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Dying, with an E

I have a little announcement to make…  No wait!  Close your mouth — I’m not pregnant.  In fact, I could make this announcement even more shocking than that if I followed the lead of a friend of mine who made my announcement in an email to her friends with the opening words, “Strawberry is dying!”

I’m not.  She’d misspelled it.

The thing is, you all know that ever since I left my job to become a stay-at-home mum, I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to do when I eventually go back to work.  Knowing I didn’t want to go back to what I did previously, I’ve spent several years casting about for what might be the right career to go into.   Well, this is not it, but it is an itty-bitty baby step toward doing something I love.  A tiny step, and a huge step all at the same time.  And I am immensely excited about it.

I have been dyeing lately, quite a lot — that’s dyeing with an ‘e’  — and at some friends’ very enthusiastic encouragement, I have opened a shop on Etsy, called SpaceCadet Creations, where I sell my hand-dyed yarns and fiber.  Take a look:

I can honestly say I haven’t been this excited in a long time.  Mixing the colours myself (from the three primaries and black), seeing the results come out of the dyepot, putting the yarns and fiber up on Etsy, getting the email to say that someone has bought my stuff…  It feels fantastic.  When I grow up, I want to do a job that I love doing, and this — opening this shop, taking one bold baby-step towards that goal — has made me feel that that might actually be possible, for the first time in a long time.

Come, have a look at my shop and dance a little excited-dance with me!  And if you know anyone — anyone at all — who knits, spins, felts, or crochets, please, please send them my way.

Now, I have waxed lyrical on here before about Trader Joe’s castille soap, and with good reason.  It is great stuff — in my opinion an absolutely perfect soap for a million uses, from washing my hair to body wash to adding to laundry to cleaning the kitchen floor.  And Trader Joe’s have got the balance of peppermint to the other ingredients just right, so it’s zingy fresh but still gentle.  I don’t ever want to be without this soap.

But the last time we went to TJ’s, there was none of their castille soap to be found.  I panicked and rushed to the customer service desk, where I was reassured that it was just out of stock, not discontinued, and they suggested I grab a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s instead.

Dr. Bronner’s was not quite the same.  Besides the initial shock of the label — so chock full of weird evangelism that it took a full 3 minutes to find the ingredient list — the smell took me by surprise.  It seems the ratio of peppermint is much higher and the result is much zingy-er, almost overpowering.  …Not something I’d want to be buying regularly.  Still, it would do in a pinch, so I paid for the bottle and went home happy.

The next morning, as I lathered up in the shower, I remembered that one of the commenters to my previous blog post about castille soap had warned me to take care when using it in the shower.  She had suggested it might be a bit strong for one’s tingly bits.  I remembered this just a moment too late, just as the aforementioned bits began to remind me.  My instant reaction was to rinse it off as quickly as possible but then…  I paused.  The sensation was initially a bit startling, to be sure, and the intensity increased rather alarmingly but then it had levelled off a bit and become perfectly tolerable and rather… um… intriguing.  Not necessarily in the way you might be thinking, but cool and fresh, a little like someone had turned a fan on.  I lingered a few moments before I washed it off.

When I came down into the kitchen after my shower, M gave me a good morning hug and kiss.  “Wow…” he said, his nose scrunched up a bit, “your hair  smells… minty!”

I put on a deliberately straight face  and then said, “Listen, there’s a soap dispenser on the edge of the bath.  I want you to use it and tell me what you think.”

“Uh, okay,” he said, and shrugged.

“No, I want you to use it on your… on your bits.”  Most of the time, my husband is not an adventurous man — he likes to have his day planned, he likes to do his job carefully from start to finish, and he likes to follow a well-worn routine.  But in some things — some things — he’s willing to try almost anything.

His face didn’t move at all, but his eyes darted to mine and then crinkled a bit into a smile,  “Ohhh-kay!”

Later that night,  after the chaos of the day had passed, we sat side-by-side on the couch, watching the telly and drinking an end-of-day cup of tea.  “So, did you try that soap?” I asked.

“Yep.”  His eyes on the telly.

I turned to face him.  “Front and back?”

“Yep.”  Still straight at the telly.

“Well… what did you think?”

He brought his mug up to his lips and took a slow sip, and then lowered it to his lap again.  Still in profile to me, his eyes never moved, but the corners of his mouth had lifted mischievously.  “You can buy that soap again sometime,” he said.  He paused, and then opened his mouth as if to say something more, but closed it again abruptly.  And then smiled a bit more, and took another slow swig of his tea.

Hmmm.  Maybe I will buy it again.

The snow, which has held us captive for over a month now, is slowly beginning to loosen its grip at last, revealing random patches of bare ground where the grass appears so yellowed and flattened in submission that one wonders that it will ever come back to life.

“Weather’s turning,” M observed as we pulled into the driveway.  “We’d best get some of that trimmed back now before Spring hits in and it all goes crazy again.”  This garden had taken us by surprise last year: the shrubs grew alarmingly fast, the ornamental trees at the back had seemed to double in size in one summer, and the grape vine had threatened to push its way right through one window.  This year, we had decided, we’d be on top of it.

Almost immediately we got in the house, the girls wanted to go out again.  They also know the snow is disappearing and are desperate to spend every day it’s still here enjoying it.  But getting them out there is a chaotic process that I don’t enjoy: changing into jeans, jumpers, coats, scarves, finding hats and wayward gloves, digging out socks, fighting reluctant boots…  There is tripping, falling, stuck zippers, shoes on wrong feet…   I slunk down to the family room and left M with the madness, with the good excuse that my ankle was hurting — which it was — but also with the enormous relief that I did not have to be on duty today.  The noise and chaos was just more than my head could bear today.

Eventually the din died down , and then I heard the door shut and the house fell quiet.  I sat for a moment and soaked it in.  Quiet.  Nothing.  Silence.  Even better than the silence of a nap, because that might be rudely broken at any moment.  This was the sure silence of emptiness, something I hardly know any more, and I was going to enjoy it.

Tea first.  A silent house called for a cup of tea.  And then, perhaps I would write an email to an old friend.  I smiled to myself — this was going to be really nice.

I had been sitting at the computer for only a few minutes — my thoughts only just beginning to gather — when the house rumbled for a moment.   Startled and not quite knowing what to think, I just stopped still, fingers suspended over the keyboard.  It came again, the whole right side of the house rumbling and shaking and sounding like it was about to come down.  I grabbed my coat and hobbled out the back door.

The girls stood with the neighbour-kids in a semi-circle around M, who was crouched by the side wall at the base of the grape arbour and cutting through the main vine with the electric reciprocating saw from his truck.  The arbour was shaking violently, the vine was resisting as much as it could.  I cleared my throat.

M looked up and grinned, proud of himself.  “I’m nearly done!” he announced, and pointed to the vine on the other side of the arbour.  “I’ve got through that one already, and I’ve done all the smaller ones on this side.  Just this last one to go.”  And then he spotted the shock on my face, and his grin slid away.

“Ohhhh…” he began, and the shape of the word lingered on his lips for a moment.  “Oh, I thought we’d agreed on this.  We… we had discussed this, hadn’t we?”  He pressed his finger to the trigger of the saw, and it whirled a little, hesitantly.

We had, but my recollection was that we’d settled on perhaps digging up the vines and moving the arbour, and then we’d left the matter unsettled…  His recollection, my recollection…  Husband-wife miscommunications are the stuff that marriage is made of.

“I’ll… um…  I’ll leave this for now, shall I?” he said, a bit sheepishly.  And then pointed to the sagging limbs on the snow-battered lilac tree.  “Should I…  well, how about those?  Should they come down?”  I nodded, and he turned away from the vine — a stay of execution at the last moment — and headed for the lilac.

The children had wandered back to the snow, all but the neighbour boy who, at the age of nine, had spotted the undercurrents in our conversation and was now watching me intently to see where this would go.  I looked at him and smiled.  “Jay, when you get older and get married… and you think you know what your wife wants you to do…  just be sure to go back and double-check with her, ok?  And then… double-check again.”  I winked at him, and he laughed.

And I turned and went back into the house, where everything would be quiet.

Sunset

Watching the bruises come out has been a little like watching the colours of the a sunset spread slowly across the sky.  At first, there was nothing, just incredible swelling, but the bruises appeared around the ankle the next day — so far, so much expected.  After a couple of days, a weird pale yellow and purple shadowing stretched from my instep across the whole foot, around to the outer heel, and even across a bit of the sole of my foot.

But I was surprised at the end of the week to see new purple bruises coming out boldly over the top of the foot behind the toes.  And then on Sunday — a week after my fall — angry dark bands appeared around the three smallest toes, as though I were wearing subcutaneous toe-rings, wrapping 360° around.

And today, fully nine days later, the bruising has begun to bloom up and across my shin.  It’s been quite incredible to watch it all come out, so slowly… so angrily.  All I can think is, that damage must have really gone deep for the bruising to be rising to the surface only now.

“The good news is…”  I could see from the x-rays up on the lighted board that there was no break.  “…that I don’t see a break or a fracture.  The bad news is that’s about as bad a sprain as you could have done.  It’s going to take a long time to heal.”  The doctor scrunched up his nose in hard-luck sympathy and his wire-rimmed glasses rose up a bit above the level of his eyes.

“We have a few options.  We could put you in a traditional cast, which would hold everything still and help you to heal the fastest — but it’s not that nice for you.  Or we could just leave it alone and let you walk on it, but that’s pretty painful and you’d end up not being very mobile.  Or, I could give you an airboot, which is a middle ground between the two.”

He held it up — a huge great ugly cross between a ski-boot and something a StarWars Storm Trooper might wear.  I pulled a resigned smile, “Sooooooo, I get the big dorky boot then…”

“It’s not dorky!” he defended.  “They’re quite good really…”  He looked down, turned it over in his hands.  Focusing on the medicine, he missed that I was thinking of my vanity.  “You’ll need to wear it most of the time, to start.  It will be a while before you drive.  And expect it to take four to six weeks before your ankle is fully healed.”  Four to six weeks!  For one moment of stupidity!!!

After the doctor left, the nurse gave me a resistance band and showed me a few exercises.  The he put my foot in the boot and explained how to put it on, how to inflate the sides so it supported my ankle.

“Where are your shoes?” he asked, looking around the room.  I pointed to my Dansko clogs in the corner.  He looked alarmed and spoke sharply,  “You need to stop wearing those!”  And, shaking his head, he added, ” They’re death-traps!”  I knew he was right but, to be fair, they were the only shoes I could fit my swollen foot into that morning.

When we were finished, he walked me back down the hallway to reception.  The doctor was right — the airboot was quite good really.  I was hardly a picture of grace, hobbling as I did, with my right foot clomping loudly with each step, but my ankle hurt an awful lot less with the support of the boot, and this had been a walk I had barely been able to make just an hour before.  I suddenly felt a surge of excitement.  I could get around again! I had my autonomy back!

Vanity may be over-rated.

— a walk I had barely been able to make before

Mid-morning yesterday, my mother brought me a cup of tea, and my daughters brought their beaming smiles.  “Mummy! Mummy! We’ve made you a card!”

Ah, now, this is what you want when you’re not well — a nice cuppa, delivered to your bedside.  And this is what you envision when you become a mother — the glowing faces of your children as they bring you their home-made Get Well cards.

I looked down at my card, my mother-heart warmed with love.  I looked again.  Was… was this card threatening me?  This is what my children were giving me?!?

My mother chuckled a little under her breath and shrugged her shoulders.  “They told me what to write and I just wrote it…”

E2 had disappeared, but now I heard her footsteps on the stairs. Clomp clomp clomp. Her face was again that wide grin — so pleased to see her mummy after a whole morning without her — and she held in her little hands a plate of carefully laid-out, half-smooshed grapefruit pieces.  My breakfast, from my lovely daughter!

“Oh, thank you, sweetheart!  Is that for me?”

Her brow furrowed and she looked suddenly surprised.  “No! It’s for me!”  And she leaned onto the foot of the bed, setting the plate down heavily and spilling grapefruit juice onto the comforter.

I sighed.  She dug into her fruit.  And then looked up and beamed that grin — that grin that melts her mother’s heart — as juice ran down her chin.

And I remembered what all mothers learn quickly and must never forget:  children bring an abundance of love… but there is very, very little sympathy.

In the Morning

This morning, when the pain was a little less of a shock and the cold shiveriness had passed, I was better able to assess the situation.  The night had not been good — there was no comfortable position to lie in, and so sleep came in fits and starts — but the situation seemed better… and worse.

On the plus side, I wasn’t as limited in the positions I could hold my foot in.  I could lie with my legs outstretched and my foot falling forward naturally, and  rest my leg to one side without too much pain.  I could adjust my hips or even turn in bed without gasping from the shock of it.  But where I could put weight on the foot last night and hobble forward a few paces, that was now impossible.  There was a pain running up my shin that I hadn’t registered before.  And the bruising was coming out, which always makes things look downright alarming.

My mother watched me crawl — and gasp — my way to the loo and asked, shouldn’t we maybe have that looked at…?  Maybe it was broken?  Mmmmm…  she might be right

I rang the insurance company to find out what they covered and where we stood.  Now that it’s not an emergency, the lady explained, they preferred that we see a doctor before going to hospital.  Yes,  the doctor my mum had recommended did participate in their plan.  Yes, they would cover all the scans and tests he might feel were necessary.  There would be a $40 copay — I knew that already and, even though that’s a significant sum to us at the moment, we could handle it.  And, she continued, there was a deductible we had to cover before the insurance began covering the costs.  It was…  the lady on the phone paused, looking through the numbers on her screen…  It was $2,000 — my heart skipped a beat — but… she looked at the numbers again…  M’s company paid the first thousand.

Ok.  Ohhhh-kaaay…  Just at the moment, having to pay almost any part of that deductible would be difficult, but that little gem about M’s company might save the day.  I looked at my ankle and began to tally: x-ray… MRI…  What might the doctor order?  How much do these things cost?  I don’t have a clue — it might well all come in under a thousand or we could just as easily blow right past it.  I really don’t know.  But — oh! — that swelling just did not look good!

My mum rang the doctor to check if they had appointments available.  The earliest was not for two days and, phone still to her ear, she raised her eyebrows to ask…  Did I want to take it?  I paused for a moment…  wiggled my toes and winced.   Yes. “Yes,” I said, looking back up to her.  “Make the appointment.”

The ankle is painful but stable, my mum is here so I can rest (thank goodness for her!), and the two-day delay still allows us 48 hours to watch things and decide if the appointment is necessary.