A Full List of People, None of Whom He Knows, Whose "Happy Birthday" Posts on My Facebook Wall Were "Liked" by My Boss, David Jacobs
- My little sister's childhood best friend
- One of my coeditors at The Morning News
- A friend of my older sister
- A dude I went to college with and maybe had one class with, I don't remember which
- An adjunct professor who was a graduate student in the English department while I was an undergraduate in college who I have maybe spoken to in person once
Wow! I've been walking like a normal person for about three weeks now. It all happened very quickly: one day I went in to my doctor's office for another X-ray and got downgraded to a cane, and the next week my podiatrist told me that I didn't need to come back anymore. I still find it almost unbearably exciting to be able to walk while carrying things in my hands, or to stop by the grocery store on my way home, or to take the subway. Mobility is such an incredible gift.
The very worst day on crutches, I've decided in retrospect, was November 18th. It was a Tuesday, and I was in the office (while I was on crutches, I worked remotely on the days on which I did not have a physical therapy appointment). It was also the first really cold day, which I did not realize until my fingers and the exposed toes of my fractured, booted foot froze as I stood at 14th and 1st trying to hail a cab to get to work. I don't complain-tweet often, but once I got in a cab I did (and then immediately walked it back, but still). Very kindly, J stopped by my office a few hours later to deliver me two gloves and one sock.
Weeks before, J had RSVPed for us to attend a talk at Columbia titled "Shinto and Its Impacts on the Japanese View of Nature and Culture," and as the date neared I became more and more determined to attend it despite my crutches. It would be such a victory over my lack of mobility, it was a subject in which I'm very interested, and after all, the trip would involve only one subway line.
It was really that same determination that caused all the trouble. I left work with plenty of time to spare, prepared for the cold with my single sock and gloves. Halfway through crutching the half-avenue-block and one-street-block to the 1 stop by my workplace, I decided that no, I wouldn't stop at the corner for breath. I continued on and found myself muttering out loud to myself between breaths, "You're very strong, Nozlee" and, "You're the only person who can do this." I phrase it like that -- "found myself muttering" -- because it felt involuntary.
Without pausing, I carefully went down the subway steps, lowering my bad foot briefly before stepping back on to my good foot as I had learned to do. It felt good to take a break on the slow-moving 1 train, but I started to despair when I got off, looked at the map on my phone again, and realized just how loooong the Columbia campus was -- I was going to a building on the very far end of it. But there wasn't really anything to do but keep going, so I did.
I didn't hear J call my name the first time because I was whispering to myself again: "Nozlee, you are so strong; nobody can do this for you." He joined me and suddenly I seemed very silly to myself, muttering affirmations under my breath as if getting from point A to point B wasn't a normal thing to do. Like the very kind person he is, J asked how I was doing and then equally kindly fell silent when I choked out that I couldn't talk and walk at once. I was very set on making it to the building where the talk was without stopping for a break.
I made it to the building where the talk was without taking a break. I even made it to the elevator we'd be taking to the floor where the talk was without taking a break. Unfortunately, as soon as I took a break I also had a panic attack, my mouth contorting in awful grimacey shapes while I struggled to take a full breath after getting myself so mentally and physically worked up. The only explanation I could offer J was by way of gasping "That was very hard" over and over as we waited for the elevator.
In the end I made it to the talk, which was an absorbing and delightful distraction from how terrible I felt, and even the reception, by which time I'd calmed down enough to crutch around the beautiful East Asian Library. J asked if I wanted to take a cab all the way home but I insisted on taking the 1 to 14th Street (and actually, subway trips that didn't have transfers and involved minimal stairs were a funny kind of luxury when I couldn't walk -- riding the subway is a very specific type of downtime that I missed very much) before catching one, to bring the cost down. "That was very hard," I said again to J as we sat quietly in the cab. My throat was sore for several days from raggedly breathing in all that cold air on my two marches.
There's not a good ending to any of this. Even on that worst day, I made dinner when I got home, like normal. There was no fanfare the first day I walked unsupported on two feet; I just found that I didn't need the cane anymore. If there is a lesson in any of this, which there probably isn't because it was just an accidental foot injury, it might be that narrative is for chumps.
Even though I was proud of myself for making it that far, I got kind of cranky (and sad about being cranky) after walking with crutches all the way to my polling location and back this morning. Then, when I was getting in a cab to go to work, a well-meaning man opened the cab door for me and stood there waiting for me to be done pulling myself into my seat so he could close the door. He couldn't have known this, but it was so, so frustrating: I have a system that involves sliding my crutches in just so and then grabbing the car door and the seat just so to hop in without putting weight on my foot, and instead my crutches got caught in my boot and I had to hastily shove myself in over them so this well-meaning jerk could feel good about himself for helping me out when I didn't need or ask for or want his help.
Like I said: cranky. So to make myself feel better, I searched for "crutches" on Google Images and limited my search to animated gifs. Here are my favorites, in descending order:
- I like this one best because it's such a nice-looking little bear who looks like it's trying very hard. I like that it gets the details right: you do kind of dip your head forward when preparing to make that little leap on one foot, and as this bear shows it does in fact look pretty silly. It shows the repetitive shoulder and elbow motion that eventually results in shoulder and elbow pain pretty well, too.
- For accuracy, I like this one the next-best, but the woman is really downplaying how pronounced the hop is on her good foot. I don't blame her for wearing that midriff-bearing top, though: walking on crutches really engages your core.
- The best thing about this one is how the smiley face's left hand is kind of swaying a little from the effort of balancing on its good leg. I also relate to the wan smile and wave it is offering us; it looks like it is telling its friends that no, no, it'll be okay, it's just going to rest here for a second before continuing on.
- I kind of wish this guy was gently swaying too, but I find his stoic, blinking face a very apt reflection of how I feel when I have to stand for any length of time.
- Okay, this one is utter bullshit. You know what crutching with one crutch is like? You can only take stiff-legged hops on your good leg, and because it's so hard I end up taking two hops before landing back on the crutch. Like hell you're going to walk like a normal person, you stupid robot drawing gif.
- I get that animation is not an easy task, but this gif is not even trying. Also, casts are very heavy and it's unlikely you would be holding your leg out in front like that, or the tendons on the back of your knee (among other things) would start to ache.
- This one placed last because despite its labeling it is clearly not a crutch: it is a barbecue fork with a hotdog impaled upon it.
I made J a very elaborate Halloween costume this year: the "Lobby boy" character from The Grand Budapest Hotel. It came out very, very well and I finished it relatively quickly (I started on Saturday afternoon and finished on Monday night). The very last thing to do, though, was to make the 9 buttonholes on the front of the jacket -- a very important detail! I hate making buttonholes, and on that evening my sewing machine's tension was off and was making buttonholes too thick on one side and too sparse on the other.
After making dozens of test buttonholes on scrap fabric at varying levels of tension and very carefully ripping out many of the buttonholes I made on the garment itself, I ended up with nine totally passable ones, knowing that in the end, this was a costume not intended for daily use. But as soon as I was done I looked up this quote from Little Town on the Prairie:
It is not easy to space buttonholes exactly the same distance apart, and it is very difficult to cut them precisely the right size. The tiniest slip of the scissors will make the hole too large, and even one thread uncut will leave it too small.
When she had cut the buttonholes, Laura whipped the cut edges swiftly, and swiftly covered them with the small, knotted stitches, all precisely the same length and closely set together. She so hated making buttonholes that she had learned to do them quickly, and get it over with. Mrs. White noticed her work, and said, "You can beat me making buttonholes."
It's always been an immense comfort to me, and not just for buttonholes, either.
I had more x-rays done today and the estimate is now three more weeks on crutches, then more time in just the boot. :/
Recently I was re-reading Anne of Green Gables, as I do embarrassingly frequently, and on this re-reading I was struck by a chapter I'd never taken particular notice of before, the one in which Anne breaks her ankle while fulfilling a dare to walk along the top edge of a roof. Here is the full treatment that L.M. Montgomery gives her recovery in the book, in between when "the doctor hurt [her] dreadfully when he was setting [her] ankle" and when she goes back to school:
Anne had good reason to bless her imagination many a time and oft during the tedious seven weeks that followed. But she was not solely dependent on it. She had many visitors and not a day passed without one or more of the schoolgirls dropping in to bring her flowers and books and tell her all the happenings in the juvenile world of Avonlea.
"Everybody has been so good and kind, Marilla," sighed Anne happily, on the day when she could first limp across the floor.
Nearly everybody has been so good and kind, and I would never wish that I could gloss over these past several tedious weeks in a paragraph -- I was about 16 when I realized that my least favorite phrase in the English language is "I can't wait until," as if the time in between is not actually also your one precious life -- but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't, at times, tempting.
Programming is fun! I'm glad this is my job. It's something I think about particularly at this time of year because it's been just over two years since I gave notice at my last job, which wasn't a very good one for me.
Dinner was braised green beans with garlic and smoked paprika, extra-sharp raw milk cheddar, and garlic-and-olive-oil sourdough toast.
UPDATE: I forgot to say that I finished the Slack bot I was working on! I did not really believe I would finish it; I am still impressed with myself that I did. I learned a lot, including:
- How to set up an app using Heroku
- How much I loathe Stack Overflow comments arguing about the most Pythonic way to accomplish a task
- How global variables work in Python (enough to know I am leaning on them too much)
You can find it here. Its purpose is to call on each member of your team in random order during your daily/weekly/whatever standup and remember topics you ask it to remember so it can give you them back in tidy list form when you're done, along with how long it all took. (It is called "Morgenbot" because 1. "morgen" is German for "morning" and most people do standup in the morning and 2. I wanted a friendly name that was gender neutral.)
It's been really surprising how much I appreciate people who are like "Hey that is an awesome thing!" or politely point out bugs, and get irritated at people who are like "Why doesn't it [solution to problem it is not built to solve]?" Anyway, pull requests welcome.
It's looking like I only have to use crutches for two more weeks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
One unintended side effect of being very noticable as a result of not being able to walk is that while they recognized me before, I'm now truly a regular at the excellent sandwich shop near my apartment. (It is 0.2 miles away, according to Google Maps; I have to take 3-4 breaks to catch my breath when crutch-ing there, but it is worth it.) I will take that silver lining.
I'd been fixating on this moment all week, but when it arrived on Saturday -- wedding dinner and toasts over, music playing, guests streaming from their tables in ones and twos -- it was a no-brainer to grab J and maneuver to the middle of the dance floor on my crutches, mobility be damned. Dancing with J is easily one of the top ten joys of my life, and I wasn't going to let a fractured foot (incurred, of course, while dancing) keep me from it. Except that I very, very quickly realized that mobility was damning me instead: balancing on one foot with the other bent and held still in the air, clutching a crutch under each armpit, my range of danceable motion was essentially nil. I grimly swayed and grinned through the frustration and made it to the end of the song (everyone was so proud!), but once I'd admitted defeat and sat down I buried my face in J's nice suit and came as close to bursting into tears as I've come during this injury. The injustice of having dancing taken away from me!
(No one would call me a "good" dancer, I don't think. I don't have any moves; I'll never be at the center of a dance circle of impressed friends. But because dancing -- thank god -- is not tennis or bowling or driving a car, none of that has ever mattered.)
A couple of glasses of white wine later, I just HAD to try again. I'm not sure how I got the idea, but this time I took just one crutch to hop on to the dance floor, and over the course of the next hour or three, I taught myself to dance again. It felt like a miracle.
First I clutched my one crutch and moved just my free arm, the movements familiar but still frustratingly pinioned. Eventually, I figured out that instead of holding the crutch correctly, I could grip it from the top, held away from my body, as an anchor, with my heavy booted foot swung in the air as ballast: now I was really moving. I discovered that whenever I felt off balance, it was easier to hop in a circle to regain it than scrabble towards a wall or someone's shoulder -- and also, that hopping in a circle was kind of fun. Before I knew it, I was grinning, for real this time, and dancing in perfect, joyous non-harmony (remember the part about having no moves) with J, just like I have for over five years now. By the last few songs, I'd learned out how to safely raise the crutch along with my other arm when I really need to reach towards the sky (or, as it happened, to Shake It Off), and I'd relearned how to flip my hair out of my eyes while making it look like it was a dance move -- it'd be my first -- all along.
Like clockwork, every fall after we re-sign our lease we tend to take on some kind of home improvement task that invariably spins out of control. In 2011 it was painting our floors white (they were a glossy painted brown), which involved 6 weeks of shuffling our belongings from one quadrant of our studio to the next, sanding the floors on our hands and knees, and inhaling lots of paint fumes. Last year it was installing a big library wall of shelves behind the dining table, which turned into a week of daily visits to various hardware stores to buy escalatingly scary types of drills and drill bits. (Oh yeah, and then we bought a couch and I took it apart and reupholstered it. Last year was a big year.) This year we took on two projects at once: sanding down and repainting our blue dining table, and replacing our aging Ikea clothes racks with a rack fashioned out of brass pipe fittings and black steel pipe.
Unfortunately, in between my fractured foot, an uneven second coat of blue paint on the table that needs re-sanding, and a lack of any desire whatsoever to go back to Home Depot for finer sanding sponges, more foam rollers, and 90-some inches of threaded black steel pipe, both projects have stalled. Which is a long-winded way of saying that this is why I'm spending my afternoon building a Slack bot: when or if I abandon this project for a little while, at least the code won't be anything I can trip over in the middle of the night.
Today's dinner unplanned as of yet, but breakfast was garlicky creamed spinach on sourdough toast with a poached egg.
UPDATE: Dinner is a quick ragu of sweet Italian sausage pulled out of its casing, onion, carrots, milk, and tomato puree over gemelli. Also made a giant vat of salad olivier for later in the week. (If you are reading this and are any kind of editor, for the love of god assign me to write the seminal piece on the history of salad olivier. I've been dying to for years.)
I didn't get my cast off. :( Instead I got crutches! Today we went all the way to JFK to see the terminal that Eero Saarinen designed, and getting there went like this:
- Leave our apartment, walk with crutches to the corner.
- Hail a cab to the subway (about a 5-minute walk under normal circumstances).
- Carefully walk up stairs to the platform, sit on train for an hour or so.
- Exit train, take two escalators up, walk with crutches to the Airtrain.
- Take Airtrain 1 stop.
- Walk with crutches to elevator, then to shuttle bus.
- Shuttle bus to Terminal 5, walk with crutches inside, IMMEDIATELY PLOP DOWN ON THE NEAREST AIRPORT-PROVIDED WHEELCHAIR.
Whew! Then it turned out that the Saarinen terminal itself was only accessible via a further staircase; everyone was very nice and tried very hard to figure out how to get me there, but in the end I climbed the stairs and J carried the wheelchair. It was very beautiful and worth the trip!
Then the event ended and we went home via the same steps but backwards, except that this time I was very grumpy and tired and sweaty and stopped every few steps to complain, about which J was very patient.
One unexpected aspect of using crutches is that I can't carry a totebag! Today I wore a backpack and it was kind of fun, maybe I will keep wearing it even when I get better.
Dinner today was aloo gobi with naan, and then for dessert we made chocolate chip cookies but with peanut M&Ms instead of chocolate chips.
Here are some things about which I feel very positively!
- Today I am wearing a dress that my partner borrowed last weekend to wear to a party; he sat for a while next to a firepit and now it smells pleasantly of smoke.
- I went back to yoga today for the first time since injuring my foot while dancing at XOXO. (It is still in a cast until tomorrow.)
- I just found this tumblr featuring animated gifs of a video game about bread and it reminded me fondly of the terrible graphics I made for the Computer Graphics course I took in college, failed, and then took again. (I got a C the second time.)
- Dinner is going to be dal and a salad of escarole, lemon, and avocado.