Don’t Read This if You Get Bent Out of Shape Easily, Take Your Elf on a Shelf Seriously, Or Respect Me

Thanks to Kim over at for providing a forum for more fun than I could shake a stick at and for making Johnny’s woes that much more funny.  If you haven’t shamed an elf yet, you ain’t livin’!

One Elf’s Hard Times

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Baby, Baby Not

For a variety of reasons, I perpetually look like I’m about 7 months pregnant. Even at my most svelte, I have a belly.  When I actually *was* pregnant, I continued to work out and was in good shape.  Despite gaining seventeen pounds my entire pregnancy, I looked humongous. Walking out of Kmart one day when I was about twelve minutes pregnant, a stranger yelled to me “WHOOOOO GIRL YOU LOOK LIKE YOU GONNA POP ANY MINUTE!!”  That was awesome.

I was recently sedentary for 5 months as I recovered from an injury, and you can imagine what that did to The Belly.  I did not feel good about myself.  If I had a day when I left the house not feeling like I looked like Danny DeVito in drag, it was a win.  I had been back at the gym for a few weeks and was *just* starting to feel better about myself the other day when I walked into my office building and was greeted by someone I hadn’t seen in some time who squealed,  “OOOOOHHHHH MISS KATE YOU HAVING A *BABY*?!?!” Usually, I just laugh such comments off, make a joke, move on.  On this particular day I growled “Nope. I’m just fat.”  And that was the end of that.  For a nanosecond I felt bad when I saw the look on her face.  Then I thought to myself “I may not look great, but at least I know the Rule Among Women: unless you see an infant actively shooting out of someone’s vagina, you say NOTHING about being pregnant and even then, you’re playing with fire.”

These comments happen on occasion.  Usually on a day when I feel cute, it never fails.  But it’s not like I am not aware of my body, and I don’t take the comments to heart.  On that day though, the comment really did get to me, but not for reasons regarding physical appearance.  The truth is I have wanted to have another child for a long time.  My Mom asked me one day after my daughter was born if her dad and I were going to have another baby.  I said I didn’t think so for rational and logistical reasons, but that in my heart I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was missing.  She looked at me like I had just won Jeopardy and exclaimed “That is exactly how I felt when we had you!!”  Since I was sort of a late-in-life baby for my parents, and my siblings were 10, 13, 14 and 16 at the time I was born, I had always assumed that I was an accident the whole family just sort of came to terms with over time because by the very nature of being an infant, I couldn’t be ignored.  So the validation that at least my Mom had given some thought to me prior to my creation was nice, and it was a relief to hear that she knew what I meant when I said I felt like someone was missing.  If I was crazy, she was too and I was in good company.

My daughter is fabulous and my desire to add to our family was no negative reflection on her whatsoever.  When I was married to her dad there was never a good time (no really) and I have always felt financially irresponsible to even consider another baby.  In my current relationship having a baby is not a possibility and I made peace with that decision a long time ago.  Still, if you’ve ever mourned the loss of someone, you know that you can go a long time feeling like you have found your footing, only to have the sidewalk ripped out from under you unexpectedly in an instant by something random.  That is what happened to me during that interaction in my office the other day.  I have mourned the loss of many people who were actually here.  How do I explain that I grieve the loss of someone who never existed, but whose presence I have felt so strongly?  How do I put into words the depth of the sadness I feel sometimes?  It doesn’t mean I am not at peace with my decision, it just means that I will probably always miss that baby, in much the same way I will always miss my Mom and Dad, and they will all be with me forever in my heart and soul.   

As I was writing this, I kept thinking about a time when I almost drowned during a whitewater rafting trip.  As our raft was coming up on a rapid called Knife’s Edge, our guide gave us the following instructions, “If you fall out here, don’t fight it.  Just go with it.  You will rise to the surface and be ok.”  At the time I thought “That’s pretty counterintuitive!”  We went over the rapid, and I didn’t so much “fall out” of the raft, as I was ejected out of it like I had been shot out of a Glock.  Then I was dragged underwater over jagged rocks that had their way with my backside from stem to stern while I fought like hell and spun around and flailed and gasped for air.  If you’ve ever seen a gator do a “death roll” on the show Swamp People, you have an accurate visual.  When all I saw was black, I finally did relax and give in to it.  I wasn’t going to win against that river.  I went with it and relaxed.  As soon as I did, I flipped right side up, saw the sunlight in the water and I bobbed to the surface.  I was lifted out of the water like a ragdoll by our guide, bless his heart.  I guess the connection between that experience and my feelings about the Baby Who Will Never Be is this: I handle this grief the same way:  if I fight it, it takes me down.  If I go with it and ride out the wave, eventually I come to the surface, and see the sunlight again.

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Pleasant Woman, Interesting Problem.

I’ve been in a Four-Alarm Funk since this happened.  Agony does not bring out the best in me.  I am lucky my family hasn’t put me by the side of the road with a “Free To ANY Home” sign stuck to me.  I’ve been miserable all day, every day – for four months.  No relief.  I can’t even get relief from drugs.  Anything more badass than Advil not only makes me projectile puke but also causes me to forget where I live, wear my clothes inside out and demand to be called “Fifi.” 

The mind/body connection being what it is, my mind broke along with my back.  The one thing that connects me to anything that could even tentatively be called “sanity” is working out, and that has not been an option or even possible.  Pain plus insanity equals meltdowns of truly epic proportions.  I have been sent to eight medical professionals, each with a different opinion of this injury.  I have ugly-cried to every single one of them.  I have begged for my leg to be amputated. I have panicked.  I have shrieked like a howler monkey.  One physical therapist with a kind heart and soft voice put me in a dark room to rest mid-nervous breakdown and encouraged me to find a mental health counselor because “an injury like this can cause people to drink too much, do drugs and overeat.”  I was like HA! That’s SO two weeks ago. 

To get to the bottom of the mystery, I was sent for an MRI.  No one mentioned that meant having my entire body shoved into a tube and being forbidden to move for a half an hour.  “Go to your happy place and keep your eyes closed,” the nurse instructed.  Lucky for me, there’s a lot of making out and chocolate consumption in myHappy Place. I *really* wanted to get the information, so I reluctantly got in the tube.  For about a second and a half. I’m not a small person.  I’m sure from the control room me being slowly loaded into that tube looked like sausage being stuffed into a casing.  I tried to take a breath, croaked “ABORT MISSION!!” and got the hell out of there like my pants were on fire. 

 I debriefed with my sister.

 Me:  “I couldn’t do it. I freaked out.”

Molly:  “What?!”

Me:  “I’m allergic to suffocation.”

Molly:  “Oh my God Kate. You have to do it.”

Me:  “No. I don’t like dying.”

 From somewhere, my boyfriend’s voice rang out with his simple contribution:  “Train wreck.”  

 Eventually I did get the MRI and the answers I needed.  The next doctor I met with was a surgeon.  After speaking with him for a half an hour I decided I wouldn’t let him pick my nose, let alone touch my spine. Among other things, this conversation:

 Dr.: “When did you feel this coming on?”

Me:  “I didn’t feel it coming on, it was an injury.  A specific moment in time.”

Dr.: “What were you doing?”

Me:  “Boxing.”

Dr.:  “As in…..putting things in boxes? You were hurt this badly putting things in boxes?”

Me:  “No…as in…boxing……..”

 A couple of days after that meeting, I received a letter from him in the mail which was also sent to the doctor who made the referral.  The first line of the letter said “Thank you for referring this pleasant woman with an interesting problem.”  I read the letter in my office and yelled to anyone within earshot, “STOP THE PRESSES!!! My epitaph has been written.  This says it ALL!!”

The next doctor I went to looked at the information from the other seven doctors and said “This is all poppycock.”  It was so absurd that in some weird existential way, I was snapped out of it.  At that moment a sense of peace and clarity came over me.  As he rattled on about injections and surgery and options I just blanked out.  I suddenly realized that in my quest for answers and for someone to give me a quick fix to suddenly heal me, I hadn’t focused on healing myself.  In that moment I accepted that it would take time and patience and love for myself to get me unstuck. I said to him “You know what? I don’t want any of that.  I’m all set.  I’ll be okay.”  And I got up and left. 

 I’ll never know if it was just the timing or the fact that I took my healing into my own hands that made the difference, but about a week after that, I began to feel better.  I came into physical therapy and was able to laugh and not cry.  Well, except when I was able to do a very simple exercise that I hadn’t been able to do previously.  I cried then.  Because it was so good.  SO.  GOOD.  Last weekend I took my daughter to the park fly her kite.  It was the first unsupervised physical activity I had been able to do since January 6, 2012.  We both cried and laughed with joy.  Her kite is a big, colorful butterfly.  As I watched her smile and the kite dance against the gorgeous blue sky, I felt my heart fill with hope.  Healing the body is hard.  NOT healing the soul is harder.

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Will Run For M&Ms.

The women in my family sport varying degrees of athleticism.  Some of us have been on sports teams from the moment we were allowed to be, some of us abhor effort and sweat.  Regardless of our levels of inclination and training, most of us can walk faster than we can run.  If you are giggling right now, I know you know what I mean.  Sometimes we marvel at this phenomenon.  Usually twice a year when one of us gets a wild hair and decides to start a running routine, then decides against it.  “It’s so weird. WHY would I run when I can walk just as fast if not faster!?”  And “How surprised is my dark alley attacker going to be when I break free and speed walk away from his clutches?!”  So we sort of lope.  Or amble.  Or whatever you call what it is my sister Molly does.  Ground is covered, to be sure, although seemingly by the mere determination and force of flapping arms.  What I find endearing about it is it is the exact same movement my Mom used to rock while dancing. 

In my case, I assume my inability to run stems from the fact that my boobs and my belly arrive at my destination roughly a minute and a half before the rest of me.  And my stride is about as long as a piece of licorice.  Nevertheless, several years ago a dear friend of mine convinced me that on Thanksgiving morning getting up at the crack of dawn, driving 45 minutes away from my bed and freezing my ass off in the name of something called a “Turkey Trot” was a good idea. 

It was a bad, bad idea. 

 The first mistake I made was assuming that just because I could go from a master spinning class to a body pump class and end with a little boxing in one gym visit made me capable of road running without any additional or running specific training.  Not so.  Also, the gym is a nice, warm, cozy place.  Outside on Thanksgiving morning is not.  My asthmatic lungs seized up to bricks after about 10 paces.  Long story short, I ended up *behind* a woman pushing a baby stroller who was also running with her son, who was *maybe* 6 years old if he was a day.  Adorable, sweet, blonde-headed Zane.  Zane was running and eating M&Ms.  I didn’t know Zane, had never seen him before.  But it was clear we were kindred spirits.  He took one look at me and started handing me M&Ms, bless his heart.  The M&Ms became to me what the carrot or rabbit are to a race horse.  Zane kept feeding me the chocolate, I kept running. 

 Finally after what was an ETERNITY I reached the finish line and instead of merely crossing it, I leaped across it with a dramatic flourish.  One of the race staff said “Now THAT’S a *finish*!!”  At that moment I vowed never EVER to do that again. 

Until I saw the Dirty Girl Mud Run logo on Facebook.  Before I could even get my thoughts together, a friend of mine started organizing a team.  I was hesitant to commit because of a recent injury I sustained in boxing class, which ended up being worse than I could even imagine when I wrote this.  But I figured in the seven months I have before the event I could get myself to the point where I could at least hobble the course.  Plus there is no denying this event has all the ingredients I need for a happy Saturday – mud, women and sweat.  Ok, there are other components, like a great cause.  And a challenge.  And friends and teammates.  And something to train for, a goal to achieve.   

So I am a proud member the Dirty Burgs team who will be tearing up the mud course on September 8, 2012.  Mark your calendars, lace up your sneaks and be sure to buy stock in the company that makes M&Ms.  Because I will need lots and LOTS of M&Ms.  So many M&Ms.

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I hurt myself on Friday.  I was a year-round, 3 sport a year athlete as a youngster and have worked out fairly regularly all of my adulthood.  Amazingly this is my first sports-related injury ever, aside from those blows that landed squarely on the crotch of my ego.  My mother would say my body shook off pain like a dog shakes off water because I am “built like a brick shit house.”  In my life I have leaned more toward injuries related to doing things like driving cars and walking down stairs, activities that I deem very high risk and with good reason. 

Long story short, I went to throw a right punch (in a gym, not in the street) and hot, searing pain tore through my back from my right hip to my left hip and shoulder blade as if I had been shot with a bullet made of lava.  Stopped me dead in my tracks.  For one excruciatingly long minute, I couldn’t move.  I was telling my legs to move, they just wouldn’t.  I could hear my coach’s voice but it sounded very far away, even though he was holding on to me.  I can honestly say there has only been one other time in my life I have ever been so scared or so paralyzed. 

I lost track of the rest of that day and the day that followed.  I finally came to at some point yesterday.  I must have disassociated.  I can’t take any pain medication or muscle relaxers, so I can’t even blame it on a good old fashioned drug induced black out.  In no particular order, here are some thoughts and observations that have come to me since the fog lifted.

  1. A really good emergency room doctor doesn’t even flinch when you yell “WHAT THE DUCK DID YOU JUST SAY?!?!” at him.  No, I didn’t say duck. 
  2. Being physically unable to do things like put my own clothes on and pick up something I dropped on the floor is frustrating to a degree that defies description.  Saying “I can’t” is not really my thing and I have found it humbling and humiliating.  And then when I got whiney, I remembered that there are people who can’t do those things on their own all the time and that I should shut up. 
  3. Needing to ask for help is about as comfortable for me to do as stick toothpicks under my fingernails. On purpose.
  4. I am at the age when medical professionals start to use the term “when you get to a certain age…..”  and that is a very hard pill to swallow.
  5. You use muscles you had no idea you use when you poop.  This becomes glaringly obvious when those muscles are broken. 
  6. You really do find out who your people truly are when you are down.  Surprising and a teensy heartbreaking.
  7. Trust your instincts.  If that little voice is telling you something, listen to it.  Mine was telling me not to go to the gym that day for a variety of reasons and I went anyway.  I have always believed in my instincts, just haven’t always listened. 
  8. ALWAYS WARM UP BEFORE EXERCISE and cool down and stretch after.   Yes I know it’s not the fun stuff but it matters.  A lot. 

Do me a favor.  If you CAN move your ass today, move your ass today.  Before the choice is taken away from you for a minute, a week or Goddess forbid, forever. Don’t take the ability to be mobile for granted. 

 Yes, I know I’m not usually this serious, but I have found the biggest impact this has had on me is on my emotional well-being.  BUT. I’m sitting here dressed for work with an ice pack tucked into the butt of my underwear which I fully intend to wear out in public all day.

 I’m healing already.

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Size DOES Matter, Especially When You’re Trapped Under It.

Over the weekend, Chris and Eva and I were at a stop light at an intersection across from a Behemoth of a Vehicular Monstrosity (BVM) with a Christmas tree bungeed to the top.  All appeared normal at that angle, and I smiled, as I do when I see families preparing to deck their halls.  The light turned, and the BVM turned left in front of us to reveal the smallest most pathetic Christmas tree ever, giving the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree a real run for its money.  Chris and I were like “Whaaaaaat” and Eva giggled.  I said “Wow, THAT is a story I want to know more about.” Chris, ever practical and maniacally tidy, said “It’s so they don’t get needles in the car.”  I retorted “What needles?!” What few there were would probably blow off by the time they got home.

 Whatever their reasons for putting a branch on top of a vehicle just short of a Hummer Stretch Limo, it got me thinking about the year of the Overcompensating Christmas Tree.  My Mom had died in early December and I was sad. Christmas was her THING and our family has a history of trees that defied laws of logic, sanity and gravity which required my father’s best Mcguyver-esque maneuvers to transport them and erect them safely in our living room.  And I am totally air quoting “safely”.  Both of my parents were gone now, my sister Robin was staying with us to take care of Eva who was 3 years old at the time, and I decided that Christmas would go on in a BIG way for my family, dammit!!  So I went out and got the biggest tree I could find. 

 The first time it fell, it was during the night and my sister had the daunting job of breaking the news to me in the morning, complete with a roster of the Dead and Decapitated ornaments.  According to her, I walked into the bathroom after the shower with a wet towel in my hand and was set to blow dry my hair.  Apparently when she gave me the news, I simply put the towel over my head and face and walked right back out, wordlessly. 

 During this dreadful time, Eva and I had decided that we would become each other’s cheerleaders and that whenever either one of us was having a hard time we would literally start cheering for the other.  This made us giggle, and helped us ride the rough waves of despair.  One evening, she and I were alone. I was tempting fate and getting too close to the tree, no doubt to try to re-hang a Gorilla Glued piece of history back on a branch from where it had previously been ejected across the room.  In slow motion, but too fast for me to escape, the Tree fell, trapping me under it.  Like *really trapped*.  Eva thought this was the most hysterical comedic event I had ever put together.  I tried to impart to her that it was serious, without causing her alarm and panic. 

 “Eva. Mommy is stuck, please go get the phone.  To which she replied, in her best Cheerleader voice, “Go mommy go! You can do it mommy! If anyone can get out YOU CAN!!!” I doubted her, since I was unable to move anything but my arms, which flailed about uselessly. 

 Ok here’s where you don’t ever want to be.  Trapped under a Christmas tree, which is getting heavier and heavier and you can sort of name the organs that are being crushed one by one as the pressure increases.  Branches are impaling you, ornaments are shredding your clothes and skin.  Your child, thinking she is doing the right thing, is adorably and totally ineptly cheering for you, complete with little jumps into the air and waving pretend pom poms.  “GO MOMMY GO!!”

 I grew a tad more nervous.  “Eva honey this is serious, can you please go find the phone and bring it here.”  *pitter pat pitter pat* as she runs looking for the phone.  *pitter pat pitter pat* as she comes back in.  “I can’t find the phone! Go mommy go! You can DO IT!!”

 Oh God.

 Then by a Christmas miracle, the phone RANG.  “Oh Eva honey follow the noise, can you follow the noise and find the phone? PLEASE?!?!?!”

 She found it, answered it and it was my friend Tony.  Tony is fromTrinidadand Tobego and has this beautiful accent that I can hear clearly as the two of them chat each other up about the holidays, what’s been going on in their respective lives, and gossip.  I’m about to have a full on nervous breakdown.  Finally Eva says to Tony, “Mommy is under the tree! It fell on her!”  I hear Tony reply. “Is she bleeeeeding?”

 At that point, I must have blacked out.  To this day I’m not certain how I got out from under that tree.  In the interest of self preservation, I can’t recall much of that month or how many times the tree did fall before we finally rigged it to stay up somehow.  The details are unclear. 

 While I still like a tree that means business, I no longer go for the ones that require remodeling to accommodate them.  Or that a safety plan be in place.  Just one that is pretty and smells good and makes my family happy. Go Mommy Go!



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There is a place in this world for people who bring the rolls.

I’m not sure at what specific point in time I was deemed a Culinary Liability.  It could have been years ago, when I neglected to put cake mix in the mixing bowl and wondered why the batter was so runny.  Or it could have been during what is now referred to as “Ill-Fated Low-Fat Velveeta Mac and Cheese-Gate.”  Don’t ask.  It was a horror show. 

So the holidays are upon us.  My family has get-togethers, to which everyone brings something or many somethings.  My Sister The Organizer and I have this dance that we do prior to each gathering that goes something like this:

 Her:  “Ok so everyone come around 4-ish, and we’ll have this, that and the other delicious thing that everyone will work really hard all day or possibly weekend on.”

Me:  “Ok, what should I bring?”

 Her:  “Well…..let’s see……I think we’re covered for most things….um……I dunno…..maybe……I know, ROLLS!!! We totally need rolls. You could bring rolls!”

 We both know this is how the conversation is going to go, but we have it each time because it offers up the illusion that I *could* absolutely whip up something amazing to bring if it was necessary, but by the time we talk everything has been spoken for and I really do have self worth as evidenced by the fact that we need rolls, and I am just the person to bring them.  And sometimes?  Soda too. 

 This year, as my Mom would have said, I got a “Wild Hair” and decided to make a pie.  Then I decided I was going to try to make her from-scratch mac and cheese recipe (no Velveeta in sight.)  I was going to make it for just the little Thanksgiving meal I had with my boyfriend and daughter (7 years old), you know, to test it out.  I wasn’t feeling ready for the Big Show yet.  I announced to them:  “I’m going to make a pie.”  Their responses:

 Boyfriend:  “What do you mean?”

Daughter:  “What if you burn the house down?!”

 My other family members on the other hand, acted similarly to how I imagine they would act when I announce my Nobel Peace Prize. There were exclamations of pride, congratulations, wonder and well-wishes.  Wow, I thought. 

 The day before Thanksgiving, I had to bring my daughter in to work with me for a little while.  She told anyone and everyone there and then in every establishment we went to that day “My mom is going to make a pie.  She’s probably going to burn the house down and we will be hobos the next day.”  I was like geez, it’s just a chocolate pie, and it’s not like I’m going to make the crust, I’m leaving that to the geniuses at Keebler and their graham cracker brilliance.  I explained to her that I was only going to have to heat pudding, from what I understood.  She exclaimed, panic shaking her voice “Yeah, but you’ll have to be near the stove!!” 

 The morning arrived, and I was ready.  I started with the pie.  Boyfriend did an excellent job of lurking around without making it totally obvious he was making sure I didn’t blow myself up.  He offered support and encouragement and giggled appropriately when I snapped a hundred pictures from every angle when I poured the pudding into the crust and it looked beautiful.  When I moved on to the mac and cheese, he did more subtle monitoring, although sometimes he would look over my shoulder and exclaim “OH MY GOD!” and I’d jump and stop what I was doing and say “WHAT?!” and he’d say, catching his breath, “Oh! Nothing!! It’s just that…..well…’re just so….*cute*! That’s all!”  Suspicious. 

 It would be fun to end this story with vivid descriptions of projectile puking or other food related bathroom emergencies, but there were none.  The pie was delicious, although only two pieces were eaten because it got left out too long and sort of ended up like a soggy chocolate sponge.  The mac and cheese was, for my first attempt, nothing short of a triumph.  I reported back to my sister, who immediately wondered who had kidnapped the *real* Kate.  I said “I’m here, and I didn’t blow anything up!!”  She said “Great! You can bring more than rolls next year!!”  “Hmmmmmmm” I said.  “Let’s not get crazy……”

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