Stick With Me

Let me begin by stating that this entire thing is Bob’s fault.

For as long as we have been together, Bob has tried to get me to invest in really nice running shoes. Bob, a distance runner for decades, has always worn very nice running shoes and he has always encouraged me to do the same.

“You gotta take care of your feet, Joanna,” he would say while shaking his head and looking disparagingly at the soles of my sub-par athletic footwear.

I’m very brand loyal (only Asics) but I’ve always selected their most basic running shoe even though Bob has told me over and over again I should buy their high end running shoe.

“I’m not a runner-runner, Bob. I’m more of a jogger. Joggers don’t need fancy shoes,” I would explain before grabbing my coupons for the sporting goods store and hopping in the car to go buy my discount sneakers before the sale ended.

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This past Father’s Day, we set out to do some shopping for Bob and ended up shopping for me instead. This is probably a metaphor for our marriage or something but whatever.

One of our stops was a lovely little running store we have frequented in the past. The store carries my favorite brand of running shoe and, with both a need for a fresh pair and an unfortunate increase in heel pain, I reluctantly agreed to try on Bob’s favorite high-end version.

“You know this is all hype,” I declared loudly while lacing up a shoe that cost roughly the same as my parents’ first house.

Then, I stood up, started walking gingerly around the store and was utterly dismayed to discover that my heels felt like they were being cradled by unicorn hooves and cotton candy clouds, so amazingly comfortable and supportive were these fancy, fancy running shoes. This was not the outcome I had anticipated.

Now, the rules of marriage dictate that you admit when you’re wrong but I do not like doing that so I put the shoes back and went to look at a cut-rate version. The salesperson, wisely assessing that she was not standing in front of some full-price-paying sucker, was quick to inform me that the version I had tried on was actually last year’s model and were thus, deeply discounted. This was exactly the motivation my Midwestern sensibility needed to close the deal. I may not have had a coupon but a hefty discount was involved bringing the overall price point down into a range that wouldn’t make my pioneer forefathers cry.

I bought the fancy running shoes. Bob wore an air of, “I told you so.”

For about two months, there was nothing but joy in wearing my new shoes. They were so supportive and my arches were so happy. We picked up a new pair for Bob, too, in July and that’s how we came to be wearing matching running shoes and I can only assume matching tracksuits are not too far behind because marriage is magical like that.

At some point last month, I noticed that a part of the left sole of my new shoe was sticking to the floor as I walked. I assumed I had stepped in something – probably something gross on my own kitchen floor – and I just needed to rinse the bottom of my shoe off. I did that but discovered the next day that it hadn’t worked.

A few more walks on our gravel roads that I was sure would rub any soda or fruit snack residue off failed to do so and I found myself still listening to an increasingly annoying click-click of my left shoe sticking to the floor with every step I took. I couldn’t really see anything visible on the underside of the shoe that would be sticky so I was flummoxed.

That’s when I escalated things and turned the problem over to Bob. “It’s sticky somewhere on that shoe and I can’t clean it,” I lamented. Bob lives to be the hero in these types of situations and quickly reached for his pocket knife, eager to solve this problem which he absolutely was unable to solve.

“It’s still clicking?” Bob asked incredulously the next day when I complained that my fancy shoe was still clicking. “But, I cleaned it all out,” he explained. “It’s still clicking,” I confirmed. “Maybe I stepped in some sort of industrial glue or something at work.”

A couple of days later, after the kids started asking what that clicking noise was anytime I walked into the room, I grabbed the rubbing alcohol and a dishrag and got to scrubbing the sole of my new fancy running shoe. “This has GOT to work,” I said to myself in an increasingly frantic fashion.

It did not work.

Now, before I tell you what happened next, I need you to know how absolutely unnerving the clicking noise was. I go for long walks because I am seeking exercise, relaxation, rejuvenation, and a desperate escape from my (annoying but beloved) children. I am often so in need of peace and quiet that most days I don’t even listen to music or podcasts – just the sounds of the nature that surrounds me. You can see why the click-click of every step I took with my left shoe would absolutely enrage me.

Also, and this should be obvious by now, I can be… obsessive about certain things.

Which explains why, one unfortunate afternoon, when the click-click of my fancy running shoes had clicked-clicked one too many times, I asked Charlie to go find me the biggest grit sandpaper he could locate in the basement workroom. I was going to solve this problem once and for all.

Which is how Bob came to find me one evening upon his arrival home from work, sitting in a kitchen chair, sawing away at the sole of my fancy running shoe, little shards of plastic and rubber flying to the floor.

“IT’S STILL CLICKING CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE THAT BOB I MEAN WHAT ARE THE CHANCES THAT EVERYTHING WE’VE TRIED WOULDN’T WORK YOU KNOW?” I asked with a facial expression akin to Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

The sandpaper had to work. It just HAD to. But, it didn’t. I slipped the shoe on, took a couple of tentative steps, heard the click-click of my left sole on the kitchen floor and promptly passed out from rage.

When I awoke, I was so incensed that I started taking the entire shoe apart. At this point, I was convinced I was going to have to buy a new running shoe anyway because, “I can obviously never wear these again,” Bob heard me mutter as I walked back to the bedroom pulling laces vehemently from their holes.

And, that’s when I found it.

When I pulled out the shoe’s insole, the footbed that slips in and out of the inside of the shoe, the remnants of a security sticker could be seen. One of those security stickers with the silver thing running through it that would set off the store’s alarm if the shoe was taken out the store doors before being deactivated at the register. Located right underneath the ball of my left foot. Over months of sweaty use, the sticker had pretty much disintegrated and slid away so only the sticky residue was left behind. This residue clicked-clicked every time I took a step as the insole came momentarily unstuck from the inside sole of the shoe.

I must admit, it was a very “the call is coming from inside the house” kind of a moment.

After some more scrubbing, the residue was removed from the inside of the shoe, the footbed reseated and, like magic, the clicking ceased. My shoe has recovered. I am not entirely sure I have.

I blame Bob.

Some Thoughts On My Recent Hospital Stay

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Four days in the hospital is approximately three days too many. The first day, you’re all, HECK YEAH, I can watch this TBS marathon of “Friends” from the comfort of this Craftmatic adjustable bed while this lovely lady from food service delivers me french toast that I neither had to prepare nor have to clean up. Then, day two arrives and everything is terrible until the minute you are discharged.

If your first IV gets kinked, a nurse will place a second IV. If your second IV is infiltrated, your hand will swell up like a baseball glove and a nurse will place a third IV. If your third IV blows within just a few hours, they will call a nurse from the intensive care unit’s special “IV Team” to place a fourth IV. When it is all over, you will be able to rattle off your IV stats like a sports analysis: four IVs placed out of six attempts.

If there are no beds in the regular recovery section of the hospital, they will place you in the cardiac care wing which, demographically, skews a little older. They will choose your roommate carefully with a nurse explaining that they found a patient for you to bunk with that was, “a little closer in age.” That patient will turn out to be… 60. Also, when your kids visit you, their glowing youth and vibrant health will ensure they are treated like Golden Retriever therapy puppies by everyone in the halls and they will, therefore, be hugged extensively by strangers.

You will discover, tragically, that narcotic pain relievers do not sit well with you thus shattering any dreams of a narcotic-fueled life of crime on the run because you would have to pause to vomit every 30 minutes and the police would surely catch up to you.

The very minute you start to think, hmm, our health care flexible spending account still has a balance in September. That’s pretty remarkable. CONTACTS FOR EVERYONE THIS YEAR! That very minute – the very minute! – when you think of all of the things you’re going to buy with your extra FSA money – NAME BRAND CHARACTER BANDAIDS – is the exact moment when your appendix will burst or your kid breaks an arm or your diverticulitis flares up.

You’ll start to resent everyone that can just… walk around on their own. Logically, you know that the person in the hall wearing regular shoes instead of non-slippy socks isn’t, like, showing off or anything but it still feels like they kind of are. You’ll start to mutter to yourself, “I bet that lady over there doesn’t have a headache.” Or, “That dude over there doesn’t look nauseated.” The ability of others to exist without crippling pain will bring a not insignificant amount of irritation. ESPECIALLY when your 60-year-old roommate gets discharged before you and she is wearing regular clothes and no amount of french toast can make up for that kind of jealousy.

You will be given so many different IV antibiotics that you begin to get to know each of them. Not by name but by how they make you feel when they’re administered. The one shrouded in brown because it shouldn’t be exposed to light is especially terrible. You suspect the one in brown is responsible for your super duper heightened sense of smell which, by the way, is just the absolute worst superpower to have. Especially in the hospital. It’s almost like you can smell the very molecules in the air around you. Your new super smell capabilities means you will accuse your husband repeatedly of having very bad breath which will give him a little bit of a complex. He does not, in fact, have very bad breath and you will apologize profusely for the false accusation once you are home and off of the IV antibiotics and no longer able to smell each atom of matter that surrounds you.

The nurses will be amazing and their kindness for your condition will make you weepy and when they finally send you home, you will be a little sad that no one brings you french toast anymore.

Not This Year, Satan

One of the great things about our school district is the delayed start time for middle and high school students. The older kids start AFTER the elementary kids. Instead of being the first ones on the bus, they are the last ones on the bus. I’m pretty sure the school district’s scheduling decisions were based on lots of science and not, say, an unmitigated fear of what teenagers are like when they’ve had to rise before the sun. Little kids usually wake first while big kids tend to sleep in. It’s all very logical and makes sense and I think it would work really well for families with kids that aren’t broken like mine. Because mine are broken and this setup has been terrible for us.

My two youngest, elementary-aged children would sleep until the average Sunday brunch time each and every day if I would let them. They are both extremely difficult to motivate in the early morning hours. Simply raising their heads off of their pillows seems like a monumental task, so crushing are their grade school responsibilities. Meanwhile, my oldest child, my middle schooler, could watch the director’s cut of “Titanic” in the free time he has each day between when he’s ready for school and when he has to leave to catch the bus. He has so many minutes to burn that he actually gets bored, inevitably following me from room to room trying to discuss some sports thing as I’m deep-breathing my way through my first cup of coffee while simultaneously packing lunches, trying to find PE-approved shoes, stuffing the green folder in backpacks, and imploring his younger siblings to please, for the love, JUST GET OUT OF BED.

Anyway, in summary, I spent most of last school year trying unsuccessfully to wake Charlie and Millie up while pretending to listen to Henry talk about football. It was just as much fun as it seems! If you’re guessing that there was a lot of rage involved in our morning routine, you are guessing correctly.

And, let it be known that I tried really, really hard last year to be kind and gentle and loving and patient and to not say the really bad curse words before 7:00 a.m. I had Waffle Wednesdays and French Toast Fridays and special lunch box treats and hugs and kisses and all manner of gentle encouragement to get those two little kids up and out the door. Morning after endless morning, it did not work.

None of it worked. I always ended up yelling. Every time. So much yelling.

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I vowed, Scarlett O’Hara-style, that this school year would be different. Because, I simply cannot have another year full of red hot rage over having to doula my children through their before school routines. I just cannot. I need greater independence from my perfectly capable children.

Last year, we tried out alarm clocks but it went poorly. In an era when you can, essentially, just yell commands in the direction of your phone or your Echo or your iPad or your mother, the complicated multi-step process of setting alarm clocks proved problematic for the youngest of our household. Each morning, Millie would turn her bleeping alarm clock off by… unplugging it. Effective, yes, but also not very efficient. That meant, each evening, we’d have to sit down and reset the time and then the alarms and also the snooze capabilities confused each of them and we basically abandoned the alarm clocks pretty early on in the school year.

This year, I procured a Google Home Mini for Charlie. Voice commands make it easy for him to set the alarm and also, as a bonus, I can always tell when he’s awake in the morning because I can hear him yelling from his bed at the top of his lungs, “HEY GOOGLE STOP STOP GOOGLE STOP.” Millie is still using an old-school alarm clock for now because her bedroom most closely resembles our local landfill and I’m using the Google Mini as the dangling carrot in my cleanup scheme. She’s only unplugged her alarm twice this year (so far) so I can confidently claim that we seem to have rounded that learning curve.

In an effort to further streamline our morning routine, I also bought these great dry-erase charts that I hung on the back of the kids’ bedroom doors outlining what they need to do every day. These charts are working great in that Charlie and Millie remember to ignore them almost every day.

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However, laying out the next day’s outfit the night before is critical for Millie since she is forever picking things to wear to school that she actually can’t wear to school. She always picks a miniskirt and sandals on gym days or wants to wear her gymnastics leotard on library days. Laying out her outfit the night before means I can fight with her about her clothing choices at the end of the day when I’m exhausted instead of fighting with her first thing in the morning when I’m also exhausted. The whole process is very frustrating but also adorable in that Millie literally lays out her outfits.

The charts are colorful and cute and all but I’m actually thinking about just laminating instructional signs and hanging them all over my house instead. Every morning is this hamster wheel exercise in asking my kids over and over and over again if they have their shoes or their library books or their sweatshirts or asking if they’ve brushed their hair and washed their faces. I’m tired of the sound of my own voice. Signs would make this way easier. Want to know what to pack in your lunch? There’s a sign for that! Asking me repeatedly what you need for flag football practice? Reference the sign! Curious how you can brush your teeth without leaving the bathroom looking like someone was murdered with Crest? I have a sign for that!

It wouldn’t be pretty to look at but at least any houseguests we may have would know how to pour themselves their own bowl of cereal in five easy steps.

I don’t want to seem overly confident or anything and I know we’re not that deep into the school year yet but I have super high hopes for less rage this year with our charts and our instructional signs and our more advanced alarm clocks. Last year was so endlessly frustrating that I think it can only get better from here, right? I mean, even if this year still proves maddening, I can always look forward to the middle and high school years with their later start times. That’s only – let me check my math here – FIVE YEARS AWAY.

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