Monday, April 6, 2015

hideous and miraculous

Spring is always a circus of baseball and yard work and chores and amped-up schedules. This year is no exception, but I felt like I had a good handle on each part. I choreographed my classes to allow a grading-free weekend in correlation with my annual Girlfriends' Getaway.  This meant some smooth talking to access laptops for hours 1, 3, 5 and 6 in addition to minor adjustments to hours 2 and 7's reading schedule. The end of the quarter loomed, but if the week went as planned, I'd be heading to Elkhart Lake with a duffel bag in one hand and a bottle of red in the other and no guilt dragging me down. I'd made lists, coordinated the logistics of computer labs and assignments at work, caught up with laundry and orchestrated appropriate carpools for Mr. G and Mr. B's weekend activities so Mr. D could coach his varsity team without interruption.

You know what they say about people who make big plans.

I left school on Monday with a MESS on my desk, reasoning I'd wrap up more grading tomorrow. That night I worked out, stretched out, showered and read before heading to bed. Tuesday I woke up with a stiff knee, but I guessed I'd slept funny. Nothing a couple ibuprofen couldn't fix.

I hobbled upstairs to Room 212 feeling miffed that my right leg wouldn't bend easily and could hardly bear weight. By third hour it became obvious to my students that I was suffering, I couldn't move without clutching a desk or chair for support. I remained on the second floor all day, mostly seated, praying for a miracle.  I left my desk a mess again at the end of the day, figuring when the pain receded by Wednesday I'd be more capable of grading and filing and sorting out the wreckage of student projects and lesson plans.

After school I grabbed the crutches and bravely filled my shift in the Yellow Room at Cubbies. I collapsed back home with my knee now exploded to the size of a grapefruit. The slightest movement sent a throbbing burn up my quad and down my calf. No amount of painkillers helped and ice made it feel even worse. On the pain scale of 0-10, I rated it a 9. I've given birth three times. I feel qualified to gauge pain.

I put in for a sub for Wednesday and whimpered through the night, miserable and hopeless. Hopefully the sub would ignore my trashed desk and supervise a work/discussion day without too much hassle.

Turns out that pseudo-gout thing? Wasn't a fluke-once-in-a-lifetime thing. It's part of my life, unpredictable and awful. The rheumatologist aspirated cups of water off my knee after poking around the swollen joint to ascertain where, exactly, my kneecap was located. Mr. D let me clutch his hand and coached me in breathing, not much different from when I birthed three babies, except no one encouraged me to "bear down and PUSH!" I got a cortisone injection and learned from the doctor that no diet, movement or moon phase affects this random inflammation. Just rotten luck and a wonky joint vexed by arthritis and previous injury.

I returned home to rest and recover, which is when I read an emails from a colleague explaining that a student in first hour had epically projectile vomited all over Room 212. The room was under quarantine until the smell faded and my students bounced from room to room throughout the day.

So much for planning the week. I hadn't banked on everyone getting a "sick day."

Thursday morning I discovered that the Olympic-grade hurler had come down with a ghastly flu and blew his breakfast all over his partner and her paperwork. He stood and started for the door when the next wave hit. With understandable impulse, he covered his mouth with his hand, a move that had the same effect as placing one's finger across a faucet on full blast. The splatter covered floor, walls, ceiling and five more classmates.

I hobbled up to Room 212 one step at a time and discovered the room had a distinct aroma, but if I left the door open we could make it work. Anything but a fire drill today, okay, God?

First hour started with my students giving me a detailed overview of the situation. When they fled the room, the associate principal, who was covering my first class of the day, grabbed random stuff off my desk. Stuff that had nothing to do with anything.  Everyone was still traumatized from the previous day, so the kids slid their desks as close to mine in the corner of the room as they could. We got down to business, the students productively working on their assignments, I entering grades and sorting out the chaos on my desk. With fifteen minutes left in the period you can guess what happened.

Yep. Fire drill.

I stood up and cast a despairing glance across the room at the door where my students had begun filing through to the hallway. "I cannot do those steps!" I wailed.

RF looked at me with compassion and replied, "It's okay, Ms. W.  You wait in here. If it's a real fire, I'll come back for you."

This, reader, was the first miracle of the week. RF is a volunteer firefighter. I trusted him. I sat in the corner of my dark room while the rest of the school conducted another successful monthly drill. I prayed it was only a drill.  Turned out it was, I was safe and no one was the wiser.

Gradually the day turned normal (well, normal as possible considering my desk was surrounded by student desks--the were terrified of germs and disgusted by the smell lingering in the carpet--I could literally touch five kids without moving from my chair, that's how close to me they sat) as the disorder on my desk came under control and my knee's swelling receded.

Thursday night I determined I'd stay cheerful and optimistic as I threw together baked oatmeal and party mix to bring to my Girlfriends' Getaway. We'd be fine! I'd recover enough for my massage, my detailed lesson plans would work out, I'd collect all the projects and papers on Monday with a refreshed mental capacity! I swapped out for a fresh razor blade so I'd get a clean, close shave before donning my swimsuit for spa time and jotted a quick list of what to pack--pajamas, sweats, jacket, slippers...  And then I got a message saying one of the girlfriends was sick and not coming. TOTAL BUMMER! Was this whole venture cursed? No! There were still five of us in for the fun and darn it, fun and relaxation would be had! Wine would be drunk. Funny stories would be swapped. Hilarity would ensue!

I admit it, I was cocky. I tossed my head and left school Friday afternoon, waving to students in the parking lot as I jockeyed for position in the exit lane. (Normally I'd stay until 4:00, but I had a good time coming. I had to pack my overnight bag and meet up with my people by 4:00!)

The tension faded as I parked the Momvan in N's driveway.  I unloaded the baked oatmeal, duffel bag, bottle of red and knew things were turning around. Good times straight ahead.

Saturday morning I took a quick shower and discovered NO UNDERWEAR in my duffel bag. Huh. No biggie, I could go commando under my sweats. I shared this fact with my girlfriends, we laughed about it. I knew I'd forgotten something.

An hour later I went to grab my swimsuit for the spa and icy horror flooded my veins. NO SWIMSUIT EITHER!

Reader, we were in a resort community, a half hour away from the nearest store. My massage appointment was in one hour and I wanted to spend that time drinking lemon-infused water and basking in a sauna or talking with my pals in the outdoor hot tub overlooking the lake. No way was I giving up spa time with my girlfriends. My only option was an overpriced suit from the resort's gift shop.

Laughing at my bad luck but still feeling invincible, I swaggered into the gift shop with my girlfriends, my credit card ready.

The shop had about a dozen expensive suits for sale, the smallest one three sizes too large for me. I asked the saleswoman and she showed me the extra inventory, sized 12-18, all ugly floral prints with swim skirts attached. Suppressing the urge to sink to my knees and pound the floor in frustration, I picked through the rack again, futilely examining the tags for something close to my size.

It didn't matter what it cost.

It didn't matter that I'd never wear it again.

It only mattered that I'd get one afternoon, ONE AFTERNOON of aromatic, calming, cleansing, spa therapy (booked three months ago) to erase the stress of working full-time, juggling housework and children and sanity, a bum knee and feeling in it over my head every day. I deserved to have my chakras aligned and my soul energized and my spirit renewed. I crossed the store to the girls' section and held the solo size 14 suit up to my torso.  Too small.

I recrossed the store and pawed through the rack of women's suits one more time.

Behold! I found and purchased for an undisclosed amount the smallest suit for sale in the gift shop:

Obviously the thick, durable polyester fabric was designed by a very drunk person lacking both taste and decency. I believe this is the same print used in carpeting laser tag arenas and arcades during the late 80's. The proper term for this garment is "swim dress." Somewhere in Saudi Arabia women are publicly swimming with less coverage than this suit provides.

This is when the second miracle of my week occurred. In the spa's locker room I ripped off the price tag and kicked out of my sweatpants (no need to bother with undies when you forget to pack them, right?). I had safety pins in my purse ready to secure loose straps. My pals doubled over with giggles and I felt grateful we were surrounded by strangers.

The wretched thing fit.

Not great, but it fit.

Hideous and miraculous.

The end of March summed up in two words.


  1. Oh, Melissa! Do you know how to tell a tale or what? I'm glad you had a volunteer firefighter looking out for you. I'm glad you got to go on your girls' weekend. And I'm glad you found a swimsuit ... even if it has a certain laser-tag feel to it. Kudos for thriving amidst all the crazy, and thanks for sharing your tale of triumph!

  2. Oh my, what a series of traumas! Thank goodness you weren't physically in the vomitorium.

  3. I feel like you've just written the synopsis of your next book! This is awful, funny, painful, glorious, and just. too. much. Seriously, it read like fiction.

    Except for that swimsuit. Oh, holy hell. That thing is all too real.

  4. Oh my. The spew. The horror. The.... bathing suit.


    BTW - this might be an amusing read for you.

  5. O M G! I needed to laugh in an undisclosed amount. Thank you. Also, I'm sorry. But really? Thank you!

  6. Oh, man. It is a riveting tale you have told. A terrible experience, told well! I feel so bad for your knee pain, and that you had to stay in the building during a fire drill because of it. And shopping for a swim suit is hell even in normal circumstances. So glad you got to do your weekend away.

  7. Hideous and miraculous. I had to read every word of this post and what a week you had! Happy ending though.

  8. Oh my WORD!!!!
    That is both hideous and hilarious.
    I am so sorry about your bum knee, and the vomit, and the grading, and the suit, and the underwear. But you made it!!!!
    Had I known you were in Elkhart Lake I would have run a suit out to you. That is only about 20 minutes from me. And I am SHOCKED that they don't have a better selection at a nice resort. WTH?
    Glad you still got to have your girlfriend weekend!

  9. Wow. Just wow. I had a frustrating day, but suddenly it doesn't seem so bad!

  10. That suit could have been worse. Not exactly sure how, but I do know it could have been.

  11. You need to send this somewhere for publication! I was laughing so hard I had tears rolling down my face. And can I just say: yes, it does kind of remind me of the floor at Sean's laser tag place when he was 9 ... and he's 39 ...

  12. LOL.

    Only you could turn it into so much fun -- for us. :-)



  13. Wow! So glad you made your trip! I'm sure it is a trip you'll never forget. Ha ha.

  14. OMFG...... all of it.....but you manage to write of it all with humor :)

  15. Oh my, this is so funny...I too am a teacher. It never fails when I leave my desk a mess two things happen...emergency sick day or principal comes in for some strange reason...I clean my desk as insurance that neither of those two things will glad you could get away with friends ...I have a girlfriend get away in two weeks...I will not over plan, but thanks to you will remember the undies and my Lands End slender line suit.

  16. Oh, what a crazy week! I'm so sorry your knee betrays you like that. The swimsuit is...serviceable. I guess eventually, someone at your local Goodwill will be glad to get it.

  17. Ouch! On the pseudo gout bit. I went through that a few years ago, and I remember the agony.
    I thought the projectile vomit thing only happened in elementary schools. Not so!
    I wish you good luck and good health - and tax deduction for any carpet deodorizer that you donate to the cause.
    If the weather warms up before the garage crew arrives, I will have raspberry canes for you.

  18. Dying over the swimsuit description. Arcade and laser tag and roller rink too. Awesome. May April be smoother sailing.

  19. Wow! That suit is almost camo! Sorry for your bum knee and other trials and tribulations but thankful for the great story it provided the rest of us.

  20. I can't possibly make better comments than those before me. If I was writing this story, it would have ended with illness and pity and despair. Truth is stranger than fiction, and in your case, it is better than fiction, too!
    God bless RF, the blessing of "missing" the epic projectile vomiting episode, the ability to get away for a weekend, and the hideous and miraculous find at the resort shop.
    Wishing you a wonderful April.

  21. Did you get in the spa, wine in hand and just say, "Ahhhhhhh." I certainly hope so. So glad to hear that in spite of all roadblocks you kept your focus and found your way to the weekend gathering. I kept thinking as I read - don't give that up! Glad you didn't. Hope you enjoyed yourself immensely.

  22. That is quite the souvenir! Glad you got away. That knee thing is a bummer--so sorry!


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