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Working from home has its pros and cons.
The best part, naturally, are the pros: I can do laundry while meeting a deadline, I don’t have to pack a lunch and if the weather is rainy, sunny or wintery I pour another cup of coffee, fluff the pillows and get back to work.
Everyone should enjoy the thrill of answering an important business call in their footy pajamas at least once.
The downside is that I never feel entitled to a day off. Through throes of flu or nasty winter colds, I rationalize that if I can work in my bed when I feel lazy I can also work in my bed when I feel crummy.
Being a writer is not a physically taxing job but it does strain the mental muscles. That makes working through illness difficult. When my brain is throttled back to naptime and chicken soup it doesn’t deliver my best work.
Add medication and there’s no telling what I might write.
Take last pollen season for example. My red-rimmed eyes burned and I chugged grape flavored syrupy medicine. I had exactly two hours left to meet my deadline and the only words I had on paper were “my head hurts.”
Look out, Hemingway; here comes Nora Blithe.
It was time to buckle down. I soaked in a hot tub, sipped a toddy and put on a fresh pair of footy pajamas. Forty-five minutes left until the deadline. I powered up my laptop.
Suddenly, words exploded on the page. My fingers flew across the keyboard like Jerry Lee Lewis banging out his most energetic performance of “Great Balls of Fire.”
I was on a roll.
With fifteen minutes to spare, I read my work and groaned.
There once was a train wreck in Nebraska that wasn’t as messy.
I sighed. If ever I needed a dog to eat my homework it was then. Sadly, we’d invested hundreds of dollars in training to teach our dog not to eat our things. Figures.
It was a crisis time. I did what any great writer would do. I poured a cocktail and republished an old column.
If my head wasn’t hurting so much I would have enjoyed the irony. I could have taken the whole day off if only I had resubmitted an old column right away instead of trying to work from home on a sick day.
Things were bad.
I first ruptured a disc in my back three years ago. Surgery, acupuncture, physical therapy, chiropractic care, massage and even a pain specialist have improved me greatly over the years but once a back goes out it’s all too willing to repeat its past mistakes.
Mine was no exception and a pinched nerve landed me in bed for over a week. Two trips to the doctor, a steroid injection and muscle relaxers had done little to ease my pain. In fact, it was getting worse. I was only comfortable flat on my back. As the days progressed I found it harder and harder to leave the bed.
Fortunately, my back went out on a holiday weekend and my husband Brian was off work to help me. Unfortunately, he had to return to work when the holiday was over and I was unable to walk to get myself a drink or lunch.
“What are we going to do,” I asked in all seriousness.
“I don’t know,” he replied gravely.
“I can’t ask my mother or sister to come. Their families are on vacation together. I can’t ask them to leave their vacation.”
It doesn’t matter how old I get when something hurts I want my mom.
“You can’t miss work,” I continued, “but I can’t lay in bed all day without lunch or water.”
Brian sighed deeply, “We need to get you set up in one of those assisted living homes.”
I would have burst out laughing if laughing didn’t make my back hurt so much. Then I realized he wasn’t smiling.
“You’re serious,” I gasped in disbelief.
“Those people know how to help you,” he said.
“Oh my gosh you are serious,” I said.
“They can get your lunch and help you roll over.”
I rolled my eyes. “I’m thirty-five! I’d be surrounded by eighty-five year olds!”
“And they all get around better than you.”
“I wonder if your doctor can help us get you set up,” he said.
“No assisted living home is going to move me in because of a pinched nerve. By the time a bed opens up my back will be normal again. Well, normal for me which isn’t that great but you know what I mean. Besides, you’re making me feel old and decrepit,” I pouted.
He suddenly brightened.
“I have an idea,” he announced, “it will help you get around better and won’t make you feel so bad. I’ll be right back.”
He grabbed his keys and left the house. An hour later, he returned and presented me with my very own – walker. He bought me a walker.
He was right on one count. I did get around much better and could be left to fend for myself. As far as not feeling old, well, I’ll say this, getting out of bed without help made me feel fifty years younger.
It’s amazing how two people can grow up in the same house with the same parents and end up being such different people.
Take my nieces for example.
I recall when Callie, the oldest, was learning to swim. I took her swimming at my aunt’s pool. My sister ensconced my niece in plastic inflatables: there was an inner tube that covered her midsection from armpits to thighs and her arms were invisible beneath bright blue plastic tubes.
She wouldn’t have sunk if she’d struck an iceberg.
In spite of the inner tube and swimmies, Callie was terrified. She only agreed to be in the pool if I held on to her with both hands.
After roughly two hours of a small, clingy, inflated child grasping my neck, I decided to pry her off and let her discover for herself that she was in no danger of sinking. I wriggled free of her clutch and let her bob in the shallow end a foot and a half from the steps.
Callie screamed loud enough to set off two car alarms and send the police by on a wellness check. I didn’t take her swimming again for three years.
Callie’s younger sister, Nicole, turned four last month and is now learning to swim. She wanted to join me, my sister and Callie in the hot tub recently but was a bit unsure. Now a swimming pro, Callie coaxed her sister Nicole to join us in the warm bubbling water.
There were no blow up rings around Nicole’s waist or arms, no way of preventing sinking. If she went under it was up to Aunt Nora to fish her out.
After a few minutes adjusting to the temperature and sound, Nicole began to relax and enjoy the water.
“Have you learned to put your face in the water yet,” I asked Nicole.
“No,” she told me but that didn’t stop her from trying. She leaned her face toward the water and dipped her chin in.
Suddenly, her feet slipped and she plunged face first into the water. She was completely submerged. I grabbed her, pulled her to the surface and braced for screaming.
She didn’t make a peep.
Then she grinned, flung her arms over her head and announced, “I did it,” in the singsong voice of one who has won a board game or found a lost penny.
I glanced at my own sister shrugged who shrugged, “They’re as different as you and I.”
It made perfect sense.
It was 1987. I was nine that summer. My parents took my sister and I on our annual camping trip.
We were camping pros. We had pitched more tents than a Boy Scout troupe but nothing could have prepared us for what happened that summer.
It started with a noise, a low hum like heavy equipment. The sound was out of place in the forest. It grew ever louder as we drove deeper into the woods.
Then, we saw it: a giant ungainly bug with garish red and green markings. It had enormous, bulging eyes, paper-thin wings and was bigger than my hand.
It was a cicada and it wasn’t alone.
Millions of the grasshopper-like creatures crawled from the earth. Their constant droning buzzed in our ears and the top of our tent sagged with the weight of hundreds of bodies.
Cicadas come out only once every seven years and we had the misfortune of timing a camping trip with their arrival.
In true outdoor spirit, my family persevered, determined to have a campout in spite of the creatures. They were harmless after all. What could go wrong?
We slept through the night in relative peace. It was the next morning when disaster struck.
My mother suddenly clutched her leg. Her eyes wide and her body rigid. She looked like she was suffering from a sudden and major medical condition.
“What’s wrong,” my dad asked concerned.
“One crawled up my pants leg,” my mother said in a strangled voice.
“What,” my dad asked.
“A cicada! It crawled up my pants leg,” my mother screamed. “Ahhh! It’s going higher!” She desperately pressed her hands against her thigh to stop the cicada from continuing its upward journey.
“Pull your pants off,” Dad suggested.
“No,” my mother screamed back, “what if someone sees me?”
“I know,” Dad said, “I’ll squish it.”
He started toward Mom with his hand raised ready to swat.
“No,” Mom shrieked! She began hopping away from him. “Don’t you dare squish that bug on my leg!”
She hopped some more.
“I think it’s going down,” she said with some relief.
She leapt up and down vigorously shaking the uninvited guest down her leg and onto the ground.
“Aww,” Dad said in mock disappointment. “I wanted to squish it.”
Mom shot him a nasty look.
“Pack up,” she said. “We’re leaving! We’ll come back next year when these things are gone!”
We never went camping again. Some scars take a lifetime to heal.
“Guess what!” I bounced up and down waving a sheet of paper. My husband Brian raised an eyebrow in askance. “I just did the budget and we can afford to go on vacation this year!”
“That’s great,” he exclaimed. “What are you thinking: Bermuda, Jamaica, Europe?”
“Oh, no we can’t afford that kind of vacation,” I told him.
“What kind of vacation can we afford,” he asked.
“We can afford to go camping or we can go to your basic all amenities excluded motel if we limit our stay to two nights and switch from two-ply toilet paper to single ply for the rest of the year.” He sighed.
“Not much of a choice is it,” I conceded. “Still camping or a motel beats staying here.”
“True,” he said, “let’s go to a motel. Camping is uncomfortable. Mosquitoes eat you alive, I toss and turn trying to sleep on rocks and there’s never enough hot water in the showers.”
We booked a hotel and set off on our vacation. The room wasn’t luxurious but my expectations weren’t high. I knew how much, or how little rather, we’d paid to stay there.
That night we snuggled under the covers. Every few moments Brian would wriggle and readjust his position.
“What’s wrong,” I asked.
“The bed is lumpy,” he replied. Finally, he stopped moving. After a few moments though, I felt a tickling on my foot.
“What’s the matter now,” I snapped in irritation.
“I’m not doing anything,” he said.
“Well if you’re not then what’s on my foot?” I tossed back the covers and shrieked. “A roach! A roach is on my foot!”
We flew out of bed shaking our hands and feet doing the cootie dance. The roach ran toward Brian. He snatched a book of the bed stand and squashed the killer roach flat.
“All better,” he said.
“Maybe for you. It didn’t touch you! I’m going to boil myself in a shower.” I climbed off the dresser and stormed to the bathroom. However, I was unable to “boil” myself since at its hottest the shower was approximately as warm as gazpacho.
Unable to return to the roach bed we curled together on the room’s love seat. Brian held me close and whispered in my ear, “Honey, next year, let’s go camping.”
Recently, I’ve had two friends who have family members struggling with ALS. My friend Stefanie recently lost her mother to ALS and my friend Trish’s husband has it.
I confess, I didn’t know a thing about it until Stef’s mom was diagnosed.
I do not have the skills, knowledge and training to do anything about ALS. That’s someone else’s role to play.
What I lack in medical skill, I hope I make up for by being a supportive and loving friend to those who are going through illness or struggle of any kind.
To that end, here is my friend Trish’s husband Steve taking the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge!
Steve has ALS and hopes this video will go viral. I challenge you to share it!
My father-in-law loves dogs almost as much as dogs love him. With some unseen skill, he can win over even the most bloodthirsty hound or shy pup.
He has two dogs of his own, Bullet and Ginger, a German Shepherd and Lab respectively. They roam his spacious country property and keep the house safe from the terrors of such animals as squirrels and white tailed deer.
When my mother-in-law decided she wanted a dog of her own, she choose a dog as different from her husband’s as possible. Instead of a large, active canine, she wanted a dainty lap dog to cuddle. She adopted a terrier mix who tops the scales at ten pounds and named her Darlin’.
She determined that Darlin’ would be her dog, not her husband’s. Knowing his gift for instant rapport with dogs, she refused to let him pet or talk to Darlin’ for fear the dog would abandon her in favor of him.
Because the large dogs can roam, they sometimes venture into trouble. Ginger in particular has caused some trouble with their few neighbors by bringing home shoes or other loose items that fit in her mouth. My mother-in-law likes to boast that it’s her husband’s dog who cause the trouble.
Ginger’s antics recently took a turn for the worst. My father-in-law found a dead chicken in his backyard.He sighed and disposed of it sure he’d hear from a neighbor soon.
Then a second dead chicken appeared in the yard.
Then a third.
He smoked a cigarette and waited for the phone to ring.
When the phone rang, he sighed and answered ready to apologize and make amends.
“Hey Buddy,” he said his customary genuine warmth.
“I guess you know why I’m calling,” his neighbor said.
“Yeah, I do. I found the chickens. I’m sorry and I’ll do whatever I can to make things right.”
“It was my own fault,” said his neighbor,” I left the gate open.”
“ I guess I’ll have to find a new home for Ginger so this doesn’t happen again.”
“No,” the neighbor replied, “it wasn’t Ginger.”
My father-in-law was stunned. Bullet was a gentle giant. He had never caused trouble of this sort. He couldn’t believe that this dog who was so patient with puppies and small children had harmed a living creature.
Then the real shock came.
“It was the little one,” said the neighbor.
“Darlin’,” my father-in-law gasped in disbelief.
“I replayed the footage on my security cam,” said the neighbor, “that little dog grabbed a chicken by throat. It was bigger than her! The poor things fought with her but she’s scrappy!”
My father-in-law apologized again and hung up. He could hardly wait to tell his wife about the trouble her dog had caused.