Tales From The Bunker

A couple of weeks ago, Bob burned the inside of his upper arm on a sheet pan full of chicken nuggets he was removing from the oven. Logistically, I have been unable to figure out how in the world it happened. I have tried to imagine it, asked him to demonstrate it, and quizzed the children on if they witnessed it but the whole incident remains a mystery. However, on the bingo card of our life, this chain of events is definitely a square. We consume a not insignificant amount of chicken nuggets so someone was bound to be injured in the preparation of them at some point.

The burn on Bob’s arm progressed typically – red and blistery and irritated – before finally beginning to heal over. What wasn’t typical was the way his heart reacted to the burn on his arm, which was to drop out of rhythm. For five days, while the worst of the burn healed, his heart was in arrhythmia.

We’ve become accustomed to Bob’s heart being thrown off by external events. It’s been like this for many years and it happens with regularity. An overly stressful event can throw it out for a bit. A particularly decadent meal can make it beat irregularly. Sometimes, we don’t even know why it’s happening and we simply guess, like maybe it was the Harvest Moon? And, while Bob is on medication to help his heart beat in regular rhythm most of the time, when he has these episodes, he can usually knock it back into place by eating the right foods, getting the right exercise, making time for the right rest. It’s all very manageable.

Until it’s not.

Which is what makes the threat of contracting a debilitating virus so terrifying. When you’re living with a hair trigger heart that takes the better part of a week to beat normally after a minor burn or a particularly salty dinner, the thought of what would happen if Bob’s body were truly under attack or if he was fighting off a much more serious problem fills me with dread. It would, inevitably, as it has in the past, lead to a cascade of complications.

Bob’s (rather high strung, in my opinion) heart is one of the many reasons we’re all hunkered down at home, rarely departing, never apart, my singular goal being to keep everyone healthy. There are days where it feels like my intense anxiety and fear are the only things standing between us and certain doom.

For the most part though, I just feel unbelievably fortunate to be able to shelter in place with those I love the most during such a scary and worrisome time.


“…we don’t leave our home a lot now. It gets a little bit lonely with just being with my family all the time. But I find a way to make it work. Life is still fun. How can life not be fun. Straight when you walk out that door an adventure begins. So just remember that life can be much more than you think it is.” (Amelia, 8, eternal optimist)

Being cloistered with one’s family non-stop for weeks on end is totally fun but it’s also absolutely terrible. And, the kids are not the problem here. Sure, there has certainly been the occasional, “WE DO NOT PLAY SPIKEBALL IN THE HOUSE,” with a dash of, “NO CARTWHEELING WHILE HOLDING FORKS,” but the kids are actually handling all of this with aplomb, especially since their world was just turned upside down.

So, no it’s not the kids. It’s Bob. Bob is the problem. He is the kink in the hose. The chink in the armor. The fly in our soup. Having him home full-time has exposed and hi-lighted tremendous differences in opinion on household matters, the majority of which seem to surround a central theme. And, that theme is kitchen linen management.

Sure, you’re probably thinking, “Hey, go easy on the guy with the heart condition,” but you would be wrong. Just as wrong as Bob is when he uses the dish towel that we dry our hands on to dry a freshly washed pan. That is, essentially, kitchen blasphemy.

One uses the TEA TOWEL for that.


Fifteen years. Just like that.

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These past fifteen years haven’t really seemed linear. I know there’s a clear beginning to our marriage but I’m not sure if this is the middle or what and I can’t even begin to guess what the end will be.

These past fifteen years instead are just jumbled memories of babies and doctor’s appointments and diapers and houses and vacations and deep joy and health crises and holidays and homework monitoring and weird rashes and belly laughs and grocery shopping and intense grief and settling arguments and drying tears and calling kids by the names of their siblings instead of their actual names.

Each year that passes adds to the jumble but is also feels like it’s just always been like this. This chaotic and busy and tragic and lovely. This wonderful life.

After fifteen years, I barely remember the before.

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.


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.


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.