The celebratory and the reflective

My neighbor and the pet mama of my favorite little dog, Sobaka, had a birthday yesterday and her 700th Peleton ride. Another friend had a birthday Thursday and by happenstance I had that podiatrist appointment in her town and stopped to see her. She insisted I had to have done it on purpose, but I am terrible with birthdays. I know they are coming. I make plans days in advance but somehow, they slip by without me recognizing them.

The Teenager decided to take the bull by the horns and go shopping for our neighbor’s birthday and collected all of her favorites: Diet Coke in 20 ounce bottles, Cheez-Its and various flavors and sizes of M&M chocolates. It’s something the teenager learned from the maternal side of our family, because when my mother runs out of ideas for what to buy someone she either finds something completely ridiculous (like the whole chicken in a can that she bought my husband for Christmas one year) or stocks up on their everyday favorites. (The chicken in a can stemmed from my husband’s love of chocolate pudding in a can. Things escalated from there.) It’s like a care package, but more festive.

Now Sobaka turned eight this week so The Teenager also bought a corresponding gift bag for the dog. With extra tissue paper as Baki loves tissue paper, some treats and some little stuffed toys Baki will probably ignore because she’s too hoity toity to play.

My family has lived in this neighborhood for 20 years. Some of my neighbors have lived here their whole lives, like Little Dog’s Birthday Girl Mom and my neighbor to the right who cuts my lawn every time he cuts his. Most of my neighbors have been here as long as I have, and so we have adopted an informal mascot of the Flamingo and have the occasional girls night.

The Teenager is very excited to be old enough to attend. Last night was the Flamingo Birthday party. I was very very much looking forward to it, and very excited to share the slow progression of my service dog application with my neighbors. Very excited also to see what cocktails would be served as this particular host does not disappoint. (I ended up with a Jack Daniels canned cocktail of lemonade and honey whiskey, delicious.)

I suspected this was a recipe for disaster, but was so looking forward to relaxing with neighbors and laughing after a hard week. I had been up since 3 a.m., worked almost a full day with odd results on my metrics, went to the gym at 5 p.m. and inadvertently skipped dinner. The party started at 7, but I opted to wait for The Teenager to get home from work at 7:30 pm.

I’m skipping around chronology here, but my brain was doing this same jumps for much of the day, fatigue leaving me not quite here nor there. When I left for the gym at 4:40 — it’s about a 10 minute walk — I discovered a package from my stepmother’s business.

How honest should I be? This package struck fear into my heart. I didn’t want to open it. But I had to open it. I haven’t heard from anyone in my family for months and it seems like some people in it are getting harder to get a hold of, but I know rationally it’s a busy time of year and we’re all still recovering from the loss of our patriarch and trying to figure out how to fill that void. So of course I open the large but light box.

There is a beautiful card inside with a thoughtful inscription from my stepmother. She had a quilt made for me of my dad’s things. I cried. Because this week has been hard for me and I’ve been trying to hide just how hard and wishing I had my dad to listen and make me laugh. And not many people other than my mother and I would care, but Tuesday was my parents’ wedding anniversary.

I almost carried the bulky blanket with me to the gym because I didn’t want to put it down. Luckily, the Teenager got home in the knick of time to take it away from me.

We did a fantastic upper body workout at the gym, with some core exercises that used the legs which I very much needed. I had skipped Wednesday’s workout not knowing the source of the nerve pain. The workout pushed my arms and stretched out my extended person, who was very stiff.

Once I made it to the party, I sat by the fire pit in the yard (wearing the Teenager’s Stitch Fix mock leather jacket because I didn’t want to fight the kittens in my room to get my very stylish jean jacket) sipping my cocktail. I had rejected my first seat because the Adirondack chair made my back and hip very uncomfortable. All day my right lower back muscle had been straining oddly, and I thought maybe the cortisone shot in my foot had caused me to move my body differently.

We moved into the house for ring bologna, cheese, pretzels and chocolate-on-chocolate cake. If you are looking for me in the photo, I am second from the left with the Teenager beside me. My exhaustion kicked in high gear. The Teenager had to leave for work at 8:45 p.m., another overnight dog-owning client, so I thought it best to follow her home. Which, for the record, is across the street.

Now, I attend these parties barefoot as long as the weather allows. The Teenager and I leave the house, descend the front stairs, and reach the sidewalk. I think I took two steps on the old sidewalk and I lost my balance. Badly. Tried to regain my footing and couldn’t. I fell onto the Teenager who allowed me to ricochet off her without budging. Like a mighty tree.

And then she looked down and said, “You okay? You getting up or are you dead?”

If you don’t live with someone clumsy or someone with a condition like cerebral palsy prone to these kind of incidents, you might find that cold and cruel. It’s not. It’s practical and allows me to retain some dignity as I collect myself. My daughter knows I don’t need fuss, that I’ll let you know when it’s time to panic. It might be a little later than it should be, but eventually I’ll let you know. We might stop at the Chinese Buffet with a broken ankle, but eventually I’ll end up at Urgent Care when I need it.

I knew I stubbed my toes and my palms and my elbow was screaming, but I was praising whatever entity was watching over me that I had the heavy jacket to protect my arms. My glasses were still on my face. My face never hit the cement. We were good. I just hoped the jacket had survived.

“It will make it look cooler,” the Teenager said.

I crossed the street and took inventory. My elbow was bleeding and was very tender to the touch. My other scrapes were inconsequential. I checked my phone for clues as to what might be happening.

Holy shit.

Let me just start my saying that even with the explanations offered by Apple and Google, I don’t understand exactly how to analyze double support time, walking steadiness and walking asymmetry as recorded by my phone. I look for patterns. I know my phone does not consider me a fall risk, so I rule that algorithm-based tool out as useless for me.

I know, in general, that when my asymmetry reaches 10% or more I tend to fall. This shows two spikes, one at 53% on the walk to the gym, and another at 58% on the way to my neighbor’s house. As best I understand, this means one foot is walking faster than the other. Did the cortisone shot make it so I can’t feel my foot enough to use it? Is this foot unable to keep up with the other? This idea terrifies me.

I cleaned up as best I could and collapsed in bed struggling to get comfortable with my elbow bothering me and my back hurting worse. My brain was calculating and worrying and fighting the downward spiral.

That’s where I’m at. Except I’m cuddled on the couch in my dad blanket.

Feeling the love

The work stress hit me hard this morning so I did something I don’t normally do— I admitted that I needed some emotional support on Facebook.

It is my birthday after all.

At least four of my former bosses sent words of encouragement and one brought some edible arrangements fruit to my house.

Several neighbors sent well-wishes, one of whom got me not one but TWO drinks from Dunkin’. Which, now that I have had three of the matcha lattes, I have decided that Dunkin doesn’t make their matcha strong and chunky the way I like it.

One colleague FaceTimed with me on a coffee break and most of them sent email greetings as Mr. Accordion had no doubt alerted them to my advancing years. Or levels.

The teenager and her father are off to pick up the popcorn fundraiser. Her father offered to bring me dinner.

I will be finishing my G journal if not tonight then tomorrow— and I believe a fresh journal means a new chapter.

For more on my birthday adventures:

Kicking off my birthday

Pre-Birthday Magic

Just another Saturday

I woke up this morning worried about things I can’t control, and to a cat coughing up a hairball somewhere in the darkness of my room. It was 4 a.m. and to get myself back to sleep, I keep imagining a cleansing white light.

I imagined the white light getting brighter and brighter. It filled my house, came up my stairs and saturated my room. It brought me calm and helped me get to sleep.

I finally gave up on sleep around 7 a.m. but laid in bed until 7:30. I got up, fed the cats, started a load of laundry and cared for the birds.

Then I finished the first season of Hell’s Kitchen while folding clean laundry and hanging wet wash.

I had a piece of toast, put dishes away, washed the pots and pans, and scrubbed the kitchen counter (even the trivet and the toaster— have to periodically get those crumbs out of the toaster.)

And I found what could be very handy if COVID-19 ends up in my neighborhood: a bottle of Hibiclens the doctor told the teenager to use in the shower before her surgery in November.

My college professor neighbor and I had coffee on her porch, while I was clad in my African dress that I bought in Djibouti for my trip to Somalia.

I vacuumed the sun porch. Did some necessary paperwork. Gave Nala, my Goffin’s cockatoo, a shower. Scrubbed the tub, but not as well as I would have liked.

But I didn’t strip my bed or play with my new make up.

This evening my other neighbor took us to dinner at La Bella’s as a thank you for watching her dog.

Amazing Bread

The teenager decided to compliment our server every time she came to the table. I had chicken penne vodka. The child had seafood spaghetti vodka. The portions were ginormous and the seafood seemed good. I’m not a seafood fan.

See those bumpy calamari?

I think I’ll have enough leftovers for TWO lunches. As with the teen. And my neighbor. And then my neighbor took us to Owwowcow for ice cream. I got cinnamon bourbon.

The food was scrumptious but made me sad because I’m still having mild dental issues. My neighbor is looking at a root canal so we’re a good pair.

And now we’re home. Roomba is vacuuming my bedroom.

The teen is trying cone incense for the first time. She tried to pick natural varieties that wouldn’t burn my eyes and sinuses. She asked me what to burn, so we went for the cleansing sandalwood— vanilla sandalwood to be exact.

I used to use sandalwood soap to bathe before I practiced rituals and vanilla is a very pure, comforting flavor and scent to me.

I asked the teen, who now has her own altar with her own selected candles on it, why do you burn incense?

She answered, “because it clears my sinuses and helps me focus.”

Good girl, I thought.