Friday, December 06, 2019

Physical Therapy: A Memory

I had the misfortune of being in two car accidents this year in which I was rear-ended. Twice. One occurred in late July, the other in late September. The one in late September did the most physical harm to me even though it was at a lower speed, because I had my neck craned all the way to the side looking for oncoming traffic. My head was nowhere near the headrest, so I had the full effect of a whiplash-like movement.

Within a day I was hurting and going to the chiropractor. Getting adjusted two or three times/week wasn't making a difference. I'd feel fine after the appointment but by the next morning my neck was stiff and painful. One Saturday I was in so much pain that I moved the entire day like a mannequin — I could not turn my head in either direction at all, and instead of looking down at things I had to bend down to see things below me.

Through a series of appointments and visits with various health care professionals, I found myself in physical therapy (PT) at PDR Clinics. I've been going twice a week for four weeks now.

I learned that while I had been doing neck stretches correctly, I hadn't been holding them for long enough for my muscles to actually benefit. I'm strengthening my muscles using their MedX machines to isolate muscles. Those difficult-to-exercise neck muscles are actually getting the workout they need to get stronger.

I've heard and know of many people who've had to go to PT for various injuries, and I'm so grateful for this area of care. It's important to put the work in — when the therapist says they want you doing stretches every day, they mean it!

All of this reminded of a time when my dad was sick. He battled colon cancer for 7 years before it finally claimed his life. During much of that time he was able to live life normally, and other times he was in so much pain and could not control his bowels, which makes living life pretty much impossible.

My dad and stepmom Terry in happier days. 
One time he was hospitalized for three weeks after a bowel resection surgery. He did not recover well, anesthesia always threw him for a loop, literally. He was out of his mind delirious for nearly five days before they realized that the painkiller they were giving him was doing that to him. Once they got him on a different painkiller he got back in his right mind and the healing could continue.

Recovering from one of many surgeries, April 2015. Grandkids Sam and Presley, wife Terry by his side.
He was so eager to get home that he convinced the doctors to release him even though he had hardly any strength after being bedridden for three weeks. In order to get into the house he sat down on the front steps and slid his butt up each stair; he could not even lift his legs high enough to climb a single step. I don't remember if the hospital bed was in their house at that time or not, but if he was able to make it up the stairs to the bedroom he probably didn't come down for several days.

Weeks went by and my stepmom-angel took care of him. He was getting a little better every day but still was very weak. I am not sure how it came about, but a doctor or someone finally convinced him to meet with a physical therapist at their house to help him build his strength.

I talked to him the day of the therapist's first visit. Dad was angry. "That was the stupidest thing ever," he grumped to me over the phone. "She had me sit in a chair and straighten my leg, hold it for a few seconds and then put it back down. It didn't do a damn thing." My dad was a big man, accustomed to being strong and active. The fact that he had weakened to the point that straightening his leg was considered "exercise" frustrated him.

The next day I called again just to see how he was doing. He was even more frustrated and annoyed because he was sore from the "supposed exercises." I think he felt even more defeated at how weak he had become.

I don't know if he ever kept up with the therapist, she may have come a few more times. And knowing how frustrated he was by the experience, I don't think he kept up with the exercises they told him to do.

After that particular hospitalization, my dad slowed down. He was never able to get back to the level of activity he'd had before, and he was incredibly slow at walking. My sister and I had a hard time walking as slowly as he did. I would literally hover a single foot in the air to make my steps as slow as his. One time Dad and Terry were in Minnesota visiting us and the four of us were walking to a restaurant. Kristi and I absentmindedly started walking at our regular pace and within a few minutes found ourselves nearly half a block in front of Dad and Terry. God bless my stepmom, she assured my dad that she was feeling "tired" and needed extra time as well so that she could walk beside him. She did that everywhere they went.

I'm missing my dad this time of year. His birthday is on Christmas Eve, this whole experience of going to PT for my own injury is reminding me of his experience.

Friday, November 29, 2019

The Minnesota Definition of "Salad"

From L to R: Kathy, Mark, Millie, Sherrie, Laurie and Wayne. Thanksgiving 2015, the first without Neil.
For more than 20 years we've been celebrating Thanksgiving with my husband's family. His family has always celebrated on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. When Wayne was a senior in high school all of his three older siblings got married. All of them, in one year. Can you imagine marrying off three of your kids and having your fourth graduate high school in the same year? Whew! Anyways...

For years all of his older siblings had Thanksgiving Day at their in-laws homes, which meant that the Horsman family gathering wasn't until the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The day itself didn't matter, what mattered is that family came together to spend time together, eating, visiting, playing cards or board games...eating again...

Card-playing. 2015.

Watching Christmas movies, Thanksgiving 2012.
For years I would ask what I could bring and was usually given the non-cooking task of bringing drinks for the grandkids, which, at the time, usually consisted of several 2-liters of soft drinks. I perhaps brought some dinner rolls, store bought, of course, that was it.

One year, Millie asked me to bring a salad.

When someone says "salad" to me, I picture a bowl of lettuce and spinach, tossed with tomatoes, cucumber, rings of red onion perhaps, maybe some dill weed or other things mixed with a dressing.

When my mother-in-law says salad, she means a side dish that goes alongside the turkey.

That year, I dutifully brought a salad. The tossed lettuce and vegetable kind, which went entirely untouched by family members. I watched as person after person went down the line to serve up their plate, smiled at the salad bowl, but didn't take any. It all ended up back in the frig; we ate it the following afternoon for lunch alongside other leftovers.

The next year, when I asked once again what I could bring, I was asked to bring a salad. So I did, which, again, went untouched. It seemed so odd to me, to ask me to bring a dish that no one was going to eat!

Soon the request went back to store-bought rolls and drinks for the kids, and I didn't think anything of it.

It wasn't until years later, when my sister-in-law was reminiscing about Thanksgivings past with me, that I learned that when my mother-in-law was asking for a "salad" she meant "side dish." She told me that the smiles at the salad bowl was people taking in my "city" salad.

Weather kept us from getting together with Millie this year, but we were able to gather with some of the extended Horsman family by way of nephew Travis, his wife Elizabeth and kids. It's always a treat to have our house filled with giggles, sweet little voices and quickened footsteps. And since my sister Kristi lives in town also, she got to spend some time as well with the family.

Snapchat filters are so entertaining apparently! 2019
And no, I did not serve "salad" this year.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Halloween Still in our House

Our neighbor's house — they go all out!
I love Halloween. I love the idea of dressing up to be whomever you want to be. For years we've hosted Halloween parties and invited all of my girls' friends. We've made ghoulish cake, witch's brew, musty meatballs, all kinds of delicious foods disguised in gory names.

This year, Marissa and Wayne were in Iowa the weekend before Halloween, when we normally would have had a party. And sadly, Lindsey's friend group has shrunk since she's in online school, so there were few people to invite for just her set of friends. party.

I was starting to get sad about Halloween. Marissa wasn't planning on dressing up. Lindsey wanted to dress up and go trick-or-treating, but had no one to go with. It looked like it was going to be a quiet night, which made me rather sad.

But then....

At the last minute I invited my cousin Sam and his wife Sarah and their family to trick-or-treat from our house. I don't know why I didn't think of it before! Their Theodore is 3, Lucille is 15 months, and they would have a wonderful time in our vibrant Halloween neighborhood!

And so instead of being a quiet house filled with the sound of occasional doorbell ringing, we had a crazy, silly house filled with toddlers and a couple friends for my teens.

Theodore with "his Wayne." 
I made wild rice soup for dinner for us all, my traditional Halloween night meal, which was deemed delicious by those who ate it. The little ones got into costumes and away they went. Theodore had the time of his life running from house to house, trick or treating. Lucille wasn't quite so into it, but she was cute as a button as a little pig. Lindsey bought the costume for her the day before at Turnstyle for $1.75. Sarah bundled her up in her winter gear and put the costume over it all. Theodore took one look and her and declared "You're so cute!"

Lindsey and her friend Maia made ghoulish cake balls. Marissa and her friend Hanna ate pizza and watched scary movies. I went trick-or-treating with Sam and Sarah and kids for a while, then Sarah and I turned back with Lucille who was done with being in the stroller while Sam and Theodore hit a few more houses.

Aprons over costumes

Hanna and Marissa making pizza.
Maia the pirate, Lindsey the Beauty and Beauty the Beast.
After guests had left and the doorbell went silent, I was left with a dozen soup bowls to wash, a messy kitchen from all the baking and cooking, and an empty bottle of wine.

Just my kind of night.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Failure Leads to Success

Marissa and her beautiful smile.
Last week I had parent-teacher conferences with some of Marissa's teachers at her new school. She's doing really well in most classes, not so well in a couple. I met with two she was doing well in and two she was not doing as well in to get a sense of how the classes were going. Two of her classes allow all students to either re-take tests or re-submit written work. And when I spoke with both teachers on the hows and whys, I was so impressed. Their purpose:

What's the point of failing if students don't get a chance to succeed?

One teacher told me about his frustration he used to feel when he would grade an essay, return it to students and then watch them throw it away on their way out the door. To the students it was just another piece of homework that they didn't do well on, would learn nothing from and would go on to submit similar work the next assignment.

Now he allows students to re-submit essays with corrections as many times as they would like. Why? So they can learn from their mistakes. From learning how to properly cite a source to using verbs consistently, when students correct their own mistakes they tend to remember what they had done wrong and hopefully do better in future assignments. It's like having work edited by an editor — as a freelance copywriter, what a gift that would be to have a skilled editor review my work before I turned it in to a client for "grading!"

Same with Marissa's math teacher. Once a test is graded, the test is returned to students and they review it, then are given the chance to re-take the test at a later date. What's the point of finding out after the test that you did the math wrong if you don't have the opportunity to learn how to do it correctly?

Would we have any world-class gymnasts if the first time a gymnast tried the balance beam she fell off and wasn't allowed to get on it again? How are students supposed to learn these subjects when they get tested on one area, fail, and then move on to the next unit?

This is not about getting better grades, it's about actually learning the material, and I really like this approach. It takes work and re-work to get better grades, and that's when learning takes place.

Once upon a time in my career, my agency won a large client and I was asked to be the account director on it. It was an honor and big confidence booster to be chosen for this...and also a massive responsibility. It was daunting and I was afraid of failing. And fail I did — the first campaign we did for them we came in over budget by nearly six figures due to the number of small but costly blunders that had occurred along the way.

I was the director, I was given the task of picking up the phone and telling the client what we were about to invoice them. Gulp.

Because I had informed them all along the way of every mistake — and the ways in which we would NEVER let that mistake happen in future campaigns — they were understanding and expected the overage. They paid the invoice in full, with the understanding that this would NEVER happen again. And it never did. I made sure of that. Because I had been allowed to fail on that first campaign, we went on to have a long, fruitful relationship with them for years and they never had a surprise invoice again; our work was done exceptionally well with outstanding results. Now, if anyone ever asks me about a time I succeeded in my career, I tell them this story because my failure became my greatest success.

Back to those pesky parent-teacher conferences...

More importantly than Marissa's work or her grades, she is a good student in class according to her teachers. She speaks confidently even if she isn't sure of her answer, helps other students or asks for help when needed, and adds a spark of humor and light to the classroom. She is friendly to everyone she meets; her face lights up with a smile when she greets teachers and her fellow students.

No matter what grades she earns, those qualities make her a success already.

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Trials and Tribulations of GPS

Last night I took Lindsey and a friend of hers to a counter-protest in downtown Minneapolis. I'd heard and read that traffic was going to be challenging. All the roads around the Target Center were closed to make room for the protesters, we had to get down there around rush hour, so leave extra time or plan alternate transportation.

My plan was to park in a ramp far away from the action and walk to the Target Center. That way we would also be away from all the traffic and could leave downtown relatively easily. It didn't exactly work out that way.

We parked in the first ramp I saw and I dropped a pin on the map to note that I had parked there. We walked to the Target Center no problem with just a few quick turnarounds when we first made it out of the ramp. I hate it when pedestrians exit parking ramps on different sides than where you entered, I always get a little twisted around at first.

We went to the protest, had a great time, ate dinner at The Local (also a great time), and then headed back to my dropped pin....which looked nothing like the ramp I had parked in. We found a staircase, went up a flight and looked around. No car, and not familiar surroundings.

So we went across the street to another ramp that looked more like the one I had parked in. Nope, no there either.

We all remembered coming down a blue staircase that was marked "2B," because we were laughing about "to be or not to be." The staircases we were trying were marked by a letter or a number, not both. They were also either purple, orange, brown, or a variety of other colors, not blue.

What. On. Earth.

Lindsey, Ava and I walked from ramp to ramp in a four-block radius for nearly an hour before Lindsey finally collapsed after yet another staircase. "I think my feet have had it, Mom," she said. It was now way past Ava's requested time to be home and getting late to be lost in downtown Minneapolis.

I ordered a Lyft and decided to try to find my car the next day. The driver told me how he always takes his parking stub with him when he parks because it has the ramp address on it, that way he always knows where he parked. This told me two things: 1. That's a really smart idea and I should do that in the future. 2. He's lost his car before or he wouldn't do that, so I'm not the only numskull who's done this.

We went home and I slept fitfully, wondering if I'd remembered to lock my car, if I had anything valuable in there, if someone had broken into mind went wild with catastrophizing. My brain is good at that.

As soon as my sister got off work the next morning she came over to my house, had a little breakfast, and we went back downtown to search for my parked car. Both Google and Apple maps marked my car in the same place they reported it the previous night, so I was interested in seeing where they hell it was and how many ramps we'd have to check before we found it. Kristi drove the same route into downtown as I had the previous night, hoping we'd come across the ramp from the same direction and it would jog my memory.

We found it immediately — the first ramp we checked. The ramp was under construction and the previous night I had gone in on a side that was dark and had many roped off spaces. The pin had dropped on the opposite side of the block, where it was well-lit with multiple ways in and out, which was why the ramp didn't look familiar to us when we searched it the previous night. Plus it was divided into two separate parking areas that did not connect. No wonder we hadn't found it the previous night.

Kristi and I left and were driving our separate ways when she called me.

"You're gonna laugh," she said.

After I'd found my car, she set her GPS to get out of downtown and head back home. After exiting the ramp, the GPS system was having her take all kind of winding side roads, not the main roads of downtown. It was making her turn this way and that, and she couldn't figure out where it was having her go until it gave her a detour for Cedar Lake Trail. Cedar Lake Trail? That's a bike path! It thought she was biking so it was having her take the less traveled streets of downtown! She pulled over, re-set it to know she was driving, and it safely and quickly directed her out of downtown and back on her route home.

"Some day we'll laugh about this," we said last night when we were taking the Lyft home. I already am.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

She Can't Drive 55

Lindsey behind the wheel of her dream F150 at the State Fair this summer.
Getting your license sure has changed a lot since I was 16. When I was learning how to drive, my classmates and I were handed the DMV driver's handbook and put in a simulator where we goofed around for an hour a day for one week. I tested for my permit after that, then I did two or three behind-the-wheels with Mr. Berceau, our biology teacher, and eventually took my driving test. I'm sure I did lots of practice hours so I could pass the test, but had the opportunity to do more when I failed my test the first time I took it. Oh well.

Lindsey had to complete 30 hours of classroom training before she could even get her permit. After that, she needs six hours of behind-the-wheel instruction with a certified instructor, then 50 "practice" hours with an adult. Which means, a parent. Which in our house means me, because we all agree that Wayne would not have the patience or composure needed to be the parent with a new driver behind the wheel.

These 50 hours should be a good mix of neighborhood, highway, daytime and nighttime driving. The night time driving is mandated — 15 hours required. There's a handy little app called "Road Ready" that can track all of your practice drives and awards you badges based on the kind of driving you do.

I had forgotten how much driving is habit. Deeply ingrained, instilled habits that experienced drivers forget to teach. Like, when you back out of parking space, you need to begin turning the wheel in the direction you want to go before you take your foot off the brake. If you don't, you end up doing what Lindsey did one Saturday afternoon, which had to be quite amusing to passersby. She parked, backed up, re-parked the car in the same spot, backed out, re-parked, backed out, until I finally realized she wasn't turning the wheel in the opposite direction before taking her foot off the brake.

She has tried to take the car out of park before she's started it. She's almost gotten out of the car before realizing she hasn't yet turned it off. She's mistaken the gas for the brake and vice versa. (But realized it quickly and corrected her mistake.) These are all deeply ingrained habits for people who have been driving for years, and they all have to be remembered by a new driver every single time.

It's so fascinating to see these habits build upon themselves. Things that were difficult to remember are becoming habit. Neighborhoods are now a snap, and now we're moving on to highways, then freeways. She's building her skills and her confidence and is always careful.

Posing with my car with her student driver sticker...and damage done in an unrelated incident.

This brings me to the title of this post.

The first time Lindsey drove down France Ave, the main street in our neighborhood, she felt like she was flying. She checked her speed and discovered she was going 20 — 5 miles under the speed limit. When we hit four-lane roads that are 40 mph, she dutifully pulls into the right lane, knowing that everyone else will be speeding around her in the left-hand lane because she's only doing 35. And she drove on a highway for the first time this week, telling me she felt like she was driving a spaceship, her elbows locked as she gripped the steering wheel, eyes fixed on the road. A semi-truck passed her on her left and she was like "Whoa!" She may have hit 55 for a minute or two, but most of the time she was being passed by a parade of vehicles.

This experience is making me realize how much trust we all have in others when we are passengers. I have to work hard to keep  my mouth shut and not point out every little hazard that I see when Lindsey is practicing. She sees it, she's slowing and signaling appropriately, she needs to not rely on me to point this stuff out because I won't always be with her. It takes a lot of trust to be quiet and let her learn.

Let's just say she and I are out of our comfort zone, but getting comfortable there.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Finding Her Religion

About a month ago Marissa asked if I could start taking her to church.

Those of you who know me know I am not a church-goer. Explaining why is a long, winding road with many philosophical points, none of which I will bore you with because this isn't about me, it's about Marissa.

We have never been a church-going family with the exception of Christmas Eve service. When the girls were younger we had beginner Bibles for them and told them Bible stories, and they got great enjoyment from watching Veggie Tales. (Marissa only recently made the connection that Veggie Tales tells Bible stories using animation and silly songs.)

This summer Marissa asked me to take her to church, but on Sunday mornings she always said, "Nah, I'd rather sleep in." Now that school has started, sleeping in until 8 to be ready for church at 9 is sleeping in, and she asked if we could start attending St. Stephen's, an episcopal church in our neighborhood.

I think part of what's encouraging this is that she realizes she is not educated about religion. Many of her classmates at Eagle Ridge are coming to the high school from Catholic or Lutheran schools. In her humanities class, they relate many of the classical works they are reading to Bible stories...which Marissa is not familiar with. She's curious, and I'm happy to encourage this curiosity.

And so we go to church. This past week we bought her a Bible so she could begin reading the stories herself. After reading much of Genesis she talked to me about the creation of the world, how God decided he had made a mistake in creating humans and sent a flood to destroy all but Noah's family.

After the first time we went to church I overheard her telling her dad all about it. "We get on our knees on these little things with cushions on them that you pull out, and we confess our sins. I don't know what sins are, but it's really cool." The last couple of weeks Wayne's come with us as well, and has seemed to enjoy the service also.

I go because Marissa wants me to. The church is stunningly beautiful and the people kind and welcoming. I'm really proud of my kid who is inquisitive and open to new experiences.