Recovery

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PHOTO: Glen Carrie, Unsplash

“My son made the JV team on his own merits. He didn’t play politics. His parents didn’t wrangle an ‘in.’ … So don’t call him weak.”

One of the toughest parts of going through yet another sports injury was the feeling that we were the only ones who ever went through back-to-back sports injuries.

My son received the all-clear from the hand specialist on the day he suffered a grade 2 MCL injury at practice. The orthopedic specialist said it would be six to eight weeks before James could even think about sports again.

We’re currently heading into week six, with no end in sight. James no longer feels pain and has full extension of his knee. His knee remains unstable, however, which hopefully continued PT will improve.

In the meantime, watching the remainder of the high school games has been a lesson in utter humiliation (humility), patience (inconvenience), and witnessing the innate self-serving, self-centered nature of others.

People who mean well have wound up saying some damned hurtful things about my injured child to my face. Their sons are out there on the pitch loving every moment, not a care in the world, so what do the parents care. They can afford to feel magnanimous with their dime store wisdom.

One friend actually said my son seems incredibly injury-prone, insinuating that there is some inherent physical defect that causes him to go from one bad break to another. Others have said the same thing, things that have even caused me to wonder if James is predisposed to injuries other stronger boys his age would never succumb to (i.e., maybe he doesn’t belong in sports).

It’s true that my son was diagnosed two years ago with asthma, a respiratory condition Seattle Children’s doctors have told me usually shows up much earlier, by grade school. He must always watch his allergies, take certain medications, vitamins, and take care to get plenty of rest.

But he plays the same as every “normal, healthy” boy on the pitch; even better than most, if you ask me.

An argument could be made for the finger fracture happening weeks before soccer tryouts, which effectively kept him from staying in top condition. While the other boys were probably playing Premier/Select soccer up to the day of tryouts, my son had to stay in a full arm cast for his broken pinky finger, taking care not to get his hand sweaty.

He couldn’t play any of the basketball games he went to practice for for many weeks as a Unified Team partner with Special Olympics. (He decided on the spot to join in the finals, one-handed, just to letter in the sport.)

He also chose to opt out of wearing a cast cover in order to continue playing Premier soccer tournaments and an indoor tournament with another team, since this was his first break and he wanted to be healed in plenty of time for the tryouts in Feb.

When the hand specialist cleared him to try out, we breathed such a sigh of relief. When he made the JV team, it was the happiest, the proudest I’d ever seen him. I saw a different soccer player those first three games representing his school. He was quicker, more powerful; I saw moves from that kid I’d never seen before. It seemed playing with other competitive boys upped my son’s game.

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Best of all, James loved his JV team.

Why this had to happen when it had to happen… I will never understand. I keep clinging to a blind faith that things happen for a reason, a better reason, that will be revealed somewhere down the line, that G-d has his own plan, and maybe this is a lesson we have to keep learning about responding to setbacks with grace.

I’ve been there when my son, a kid who never cries, stands there utterly defeated, feeling ashamed, tears on his face, hating himself and thinking he caused his own MCL injury because he was weak.

So, when you say stupid shit like, “That kid does seem injury prone,” “I don’t think anybody else has injured out the entire season on just an MCL sprain,” or “You think he’s ready for the big leagues?” (aka, “Maybe he’s too weak to stand up to those tough JV/Varsity drills”), that doesn’t help our situation. That, in fact, actually twists the knife even more.

Please keep your thoughtless comments to yourself, friends. You don’t know what we’ve been through. You certainly don’t know what my son’s made of, at all.

Some of you should know, since you’ve seen him MVP through tough tournaments that most kids his age couldn’t hack, perform miracles in the last five minutes of a game like the underdog he is to help pull off a first-place finish in the league, save your own sons’ asses, cover for them, and made them look good, and put up with more incompetent fucktards/behind-the-scenes political jostling than any teenager should have to — just to play a game he loves more than any other.

It’s easy for people to insulate/distance themselves from any and all hardships that they’ve never personally been through. It’s easier for them to forget what it’s like to be down on their luck, struggling to bounce back, while the world keeps spinning, leaving them behind. It’s oh-so-easy to focus only on immediate, short-term gratification than staying in there for the long haul, or focus only on the negative, while neglecting the positive.

When I see my son break down in private during such times, sometimes I hate those people.

My son made the JV team on his own merits, on his first try as a freshman. He didn’t play politics. His parents didn’t wrangle an “in.” He was never groomed as a toddler to be a soccer star, as we simply couldn’t afford the pricey leagues. He started soccer in third grade, a late bloomer, really, by today’s standards.

He made JV on his own. He even managed to impress a few of the returning Varsity players, some who actually thought he’d make it. One Varsity player told James he liked his hustle. The Varsity captain actually chose my son to be on his scrimmage team during tryouts.

He got to play three JV games — the proudest moment of his life. In the first one, he made an assist for what should’ve been the winning goal. (The other team would score almost at the 11th hour.) In the last two, he moved out of his mid-field spot to fill in as a defender, saving so many shots on goal from the opposing teams it was ridiculous, often taking the ball in the face at pointblank range, or outrunning and outgunning a forward to do it.

Don’t tell me my son is weak. He’s put up with more than you could ever deal with.

He’s got so much more going for him than one soccer season. The people who matter know this. For those who’ve stood by us, offered us only support, and made us feel like we’re all in this together, I love and thank you from the bottom of my heart. You guys have made going through this hell a whole helluva lot easier. I wish there were more people like you around.

Glad I got this off my chest.

Lululemon is not a commercial

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PHOTO: Emma Simpson, Unsplash

“Sometimes, I go into a Lululemon store just to feel better about myself. I get to browse, take mental notes for future purchases, and pick up on ideas that improve my personal goals of becoming more fit and living longer.”

A few months after our family was hit with cancer (my husband), I wandered into the new Lululemon store at a nearby mall on a random December. I’d needed new running clothes to shore me up for the cold winter. I hadn’t planned on buying my running clothes at this fancy designer place I (thought I) knew more for its yoga pants than anything practical. For that, I intended on making do at Walmart.

I never did make it to Walmart.

I expected the usual dismissive runaround I always got at every department store I ever walked into. You see, people don’t pay much attention to someone like me. They are super-friendly to the customers in front of or behind me at the registers, they bypass me to serve the white, middle-class soccer mom types… Annoying baffling bullshit I’ve had to put up with all of my life.

Imagine my surprise when the staff at Lululemon treated me like every other woman who walked through those doors, with courtesy, respect, and unbelievable consideration.

It didn’t matter that I carried a few extra pounds, lacked those coveted, curvaceous Venus de Milo hips, or looked like hell in old sweat pants and beat-up borrowed Nikes, no make-up, my greasy, gray hair in a disarray.

Overwhelmed by the selection, I was about to leave when — on a whim — I drummed up the courage to ask for help. A young pixie-ish lady hovering around the dressing rooms immediately dropped what she was doing, led me over to the winter running pants and tops, and helped me find my size, explained the compression feature (wow, these are tight!), and even picked out a color (bright purple) that matched my skin tone. All without my asking.

She walked me through the scary process of trying on clothes, and never left me until I was satisfied with the first pair of pants and top she picked out in a size 10 (I haven’t worn that size since the ’90s).

She made me feel normal, valued and a welcome addition to Lululemon, another satisfied convert. She had no idea the hell I’d been through, and how much her authentic kindness lifted my spirits during the busiest time of the season.

When I visited family in Hawaii a few months later, I tried out another Lululemon store in Waikiki, assuming my first time was a fluke.

It was not. I received the same tender, loving care from those ladies.

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting Portland, tagging along on my husband’s gig. While he set up the sound for a Rotary Club Conference at the downtown Hilton, I went out exploring with a friend. We checked out the Lululemon store there, my friend for the first time.

I happened to be wearing the same outfit I first bought back in Dec. of last year. It also happened to be the first time I walked for exercise since blowing my knee five weeks prior.

I helped my friend decide on her walking outfits, as she teetered on bailing. She, too, worried about the tight pants until I explained about the compression factor and how they would adapt quickly to her body and wouldn’t feel uncomfortably tight but like second skin.

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I got mine in black. Buh-bye, Coach!

I also scored a fast track bag, which I carry with me everywhere now instead of that expensive, bulky Coach bag my mom bought me when times were better. My friend grabbed one for herself too.

The ladies at the Portland Lululemon were as wonderful as my first time. When I tweeted about my experience, the Lululemon people on Twitter immediately responded, later on with a photo of a soft-as-butter pair of Align Pant II I plan on picking up for the spring/summer.

That’s the key about this place. Everyone there responds, personalizing their interactions and taking good care of you, as if you were a new friend or literally a part of their family.

I never felt embarrassed, left out, or awkward around any of the Lululemon staff. They know their stuff. They wear Lululemon, they live its natural message of empowerment for all women, not just a chosen few who stand out.

Lululemon’s gear is also tremendously practical. Every feature is so well-thought out, from the thumb holes, weather-resistant material, and hidden zippers, to the placement of pockets and the design of the crotch (to avoid camel toe). The products are expensive, but made to last.

Sometimes, I go into a Lululemon store just to feel better about myself. I get to browse, take mental notes for future purchases, and pick up on ideas that improve my personal goals of becoming more fit and living longer.

Every now and then, I even feel… beautiful, because of these beautiful women at Lululemon.

They’re definitely more than yoga pants. They represent the kind of world I wish we could all live in.

Why I Love Bev

“Sweet sun, send me the moon…” —Sara Bareilles

This is my friend, Bev. She met me at a hotel in downtown Portland this weekend.

From the outside, it looked like a regular hang with an old friend. We walked up and down the sneaky corridors of the city, ending at the waterfront with salad and more conversation. Along the way, we passed aggressive panhandlers, the occasional tourist, and a horse (a young kid wearing a horse head like it was nothing — keep Portland weird).

We interacted with shop keepers, too. They mostly responded to my beautiful, kind friend, while I kept to myself and hung back in the shadows as is my habit.

I do this, because I learned long ago that people see through me. I don’t know whether it’s me or them or a combination of both. I grew up with strong personalities, popular life of the party types… My parents, my brother. I gravitate toward those types like a moth to the flame. They’re all I know. Kind of a vicious cycle.

I was also born looking like this:

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This is a picture from several years ago, when I was over 200 pounds.

I came from this:

20131128_112603As you can see, my mom is beautiful. As a baby here, I also started off with the potential to be her spitting image. Only, people scared me. I clung to her whenever she visited with her many friends. I cried whenever she left, which was often, to tend bar or party. I used to watch her put on make-up, fancy dresses and shoes, do up her nails. She never left the house without make-up on and her hair done, not even to go to the grocery store.

Somehow, even as a young child, I knew I could never measure up. I knew people would laugh at me for even trying (true story). So I stopped, somewhere between my birth and college.

I’d put myself out there in stops and starts, only to be put back in my place by a careless, thoughtless stranger, or one of my husband’s many musician friends who only gave me a passing glance or a friendly acknowledgement when they were forced to. Then, I’m sorry, what was your name again?

I grew into the habit early on of looking down, even when I walked. I avoided looking at people for fear they would attack me (true story) verbally or physically. Even when I tried to smile and strike up a conversation at the checkout stand, nine times out of 10, they wouldn’t respond. Then, the next customer would come up and the checker would suddenly come to life.

It was a million times worse when I showed up in public with my family. The world would show them the kind of respect and consideration of a Hollywood starlet slumming it.

Servers, nurses, teachers, the physical therapy staff my son sees twice a week…everyone practically genuflects at my husband’s, my mom’s, my son’s feet, remembering them weeks, months, years later, practically knocking me over to get to them.

At some point, I wanted to quit trying. Trying tired me out, shamed me, set me up for failure.

Unfortunately, the eternal optimist in me plus forgetting (to remember my place) would cause me to put myself out there again. This past Sunday, while my husband checked us out of the Hilton after his gig for a Rotary Club Conference, I went to the nearby food area for StumpTown coffee and a snack.

There, I heard the most beautiful voice coming out of a person working the HopCity Tavern & Market. I went over and told her so. I felt I was very approachable, kind, and complimentary about her voice. I said she should be singing, that she was better than most of the singers I hear, and on and on, things normal people say to one another.

She said thank-you, but the rest of her said, “Get away from me, weirdo.”

When I returned with my husband, she talked to him like they were old friends, engaging him in the kind of conversation she would’ve had with me had I been him.

I went back to get another snack less than an hour later, alone, and she acted like I was new. Right through me.

I don’t have many friends. On the surface, it looks like I do. Even my actual friend Bev commented on it.

They’re acquaintances, forced into my life because of activities related to my more popular family members, mostly my musician husband and my athlete son. They would never give me the time of day, if left to their own devices. I do not fool myself into thinking they would, although some days, when we are all getting along, I almost can convince myself this were real.

I met Bev through my musician husband to tell you the truth. He and her husband both played in the worship band of the same church.

But she wasn’t like the others.

She sought me out, not because of my husband, but because of me.

She was nice to me, because she liked me, not because she had to as the pastor’s wife, or the wife of Ed, the talented piano player in the band everyone wanted to get close to. Bev wasn’t a musician or a part of the church choir. She was the wife of a worship band musician too, with children of her own.

If I met Bev on my own, she’d still treat me with the same consideration, like I was a treasure in her life.

I feel safe, comfortable, and valued around her. I feel … normal.

We met in 2002. We’re still friends.

We bought their house when my son was three (he’s 15 now) and her husband had to move back to their hometown in Portland for work. We’ve kept in touch. When we visit Oregon, we try to make a stop to catch up with them.

Bev’s also very much like me, not at all a strong personality. I personally think she should be the most popular girl in the room. She has so much class and grace, she’s funny and makes me laugh, and she sees the genuine in people, through the crap they put on.

I’ve always felt odd and not in a good way. I could hardly stand to see my own reflection, even by accident. I’m that self-conscious about my freakishness.

It’s rare to be around someone who can make me completely forget myself and feel so good about myself at the same time.

My friends could pick me out in a crowd every time. That they would want to even try… Well, I hold onto that like a life line.

 

 

 

The Time William Hurt Schooled Me in a Corridor

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CORRIDOR PHOTO: Daniel Tseng, Unsplash

It was William Hurt, my college crush, staring at me in that way he did in all the movies I’d binge-watch.

He loomed over the room in a shadow, about to shoot from behind until I turned around to face him. With a mix of rage, frustration, and something I couldn’t identify until he spoke, this actor turned into every man I’d ever loved.

“You want to know why I’m still standing here when I’d rather end your life right now?”

He began to stroll, then crawl on his hands and knees toward me, narrating the story of my life in the footnotes and in parentheses… the extras I never noticed, taking me back to my first language.

These were flattering, surprising, perplexing revelations, dropped like flower petals that rotted at my feet as I backpedaled then scooted from one room into another when a casual conversation through the vents grew louder.

By the time he reached me, resolve disappeared, leaving him to show me physically in one, long, drawn-out affair I will never forget. The salty sea air, fresh linen breeze, moms hanging their shirts out to dry in the afternoon sun, and fresh paint, as he tried to warm my cold naked body with his mouth.

When he finished, laying there helpless — the dying eyes of the besotted — we both saw his penis oozing blood into a puddle next to three perfectly shaped tablets of pain pills.

Rings

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PHOTO: Dev Benjamin, Unsplash

“Mail it now. In a few days, this world will go away.”

By the time they took his soul, in fleshy parts he never knew he had, a stranger with a smirk knocked on this strange silvery door (I just walked through) and handed me an innocent package. The brown paper box reminded me of freshly mowed lawns, Easter Egg hunts, and you blocking the noon in the desert between then and now.

Your rings, gold and worn, almost warm, I wear them now, waiting for the men in the gray coats and the foreign accents to come for me.

Dumbass

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PHOTO: Jamie Street, Unsplash

I survived my first volunteer job manning a concession stand at my son’s high school last night. I tried to make light of the volunteer job, but deep down inside, I was scared I would fuck it up (like I always do).

Because I secretly believe I’m a dumbass.

Not self-deprecating dumb. Real dumb. Dumber than the developmentally disabled and the drug-induced off the streets.

I’ve always been scared of this. Always. It has nothing to do with humble-bragging or begging for attention, either.

For the longest time, I kept an appointment book full of even the simplest chores that other people take for granted. My mom and brother read it once, laughing over the first mandate: “Wake up. Brush hair.”

“How much of a dumbass are you?” my brother James said, in between howling hysterically. “You’re 21. You need an appointment book to remind you to do what you do naturally. Wake up? Wake up! Absolute dumbass.”

I didn’t know how to tell them this helped my mind focus on the real stuff I had to remember, names, dates, places related to my job or my health, or even a rare get-together. Or that basically, my mental capacity is that of a very precocious, but very naive four-year-old child.

Somewhere in the middle of my volunteering at the concession stand, my best friend blurted out, “What are you, a dumbass??” as I spouted hot water from the hot water thingie (used for cup o’noodles) into an empty water jug for these friends of my son’s, to help them keep warm, because another volunteer mom the other day did the same thing for them.

Later, her words stung as we both realized I’d been handing out hot cocoa and apple cider without sleeves or lids. (I remembered the spoon.)

When I got home and all through today, I relived the night, counting all the bone-headed mistakes I’d made, including the time I told everyone the peanuts were 25 cents instead of a dollar. They were in a bin along with the 25-cent items; I’d completely spaced on what another volunteer told me before.

Today, I face another dilemma. I have to decide if my son is ready to rejoin his soccer team for practices after almost four weeks of his MCL sprain/avulsion fracture. Maybe he can play the last game.

The problem is, his orthopedic PA-C keeps saying my son James has to wear the knee brace at all times, except for rest and PT. The PT keeps asking when the knee brace is coming off, and that he can’t work with James on more exercises until then. Then, his regular doctor, at his wellness checkup earlier, offered to clear him for practices if we returned for another check on the knee.

James can’t practice without a clearance from a doctor. One doctor is willing to give that clearance so long as James can run and kick without pain (he can), the other “doctor,” the actual guy specializing in these types of injuries, says no way, to wait until the Tues. appt. to see how the knee is after a full four weeks of healing.

What do I do? I don’t want to face the orthopedic guy after going over his head with the regular doctor. I don’t want to hold my son back if he’s actually ready to practice but is possibly held up by the overly cautious (his regular doctor’s words) healing time.

Remember, I’m a dumbass, a very scared dumbass.

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Even in my dreams I am initialing statements, hoarding books to put away. But for a brief moment, he was here lifting me as easily as a rag doll, his eyes shining, his laugh a warm compress for everything. His kisses… proof that I loved once.

For a brief moment, I felt undeniable, blinding happiness.

The pain now, almost unbearable. My body, a foreign object weighing me down.

I miss you.