Kicking boot and taking aim…

*Warning: This blog post has no substance whatsoever.

Last year I ordered a pair of boots online, got them, tried them on, felt they went with nothing I owned, and returned them. This year, I ordered a pair of boots online — not because I liked just the sale price but because I liked the style and trusted the company for quality and comfort — and worried that I wouldn’t be able to pull them off. Not literally, as they had side zippers, but stylistically. Could I make boots look fashionable? That was the question. And another: Would I have to revamp my wardrobe to do so?

The best thing I did about boots was discuss them with a friend at work who wore boots. To be honest, I thought she looked rather like she had ridden to work on a Harley Davidson the first time I saw her wearing boots — in summer — with an ordinary dress. This is Florida, the land of flip flops and sandals in summertime — even at work. (Although I personally limit my wearing of flip flops to the shower at the health club.) Boots have made their way into the fall/winter culture here in the past few years, at least in my limited experience, but certainly not as a summer choice. (But, then again, when I grew up, my mother taught me the societal rules such as no white sandals after Labor Day. Style rules were unbreakable — even when it was warm in October.)

But as I got to know Kathy, I found that the boots fit her personality, and as we walked the stairs together for one of our micro workouts, I told her I had purchased boots but that I wasn’t sure what to wear them with. (Bad grammar, ending with a preposition. Perhaps “…but that I wasn’t sure with what I should wear them”? Awkward, like me in boots.)

“Anything!” Kathy told me. She then confessed her insecurity when first wearing boots. She said she wanted to pull off the Harley look but didn’t think she could. (Obviously, she succeeded.) She finally chose to wear the boots whenever and with whatever she wished and felt comfortable with her own style. She encouraged me to do the same. I sent her the link to the boots I’d ordered; she applauded my choice. I felt braver.

When the boots arrived, I tried them on — perfection — but didn’t try them on with any outfits. Instead, I planned an outfit, packed my boots in my gym bag, and made myself a captive of my wardrobe choice. I would have no alternative pair of shoes at the ready. I was committed to wearing the boots.

As I got dressed after my workout, I got several exclamations of “I love the outfit” along with “I love the boots!”

(I love getting ready for work at the health club. My locker room friends are like sisters to me, and when they critique my day’s wardrobe positively, I leave feeling I look good.)

Now confident, I admitted my previous lack thereof, and one of my friends shared that she’d put on boots with an outfit the other day and then chickened out and wore the shoes she’d tucked in her bag instead.

I went to work still confident but feeling a bit conspicuous, as if I’d gotten a dramatically different hair style or just gotten my braces removed. Surely, everyone would take notice of me in my new boots. And they did. And they gave me rave reviews.

But instead of becoming more aware of myself, I became more aware of others — specifically, more aware of the number of women wearing boots and the variety of outfits that looked good with boots. The huge variety of both types of boots and the outfits that coordinate well with them made me realize I could wear boots and kick off my own style — I could “kick boot” in fashion. (Hey, it makes for a cute blog title, anyway. :) “Kicking boot and taking aim” — with a camera. Rather like “kicking butt and taking names.” Play on words, that kind of thing. Right?)

It also made me think I should write a blog post, this one, to go with that title, which meant I would need at least one photo. And when I saw one of my fellows doing no work — she was off the clock and said so — I asked her if she would mind going around the building and photographing women’s legs and their boots for my blog post. She didn’t blink an eye, but simply took my offered smartphone, shot the photos of the ladies, and then returned to take one of me before proudly showing me the gallery she’d collected. (Thank you, Meghan Waltimire, for the fabulous photos above. Kicking boot and taking aim… )

Unfortunately, my friend Kathy wasn’t wearing boots that day.

“Oh, man!” she exclaimed when she saw the photographs that had been taken. “It’s Boots Picture Day and I forgot to wear my boots!”



There ain’t no tired like…

The fun before the storm... Little Orange Riding Hood and her sister Trish with unruly, not overly photogenic or cooperative football fans in the background. Did these people not feel the raindrops splashing around us? This was the weekend before the Nightmare with Coughin' began...

The fun before the storm… Little Orange Riding Hood and her sister Trish with unruly, not overly photogenic or cooperative football fans in the background. Did these people not feel the raindrops splashing around us? This was the weekend before the Nightmare with Coughin’ began…

I once thought that pregnancy and motherhood were a cruel hoax. Think about it. Just when a pregnant woman is at her third-trimester-induced, sleep-deprivation limit, she goes through the ordeal of giving birth only to care — with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength — for an infant who requires her services around the clock. As in 24-7 for 7s on end.

“There ain’t no tired like new mom tired,” I told my pregnant daughter just last week (because I believe in encouraging those with morning sickness).

But that was before I got sick. Now I know better.

“There ain’t no tired like coughing tired,” I told myself then.

Illness with a cough is a cruel hoax. Just when you need sleep more than ever, sleep becomes ever so elusive. You lie down. You begin to relax. You cough. You dramatically sit up or stand or clutch the nightstand and desperately cough until you retch and tears flow or the cough is somehow satisfied (or not). Exhausted, you lie down. Begin to relax. Cough. Sit, stand, clutch, desperately cough until you produce something — perhaps just tears — and feel the inferno that is your lungs scream, “Dante never mentioned this circle of Hell.” Then lie down to try again. Exhausted. Desperately seeking rest. And then the cough begins. Again and again.

You begin to dread bedtime. It is easier to not sleep when it is light outside and the rest of the world shares your misery of wakefulness.

Last week, in the middle of one of those long nights of coughing, I dozed long enough to dream that I was trapped in prone position and died mid-cough because I couldn’t sit up to hack out a lung or two. A coughin’ coffin, as it were.

I hate being sick.

I was so sick that I didn’t shop on Black Friday or Saturday or Sunday. Not even online. On Cyber Monday, I stayed home from work — and still didn’t shop. On Tuesday morning, I checked my work calendar, saw that I had an interview to conduct and went to work two hours late but still an hour before the interview to prepare. Surely, the extra two hours of not sleeping went a long way toward bolstering my health and making me healthy enough to return to work. (After all, if I were still teaching, I’d have gone to work, right?) I got to work and got the evil eye. Sure, it was disguised as concern, but the message was clear, “Get away from me, you germ carrier.”

“Really,” I said. “I feel fine now. I am so much better. I’m not contagious. It’s just this lingering cough…”

I could tell my protestations fell on deaf ears and so headed for my office space.

“If only I had an office of my own,” I thought, “I could close the door and cough to my lungs’ content without bothering a soul.”

(Apparently, the ears deaf to my protestations were not, in fact, deaf, and the thick, wooden bathroom door is not sound proof. Also, it is not an office space.)

Returning to my office space (that I share with seven other cubicles only slightly filled with employees on this particular day), I coughed and then apologized — when I could speak again. Attempted soothing hot tea — and then coughed and apologized. Attempted Halls mentholated cough drops (the ones that don’t taste like candy) — and still coughed and finally apologized to myself. I couldn’t do it.

I logged out of my computer, conducted the interview with Clorox wipes in hand (no handshake required), and then made my way out the door, disinfecting surfaces as I walked. By the time I got home, I was hopeless.

Would nothing stop this cough?

I knew my body enough to avoid cough medicines at all costs. (They make me nauseous and loopy and keep me wide awake. If I wanted to stay awake, I could cough without feeling nauseous or loopy. No help necessary.) My usual standbys — Sudafed during the day, Benadryl at night, mucus relief pills every four hours, plus the natural remedies — only made things worse. Coconut oil and Vitamin C had failed me. Ginger tea with honey and lemon helped but didn’t cure. Time as the healer of all things was taking its own sweet time. Meanwhile, my cough prevailed — and with every burning of my lungs the cough seared its memory into my body.

I was losing hope.

In the spring, I had had a similar illness that had left me with laryngitis and a lingering cough, but not a cough as bad as this one. My doctor had prescribed the coveted cough medicine with codeine  — and I had tried it that night only to find it a cough suppressant with intolerable side effects that lasted twelve hours. Instead of making me drowsy and inducing sleep, it made me jazzed.

My friend Michelle told me she had similar side effects and so took the medicine — just a fraction of the dose — during the day.

For some reason, Michelle’s words came back to me now; I mentioned them to my husband who encouraged me to try the medicine.

The next coughing fit convinced me I had nothing to lose. I figured if I could just get the non-productive coughing to stop, my lungs could calm and heal. I took a quarter teaspoon of the cough medicine — one fourth of the prescribed 12-hour dose — and found relief. It suppressed my cough, made me feel slightly jittery but not enough to prevent me from napping that afternoon, and I discovered the power of hope.

Of course, as if on cue at bedtime, my cough returned, and so I took another quarter teaspoon — but the smaller dose effectively controlled the cough and allowed me to sleep. The days following included small doses of the drug that gave me large doses of hope. The coughing plague was coming to an end.


There ain’t no tired like coughing tired, but there is no sleep like that offered with hope.

Hope that illness will end. Hope that health will return. Hope that nights will offer dreams rather than nightmares, that days returning to work will offer welcomes rather than evil eyes.

I returned to work on Thursday morning, cough controlled by microdoses of medicine. By the weekend, I needed no medicine.

On Sunday, I went to the grocery store with my husband. The week before, I had barely completed this chore before returning to the car and having a coughing fit, desperately holding onto the car door as I coughed until I cried. This Sunday, I was healthy. Not 100 percent, but so much better than I had been.

And then I realized that while there “ain’t no tired like coughing tired,” that “new mom tired” that my daughter will be facing lasts a lot longer than a week or two.

And though “new mom tired” is so worth the effort, I am glad to be on this side of both of those kinds of tired.






A part of the “Sisterhood of World Bloggers”…

sisterhood_of_world_bloggersMememememememememe…. This post is all about me — and eight other bloggers. One who nominated me for the “Sisterhood of World Bloggers,” Nida S., who writes “on the road to inkrichment.” Seven whom I will nominate for the sisterhood. Nida has been an encouragement to me as a fellow blogger, often commenting on my blog posts. She, like me, has taken the NaBloPoMo challenge for November, which ends today. I have enjoyed perusing her blog; she is a self-proclaimed “reluctant immigrant,” living in Canada instead of Pakistan, her homeland that she loves and misses. She is thankful for the freedoms she is enjoying in Canada but feels a bit guilty having escaped the trials her people are facing. She wants to give back to her beloved Pakistan; I think her blog does that, by expressing her love, her struggles, and her loyalty to her home country. Her blog is a beautiful place.

Accepting this award has its requirements. Those who accept the award must:

  1. Provide the link to the person who nominated you.
  2. Add the reward logo.
  3. Answer the questions your nominator has asked
  4. Nominate 7 other bloggers and let them know via comments.
  5. Ask your nominees 10 questions.
Now I understand why Nida said

Now I understand why Nida said what she said… “I had to nominate you” and “I am not too sure if you are interested in awards or not.” I mean, who wouldn’t be interested in an award as positive feedback — maybe those who know how much work it can be? But that may be the Sick Sara speaking… I feel lousy. :(

(When I explained all this to my husband, he said, “That’s not an award; that’s a chain letter.” Since I have spent two days working on this and still have to post comments on other blogs to alert them to the “award,” I have to say I feel a bit reluctant to put that much work on them. Answering the questions was fun, however, and since I’ve put so much time into this — all while feeling desperately ill — I figure I may as go all the way and complete the tasks.)

Here are my answers to the questions put forward by Nida S. of inkrichment:

1. Your most important ‘health’ rule?

Probably the “health” rule I most consistently live by is that “exercise covers a multitude of sins.” When I was a college student, I became an avid walker, and I determined, even then when I was young and in shape, that “It’s easier to stay in shape than get in shape.” The fact that my exercise time has been a time to pray or a time to engage with friends or a way of keeping mentally sane has added to the value of physical exercise over the years. For the most part, I have managed to stay in shape, as advised by my college wisdom, and also realized that where I fail in my diet I can cover with exercise, making it even more important. If you add prayer, friendship, and mental health to the effects of physical exercise, you can probably agree that “exercise covers a multitude of sins.”

2. A day at the library or a skydiving resort?

You had me at resort. While I love books and reading and learning, the call of the great outdoors would beckon me more (plus you didn’t say I HAD to actually skydive, right? Just be there for a day?). Twenty years ago, I went to a skydive training center to cheer a friend as she took her first leap. I never found the urge to do it myself, but it was exciting to be that close to it and just enjoy the sunshine and the beauty of the wide open fields. Add “resort” to that day, and I am imagining some luxury to go with the excitement of watching others leap. I’m there. :)

3. A bad habit you finally let go of?

This is a hard one. Have I let go of a bad habit? I have an ongoing battle with sugar addiction — have even been so moved as to read books and write a research paper on the subject. Used that research paper as an example for my juniors and seniors as they wrote their research papers — even demonstrating an oral report using the topic. But it remains an unbeaten bad habit for me. If I stay off sugar — candy, mostly — completely, I can avoid the bad habit of overindulging on sugar. In fact, I find if I have my sugar habit under control, the rest of my diet is easier to maintain too. But if I have some sugar, I want a lot. At one point in my teaching career, I owned an aquarium called my “sweetwater tank” that students and I filled with pieces of candy. They got pieces from the tank as a reward for a good grade or good behavior. I got candy — by the handful — when they went out to P.E., whether I deserved it or not. For me, sugar is all or nothing; I guess that is why I consider it an addiction, not just a bad habit. For the moment, I have let it go. “Finally” as in “for the final time”? I hope so.

4. What place does writing have in your life?

Before I married and became an instant mother of four children, writing — as in keeping a journal — was a daily event. I have used a journal as a prayer diary, as my own devotional to God, as well as a record of my private thoughts. I pictured myself a John Boy Walton who would later use those journals for writing books that would change the world. But when I became a mother, most of my writing went by the wayside. Once I year I would write a Christmas letter recording the year’s events and shoot a nice photo of my children, which I sent to about 100 families. It always got high praise, and I envisioned myself — one day, when the children were grown and I had time (still waiting for that time) — writing a book or two or three. I figured I could always write a book titled Between the Letters and fill in all the gaps between those Christmas letters. I still may.

As a high school English teacher, I was constantly writing tests and assignments and repairing student work while not expanding my own writing portfolio. In a way, I confess that I envied my students the opportunity to write. It was while I was in graduate school — writing papers and responding in length within class forums online — that a friend suggested I write a blog. I did. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. Some days it is easy to write; other days it is a real trial. Sometimes I write about the lessons I am learning; sometimes I write about the humor in the incidents of the day. At times, words just flow as a balm for my soul or an opportunity to be a balm for others — if only offering a smile or a laugh as a respite from this world that can be so wearing. I have hobbies — scrapbooking, jewelry making — that are mostly distant memories. Writing blog posts — always with that dream of writing something that will change the world — is where I spend my free time. I only hope it will lead to something more.

5. If you could go back 10 years and tell yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

“This Too Shall Pass.” That is the advice I would give myself — but in two senses. One, the troubles of this day, this season of life will pass; you will get through it; you will not always struggle as you do now. Two, the wonders of this day, the miracles of seeing children grow and become, for example, will also pass — and you better take the time to enjoy it. One of my favorite quotes is from Jim Elliot, a Christian missionary who was killed by those he came to serve. He said, “Wherever you are be all there…” That quote reminds me to live in the moment, to be fully present — not just to “stop and smell the roses” but also to fully embrace the trials and tribulations and the God who gets you through them. It is this mentality that keeps my camera empty on Thanksgiving day and others — because I am l-i-v-i-n-g the moment, not capturing the moment in pixels. (Another reason why I love writing. It forces me to reflect and capture those moments after the fact.)

6. Describe life in one sentence.

Life is like an onion; you have to peel away the layers, sometimes tearfully, to get to its heart, which might be bitter or strong or sweet, and once you bite into it and truly experience it you can be quite offensive to those who haven’t.

7. What gets you going every single day.

Routine gets me going every single day. The alarm goes off, I get up, use the bathroom, step on the scale, remove my mouth guard and clean it, and then walk down to the kitchen, where one habitual step follows another. (Which definitely includes a robust cup of coffee.) I have made it a habit to not hit the snooze button.

8. Your most favourite word of the English language.

My favorite word in the English language is “persnickety.” It’s fun to say and it describes my modus operandi. I am an editor by nature. I see the type-os in life — the errors in G.U.M. (grammar, usage, mechanics) that others miss. On the one hand I am ready to correct; on the other, I hope to demonstrate grace. I am the “fresh eyes” my work demands, catching the errors and inconsistencies and attempting to make things perfect. Some define “persnickety” as fussy or picky or fastidious or overly concerned about the mundane details. I’m OK with “persnickety” being all of those things — I am, too.

9. One thing about humanity that makes you sick.

Unkindness makes me sick. It might be a small act or an outrageous atrocity. It might be calling names or bullying or raping or torturing or murdering or enslaving or terrorizing. It might be withholding good when it is in your power to do good. Kindness is an attribute of love; unkindness of any sort conveys anything but love.

10. What was the biggest surprise of your life?

Another difficult question. I am difficult to surprise, and so I am thinking my biggest surprise would have to be something God crafted on my behalf. I was surprised to find that I could love again after my first husband died. Just a few weeks ago, while at a wedding reception for my nephew, I was surprised when I told my second husband of 20 years that I would say yes all over again — and it hadn’t been an easy 25 years. My husband looked at me in disbelief and with tears in his eyes, and I knew I had meant that “yes” the first time and that “yes” to him two decades later. Perhaps the biggest surprise is how God can soften our hearts — even those of the persnickety and perfection seeking — and help us see our own weaknesses and need for forgiveness so that we can reach out in love where it can do the most good.

These were some of my thoughts on Nida’s mostly difficult questions.

Now, some remarkable writers who I feel should be fellow sisters in this award.

Yes, this post does have an end. Finally, here are my questions for the nominees:

  1. What is the most important thing you do in any given day?
  2. What is your favorite tradition for the holiday season so quickly approaching?
  3. If you could travel anywhere today, where would you go?
  4. What place does writing have in your life?
  5. If you could go back 10 years and tell yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
  6. Describe life in one sentence.
  7. If you could personally “fix” one thing that is wrong in our world today, what would you choose to fix?
  8. What do you do to relax?
  9. What is one of your pet peeves?
  10. What is the most significant life lesson you have learned?

I have succumbed…

succumb_definition“I have succumbed…” seemed the right title for this post somehow. Although now that I’ve typed that post title and checked the definition of “succumb,” I’m thinking the word may be a bit strong. I meant it as the first definition “fail to resist” rather than “die from the effect of a disease” — because I have (unwillingly) failed to resist the effect of the disease that has been plaguing my son and husband this week. I am sick. I am not dead.

My throat is sore, my nose is runny, my cough has begun in earnest. My head aches. Thankfully, I don’t have to go to work today, but it is not how I wanted to spend this rare day off work.

I sit at the computer, having digested a mucus relief pill and the generic for Sudafed (which requires more I.D. to purchase than does voting), and I’m sipping warm orange juice with melted coconut oil. Yummy. Well, not exactly, but it does serve two purposes: medicinal and instant lip balm while I sip.)

Retail therapy, you suggest? It has cured what ailed me before. And it is Black Friday. I could venture forth into the crowded stores and cough my way to the racks and shelves, certain to win friends and influence people — at least to get away from me. (I could hire myself out as shopping cougher, ready to clear paths to the most-desired shelves in a single cough.) But I am not up for that. Instead, I view my usual Black Friday shopping spots via computer and am disappointed. Bath & Body Works no longer carries my two favorite scents for lotion.The disappointment saps my energy to visit other stores online.

Perhaps breakfast will bolster my strength for shopping.


Seven hours later:

I didn’t have the strength to make breakfast, and my husband saw my need and filled it with some cheesy scrambled eggs. When I still lacked energy, my son worked his technological magic and played a movie for me. I took my blanket and positioned myself on the couch to watch — a treat that gave me enough energy to eat a little soup and clean up the remnants of the Thanksgiving dishes.

Meanwhile, companies are frantically sending me emails, alerting me how many hours I have left to shop for Black Friday deals. What? Sara isn’t shopping? And I don’t care. All I want for Christmas — actually, all I want for Black Friday — is my health. And sleep, which eludes me due to this blasted cough that unproductively tickles my throat and ends any attempt at sleep.

A fellow blogger nominated me for an award — more on that tomorrow — and that lifted my spirits. But overall, this is a day of little accomplishment, even in my attempts at napping. Maybe the coconut oil will have worked its magic by tomorrow… but today I have succumbed to this disease. I don’t like it.

Prayers please.


Despite the turkey…

A beautiful day for giving thanks...

A beautiful day for giving thanks…

Another year, another turkey. Another hundred exclamations of “I HATE cooking turkey.”

(I do hate cooking turkey. So much pressure to cook it just right. And such a track record of doing something wrong.)

This year, I couldn’t find the neck and worried (a little) throughout the four hours of cooking, wondering if cooking the turkey with the neck inside would somehow alter the flavor or the outcome. I thought I could look online to find out but never made it out of the kitchen to do so. I considered telling my husband — but figured the bird was stuffed and cooking before he got home from work and saw no need in two people worrying. (Or one worrying while the other scolded or laughed.)

As it turns out, the neck wasn’t inside the bird. We never did find it.

It was a day filled with cooking. A day thinking of people I should call to wish them a happy Thanksgiving. A day of thinking as I worked that I should be thankful — without taking the time to officially do so. As I surveyed the continual supply of dirty dishes and considered the long list of tasks ahead to complete the food preparations, I thought of the plaque my mother had in her kitchen:

“Thank God for dirty dishes,

They have a tale to tell.

While other folks go hungry,

We’re eating very well.

With home and health and happiness,

We shouldn’t need to fuss,

For by this stack of evidence,

God’s very good to us.”

Indeed, God has been very good to us — evidenced by the ever-present work in this kitchen of mine and the number of people who share my table — and I was thankful, am thankful. I pulled a lovely, browned turkey from the oven — and breathed a sigh of relief. Another Thanksgiving, another successful turkey, and yet my yearly announcement as we sat down to eat: “I hope you enjoy your last turkey made by me.” (I keep hoping someone will take me seriously.)

I suspect tomorrow when I am making stock with the turkey carcass and getting creative with leftovers, I will again remember how much I hate cooking turkey. But tonight I can just be thankful for God’s many blessings — and the fact that I don’t have to cook another turkey until next year.


An office of one’s own…

I have always wanted my own office — at home or at work. But until today, that never happened.

I have had my own classroom — which isn’t the same. Students seem to think it is their classroom and encroach on my personal space. The school seems to think it is its classroom and schedules classes I don’t teach or meetings I don’t lead, keeping it full of people and keeping me out. It was not like having an office of my own.

Last year, I had a role in the administration at my school and shared an office with a fellow administrator — which we also shared for a variety of small meetings, as it had a table and six chairs in addition to a desk. Since I shared the space with the principal, she often used the space for conferencing with unruly students or parents. Sometimes I would begin work in the office, get all my materials spread out just so, leave for a moment — and return to find the door closed and myself not only sans office but also sans belongings. It was not a true office.

Two years ago, after one of my older sons moved from our house, we decided to remodel his bedroom into a combination office, workout space, and guest room. Since we rarely have guests and are quite good at ignoring workout equipment, I thought I would finally have an office.

2014-11-26 05.28.42

My home office…


Until my husband began looking for a flat-screen TV… at which point this “office combo” space became “the den” and, likewise, the most popular room in the house. It is not a true office.

The den... which contains a not-so-private office space.

The den… which contains a not-so-private office space.

In June this year, I quit teaching and began working at a tech transfer office. And today I have arrived. I have my own office.

Eight cubicles all to myself because the "fellows" (interns) have left for the holiday.

Eight cubicles all to myself because the “fellows” (interns) have left for the holiday. (Mine is the less-dusty one with the beautiful orchid.)

I even have my own hallway and bathroom (because every girl needs five stalls, right?).

2014-11-26 07.42.34 2014-11-26 07.44.17


And all because it is the day before Thanksgiving and most of my fellow employees have taken the day off. Not me! I’m wearing jeans and Crocs (because my boss said I could) and working in an office that is mine, all mine, mine alone — at least for today. A cubicle among cubicles.

It’s kind of lonely.

2014-11-26 08.23.55

Affected by the threat of loss…

2014-11-24 05.38.34edited

This photo captures part of my scrapbook, which displays my school spirit, my frizzy hair before flat irons and special products came to my rescue, and my dear friend, Krissy. We posed for a photograph prior to marching in the Memorial Day parade with our squads and the marching band.

A few years ago, when I was in high school :),  I tried out for the pompon squad. My sister was about to graduate high school, and she wanted her klutzy little sister to take her place as a Sailorette. (Our motto, “Sailorettes Shake It,” meant we shook our pompons, not our rear ends, just to be clear. Seriously.) Initially, I tried out for the squad to please my sister — or certainly because of her encouragement. But by the end of tryouts, I really hoped I would make the squad, and I did.

What followed was a year on the 50-yard line as the tallest girl on the squad, two-pound poms in each hand, bus rides and hair braids, a wardrobe of orange and black, and learning and performing dance routines for a full football season plus marching band competitions and local parades. I absolutely loved it.

Toward the end of that school year, I again had to try out for the squad. Previous participation did not guarantee a spot. This tryout bore much more weight than the first one. I had experienced being a pompon girl. I knew what I had to lose if I didn’t make the squad. The threat of losing my place made me realize just how important it was to me.

I had a similar experience with running recently.

Three weeks ago, I bruised my shin bone. I was getting into the back seat of an SUV in the dark, holding a heavy bag in each hand, wearing a dress and high heels, when I slipped and landed directly on my left shin. It hurt terribly and swelled immediately. I limped my way from the car to the elevator, from the elevator to our apartment, and from there to the couch, where I propped up my legs, allowed my husband to administer ice, and began the process of feeling sorry for myself.

A bone bruise is sometimes called a “pre-fracture,” meaning some fibers of the bone have actually been damaged; recovery is slow — as in months rather than days or weeks. “All bruises were healed by the end of two years,” one article read. Really, years? So instead of following my planned agenda, I was resting, icing, compressing, and elevating the injured area. “You are at risk for re-injury,” my husband repeatedly reminded me. I did not want that, but I was afraid that might mean I couldn’t do anything that would challenge that area of my leg — including running.

When I wanted to at least walk during my morning exercise times, my husband (and physical therapist) warned against it, suggesting swimming instead. Sigh. I knew if I disobeyed my physical therapist’s orders and got injured, I would pay the price — a scolding along with discontinuation of therapy. So I obeyed. Mostly. I walked little stretches with my friend and then swam for longer stretches. I was frustrated, imagining months without running — and the trial of working my way back to my former fitness level.

I wanted to run. Immediately.

This attitude from the girl who wrote about running in a post titled “My hate-love relationship…” because I hated to run but loved how I felt after I ran. (I also liked losing some weight without really adjusting my diet.)

I was shocked that I actually missed this tormenting form of exercise.

I was more shocked last weekend when my husband casually mentioned that I should try running — just 10 minutes — to see how my leg responded. And so I did — and though my shin remains swollen and slightly discolored these three weeks after my accident, it didn’t worsen after the run. The next day I ran again — 17 minutes — and had no issues. My physical therapist cleared me to resume my running schedule. Woohoo!

It took the fear of losing running to make me realize how much I wanted to do it, rather like my experience with pompon tryouts back in high school — except I actually knew I enjoyed being part of the squad long before my second tryouts. Following those, when the list of girls for the 1982-83 Sailorettes got posted, I was too afraid to look. One of my friends looked for me. I had made the team.

Whew and woohoo!

It’s been said that “it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”; I’ve said it myself. But sometimes the threat of loss is all it takes to love something better.


When work is the escape…

The mystery of the chair has not been resolved.

The chair where I spent the wee hours of Saturday night, attending to my miserably sick son. Somehow this wooden chair made it from the kitchenette to my son’s bedroom in the middle of the night. How? None of us know. I do know it was a very present help in time of trouble, and I am thankful I had it for my late-night vigil at my son’s side. Now it is a very present place to store a spare shirt and pillow… I hope another miracle returns the chair to its rightful place at the kitchen table.

I have never been more thankful that I gave up teaching than I am today. If I were a teacher, I would not be heading to work. Instead, I would be living the life fantastic — cleaning and cooking and preparing for Thursday’s big bash at my leisure. Lucky me! I get to go to work. (I am not being sarcastic.)

At the end of school last year, I took the big plunge — quitting my teaching job before I had another job. It was a tad bit scary — embracing unemployment and joining the job-seeking minions — but it ended happily for me. I started my new job in June and loved it immediately — never more than at this moment — and not just because the school zones were inactivated this morning. I love it because, for today, my job is an escape.

Over the weekend, the plague entered my house. Saturday evening, my son became ill. Quite suddenly. Cough, hoarse throat, fever, chills, lack of appetite, vomiting, insomnia, severe headache. Sunday, the vomiting continued; his headache left but dizziness took its place. I was the ever-concerned mama, often huddled at his bedside, willing him to sleep, dumping and washing trash cans of vomit, offering timely beverages and crackers and tissue boxes and blankets and pillows, spraying Lysol when he left a room (behind his back because I didn’t want to offend), and opening windows to the unseasonably warm but fresh air. And repeatedly washing my hands.

When my husband returned from work he had his own symptoms of illness — a severe head cold with a vicious cough.

Since Saturday night had been a rough night for both my son and me, I was looking forward to a little catch-up last night. My son’s cough awakened me once in the night, but my short visit to his bedroom to check on him did not have to be repeated. The misery of the night before had passed. He slept; I mostly slept, except for my husband’s violent coughing episodes that jiggled the bed and assaulted my ears. It was rough for me, rougher for him, and I wanted sleep — and nothing more to do with illness. I certainly didn’t want to catch whatever bug was lurking in the man beside me or in the young man in the bedroom down the hall.  These two weren’t putting a positive spin on it.

At some point during my husband’s coughing gymnastics when I was bounced awake yet again, he told me I would have to stay home from work today to care for him and Adam. He was kidding. I did clarify that before happily bounding from the house, bags in hand, glad to be leaving with my health intact, and thrilled to head to that escape called work.

Which I could not have done had I still been teaching. Funny to be thankful not to have an extended Thanksgiving break…

Still a mama…

This young man's best friend in time of illness....

This young man’s best friend in time of illness….

For months I have been working with colleagues who are mothers of young children, newly entered into childcare situations and suffering the germs and illnesses that come with that. These young moms come to work tired, sharing stories of how little sleep they got the night before because their child was sick.

Today is my turn. Except my son is 18, well above the acceptable age for daycare. His “babysitters” are his 30-hour-a-week job at a pizza parlor and his college classes, but despite his 6’4″ stature and his apparent maturity, he needed his mama last night.

Yesterday, I had the joy of my sister’s company at a college football game. I had purchased tickets from a colleague — way up in the 87th row in the south end zone of the stadium.

“I love the seats. I can see everything,” she had told me. “I just bring my little binoculars…”

You get the idea. I was happy to have tickets for this last home game, just because it meant time with my sister, who lives too far away. When I arrived home from work on Friday, my son told me he had gotten his friend’s two tickets to the game — west side, 17th row, 35 yard line, chairbacks. And when my sister arrived after a three and a half hour drive straight from work late Friday night, he approached her and told her he had upgraded our tickets. This extreme college football fan had willingly shared his prime tickets to the game and taken our nosebleed section tickets quite willingly.

We wanted to reward him — I bought him a team T-shirt — but in addition he was rewarded with illness. Cough, which I rewarded with the only cough medicine in the house, which lasted 12 hours, did not affect the cough but gave him side effects: insomnia, for one. He also had fever. Vomiting. Dizziness. Headache. Severe headache.

My 18-year-old baby was miserable, and I could do little to help him.

I provided him with tissues and a trash can, in case he couldn’t make it to the toilet to vomit.

I tucked him tightly with three blankets to ease his chills.

I left his door open so I could hear him through the night — and I heard a lot. Episodes of vomiting. I dumped the trash can, washed it, and returned it to his side. Moans and groans. I returned to his side time and time again, to aid as I could, to talk as he would, to offer comfort.

The cat seemed to sense his illness and refused to leave his side.

“She’s just using my warmth,” said my feverish lad. I thought she was being a faithful, comforting companion. At some point between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. while I slept, a wooden chair appeared beside his bed, and when Adam’s groans awakened me again, I went to his side and took the chair — and realized my husband had held vigil in my absence.

A combination of vomiting and headache didn’t leave a lot of options for treating the headache. Meds for his head could negatively trigger his stomach issues. And so I tried pressure points in his hands to relieve his headache. I tried ice packs wrapped in towels to cool his fever and ease his pain. When I removed my pressure from his hands, he asked me to continue, and when my thumbs ached from the effort, I tried pressing my hand on his forehead or touching his arm or hand through the blanket. This miserable, groaning and moaning young man seemed to settle at my touch, and he managed a few moments of rest.

As if I were trying to settle a toddler after a bad dream, I stayed by his side, letting him talk, speaking gently in return, waiting until his breathing deepened into sleep, and then slowly released the pressure of my hand from his arm and then the mattress and eased myself to a standing position. As if on cue, my husband appeared at my side, told me Adam was OK, and suggested I return to bed.

At 4 a.m., this youngest child of mine finally drifted into a full sleep and at my husband’s beckoning, I followed suit, exhausted by this return to mothering, thankful this precious young man was seemingly improved and resting, and grateful these moments of motherhood are mostly memories.

And, yet, so thankful I am his mama still.

And I worried about matching?

My discarded wardrobe from this morning...

My discarded wardrobe from this morning…

This morning the temperature outside my home registered 32 degrees — which meant it likely dropped below that just before sunrise. Our wooded lot also shelters us from wind and somewhat insulates us from the cold, and so when I arrived at the health club a few miles from home, the temp was 28 degrees. Fahrenheit. In mid-November. In Florida. As I drove, I listened to the news on the radio and learned that at least eight people have died due to weather in Buffalo, New York. I know I should not complain about my weather woes, but I will anyway.

My running partners have all bowed out of these outdoor excursions, citing cold, sickness, and other wimpy excuses. Me? I hate running on the treadmill, and I hate the idea of losing my edge in the running arena (not that I have much of one). So I determined I would brave the cold and run anyway. I even thought today’s dry cold, as opposed to the humid, windy cold of Tuesday, would actually not feel as bad — even though the thermometer registered 15 degrees colder. My husband provided a mask that would cover my ears and nose and mouth, I wore my Cuddle Duds under my light jacket, and I added gloves to my wardrobe.

I was ready to face the cold — but not the fashion police. I didn’t match. My gloves were black and hot pink, which matched my black pants, but my jacket was a soft aqua with lime green highlights, my running shoes a deep bluish purple, my pepper spray red and black, and my mask was a lovely camouflage (and smelling distinctly like old camping equipment, a remnant from my husband’s biking accessories he kept in the garage).

In the locker room, I stretched, put on my gloves and attached the pepper spray, then attempted to put on the mask. Its Velcro kept sticking to my gloves, so I had to remove the pepper spray, remove the gloves and try again. Below the pony tail? Above the pony tail? I attached it above, breathed, and noticed that wearing the mask made my glasses fog. But as it was cold enough outside, I figured the fog would not be an issue, and I re-donned my gloves and the pepper spray and started to walk out of the locker room. I felt rather conspicuous, not matching.

“You look like Hannibal Lecter,” one of the ladies said.

“Well, then I doubt anyone will mess with me,” I replied with a smile that was hidden by the mask. I looked like Hannibal Lecter? And I was worried about being conspicuous because my colors didn’t match?

Outside, it was cold. I was thankful for the gloves and covering for my ears, nose, and mouth, certain they would make all the difference. Within a hundred paces of the health club door, I realized the mask did, anyway. It kept my ears and nose warm but fogged my glasses. I considered turning back to leave my glasses behind but feared I would choose the comfort of the gym over continuing a cold run. So I kept running — and eventually put my glasses in my pocket. Afraid they would fall out to be lost or broken, I kept reaching into my pocket or pressing the glasses against my side so that I knew they were safe — and in so doing, I realized that while the mask did its job, the gloves did not. My fingers were freezing. My toes — encased in mesh running shoes (so breezy and cool in summer, so freezing and cold now) — felt like solid cubes of ice that threatened to break. (Do they make winter running shoes? But, then again, how many days are winter cold in Florida? Maybe I could get wool socks or toes warmers.)

I made it almost to the mile mark, my goal as I nurse my shin injury, and turned around, still running despite my frozen, hobbled feet because I wanted to be back in comfort as soon as possible. I made it inside, realized I had only been outside for 20 minutes, headed to the locker room, and frightened two friends on their way outside for a run.

They didn’t fear the female version of Hannibal Lecter; they feared the cold I represented. One look at me and they saw not mismatched clothing, but a desperate woman clad for cold who had gotten beaten by it anyway.

I went one way; they hesitatingly went the other. I soothed my frozen toes and fingers in the warm pool, the thaw almost as painful as the freeze, but I was done. I had run — not as far, not as long, certainly not as fashionably dressed as I might have wanted. But it made me wonder how people who live up North do it. A baby dose of cold in Florida was enough to turn my feet back toward the warmth of the health club.

I’m so glad I don’t live in Buffalo, but I have a lot of respect (and prayers) for those who do.