still beat the usual feeling of invisibility, where people quite literally walk into me like I am not even occupying physical space.
I found two belts, and the Hot Topic cashier is a friend of a friend who I’d met once or twice and it was nice chatting with her for a minute. On the way home, I had a heart-wrenching message from a dear friend with sad news about her ex-husband (inoperable tumor) and one of her dogs (accidentally run over). I wanted to hug her so much, but I was across town and she had to work.
Back at the 402 (a.k.a. my house), I discovered the belts are too long due to my failure to consider the four inch span between the prong for the holes and the loop to hold the belt. Duh. I considered returning them for a shorter length, but if I ever wanted to put the original buckle back on, the other length would be too short, and besides, I didn’t feel like being back in the mall. I knew a hole could be punched in the leather in about two seconds with a leather punch, which I lacked. It was time for some classic Yankee ingenuity.  Scrounging in the ill-equipped tool bag yielded a four-inch long nail of correct girth and a hammer. I grabbed the notebook from the camera bag that has been sitting open on the table (where it doesn’t belong) for months to use as a cushion under the belt and nail.
On the porch, I pounded the nail through the leather of the white belt to make a new hole, which was not nearly as easy as it seemed it should be. It took about 10 attempts on each side of the leather, and some forcing of the nail through the hole and back out. It was about 150 degrees out and I was in a full body sweat when, halfway through the operation, a spotlessly clean white Avalanche pulled into the driveway. Nobody I could think of drives an Avalanche, and I was staring at it because, after all, it was now parked in my driveway. From the confines of the tinted window chariot stepped the guy who used to live next door -- clad in jeans and a dark blue shirt. We used to chat while in our respective yards, but it has been perhaps a year since I saw him last. He said he happened to be driving by, saw me and stopped to say hi. 
And frankly, it was kind of awkward. First, the dude is on the handsome side of the equation, which always makes me all nervous and sweaty and stupid anyway. Second, I don’t really know him that well, and suddenly he was standing there on my walk a year after moving, complimenting the appearance of my yard and apologizing for just stopping by. He said I “look hot,” and I said “well, yeah, it’s about a million degrees out,” and then he said how great my hair color looks and that I look thinner and really great, and that he always thought I was attractive, so maybe he wasn’t even talking about the weather being hot and I am actually as goofy and dense as I fear I am. 
When he asked if I knew what it was like to just be drawn to someone for reasons that can’t necessarily be explained, it started to feel like a cheesy romance novel, a genre I rarely read but regularly mock. And in my typical doofus manner, when he would say something pleasant and complimentary, I would say “aw, thanks” and change the subject to roller derby or Moose or the failure of my Roma tomatoes to turn red (which I am beginning to take personally). He asked if I was single. He mentioned he and his girl are on the outs. He’s looking for a house and moving back to the ‘Ville. He apologized at least a dozen times for just stopping by.
Belt hole finished, I said I needed to get inside and make a picnic for Jazz on the Lawn. It seemed like maybe I was supposed to invite him in, but that felt weird, because the whole year he lived next door he was in my house only once. I gathered up my sophisticated hole making tools, two belts and notebook,  told him he was welcome to stop by again some time, said goodbye and ducked into the air conditioned safety of my house. Packaging my cheese and crackers, blueberries, cherries and other essentials, I wondered if this is the universe’s way of messing with my constant requests for delivery of a Prince Charming.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Suddenly Popular

I am suddenly popular. It doesn't feel good.

This isn’t the high school “dramatic save to win the big game for your team and become the homecoming hero” type of popular. Neither is it the “get the broken front tooth capped, feel unselfconscious enough to finally smile, and suddenly the cool kids notice you” brand of  popular.  Nor is it the “work on an award-winning professional project and people take notice” popular.
It is more of a flashback to darker days of eventual enlightenment. 
My recent newfound popularity began shortly after accepting an offer I couldn’t refuse -- a one year subscription to W magazine for some ridiculously low price like $10. My introduction to that publication occurred during one glorious semester luxuriating at a junior college in Boston’s prestigious Back Bay, where our dormitory was once a hotel and W, the consumer publication from fashion industry cornerstone Women’s Wear Daily, was required reading for my fashion merchandising class. Even in the olden days of the 1980s when I was in college, the average W reader’s income was in the $50,000-plus range, and I gladly handed over a full week’s worth of minimum-wage, part-time retail salesclerk earnings for the joy of studying the pages, worshipping the designers, then carefully scissoring out images for collages to adorn the walls.
Upon my return to the Burg and the four-year institution I had taken brief leave of, I proceeded to paper my bedroom walls with fashion images from W and confound my mother with attempts at conversation about designers, super models, diamond jewelry, and high-end watches and automobiles that cost more than the combined incomes of everyone in my family. These things had no relevance in her world and she told me as much every time I tried to discuss with her the classic tank watch by Cartier, iconic wrap dress from Diane von Furstenburg or night club escapades at Studio 54. It felt like we were from two different planets.
Recently, a mailer arrived for a “special professional discount rate” W subscription. I don’t know what profession they refer to, but I don’t work in fashion, modeling, retail or publishing. Whatever. That was unimportant. It was my favorite magazine at a rate I could afford even in junior college!
Past experience with magazine solicitations (and those for credit cards) taught there is room to play hard to get. And if they didn’t play along, it was one less thing to feel guilty about not reading. I ignored the offer for a free tote bag with subscription and procrastinated until it was too late to get the red mock-croc purse. Ultimately, thinking they’d stop courting without some payoff, I succumbed to the lure of the ivory scarf, spread open the checkbook, and sent the subscription order.
Around the time the first issue of W arrived, so did an invitation to subscribe to Vogue, followed in turn by more subscription invitations -- Elle, O, Allure and Lucky.  Even Architectural Digest suddenly wants me, the owner of a circa 1958, 1,200 square foot brick ranch (they must be really desperate). Architectural Digest has fascinated me since the glamorous days of my 20s when I possessed dreams, aspirations, an inflated sense of myself, and drank on the periphery of the same social circle as someone whose downtown apartment was featured in that magazine. 
My 20s and 30s were heady times of shopping in the best stores and sewing garments from patterns by the prestigious designers featured in W to create a wardrobe that (I hoped) announced to the world I was successful (or at least on the way). Cocktails and pricey dinners at beautiful (non-chain) restaurants were weekly rituals where my friends and I dropped a cool $100 each on a Friday night meal and drinks. It felt like I was on my way to, well, someplace. It was exciting, and almost how I had once imagined my life would be, back when I thought about such things.
Life is so different now. These days, my primary goal is to get through the day and make it out the other side alive. Cocktails and fine dining are memories from the past not worth dwelling upon, because the contrast to today -- where I panic after spending $25 on a meal that provides leftovers for three days -- is just too depressing. Wardrobe shopping occurs almost exclusively in thrift stores, thanks to an annual income significantly less than it was ten years ago, before I gambled on a dream of love, cashed in my chips, and walked away from a well paying career in New England to marry and relocate to a place with limited opportunity and maximum sense of entrapment.
The magazine subscription of my past, the freshly revived (bittersweet) memories of a lifestyle gone, and the ensuing onslaught of attention from other magazines reminds me of something else from my history. 

There was a time when I was better-versed in the fine arts of flirting and the male gender actually acknowledged my existence (to my face) on a semi-regular basis. One starry night, while a student at the hometown college to which I defaulted (another story for another day), I made out with a certain guy upon whom I had been crushing -- a high school classmate, home on leave from the military. In those days, I was naive enough to believe that what happened between two people stayed between them, and also that he would call me, because he said he would. He never called, but his friends started ringing me up. Even the ones with steady girlfriends. 
After a couple weeks of the sudden, puzzling attention, I got the scoop from one of the guys by asking, “It sure does seem like all of [name omitted to avoid potential lawsuits]‘s friends are calling me up lately. What’s going on?” He told me, and what I heard made me kind of mad. And ill. Apparently, my crush had not only shared, but embellished the facts of that one drunken night after Happy Hour at the Buttercup, and now the friends wanted a piece of some major action, which they had been told was me. 
Likewise, now it seems the W subscription database server is sharing with its peers, with the logical conclusion being, if my checkbook opened for W, it will also open for them. How adolescent. And erroneous.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Vee Day

Another Valentine’s Day and I could not be happier to have it over. The day of commercialized love was manufactured by card companies and further promoted by purveyors of jewelry, flowers, stuffed animals and chocolates. Sans Valentine, I feel the sting of loneliness on this day more than most others. For those who are partnered up or perhaps courting a potential suitor, the day can be fun. Expensive, perhaps. Maybe even stressful. But it’s a nice warm, fuzzy feeling when choosing a gift for the object of your affection and receiving one purportedly chosen with you in mind (or quite possibly the first thing found in the budget range and snatched off the rack). I miss having someone to bake cookies for.

For singletons with no romances in the works, I would hazard a guess that psychological counselors see a boom in appointments from those of us for whom there are no floral arrangements, chocolates, jewelry and pretty cards, and who have the appropriate health insurance coverage. For those without the luxury of insurance, it’s probably a date with a liquor bottle. Some of us will seek solace in the discounted bins of candy beginning on the 15th and continuing until the discounts have reached 80% and all supplies are exhausted. At least THAT is something to look forward to.

Valentine’s Day, bad blood and I go way back. In high school, we had carnation sales where you could send a white, pink or red carnation to someone you “wanted to get to know,” “liked” or “loved.” Every time the door opened to a classroom and a carnation arrived, I hoped and prayed it was for me, but I never received any and was too proud (and broke) to send myself one. While other girls walked around with bouquets, I slunk through the hallways flower free.

Memories of romantic entanglement involve many quiet dinners cooked at home, (by me, just like every other day of the year) and altar-sized floral arrangements. X-man loved to send flowers when there was an audience for his display of romantic generosity. Maybe that was the universe’s attempt to make up for the tragic high school years. If Valentine’s Day fell on a weekend, there were never floral deliveries to the house, but if it was a workday and I had co-workers to impress, huge arrangements arrived at my desk – gigantic enough to result in near death experiences during transport home. Driving is tricky when peering around bobbing helium-filled balloons and trying to avoid a dislocated shoulder while attempting to keep a vase upright at every turn. Throw in some winter weather and it becomes an Olympic-scale event filled with danger and excitement. To cement his imagined position as husband of the year, he’d engage in an interrogation concerning my coworkers’ level of jealousy over my flowers, until I was finally forced to fabricate a story about women weeping at their desks, watering their suddenly less grandiose arrangements with their tears and men dashing out to supplement their suddenly meager offerings.

After years of deliberation, I still can’t decide which is worse – having no Valentine at all, or having one who doesn’t seem to know me. In the dusty memory banks of Valentine’s Days past, there are gifts from alleged loved ones that seem like they weren’t intended for me at all. The ex-husband who loved to buy jewelry never bought anything I liked, no matter how many times I showed him in pictures and real life examples. I don’t understand how I could manage to remember what type of power tools (Stanley), cigars (Black & Mild) and chocolate covered cherries he preferred (the ones with the syrupy stiff and not the cream), but he couldn’t grasp the concept that I don’t like dainty jewelry, even after handing me the Ross-Simons catalogue and having me circle everything I liked.

There was the card from a boyfriend I lived with for over a year that noted in his neat, manly script that I am “a great person” and signed with his full name, as if I might have forgotten who he was since earlier in the day. After we broke up, I obsessed that maybe he mixed my card up with one intended for some new flirtation. There was a box of chocolate from a boyfriend who then got mad that I actually had the nerve to eat it without first segregating his favorites and leaving them for him. While adept at constantly pointing out my flaws, he somehow managed to overlook my one and only special super power – making a box of chocolates disappear.

I eagerly anticipate this year’s sales so I can further hone my chocolate disappearing act. I am going for new personal best speed record. With luck the resulting full belly and candy coma will cause temporary amnesia and overpower the toxic, bitter emptiness in my heart.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bustin’ Arse

Last Monday at skate practice, we raced around the rink on our toe stops. With knees bent for balance and maneuverability, the voice of Miss Corliss, my first ballet teacher echoed in my head with “Never step on pointe with a bent knee – you’ll have big, ugly knees!” One second, I was rounding turn two, and the next second, airborne and then immediately, intimately acquainted with the wood floor. The fall was not forward onto padded knees and elbows like we practice, but onto my backside, which we avoid. It hurt enough to make me dizzy.

Time became fuzzy. People came over to help. I rolled onto hands and knees, which felt better. Someone from the training crew (HiLee?) had me lay flat on my stomach. Ice was offered and declined, and when the dizziness subsided, I crawled/scooted to the center of the rink to get out of the way. Caitlyn hung with me, providing welcome (and possibly unthanked) company while I assessed my body parts. And then, like a cloud passing, it didn’t hurt anymore. Well, not much, anyway. I finished practice. Putting all my weight on my left leg hurt, which was a practical reminder to stay balanced over both legs.

Falling was purely a matter of time, and based on some of the commentary now filtering in, my odds-making friends had been quietly making book on it happening months ago. It took a solid six months longer than I figured it would, which makes it worse, as I should know by now how to fall. Whatever. Stuff happens.

After practice I hobbled to the car (or whatever you call a CR-V). It hurt getting into said vehicle, but once in, it was okay until time get out. The queasiness in my stomach cancelled the idea of supper, and prompted a choice to hit bed early. It hurt laying on my back and it hurt to roll over. I don’t think I moved all night, but I have long had a special talent for sleeping relatively motionless, and if I slide out of bed sideways like a paper doll, making the bed is a breeze in the morning. This talent was perfected in high school when I fancied myself some sort of efficiency expert for the precious three minutes saved per day. No, I am not kidding.

Tuesday morning delivered mostly major stiffness. Oh, and screaming pain if I moved either of my legs laterally. Putting pants on hurt. Finally dressed and at work, I moved more deliberately and slower than usual, which mostly means I was not flying through the office like a tornado. The co-workers probably appreciated the absence of my usual high speed travel. Sitting was not a problem, so, armed with my extensive medical education from Word of Mouth College and WebMD-dot-com Medical University, a broken coccyx was ruled out, as everyone I know who broke theirs (there are many) listed that as the primary symptom. I could (and did) sit all day. Walking around or standing was less fun and more painful, so it was avoided. I made it to belly dance class after work.

Tuesday night it snowed and Wednesday morning there were several inches on the ground. I got ready for work, slowly. Stuff still hurt when moved certain ways, so putting on socks felt like a feat worthy of Cirque du Soleil. While Moose did his business outside knee-deep in snow, lacking a practical snow removal tool like, say, a snow shovel, I swept the walk with an indoor broom. The sweeping motion was most unpleasant and my pelvis screamed at me in painful bursts and stabs which made my stomach churn. I looked at the feeble broom, and across the suddenly expansive yard to the snow-covered CR-V. I considered my four bald tires (pointed out by the oil change tech back in the fall with a cautionary note to replace them before the winter weather), and the incline of my driveway. The idea of clearing the walk, car, and driveway to reach side streets of unknown condition felt like a challenge akin to climbing Mount Everest. A call to the office yielded a roads report and calendar update. Two people out of ten had made it in, and some were coming in late. I had no meetings on the calendar. It was settled – sick day for me.

Thinking my pelvic area would soon stop hurting with rest, I took it easy and gave it a chance. The snow and ice caused Wednesday’s skate practice to be cancelled. Thursday, while hobbling around the office in semi-slow motion, it occurred to me to call my chiropractor, not for an adjustment, which seemed too painful a proposition, but for an x-ray. He has spinal x-rays from my initial visit there and would have something for comparison, if needed. Unfortunately, as so often happens , I got busy doing the work my bosses expect of me in exchange for a nice, steady paycheck.

Suddenly, the clock read 5:30 and I was a half-hour late for the museum fundraiser. Instead of a grand entrance perched upon my usual three inch heels (a clever ploy to avoid hemming too-long pants, with the added psychological benefit of making me feel model-tall), I slunk in wearing sensible low heeled boots that handle well on ice, and my newest fat ass wool pants from Goodwill. Derby has helped several teammates lose a pant size or two, and unfortunately, I am finding them. The closet now holds, at best, three pairs of pants that fit without danger of busting the back seam open upon sitting.

Casual Friday had me wearing a skirt, boots, and a hoodie to work because none of my jeans fit and sweat pants are not allowed in the office. While laboring over a newspaper ad schedule, with a new sore throat and earache, I sneezed, which caused my pelvis to feel like it was splitting in half. And because I almost always sneeze in pairs, I waited for the other sneeze to fall. It came with another shot of pain, which settled it – somebody was going to look at this. The chiropractor is closed on Fridays, so my primary care doctor won the raffle.

Upon hearing the symptoms of my feeling-fractured pelvis, along with the bonus sore throat, earache and super-sensitive scalp, the nice lady on the phone said, “Well, if you can sit, it’s not a broken tailbone.” One of the doctors at the night clinic near the mall had an open appointment at 6:10.

They did the usual vitals – weight (up six pounds?!?!), temperature (98.6 – a full degree high for my norm), blood pressure (110/64) and a throat swab. The x-ray showed a broken coccyx, (better than a fractured pelvis!). The (cute) doctor sent prescriptions to Walgreen’s through the magic of the Internet.

Walgreen’s was like a scene from a movie. The electronic doors opened and greeted me with the strains of The Ramones “I Wanna Be Sedated.” I swear I am not making this up. I laughed the whole long walk to the Pharmacy window where I received my medicines and a lecture from the pharmacist about Hydrocodone. On my way out, I noticed beer in the cooler. Dang! Good music, beer – Walgreen’s may become my new hangout.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Snowy Day

This afternoon it snowed. Wet, sticky, clinging snow. It started early this afternoon with what my grandmother had forever called “snizzle” (snow and drizzle mixed) when she delivered weather reports from her cozy (real estate code for ‘tiny’) apartment on the 14th floor of the senior high rise. She was something else, that one. Decades ahead of the rest. I cracked up when I heard a TV meteorologist use the word about 20 years later.

I had mocked the school system’s early release day when it hit noon and not a drop of precipitation was falling. But once the snizzle hit, it turned to snow and started sticking on the grass and the cars. The roads were wet, but it was cold, so it was likely they’d be slick in no time. We’d received word earlier from one of the partners to use our discretion about staying at the office. When the snizzle started, I chose to skip lunch just in case we left early, and by 3:30, most of us were packing up to leave.
Back in October or November during a routine oil change that turned into a full-blown brake job, the technician cautioned that my tires were, in his words “bald,” and “should be replaced before the winter sets in.” You mean they aren’t supposed to be all smooth and flat on the edges? Hmmm. I didn’t have the money then to fork out for four tires and I still don’t, so it hasn’t been done. And up until now, I’ve been pretty lucky with the weather and road conditions not being all that bad.

After resisting the urge to start flinging snowballs at the graphic designer getting into her car across the parking lot, I cleaned my own car and headed out. Slowly. Tentatively. Not at all like I usually drive.

As I crept across town with the rest of the traffic, tense and fearful with my tread-free tires, I realized I had suddenly become one of those people who drive too slow, like the classic 100 year old crypt keeper in the vintage Cadillac, but I wasn’t taking any chances. I still feel the sting from the $6,000 little auto accident in 2009, every time I see the mismatch of old and new paint on the rear quarter from halfway across a parking lot.

A potential detour to the grocery store for milk and food was nixed on the assumption there were probably a hundred other people there, and I was not going to starve. I’d made extra rice last night, and there is powdered coffee creamer for morning coffee.

At my new elderly driver’s pace, the roads seemed pretty good all the way to the front of my house – at the same spot where a driver crashed into my cedar tree and mowed down my mailbox one icy night in the winter of 2008. Yikes. The antilock braking system kicked in on the approach to the hard right hand turn into the steep driveway and potential slide directly into the woods. Fortunately, the shift from D to 2 worked, the CRV with bald tires did not transform into a bobsled, and I maneuvered the car around to face up the driveway for a straight line out the morning.

Once inside the house, I spent the remaining hour of daylight goofing on the computer and watching the snow continue to fall. It was pretty. It was quiet. It collected on the trees and the ground and covered everything in a fluffy blanket. Moose snoozed on my lap and on the floor next to my chair and behind me on the chair. When he finally went outside to potty, the poor little guy was knee deep in snow trying to do his business. It was funny. Well, probably not to him. And the snow is still pretty.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Da Bomb

The funky, retro clock on the living room wall measures each second audibly. There is no elegance in the movement of the second hand. With a complete absence of grace, it jerks along, one second at a time. The clock is reminiscent of one my parents owned in the 1960s and 70s that makes occasional appearances in the family photo album featuring images of assorted relatives lined up smiling for pictures. That is exactly why I bought it. Lately, it seems to be the only reliable, steady thing in my life. My mind lacks focus and clarity. My heart behaves like a see saw. My alleged career circles the toilet. My temper flares more frequently. My doubts and regrets result in looking back and wondering, “What if?”

The clock, meanwhile, ticks off the time whether I am there or not. It predictably gains about five minutes a month, every month, as if it is trying to hurry me along to something. Unlike some people, it doesn’t present itself as one thing in my presence and become something different when I step away. It doesn’t deliver lies of omission, outright lies, half-truths or shaded truths and then follow up with ex post facto, half-assed rearrangements of the truth under the claim of being considerate of my feelings, which half the time, even I cannot decipher. It doesn’t try to hijack my mind, my body, my wallet, my time or my possessions (including major appliances) for its own convenience or gain, and then when I remark on the ruse, christen me as cynical.

It indicates the time. It adorns the wall. It is just a clock—purchased as a clock, hung as a clock, it remains a clock. For now, anyway. The way the bullshit-tainted winds of turmoil and change blow through my life, it is entirely possible I may awaken one day to discover the clock has become a potholder or a chinchilla collar or a banana nailed to the wall. The way things happen around me I will probably not even be surprised. It would be just another confusing incident in a life that usually feels like a chapter plucked from Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass – people talking in riddles, nonsensical gibberish and outright falsehoods, and things never quite what they seem.

In the frequent stillness of the house when the heating system is not actively blowing and the refrigerator is not humming and gasping, the ticking of the clock is sometimes the only noise. In those moments, it sounds like an overdone movie effect for the timer on a bomb about to blow – a perfect reflection of how I feel. Like my life is a ridiculous, over-budget Hollywood movie with a stupid and incomprehensible plotline. Like I am the bomb about to go off. The audience can see it, but the main character remains ignorant of how much time is left on the timer buried in the back of the brain, or what moment, word or action triggers the detonator. It is a life lived frequently on edge. On the wavering line between kindness and cruelty. On the border between rational and illogical. On the infinitesimal sliver of heart between love and hate.

Staying busy sometimes crowds out the real life issues. The overwhelming emptiness of it. The emotional land mines. The weight of loneliness and the scars of a thousand wounds, real and imagined. By staying busy, the clock rules my life, unwittingly at first. Unkindly at present. It mocks from its lofty position on the wall.

Tick. Tick. Tick. You’re late. Late. Late.

The rest of the world moves forward into the arms of love and friends and family and happiness. The rest of the world makes progress in careers and forms happy homes and makes babies and more money. And you, my dear, are isolated and paralyzed in time. Tick. Tick. Tick.