Our daughter was lamenting the other day what a raw deal she and her brother got in the DNA department. Both children have their father’s flat feet and bad ankles. Both have my tendency for anxiety. Both have their father’s attention deficits.
I reminded her that we owe our lives to flat feet, and that there are flat foots on my side of the family, too. My maternal grandfather immigrated to the US in about 1908. In the spring of 1914, he went back to his village in Northern Germany to attend his oldest brother’s wedding. He was promptly drafted into the German army. His very flat feet made it hard for him to march as smartly as the officers wanted him to, and he was given a medical discharge after a few weeks. He hightailed it to Bremerhaven and sailed back to the US just before the First World War broke out. Daughter wasn’t impressed. Her bad feet and ankles are quite problematic for her lately, but she is taking measures to resolve the issues with physical therapy.
I, on the other hand, inherited my father’s perfect little Dutch feet, mechanical aptitude, and musical ability. I also inherited his temper and lack of patience. I like to think I inherited a penchant for cooking from a great grandmother who was a professional cook in Hamburg in the early 1900’s.
We can learn new things on our own. We can manage our tempers. Who is to say we haven’t learned a lot of problematic behaviors and attitudes, not inherited them? You can’t argue the heritability of flat feet, though.
What good or not so good things do you think you inherited in your DNA? Who do you look like?
Husband and I are currently in transit, heading to Brookings to see our son and family. We decided to split the 500 mile trip, and spent last night in Fargo.
We ate out last night after we arrived in town, and went to a favorite Thai restaurant. Everyone was well distanced, and we weren’t that worried about Covid. Our main worry was the type of oil they used to cook with.
We ate restaurant food for the first time in 18 months when we traveled to Denver in September. We hadn’t even ordered take out. We just cooked at home. In Denver we ate in really nice restaurants as well as at a wedding reception and at relative’s homes. The relatives mainly ordered pizza and take out foods for the group. All the foods we ate tasted good, but none of it agreed with us, and we decided the culprit was canola oil.
Canola oil is very hard to digest. It once was used as a machinery lubricant. At home, we cook with olive oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, and an olive oil-sunflower blend imported from Spain. We stopped using canola oil a couple of years ago, and we can tell right away now when we eat food that has canola in it. We really notice the difference in fried foods and salad dressings. It seems like everyone uses canola these days. Road food will never be the same for us, I am afraid.
What is your favorite road food? What foods do to you have to be careful to avoid? What oils do you like to cook with?
My company takes the current situation very seriously. We all got a nice chunk of award points (worth merchandise and travel) for sending copies of our vaccine cards to Human Resources. There was a HUGE drawing in July for all the folks who had sent them in; a gal in the call center won the grand prize: $10,000. In addition there have been several parties (outside on our lawn) that have been specifically for folks who’ve gotten their shot. This puts us at 88% on campus.
Every Monday morning there is an email with the “rules” for coming to the physical office and listing out the most common symptoms. Among the rules is “if you’re not vaccinated you must wear a mask when you are in one of the buildings.”
An associate got fired two weeks ago. Her team had come into the office on four occasions for a day and none of them has masked. This gal eventually told someone on the team that she had not had her Fauci Ouchie. Took just a day for that tidbit to get up to HR and she was let go that Friday. While I never root for anybody to lose their job, I’m glad my company is standing behind what they say.
What’s the most epic way you’ve seen someone quit or be fired?
Since I’m still working from home, I had on my “uniform” yesterday of jersey shorts and a tank top. I threw on a nicer top for a client call and never took it off. At noon, YA and I drove down to Walgreens to get our drive-thru covid tests (since we’d been to the fair so many times). When I got into the car, YA looked me over and said “you’re not wearing THAT, are you?” I replied that since I wasn’t getting out of the car and the Walgreens technician would only see the top 1/3 of me, yes. YA rolled her eyes.
On the way home (both tests negative, by the way), as I was waiting at an intersection to turn right, a man with his two white/cream golden retrievers was standing on the corner until the “walk” light came on. The dogs were gorgeous, so I rolled down the window and called to him that his dog were beautiful. He said thanks; I turned right and drove on. “MOOOOOMMM” said YA.
I purchased a thing-a-ma-gig at the fair that makes it easy to put my hair in a bun. I’ve been playing with it and when I got home I put my hair up, making the bun pretty high on my head. Then I had a client call. A bit later YA came into my studio. “Did you have your hair like that during your call?” I replied yes and she responded “It was already bad enough that you’re wearing that shirt” and then she proceeded to show me a picture of an anime character (see above) and although she didn’t say it directly, the implication was that I look like Zeniba.
So I’m three for three in embarrassing my child in one day. Not sure I can best that record without seriously trying.
Tell me what cartoon character you look like? Or would LIKE to look like?
One part of my current job is that of a clinician on our Youth and Family Team. School starts here on Thursday, and it seems like many of our young clients are falling apart at the prospect of a new school year.
I remember being unable to sleep in the days before school started, anxious about the excitement and uncertainty. I never had to worry about getting a potentially deadly disease or wearing masks, or worrying if I would be sent home on quarantine. Things are sure different.
The members of my team can’t wait until school starts and thing presumably settle down for our clients. At least we hope they settle down.
What about school starting gave you the jitters when you were a child? What were your most favorite and least favorite years in elementary and middle school?
Early in this blog’s history, we had a contributor who wrote exceedingly well and who was excited about life and his role in the world. His name is Aaron. Aaron was a reader and regular commentator in those early years.
This week, Dale Connelly, the founder of this blog, contacted me and Sherrilee about posting some writing by Aaron’s sister, Jessica. Dale commented:
“Aaron has multiple disabilities and gets around primarily in a powered wheelchair. You may have seen him at some of the State Fair shows back in the day. His family is organizing a Zoom event next Saturday, (August 7) to premiere a short (55 minute) documentary about Aaron and the difficult decisions his family faced when he was born. The event is also a fundraiser to gather money to replace Aaron’s accessible van, his primary form of transportation.”
We thought this was a great topic for a post. I have communicated with both Aaron and his sister, and this is how Aaron describes himself:
Aaron Westendorp is a musician, online variety music show host, and a self-advocate in Hopkins, Minnesota, who uses a communication device. Aaron has a brain stem lesion which causes spastic quadriparesis, a partial paralysis from the eyes down. He still has a independent life and a fun personality.
The following is a heartfelt statement from his sister, Jessica Westendorp:
I could have written a different speech every day this year, that’s how many different feelings I have about Aaron and growing up with Aaron. I have humorous, light, jovial speeches, and dark, scary, cynical speeches that underscore Aaron’s evil side. Just kidding. Aaron doesn’t really have an evil side. That Aaron is a bright light, most of you already know. He has always been a calm being, open and waiting for whatever the next step might be. The only time I can remember Aaron loosing his cool was for a brief period in the 5th grade when math and after school studies pushed him to desperation and low lows. He got angry. In that time there was a moment when Aaron looked at me and sighed and it was if he said to me, “so…this is how it is”. And then, he was fine again, calm, collected, open and ready to keep going.
Aaron is disabled. I know this is news to you. It’s hard to see the disability when there is so much AARON to see. But, in case you didn’t get the memo, he is special, differently abled, challenged, a short bus super kid. Other words that were used on him were Duke, Duker, King of Kids, and because there is only so much wonder and excitement I can allow to follow him around, he is also a bratty kid brother.
Aaron’s disability was large. It was another person in the family always taking all of the resources and lightness out of anything. Trips to anywhere were filled with, “but are there curb cutouts? Can he fit through the door? Are there steps inside? Will we need to ask for special help maneuvering or accessing the bathroom?” And then, the weight of carrying all emergency equipment and healthcare needs with him. The backpack needed to be packed and repacked. He needed help with shoes and jacket. He needed to be loaded into the van and tied down. Then Jill and i would translate his finger spelling, “why don’t we go on more family outings?”
I feel heavy and angry re-living that. It was not glamorous. but, the humor helps. One time, when we were all tired and in a long stint of hard times, Mom and Aaron, and Jill went to Burlington Coat Factory. They got out of the van after parking in the handicapped spot. As my mom walked away from the van someone snarked about her use of the handicapped parking spot. Used to public perception often being askew there would usually be a kind reference to my brother or ignoring the problem. On this day my mom said, in her voice we all know as the “mom is not in a great place voice”, “WE ARE HANDICAPPED!”. “we”. “are”. “handicapped”. We are not, and yet, we are and the clashing perceptions combined with the fatigue of it all was the hilarity. And then, there were the helpers. The nurses and PCAs were there ALL THE TIME. Whether they wanted to be or not, they became part of the fabric of our family. They may remember us as a job. I remember them being in my home, sharing a space, and I remember processing my life in front of them. Like any family members some were super duper cool and others, we’ll say, clashed with our brand of special. But, they were there. They helped support the constant needs. Food prep. treatments, mobility, translation. My favorite of these people were those that understood the need to keep the light, the humor, and the irony alive, even and especially when I could not find these.
This all must have been so different for my parents. They had a childhood, a million years before and now they had the weight of this adulthood that they finessed and juggled and braved with faces of intensity and love. But for Jill, Aaron, and I this was our childhood. The pieces of it leave deep impressions. The shiny medical equipment, the smells of medicine, the short quick pace of a nurse who is tasked all become your normal. I will always be a force of quiet, deep love, forever broken by the immensity of daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly struggles that are inexplicable in this speech. I am full of gratitude and am privileged to have learned so much, but due to broken perceptions and realities faced and viewed often, I will also carry a force of anger, always, a deep understanding of disparity and injustice.
Thank you for showing up. Thank you for loving the little brother i worked hard to push and challenge. Thank you for loving this guy who I prayed for, who was surrounded by the light of many prayers. Thank you for knowing that there is no clear narrative here, only people with real needs, hopes, and aspirations all in real time.
Here is the hyperlink to the video regarding Aaron.
Who do you know who has overcome adversity? How did they do it? How have you overcome adversity?
I’m not a math whiz but there is one formula that I know really well:
Yardwork + Verily Sherrilee = A Filthy Mess
When I had the new driveway put in, I also asked them to put in a sidewalk from the house to the garage. For many years, I’ve just had paving stones, which look really good for about an hour after the grass is cut and that’s their only saving grace. Well, that and they were cheap. Otherwise, they’ve been a pain for years. Even so, I couldn’t bring myself to just throw them away when the new sidewalk was installed.
YA and I have wanted a little patio under our backyard table for years, so this past Saturday, I decided to re-purpose the paving stones into said patio. And it was pretty clear early on that I would be invoking the Yardwork/Filthy Mess paradigm. You wouldn’t think that a 4’ x 4’ square, 2 inches deep would create so much extraneous dirt; I certainly didn’t and I was quite wrong. It was easier to excavate the space by hand to start with and pretty soon, I had dirt all over myself, including knees, ankles and feet. I had abandoned my gardening shoes early on – too hot. Of course sweat and dirt together meant that I was dirty everywhere else as well.
I was very careful with the paving stones as they weigh quite a bit. As I picked up each one I said to myself “go slow, be careful”. Every single stone (9 of them). I even said this to myself as I wiggled the last one into place. Right before I lost my hold on it and it crashed down on my big toe. I got a pretty good gash and the blood looked really dark as it bled onto all the dirt on my foot.
I was so close to the end of the project – I didn’t want to lose my momentum but I also didn’t want to bleed all over and get who knows what kinds of germs into the wound. Looking down at myself I realized that I was too dirty to go in the house and certainly too dirty to go upstairs to the bathroom where there bandaids are kept.
I had YA go inside and get a couple of paper towels while I hosed off my foot and toe. She came out with a paper towel and DUCT TAPE! That’s my girl. I wrapped the paper towel around the toe first and then liberally applied the tape. Voila – good enough to let me finish up the project! It’s made me realize that while YA can do yardwork without attracting every dirt particle within a square mile, she HAS inherited my feeling that the wrong tool at hand is always better than the right tool that is not at hand.
What’s your favorite cleaning supply? When have you had a filthy mess? When have you gotten spectacularly dirty?
We have rather complicated and supposedly ergonomically designed desk chairs at my work with a myriad of levers and adjusters underneath the seats. Yesterday I was trying to adjust one when I pulled the wrong lever, and the back of the chair flipped forward at an astounding velocity, slamming me square on the bridges of my nose and glasses.
I was slightly stunned. It really hurt. I was in the middle of an evaluation, so I just sucked it up and finished with the client. I then went to see our office manager/risk management person, and asked her if the cartilage in my nose should be so wobbly. She wasn’t sure, but she said it looked like I was getting a left black eye, and the bridge of my nose and my forehead just above my eyebrows looked puffy. She then sent the multitude of forms one fills out in these circumstances. She encouraged me to go to the occupational health clinic that assesses Workers Comp claims. I declined, as my self assessment suggested all I was going to have with this was a black eye and some bruising on my forehead.
I am going to a family funeral in Pipestone, MN on Thursday, and I do hope whatever bruising I have has dissipated by then. I am not hopeful. I haven’t seen these family members for a couple of years, and I imagine I will have to explain multiple times what happened. I should add that I own no makeup, and I have no intention of buying any to cover the bruises. I suppose I could make up some fantastical story of how I was injured, as being assaulted by a chair is kind of embarrassing.
What have been some of your prominent injuries? What have been some of your work injuries? Any Workers Comp stories?
YA and I gave blood last night. I’ve been a blood donor for decades and YA has ponied up a few times herself. Normally when I get an email from the Blood Center, I think “oh I should do this” and then forget about it. However when they call me on the phone and I pick up, they’ve got me; I talked YA into going with me.
It was clear that the nurse assigned to me was at the end of a long shift – she had NO sense of humor. I’ve been in a customer service kind of job for decades and I like to think that I’m pretty good at putting people at ease. When I do encounter someone in a particularly bad mood, it normally doesn’t take much to get them in a better place. But this woman was tough. And it didn’t help that I could hear YA and her nurse in the next room, chatting away.
I didn’t get frenetic about trying to humor this woman but I wanted to be myself, so I made small remarks when I felt like it. Eventually, when we got to the “now’s the time to look away” and I told her I didn’t need to look away, she warmed up. She never got really chatty like YA’s nurse, but she at least responded to comments and asked a few questions of her own. When she asked me what color wrap I wanted on my arm and I said “well, purple”, she smiled and said “of course, what other color is there?” I felt I had scored a small victory. I was her last appointment before they closed so I hope that I lifted her spirits a bit before she headed home.
Are you chatty at appointments? Do people like me tick you off?