Spring 2016

It’s been a weird winter here in Denver this year. After a couple of monster snows early on, the last few weeks have been unseasonably warm with all of the snow dumping up in the mountains, much to the skiers delight. For the past couple of weeks we have been seeing a bald eagle sitting atop a tree in the nearby park. Every time we drive by he’s up there, perched on that squiggly branch that juts out over the lake. He’s a neat bird and today was sunny and seventy degrees.

I went to go find him.

A while ago my husband bought me an electric bike from a resale store. I love that it takes me around the park on my good days. I often get odd glances, riding at a fast clip with almost no visible effort. I turn the pedals a bit and the engine does the rest. It’s a great bike.

The kids were off at a camp day and there wasn’t much to do around the house and it was, after all, a gorgeous day.

I set out like I always do but this time I was riding alone. I’m well enough to trust venturing out along. I like that.

The park was packed with so many people I just know some of them had to be playing hooky. The businessman with his sleeves rolled up, tie stuffed in his breast pocket and coffee in a go-cup smiled as I rode by. So did the park worker as I passed his work truck. There were moms and babies everywhere – strolling, picnicking and napping on blankets spread out under the trees half in the sun and half in the shade. There was a group of college kids from the nearby school setting up hammocks and horseshoes and an impromptu spring party. There were dogs and ducks and squirrels and gulls.
But no eagle.

I passed a woman who, while getting a picnic out of her trunk, turned to smile at me. She looked right at me and beamed a beautiful smile, a half smile. Sometime in her life she lost the use of the left side of her face. One half of her is now a ghost and the other a bright, engaging, and happy person. I know a little something about that. She smiled, not seeming to notice her disability. I smiled back, knowing she couldn’t see mine.

And tomorrow’s appointment with the surgeon seemed a little less terrible.
It has to come out – that remaining hardware. Part of it has now protruded from the bone and is a major problem. Surgery number eight is right around the corner. Looks like seven wasn’t actually my lucky number after all.

I went around the park twice today, just soaking in the sun and the people and the promise of spring. The hardware was screaming at me by the time the second lap started but I just ignored it and rode around for a second time in the gorgeous afternoon. Surgery is coming and that will make everything terrible for a while again so what does pushing too far today matter? I guess the groundhog not seeing his shadow was telling this year and I’m glad for it.

I never did find the eagle. I’ll have to go look for him another day. But today? Maybe today I was meant to find something else.

When the wind blew

Awake from the coldest peak, it rose
Gleefully racing down the mountain to inflict, once again
A cat, toying with his prey
Too cruel to grant death’s reprieve

A chair tossed aside announcing his arrival, ready to slice his teeth
Into the spaces between where metal meets bone
A predator, hungry for the heat of blood on his jowls
And the screams from his unwilling victims

A heart beating in fear
A glance outside to see
The whipping serpent circling the house
Unwelcome, unwanted, unstoppable

A pause, waiting
For the biting, for the pressure
For the wind to sink into the deepest parts
A cold, dark, unyielding grasp

He howled and railed outside
Tossing heavy things like paper
He laughed and smiled, daring me to resist
The darkness he promised would ooze into every broken piece

The wind blew
And blew some more
He pounded at the door and shook the window
He blew and he blew and he blew

And he couldn’t get in

This time the house stood strong
This time the body was a barrier
This time the work, all of the work
Was enough

Enough to keep the wind out
No matter how he growled
No matter how he bellowed
Indignant, angry, stupefied at my resistance

He blew in roaring, strutting about the victor before the fight even began
But I am no longer a lamb
I have crawled out of my prison
To be free of its hopelessness, to be free of its pain

And I am stronger than the wind

I know

What broken feels like
When the body won’t work
When the heart hurts
When the soul cries out to make it all stop

The feeling of shattered pieces
The loneliness of living in an untouchable body
The rejection of my own flesh as, repulsed,
The soft parts sag off, trying not to touch the bones

Not wanting to continue living
Not wanting to die
Not knowing which one will win while
Not able to tell anyone my plan

The cruelty of time passing
The lives of others, lived without me
The days turn into years
The injury I can’t recover from

Dark nights alone in pain
Dark days pretending
Darkness always around the edges, ready to take me to
Darkness forever

I know

I could not walk so I crawled
I fell and crawled again
I failed and still continued
I worked and worked and cried and begged to be done

With God

Cursing the gifts given to me
Cursing the ripping away my ability to use them
Cursing the collection of broken pieces I had become
Cursing constantly at the ceiling

At God

The tenacity well runs deeper than we know
The soul can’t be crushed
The shadow will always run from
The light

From God

I am still here
I have decided to stay
I will forever be recovering, knowing just how much
I am broken and yet not, I am strong and yet forever carried

By God

Married ever after

The fairy tales do a disservice to young people. The entire story tends to be focused on the meeting and falling in love side of a life long relationship and rarely do you see the inner workings of a successful marriage between two strong, dominant personalities. There is no such thing as “happily ever after” and it turns out, that’s a good thing.

How boring, I should think, it would be to arrive at some place in your life where you’re “done” or “finished”. Because, then what? The movies and stories imply that you, once you arrive at “happily ever after”, will then just sit around all day staring at your partner, smiling. Sounds more like prison than paradise to me.

I married a very good man who also happens to be an alpha male. He is strong, chivalrous and intelligent, a natural leader with amazing critical thinking skills and used to being in charge. Not because he has a need for power but, rather, because he continues to be the best person in the room to lead and decide. He has the perfect skill set to run things like teams or projects or groups.

And then he married me, another alpha.

I’m used to being the decision maker. I’m often the one in the leadership position and am very comfortable there. What works for each of us very well in the workplace has been the source of great conflict in the home. When either one of us is tired or stressed or overwhelmed, we revert to our comfort zone of being in charge. When we are at an impasse, we both are used to being the deciding vote which doesn’t work when there are only two of you. When my husband spends too many days traveling for work, for example, he sometimes enters the home like a manager, asking for updates and reports and trying to delegate work and assignments to his family like staff members.

You can imagine my response to being talked to by my husband like I’m his assistant. Those nights don’t go well around here.

Being married to a strong man, a good man, an alpha male isn’t an easy thing. It is, however, a great thing. He and I challenge each other all the time. Sometimes the challenges bring us closer together, like parenting as a united front to our two charismatic kids. Sometimes the challenges are harder, like how to treat each other like partners every day, regardless of being tired or overwhelmed.

The thing is, by working on a marriage with someone like him, our relationship is so much deeper and so much more meaningful than it ever could have been with anyone else. Marriage, a successful marriage, isn’t ever just an easy endeavor. You have to show up, every single day, and cherish your partner. Love is the easy part when your are lucky and find it. The marriage is the work.

And it should be.

My husband is many things, including the love of my life, but if we assumed that we were “there” once we said, “I do,” we never would have made it. We decided early on that there were things more important to our marriage than anything else:

We want to be married more than we want to be right
This is the most important relationship we will ever cultivate
The success of our children depends on our success as a couple

People have often commented on the quality of our marriage and single friends have told me they want a relationship like the one I have. That’s a nice thing to hear. But they don’t always know that we argue and disagree, just like everyone else. We go through times of stress where we don’t always talk to the other like a partner and have challenging times.

We aren’t living “happily ever after.”

We are challenging each other and becoming better people because of it. We are experiencing a deeper relationship than most, I think, because we show up every single day. We show up when it is an easy day. We show up when it is a difficult day. We show up for the other person even when we’re mad at the other person.

I’ve never been so challenged in my life as I have in my marriage to this man. It isn’t easy. I’m glad for that. If it was easy it would never be this good. If it was “done” it would never be the adventure we get to live together. I’m not living “happily ever after”.

We are living married ever after.


The cold has come for me again
Nowhere to hide
Not enough heat
To take the teeth away

A drink
Red dripping down my tongue
Over my lips

Red in my eyes
Pounding in my head
Take it
Take it all away

I’ll do anything not to feel this pain
Cry it out
Drink it out
Bleed it out

Let it pour out
Let it spill
Let it go
Away. Let me go away.

No prayers answered tonight
No serenity
No more
Falling down

Please make it go away
Just make it go away

Broken things

My left hand was in a cast last month. Two more broken bones to add to the ever growing list. My son had a bad dream and crawled into bed with for snuggles in the middle of the night. About an hour later he brought his knees towards his chin to curl up in his sleep and took my left pinky finger off the knuckle in an unfortunate mismatch of locations.

The snap was audible.

My doctor rightfully laughed when he declared me to be the only person he could imagine breaking bones while sleeping. I’ll admit, it was pretty funny. Painful, but funny. The folks in the imaging department showed me the pictures and reminded me they would, “leave the lights on for ya” on my way out. It’s probably not a good thing to be on a first name basis with your x-ray technician.

It turned out to be National Left Handed Day too when I broke my left hand and I even made a joke about not exactly doing it right… Fractures number 27 and 28 respectively for my lifetime count. That’s a lot of broken bones and months in a cast or in PT or recovering. So many days spent broken.

My pedometer broke too. Funky orange band on my left wrist counting steps and measuring exertion every day. Grading my progress like some electronic teacher checking the box as I slog along. I miss the bright pop of color on my wrist but I’m not missing the being measured.

It turns out, I’m well enough to navigate my days without the pedometer in that I can safely go and do to enough of a degree that I don’t have to keep track of the number of steps already “spent” before going and doing some more. If I do too much, I can now count on having just enough in the tank to make it home. That’s new. That’s a good thing. Exhaustion still hits but no longer leaves me, or my kids, stranded.

For now, I’m just glad to be rid of another cast. And I’m glad to be free of the daily reminder of how many more steps I need to be out from under this injury. Until it’s gone, it is unfathomable how much energy is spent every single day “recalculating route”. When every decision, every decision, is met with the need to calculate steps, there isn’t much left in the tank for anything else. How can you focus on anything when the mere choice of heading back to aisle two in the grocery store for an item you forgot leads you, instantly, back into “recalculating route” mode? I can’t even begin to say how freeing it is to have the noise of all of those calculations eliminated from my lived day. I can breathe again.

Maybe those cracks in my hand will be my last fractures. Maybe someday I will try on another pedometer and actually be strong enough to hit those magic 10,000 steps in a day. Maybe those things will happen. Maybe I’ll get lucky. Maybe next time the band will be blue. Or maybe, maybe I’ll just stop calculating for good.

Been a while

Bed day
Another bed day after
So long free
So long in the light

Waiting in the weight
crushed by exhaustion
Its inky heaviness
Unwelcome, comfortable
In skin I don’t want to share

More minutes spent
Making now, then
By any means
By any thing that turns the clock

It’s been a while
Since the tired came for me
Fighting through the fog
Low under the covers
Sinking, separated


No fever to justify this
Uselessness, burdensome day
Tired is weak
Tired is quitting


Tired can hurt so much
Exhaustion aches in my bones
In my mind, in my soul
So hard to breathe
When nothing seems to be working

Another day I’ll never get back, stolen
This injury is the thief
But I am the prisoner
But I am still

The prisoner

They don’t see

“Looks like you’re moving better,” says my doctor.

He doesn’t see me later in the day when the fatigue sets in, the pain spikes, my gait deteriorates and I fail at everything before it’s even time for dinner.

“I love your determination,” says my physical therapist.

She doesn’t see me later, in the middle of the night, trying not to cry because that makes the muscle spasms so much worse.

“You’re up early,” says my friend.

I don’t bother telling her that I never actually slept. That by the time I acquiesced to give in and take the pain medication I abhor, it was too late to take it because I have to be alert in the mornings since I am a mom to two young kids. I spent all night not sleeping, struggling to breathe through the pain so that I could get up and do it all again.

They don’t see it and I don’t often talk about it. The bad stuff. The dark that is still a daily part of being so broken. They don’t see the fear that begins the morning of physical therapy. They don’t hear my mind telling me all the things that would be better than the pain PT promises. They don’t know how hard it is to fight against the fear of pain at the same time I’m fighting against the fear of not getting better.

They don’t know how hard it is to keep going in the middle of that fight, in the middle of physical therapy, in the middle of the muscles screaming in protest when I ask them to work harder. How it takes everything to quiet the noise, breathe through the pain to get to the other side where the muscle calms, the cramp releases without stopping the exercise, the effort continues, and I can get a little stronger.

How many times have I told my body to, “shut up, because we are doing this no matter what!”? How many more times will I have to say the same thing?

They don’t see that getting stronger and recovering from this injury is all I have right now. They don’t see that the concentrated rehabilitation after spending half a decade down is the hardest thing I will ever do.

They don’t see that every day I really want to stop. I really want to have a break. I really want to feel better. I really want to stop this pain. I really don’t want to go to physical therapy because that will just make everything hurt more…

They don’t see that every morning I decide to crawl just a bit further out of the hole. I have to make a conscious choice every single day, and sometimes multiple times throughout the day, to do the work, to go again, to take the pain that comes from the effort. Because I want to recover more than I want the pain to stop. That is the choice I face and the decision I make.

Every. Single. Day.

They don’t see that now, crawling out of my most broken time, I am the strongest I will ever, ever be.

When are you ever going back to work?

“When are you ever going back to work?” she said with a laugh. I don’t think it was said in a mean way but, still, the words stung and have stuck with me for hours.

Odd place to be, once again in the middle of the night with sleep interrupted by that stupid right leg and its nerve problems. Stuck in between indignant thoughts of how I will, of course, be returning to work one day and the knowledge it may well never happen.

I get it. Five years is a long time. After five years most people accept their situation and just deal with it. After five years you often are exactly where you’ve landed. But I haven’t landed yet nor do I intend to have my landing zone be anywhere near today’s physical limitations. I work every day to get better, to get stronger, to regain abilities and I’ve made real strides, finally, this year.

I fully intend to get back to work. I like working. I love being a nurse practitioner. I enjoy days spent in healthcare and I have always, always worked. This not working business has been a hard reality to live for so long.

So the optimist in me wants to stomp and yell and declare, “Hey, watch this!” as I saunter back into the world of the working like a boss.

Of course, the realist in me knows she is right.

When am I ever going back to work? Who the hell knows. I’ve made some fledgling attempts to craft work that, thus far, have been unsuccessful because I have neither the stamina nor the legs to do it. I’ve tried to do a little and had to cancel because of that right leg or because of fatigue or other reasons that, in reality are part of living in a disabled body, but in the lived experience just feel like lame excuses.

It doesn’t change, for one second, that my desire to get better, to get stronger, to get back to the ability to work is driving my daily efforts. I wonder if anyone knows just how deep the tenacity well really goes.

When are you ever going back to work?

Looks like that is this year’s “How are you doing?” It’s a loaded question, full of judgement and pressure. Unanswerable and a stinging reminder of how much this injury has defined my life.

When are you ever going back to work?

I have no idea. But then, it turns out “when” was never the right question.

A little hungover and whole lotta happy

Stuck in bed this morning and not exactly upset about it. Last night was fun. Normal, regular fun on a Friday night.

We got a babysitter and went out, like people do. Hit a happy hour for some silly sake cocktails and sushi then bar hopped through the neighborhood. A normal Friday night, cab rides and all.

That last bar was a total dive. The kind of place that checks everyone’s ID (ID me? Seriously?!? There are no twos or threes in my age but OK, whatever, I handed over my lisence to the doorman, completely reminiscent of college) and I woke up this morning with their name still stamped across the back of my hand. Sophomoric? Definitely. And, still, absolutely perfect.

I checked the pedometer from yesterday and it totaled over four thousand steps. That is a huge number for me. The reason I’m not working yet isn’t because I can’t do it, I just totally did it yesterday (woo hoo!). The reason I’m not working yet is I because can’t do it consistently. Not even close. I’ll be in bed all day today resting legs so shaky that just getting to the fridge twenty feet away is a tenuous exercise fraught with a real risk of falling. Punching a clock is totally out of the question… for now.

But I can, I can actually walk that far sometimes.

That’s new. That’s a change. That’s fantastic.

What does that mean? Who the hell knows. This isn’t a race and I’ll never cross the finish line anyway so victory has to come another way. I can’t measure success in increments of getting my old life back. This is the life I get now. My husband and I had a great date night out last night. The weather was perfect, the happy hours were fun and somehow each place had an open chair waiting for me the moment we walked in the door. I walked far yesterday, holding my husband’s hand and we laughed and talked about everything. Everything, that is, except my injury and recovery. It was a perfect, perfect night.

We almost didn’t go to the third bar, I was getting pretty tired even though we had been out less than two hours at that point but my husband was almost giddy with excitement about being out on a Friday night so I agreed. I realize today that he was happy about having fun. He was enjoying the evening without having to constantly worry about me. I see how good it was that he got to be normal too.

That’s new for him. That’s a change for him. That’s fantastic too.

I guess we both get to count victories that come in another form now: a few drinks out and about, holding hands walking through a neighborhood restaurant district, and a black smear of ink across our hands.