Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year

     The fondue pot is washed, and the leftovers are put away.  Now comes the ritual of seeing who'll still be awake to watch the ball drop in an hour.  In years past, all the babies and my husband would be fast asleep around me, but I think they'll all make it this year.
     New Year's Eve was always a big deal when I was a young girl.  My mother looked at it as a chance for a fresh start, almost a new beginning.  Maybe she'd get a better job or win the lottery or meet a wonderful man.  Although she always struggled to pay the bills, she'd make sure we had snacks to celebrate.  My great grandmother used to say that whatever you did on New Year's Eve was what you were destined to do in the coming year.  Mom made sure we didn't argue with each other, that we sang, that we had snacks ... all to try and seal the deal for us.  As I got older, I used to let this weigh heavy on me.  I'd try to shove everything I possibly needed to do onto the 30th in order to keep myself free to make a big meal on the 31st.  I reasoned to myself that I was ensuring an easy upcoming year.  All I was really doing was stressing myself out.
     A couple years ago I decided to change my thinking.  Now I look at it as getting lots of cuddle time with the babies, trying to write something or be creative and have a yummy meal made in a communal way.  That's why we fondue.  It is a lot of work to prep it all, but we graze for hours.  I just love feeding them, and I know how lucky I am to be able to afford to feed them well.  When I think back on how my mother struggled, how hungry we often were, there is a profound joy in watching my children eat.
  I hope that the new year brings you joy and good health.  I hope that there is adventure and happiness on your horizon.  I hope you learn something new about yourself and that you spend time helping others however you can.  I hope that love surrounds you.  And if you need it, I hope it brings you a new beginning.  

Monday, December 29, 2014


     The last week and a half has been fairly uneventful, thus no posts.  I got to take a week of vacation which was lovely - to have time with the children, go to the MFA, make a ton of cookies, wrap their presents long in advance, send poetry out ... the list goes on.  It's only the second time in my working life that I've been able to do it, as time off in December when in retail is, of course, not possible.  I know the kids have appreciated the time.
     Tonight marked one of my few remaining PT visits.  Not because I'm all better, but because that's what is covered by insurance ... and to be honest, they might not all be covered anyway.  I'll find out soon enough.  When I go, I wear yoga pants or sweatpants so I can move around more easily.  Thankfully, I double checked the crotch in the pair I almost put on before I left the house.  I caught the huge hole which would have put the therapist and I on a whole new level of intimacy.  I've also been a bit gassy all day which I mention not to gross you out, but to paint a picture of my time in therapy.  Imagine my wonderful physical therapist stretching me this way and that, admonishing me to relax in order to work out a particular muscle kink ... and I couldn't because I was holding in a massive fart.  I really like this woman.  I did not want to fart on her.  Just outside the office door in the empty hallway was an entirely different story.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


     I have the loveliest physical therapist.  She is sweet and kind and incredibly reassuring.  She has also pushed me hard to discover some muscles I haven't used in a while ... mostly as I've been overcompensating to deal with the pain.  It turns out that I have two slightly bulging discs in my lower back that have been pressing on nerves and causing a variety of crappy side effects.  I thought it was due to a lifetime of fairly hard work, sports in high school and college and some extra pounds.  To be fair, a couple some extra pounds.
     But I have learned that the emergency C-section I had with my last child also had a large part to play.  She explained to me that in order to get to the uterus, they have to slice through the front tummy muscle that wraps around and strengthens the lower back.  I'm an educated woman, but I just blamed my extra pouchy tummy look and increased pain on age and weight gain - even though I put no extra weight on after the last two pregnancies.  Why it never dawned on me that it could be related to the C-section itself, I'll never know.  I think I was too quick to blame my own insecurities.
     I've worried about my weight my entire life, even though pictures from high school would lead you to believe there wasn't a lot of food in the house - which there wasn't.  When I went to college, I gained weight but actually felt pleased with it.  I was less angular, and honestly, not hungry all the time.  When we started our life together, we were quite poor and ate like it.  There was a lot of pasta, very little fresh fruits & veggies and far too much cheap processed food.  So, I put a little more weight on, but then I held solid for a long time until I had kids.  Honestly though, after all three it was about 5 pounds.  It's only been due to the back pain that's diminished my get-up-and-go, that I've seen it rise.
     Like most women though, I think about each bite that goes into my mouth.  It's because I try to eat as little as possible each day, that my weight hasn't ballooned up with these back issues.  But that's not a very healthy or interesting way to live.  I also made a vow that I wouldn't talk about my weight in front of my children.  The peer pressure of society would be hard enough without their mom chiming in.  I can vividly recall my own mother telling her co-leader of our girl scout troop one night that she never had to worry about left-overs with me around.  Even at eight, that stung and stuck with me.  I think we often forget how much gravity a tossed off sentence can carry.
     I'm grateful that I've been partnered with this lovely physical therapist who has helped me find some immediate improvement.  I may have to use ice to reduce the swelling and Tylenol for the rest of my life, but at least I'll hopefully be able to walk.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Face

     I have "the face."  That's what my mom called it when random strangers would tell you their life story.  She had "the face," too.  She told me she realized it one night when she and my father had gone out to a local bar in Norfolk, VA to play pool.  This was before any of us were born.  She went  into the ladies room, exchanged pleasantries with a woman at the sink, and was then trapped in the bathroom while said woman proceeded to tell my mother her life story.  She told me that after 10 minutes she was finally able to break away. 
     In a life spent working in customer service, I can't even begin to tell you the number of people who've told me things that I was surprised they would share with me ... personal facts, private thoughts, intimate details, etc.  Almost all of the time, the sharing of these facts hasn't been necessary to complete whatever we were doing together.  I've been told about all manor of diseases and ailments - from the terminal to the inconvenient.  People have shared their birth stories, abuse stories, mental health struggles, fears and dreams.  Most of the time though, they tell me the dark stories, things I shouldn't know.  It's like something in my eyes tells them I'm the customer service mother confessor.
     Yesterday, I sat with a lovely woman with a fantastic sense of humor and unfortunately, a silver/grey hairstyle that was quite similar to the way my mother wore her hair.  While she was talking, I was trying to think about baseball or social injustice - anything to not focus on her hair.  The longer she spoke to me, the more she talked about her marriage and her husband ... how he spends their money on whatever he pleases, but tells her to restrain herself ... how he retired 20 years ago, deciding to stay home and take care of the house while she continued to work, yet still expected her to do all the housework ... that after 50 years she couldn't divorce him, what would be the point ... that she used to imagine he would die first and she would be free, but now that she was on an oxygen tank, she was afraid it would be the other way around. 
     She told me that in her generation the sentiment was "you made your bed, now lie in it."  I despise that phrase.  When my mother decided to marry my father, she told me that some of her family expressed displeasure in the union.  Only my great grandmother told her to do what she wanted to do.  Before the first year was done, he had already started to show himself for the horror he would become.  Seeking support, some of the original dissenters told her, "you made your bed, now lie in it."  From that breach, she suffered, and then we suffered, for another 15 years before she finally got enough help to leave him.
     My customer shared other thoughts that bordered on incriminating.  I think I should leave those inside my office.

Monday, December 1, 2014


     I had one of those moments tonight that might have been a brush with something terrible ... or might have been nothing at all.  I keep thinking it over, and I can't decide. 
     After work, I went to physical therapy.  I've mentioned in a previous post that I've been dealing with back pain.  My doctor is unwilling to prescribe pain medication at this point, preferring instead for me to go to physical therapy and then talk about it again in February.  The therapist is in a fairly large office building with a T-station on the back side.  There's a parking lot behind the station for the building.  It's not particularly well lit.  You walk from the parking lot, through a chain-link fence opening, then a 30 foot walk to the T-station.  It's about 75 feet or so through the station and then on to the building entrance.
     When my session was over, I was walking quite gingerly but trying not to look like a little old lady.  I had my purse tucked underneath my left arm. I exited the building, walking through a small pass through into the subway station.  There were just a few people ahead of me, and I noticed a young man, probably in his mid-twenties looking at his phone and walking towards the turnstiles.  As I walked past him, my eyes were straight ahead on the door in front of me.  In an instant, I saw his reflection turn around and head in my direction.  I remember thinking it was an odd move.  I also remember thinking that this may not be good.
     I knew I couldn't move faster, so I thought confront it head on.  I pushed opened the door, turned and held it open for him to walk through.  I looked him in the face and said, "After you, sir."  With the door still propped open, I slid my hand into my purse and grabbed my keys.  Meanwhile, he walked two or three steps further then stopped and turned back towards me.  At that moment, a woman with three kids walked past us towards the parking lot.  I stepped right in behind her kids, walking far too close to them.  Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed him turn again and head off in the opposite direction.  When we got to the chain-link opening, she continued walking and I veered off into the lot.  Glancing back, I couldn't see him anymore.  I hustled to the car, got in and left quickly.
    It could have been nothing at all, or it could have been something rather unpleasant.