Cabin Fever

Fresh snow fills my patio chairs from seat to arm rest.  My dogwood blooms fluffy white blossoms of snow.  Winter storms and elected officials shut down Western Washington.  In Greater Seattle, 3.5 million people have cabin fever.  We have nearly two feet of snow in our front yard with another six inches due tonight.  Cabin fever won’t be breaking any time soon.

Unlike my neighbors, I’ve had cabin fever for most of the past year.  Last February, I got a super-duper fancy pacemaker to address the return of severe heart failure and began a long recovery process.  No driving, no lifting, and only supervised exercise for months. Big time cabin fever.

By the end of July, I’d begun blowing out the cobwebs and opening the windows.  I gardened.  Volunteered.  Started to meet people.  I wasn’t free of the cabin, but I began to dream again.

0803180913a_resizedOn August 1, we welcomed a new granddaughter, Cora, into the world and celebrated that her delivery was smooth.  That same afternoon, my cardiologist gave me great news.  I dared to hope.

Filled with excitement at all the good news in my life, I threw open the door and jumped into life with both feet.  I tripled my volunteer hours in that first week of joy, resumed gardening, did some cooking…..and forget to rest.  How did that work?  Poorly.

I was so distracted by joy and exhausted within a few days, that I forgot to watch my footing.  I fell off a step at home.  I broke my foot so badly I couldn’t set it on the ground.  More surgery.  The surgeon said I absolutely could not put a moment’s weight on that foot for five months if I wanted to regain a normal gait.  So much for hopes, dream, and happy dances.

From August – October, I lay on my bed or sofa with my foot on pillows.  No walking or driving. (It was my right foot.)  No gardening or traveling.  I moved around on a knee scooter and used crutches on stairs.  Every Monday morning, my husband (who deserves sainthood) dropped me off at a Senior Center where I’m a volunteer receptionist.  A friend picked me up at noon, took me to run errands, and brought me home. Otherwise, I stayed home.  I had cabin fever no matter what the weather was like.

I read until I was tired of reading.  I streamed videos until I was tired of TV.  I got bored and went nutty.  After a few weeks, I got over enough of my embarrassment at having another broken foot that I was almost ready to call friends and fess up.

Seahawks castThat is, until I fell off my knee scooter in the dining room and broke my ankle.  I couldn’t even stay safe on a knee scooter going to the kitchen for a coffee refill.  At least the broken ankle was on the same side as the broken foot.  The ankle lengthened and complicated my recovery.  I was so upset, depressed, and embarrassed that I didn’t want anyone to know what had happened.  I buried all thoughts of calling friends for company and pushed through the solitude.

I learned a lot in those months.  I took on-line classes on sewing and knitting. I drafted doll clothes patterns as gifts for my granddaughters.  I read histories of Seattle and Washington State.

I learned that riding my scooter too fast over sidewalk cracks results in a face plant.  I learned that turning a corner too sharply one-handed can cause a broken ankle, even with my foot and lower leg encased in a walking boot. I learned that I need to be even more careful and attentive than I thought I did.

I re-learned that I hate to reach out for companionship and help when I feel I have nothing to bring to the table.  I’m afraid I’ll sound depressing or be suffocated with sympathy.

People tell me I inspire them with my hopeful, positive attitude and perseverance but I don’t feel inspiring.  I just try to keep doing what I know how to do: to not give up, to get up again, push forward, look for beauty and goodness, and hope that one day I can hope and dream again.  On the other hand, people who live with this attitude, inspire me to do the same.

These days, I can walk, drive and climb stairs again.  I volunteer, do a fitness class and physical therapy each week.  I’m meeting people and maybe beginning to find a place for myself here.  That pesky thing called hope was raising its head again.

Then it snowed and the city shut down.  And it snowed some more.  Yes, it is stunningly beautiful.  Yes, my dogs love to play in it.  I’ve taken them for walks and watched them Dogwood in snow (2)wrestle in snowdrifts.

In Seattle, even a little snow closes down the city.  Last week, we couldn’t get off our street for two days.  Nearly every day brings more snow, with another six inches predicted for tonight on top of the almost two feet already on the ground.  The city is in shutdown for at least two more days.  Cabin fever is rampant.

It’s ironic that the snow makes me feel better about my own cabin fever.  I’m no longer the odd one out.  All around me, 3.5 million people in Greater Seattle.  We’re in it together.

With so much in common, I’m finally willing to share my own experience of year-long cabin fever.  I dream of groaning and laughing together when we’re finally free.  I hope there’s another happy dance just around the corner.

Until then, I’ll stay cozy by the fire, snuggle with my new puppy, eat my husband’s wonderful cooking, knit a shawl and give thanks for the beauty outside my window.

Silence Is Consent

That’s what my high school trigonometry teacher said.  He’d ask if we wanted a test on Friday, for example.  We’d stay silent, thinking we had no voice in the decision.  He’d look around the classroom, then say, “Silence is consent.  Test on Friday.”

I don’t consciously remember anything else I learned that year, but I still hear his voice:  “Silence is consent.”

And so it is.

If we keep silent, we consent to language that inflames anti-Semites, including one who massacred eleven jews at worship in Pittsburgh last week.

If we keep silent, we consent to language that inflames racists, including one who executed African Americans at a Kroger supermarket in Kentucky last week.

If we keep silent, we consent to the lies about Democrats and opponents of  Donald Trump that inflamed a man who mailed pipe bombs in an attempt to assassinate a former President and Vice-President, members of Congress, former federal officials and prominent citizens.

Silence is consent.

I don’t remember my teacher’s name.  I never imagined I’d be quoting him through-out my life.  But here he is.  Only years later do I realize what he probably hoped his students would hear and take to heart:

Silence is consent.

A Janitor’s Tale

During college, I worked as a housekeeper one day a week to help cover expenses.  One day, after changing out of my cleaning clothes, I drove across town to a meeting of the Miami University Board of Trustees.  A group of women athletes had saved me a seat.

Six years after Congress passed Title XI of the Civil Rights Act, the notoriously slow gears of equality needed a push.  From coaching to scholarships to facilities and fields, women received a pittance compared to men’s programs.  Women athletes feared reprisals if they spoke up for fairer treatment, so they asked a group of women campus leaders for help.  They knew the issues.  We provided a voice.  For six months, we gathered data, interviewed coaches, athletes and even the Athletic Director.  I was the spokesperson.  It was time.

In the “Other Business” part of the Trustees’ agenda–when they wanted to go to cocktail hour–I moved to the lectern.  I remember smelling Eau de Clorox as I began my presentation.  Our report was stark.  No one had painted the full picture before, to say nothing of making it public.  The facts didn’t lie.  The university was ripe for a lawsuit.

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By the time I sat down, the course of women’s athletics had changed in southwestern Ohio.  The Trustees directed their architect to include locker rooms and facilities for women athletes in the new stadium under construction.  And within months, Miami increased coaching staff, salaries, scholarships and equipment; provided transportation for women’s teams when they traveled; and improved the fields and facilities used by women athletes.  It was a great day.

Over the years, when I’ve watched women’s collegiate games or heard my daughter-in-law talk about her years as a soccer player, I often remembered the smell of Clorox and the group of women who met in 1978/’79 to make such games possible.  A group of women small enough to fit in a tiny living room changed a university.  We opened doors for girls and women after us.  We were more than we seemed.

PXLFA5X7MNBKFJXL2CAASIWP6AThis came to mind again recently as I read about someone else working as a janitor:  Caitriona  Lally was recently named recipient of the 2018  Rooney Prize for Irish Literature from Trinity College, Dublin, where she has worked as a janitor for the past 3-1/2 years. The Rooney, one of Ireland’s most prestigious literary honors, is awarded to a writer under 40 who shows “great promise.”  Caitriona Lally received it this summer for her novel, “Eggshells.”

According to the “Washington Post,”

The day the call came from the prize committee, Lally was so shocked and the experience felt so out of context, she asked the person who told her she had won the award to please explain it again.

Each morning, she wakes at 4:45 a.m., pulls on her blue janitor’s smock and heads over to the college to clean from 6 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Then she returns home to take care of her 14-month-old daughter, Alice. The day she got the call over the summer telling her she won the prize, Alice was being fussy.

‘I’d been having a rough day — up early for my cleaning job, tearing home to mind the baby, baby wouldn’t nap and was making her feelings known,’ Lally told Trinity College.

I’m sure most students who see Caitriona Lally in janitors’ blues and pushing a mop bucket early in the morning don’t realize they’re looking at the newest member of the Irish literary pantheon. “I know that cleaning is some people’s vision of hell, but it works for me,” says Lally.   Even as the university floors get dirty again, her literary legacy lives on.

Like the women who rocked a university and like Caitriona Lally none of us knows what ripples, large and small, our actions will make.  We don’t have to be famous to do good.

Just clean a room and go forth.