When I woke up on Saturday, I knew I’d be good for nothing. Migraine. Couldn’t get out from under the weight of my head. So the day went by in a blur, kids bringing my ice water, dog licking my face, kids asking if I wanted anything. Whenever I’d wake up, it was just to roll over to the other side.
Meanwhile, Manfrengensen was a super man. Took care of the kids, made them breakfast for dinner. Took the Princess to her field hockey game (where she scored her first goal and I MISSED IT), even took time away from his ND-football-watching-schedule to drop Edison off at the movies with friends.
Then today, he took The Princess with him to Clooney’s soccer game, so I could catch up on all my weekend chores in peace. As I walked around the house, I realized what an amazing guy he is. Not only did he totally take care of the kids yesterday, but he also brought in wood and set up the fireplace for winter.
But the best part was when I opened up the freezer and found a brand new quart of my favorite ice cream.
Love that guy. He rocks my world.
I’ve been having some minor physical problems the last year or two. Until then, I had been a fairly avid (and not half-bad, I think) tennis player. But I began to have pain in my legs, and the pain became more frequent, until I finally just had to leave the court. I saw a few doctors and it turns out that I have chronic exertional compartment syndrome, and though PT helped a few years ago, when I tried that again earlier this year, the pain actually became worse.
At first, the doctor (let’s call him Dr. Paul) told me that there was a surgery that could be performed, but he added that this was an option usually reserved for runners, “…and you’re not a runner.” he said. Seriously, he actually said that, and it reminded me of this bit from Louis C.K.:
But the thing was, maybe I could be a runner, if I didn’t have debilitating pain in my leg every time I run. And when I look back on my past experiences with trying to be a runner, like that time I tried Couch to 5k, it sure seems like perhaps I may have had this problem for a lot longer than I’ve had the actual diagnosis. What I had once assumed were just shin splints were probably the early onset of the chronic compartment syndrome.
But any way, I ended up seeing another doctor, Dr. Jim, because Dr. Paul didn’t actually perform the surgery, and Dr. Jim is the only one in their practice who does. Dr. Jim sent me to another doctor in a different practice, Dr. Brad, who is the only doctor in my area who actually performs the test for chronic compartment syndrome. And that was really fun, because Dr. Brad stuck a needle into my shins and calves in like eight different places to test the muscle pressure on a little calculator he held in his hand. Then (without the needle) he sent me upstairs to run on a treadmill for as long as I could before the pain made me stop. This turned out to be a little longer than six minutes. At that point, the nurse rushed me back down to Dr. Brad’s exam room, where he stuck the needle in again (in as quick a sequence as he could) to measure the pressure after exercise. It turned out that there was a significant increase, so the diagnosis was (I guess) confirmed.
Dr. Jim was very eager to do the surgery, despite whatever running I may or may not plan to do in the future. But I didn’t really have a great rapport with Dr. Jim, (who basically told me only that they do it in a surgery center, not a hospital; I would have some bruising, two-inch scars on both legs, and I wouldn’t be able to drive for two weeks) so I decided to try a sports medicine guy at a much more respected health institution (Dr. Cool) for a second (or third, I guess) opinion and also to see how he did his surgeries. Dr. Cool confirmed the diagnosis, BUT he explained that the surgery doesn’t always work, nor is it any kind of quick-fix for the problem. In fact, his own college-age daughter had had the surgery, but it took FIVE YEARS before she was able to run another 5K, and that’s a long time to be on the couch.
Plus, he said, “I’m not going to tell you not to walk or drive for two weeks after the surgery, but I will say realistically that when you get up from your bed to go to the bathroom, the pain will be so bad you will feel like you’ll pass out.”
So, as you can imagine, I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to sign up for all that.
Instead I turned to alternative therapy, after someone suggested myofascial release. I went looking for someone who does it, which wasn’t easy to find, though a chiropractor friend said she did have someone in her office who practiced it, and offered to speak to her about it on my behalf. About a week later, she said that her colleague didn’t think I was a candidate for therapy because it would be too intense, and might then cause more damage than was already there. She did, however, recommend kinesio tape to help loosen things up, and that’s been really helpful. Whenever I feel like the muscle is tight, I just put on a few strips of the tape, usually for the day, go about my business, and then it feels better. Overall there’s less soreness and more mobility.
Which brings me to the yoga (long story short — too late!)
I signed up for a Brand New Beginner course at a local studio, thinking it would help to stretch the muscles in a low-impact kind of way. It seems like it’s going to be great — eight sessions, everything explained in detail, just the kind of pace I need at the moment.
For the first class, I arrived early. I had planned on getting there early in case there was any paperwork to fill out, but it turned out that because I am an idiot when it comes to time, I actually got there 45 minutes early instead of the 15 I had planned for. The receptionist was very nice; she’s like this super-cool older (older than I) lady that you can just tell — nothing gets by her notice and she handles it all with the same monotone interest. Kind of like Roz in Monster’s Inc. (Turned out, I didn’t have any more paperwork.)
So, since I was alone and had some time, Roz offered to give me a tour of the studio; here are the lockers, the showers etc. And then, she pointed to a room where I could tell there was a lot of activity going on.
“That’s the aerobic-yoga cross class,” she said, “You could take it any time you want. You’ll love it.” And then she left me in the lounge right outside the room, where I stretched out and started leafing through a stack of O Magazine issues.
“Get your kettlebells!” called the trainer lady from the room. I imagined a room full of people swinging their kettlebells like they were all going for the bronze in hammer throw to her prompts. The music was pumping like a 90s rave; the place was shaking with the accumulated movement of the people in the room. I turned a page to see how Gayle King was handling the purge and organization of her enormous and very cluttered closet. (Who needs that many purses? How many shades of blue shoes can you wear?)
All of a sudden, the door flew open, and a guy just stood there in its frame with an empty water bottle in his hand. He was just DRIPPING with sweat. He was, no exaggeration, built like Dwayne Johnson. I mean, HUGE, sinewy muscles, wearing an itty bitty hanky of a black tank top that clung to his dampened pecs like tissue, the kind of guy you’d see in a GNC ad, and he was breathing so heavily, in such a labored fashion, that for a brief moment, I thought he was just going to fall forward on his face like something in a Warner Brothers cartoon.
He made his way over to the water fountain to refill his bottle, but his breathing never slowed, was never steady, never inaudible. He could not retrieve enough oxygen for what this class was taking from him.
That class? Roz thinks I would love that class? What had I ever done to Roz? Why would she want to kill me? Needless to say, I don’t think I will be taking that class any time soon, and by soon, I mean before Kanye West is POTUS.
Anyway, I’m going to stick with my nice quiet yoga class for now. Two classes in, and it’s been pretty good. I do feel like it’s going to be helpful, if not for the compartment syndrome, at least just in general. I’m never going to be the poster girl for lululemon, but hey, it’s worth a shot.
Her: Let’s play. I wanna play. See?
Me: Okay, but where’s the squirrel?
Her: I don’t want the squirrel. I want to play with the bully stick I have in my mouth.
Me: Yeah, but that’s like 3 inches long, and all slobbery. I can’t do anything with that.
Her: Yeah, but I want to play.
Me: Okay, here’s the squirrel. Drop the stick.
Me: Don’t you want to play?
Me: Want to play with the squirrel?
Her: No, just you and the stick.
Me: What if I hit you in the face with the squirrel like this:
Her: That does nothing for me. Did you see this stick?
Me: I’ve got stuff to do.
Her: Me too. I’m going to lie down here with the stick. Did you see this stick?
Me: I need coffee.
Just want to start this off by saying (in case you don’t already know) that parenting can often be a soul-sucking experience. Don’t get me wrong, of course sometimes it’s great; they make you laugh; they make you proud. But mostly they just wear you down to a little nub. At least until they’re in college (and even then, only if you’re lucky).
And that’s just before your first cup of coffee, mind you.
Anyway, basketball season ended, and since Clooney is the kind of kid who needs some structure and activity to his days, I suggested he try running track this season. He’d never done track, but he’d done a couple of cross-country kind of activities in the past. He’s long and lean, so I figured track would be a good outlet for him.
Clooney’s kind of artsy. I mean he loves art, but more than that, he’s into music. He can talk about music these days the way he could talk about cars from the time he could speak. Not that he can’t still talk about cars. Generally speaking, he can talk about anything. In fact, his rambling
conversations could talk cats off the back of a tuna boat. But anyway, he plays three instruments: electric bass, the clarinet, and cello. He also sings in the school chorus and has a part in the drama club’s spring play. He’s plenty busy, but I still worry that he will be sucked into that iPad, that Minecraft will turn his brain to pudding, that he needs more stimuli. I’m a mom. I worry…
His school doesn’t have an elementary track program, so when I went looking for a program, choices were kind of limited in our area. I finally found one through the Catholic Youth Ministry, but our church doesn’t have a track team, so I had to sign him up through the diocese website, and then get a dispensation to put him on the team of another parish. Already I was jumping through hoops, but hey, a mom does these things.
After we got signed up, we were able to get more information about the team. The first sign that perhaps we’d made a mistake, was the practice schedule: Tuesday and Thursday nights from 5:45 until 7. Not ideal, since he has bass lessons on Tuesdays until 5 and drama climb on Thursdays until 5 as well. But again, I’m Mom. If he wants to run track, I will make it work.
His first practice was cancelled because of late-season snow, so the first practice he actually attended was on Thursday. Thursdays are a bit crazy for us, because I signed The Princess up for a dance class this season, thinking that she could take a school bus one day a week to the school that offers this after-hours program. However, I was mistaken on this point, and didn’t find out until after I had paid for the class. So, every week, I pick up the Princess from her school and drive her to this other school, about 15 minutes, for the class. It’s not really a big deal, but I have to pick her up at 5 as well. The dance school is only about a mile from Clooney’s school, so it actually kind of worked out, in terms of picking them up around the same time.
On a normal day.
The first day of practice, was also the day that I took our dog to be groomed. She wasn’t ready to be picked up until 3:00, so after I got her, I took her with me to get The Princess. After dropping off my daughter at the dance class, I ran the dog back home, which was 20-25 minutes from the dance school, depending on the traffic. Got the dog settled at home, grabbed some cold chicken for Clooney to have for dinner before track, and headed back to get them both. First I picked up The Princess, and then I headed over to get Clooney, and one of our neighbors’ kids, with whom we carpool. From there, we headed back toward home (at 5:00, traffic is thicker, so 25 minutes was making good time). Clooney ate his dinner in the car, but it turned out that he had forgotten to bring his track clothes, so after we dropped off the neighbor, we stopped back at our house for him to change, and to drop off The Princess with her older brother, Edison, who was by then home from his own after school activity.
Clooney quickly changed, filled a water bottle, and we headed to the practice, which was 10 minutes away, but still in heavy rush-hour suburban traffic. Lots of cars, lots of lights. I missed a parents’ meeting with the coach, but I got him there by 6:00, which I told the coach would be a regular occurrence.
After I saw that Clooney was settled, I got back in the car, went home, fed the other two kids (because Manfrengensen was working late), walked the dog, and went back to the track to get Clooney. By that time, the sun was going down, and it was getting cold. I stood watching him run for a bit, and then he saw me. The coach told them he’d see them Sunday at the meet, and the kids were free to leave. Clooney came through the gates with the crowd, broke away to come to me and said, “You know what? I don’t want to do this. Track’s not really my thing.”
And I just kind of felt like this:
Pulled this out of my second-grade daughter’s “daily” folder.
Took me a second to realize how facting hilarious it is.
So, you may have been wondering where the hell I’ve been. Not that I flatter myself by believing that I am much more than a constellation of ones and zeroes in a universe of code, but I do feel like I have this place, and so I should tend to it now and then.
It’s 2014, and I have not written much in the last six months. I’ve been on hiatus, closed for business, out to sea in a lot of ways. But now we are almost a month deep into the new year, and I feel like I’ve got to come back, or risk never coming back at all.
The thing is, we lost my father in September. He was an amazing guy, the kind of person who lit up a room, brought the party, made you feel like all was right with the world. He was just the best kind of father, and King of the Grandfathers. The kind of grandpa who dotes on his grandkids, slips them candy and money on the sly. I’ve written about him many times here, including the time that he totally saved my butt, which was just one of the many many times he did. He was in the hospital for a couple of weeks, complications from a procedure performed on his heart, that ended in a blood-splattered night of dashed hopes and tears. In the wake of the loss, I’ve kind of been empty and had a hard time putting thoughts into words. Also I feel like I need to address the issue of losing my dad before I can write anything else. Does that make any kind of sense?
I sat by his side, taking my daily shifts in the hospital, and we had the most wonderful conversations. I think he knew his time was short, or at least he feared that it was. I don’t know if other people let him feel those feelings, but I did. I let him know it was okay to be scared. And I feel so lucky because he basically told me everything I had ever needed to hear him say. That he loved me. That I’m smart, strong, a good mother. That my husband is the best kind of guy.
He didn’t believe in God or heaven, but he said on more that one occasion that he thought he would achieve immortality in the hearts and memories of the people who loved and remembered him. Whether or not he had that right, I know he will never leave me.
2013 was a good year in a lot of ways. Both the boys had lead roles in their school plays. Edison made the all-state chorus, and his scores at the audition earned him the rank of number-one baritone in the state. We had a great summer vacation in California. We got a dog. But all that has been under the cloud of the worst thing that happened last year, not necessarily robbing me of joy in the good, but tarnishing it nonetheless.
My dad always told me, whenever I felt sorry about losing my mother, that I had to concentrate on what I have, to make what’s here now my focus. In the end, that’s some of the best advice he ever gave me.
So now it is a new year, and though the holidays were difficult, I do feel like the baggage is just a few ounces lighter. So much to look forward to this year: Edison is going to high school, and Clooney’s going to middle school. Every day is a gift, and there’s a lot of laughter and love around here. So now I’ve said it, and hope that, at least in a blogging sense, I can move on.
My dad used to end every phone call by saying, “Okay, if you need me, you know where I’ll be.”
Yeah, I know.