Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Learning to Fall

I'm learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings. Coming down, is the hardest thing.
So true, Tom Petty. So. True.

But...maybe...I should learn to fall.

I watched a video entitled, “People are Awesome”.

Cool right?

If you didn't watch it, one clip after another showed men and women doing incredible acts of athleticism and grace. A woman leaps backwards from a cliff, twists, tumbles, into a dive into the waiting water below. A man does a series of bouncing flips on a slackline. A snowboarder glides up a tree gives it a push, flips and continues on his way down the hill. Awesome, indeed.

I’ve never attempted anything shown here. Not even close.

On the flip-side there are also thousands of fail videos out there. Epic crash and burns. I’m sure all these people have fallen thousands of times with a few epic crash and burns among them. The slackline guy was over water, and though the video didn’t show a fall—his hair was wet. However, I’d bet serious injuries for them are rare. So rare, that it never deterred them from pushing their boundaries.

Falling/failing was a non-issue. Part of the process.

I developed a fear of falling as a kid. I never learned to cartwheel, handstand, walk on my hands, flip from the monkey bars, and as I grew up my fear of falling kept me from learning to snowboard.

I had taken some bad falls you see, I over-rotated a few times and hurt my lower back with the resulting solid thump when I fell. I’ve fallen and hurt my tailbone countless times.  I've knocked the wind out of myself. I’ve sprained my wrists and ankles. I’ve been knocked backwards and saw stars. I’ve caught my snowboard edge many times with bone rattling spills, sometimes on ice.

My first and only newspaper appearance for sporting. 
I love team sports and played them all, regardless. Although I got good at not falling, when I did I was usually sidelined for weeks with a sprain. I’d chafe while sitting on the bench watching someone else play the position I’d worked so hard to earn. The worst was when my absence caused a position shuffling that ruined the team’s chemistry and caused us to lose. I went to a small school and every player mattered.  I played a lot of ball games with taped up joints. “Nah, coach, I’m fine. Ankle, wrist, knee, leg, feels fine—see? Put me in.”

Then I graduated school. Moved. Started a full time job. Got married. Went to college. Started a career. Did that for ten years. Became a mom.  Competitive sports gave way to running, indoor rock climbing, hiking, biking, and working out. Falling was pretty much a non-issue at this point in my life.

Then at 38, I started learning Martial Arts. Taking a fall is an integral part of the deal and at first it was my least favorite aspect at class. But it was unavoidable. Throwing and being thrown is a fundamental aspect of training. I throw my partner, then it's her turn to toss me around.

About to be swept.
Seeing our (OK—my) terrible falling skills, our instructor stopped class and gave us a talk about proper falling technique. He said that of all the martial arts skills he’s learned over the years, learning to fall properly was the biggest contributor to his personal safety. He had many stories of devastating falls that only resulted in a few scrapes. He had stories about his sons, who have grown up with martial arts, avoiding serious injuries as little tykes because of their falling skills.

He then showed us several safe falling techniques and we spent the remainder of class falling. It was first. Then easier. By the end of class it I, tall-gangly-Amy, was having fun falling. From then on, whenever we were going spend the class working throws, I would warm up with a dozen or so falls to remind myself of the finer points: tuck chin, round back, arms in, aim for one of my squishy butt cheeks, breathe out, break fall if needed. Then we learned rolls. Not somersaults...rolls. 

So fun.

Now...I can cartwheel. Now...I can handstand (sorta—my legs kind of flail) but if I go over I tuck my head and roll down a rounded spine. No more bashing my sacrum on the ground.  It ain't pretty, but I can do it!

I was on a run recently when I tripped over nothing and fell. As I was going down—face first, I remembered not to straight-arm it, and deflected it into a sideways roll. I had a few minor scrapes but no real injuries. What could have been a bashed knee and two sprained wrists was nothing. I think falling is the coolest thing I’ve learned so far...that and the butterfly kick. Butterfly kicks are pretty cool too.

Then my mind, as it is wont to do, slips to metaphors. Falling and failing is the same thing.

I was trying to do something and I fell/failed.  Sometimes it’s just a flub, like when I fell running or when I misspell an easy word. But often fails/falls happen when we’re stretching ourselves (flailing) and trying something new.

Twenty some years ago, a-hem!, I strapped on my shiny new rollerblades and went skating with my cute boyfriend and his sister at the Memorial Coliseum. I was cruising along, then suddenly I was spinning around on the floor. Lina said, “Hurry, get up, Charley’s coming around the bend.”

I scrambled to my feet, wobbled, and pushed off grateful to avoid the embarrassing scene. I’ve been saved from other embarrassing mistakes by not speaking up in class, by not finishing that project, by not sending my work out to a publisher, by not trying for that position I really wanted because I knew I wouldn't be able to take the fall—it would hurt too much. 

“What if I fail?” So embarrassing.

But why are mistakes so embarrassing? So what? It is really that bad for the world to see I’m not perfect?

Last school year, a little girl I know (and adore) in Berzo's First Grade class was brought to tears because she made a mistake on the book she was making, she started on it upside down so it opened the wrong way, and we didn’t have any extra for her to start over. Another kiddo in a different Centers group, cried when she made a mistake on her construction paper paper project she couldn’t erase. She nearly burned up the entire session fretting over her error before she decided to cut a scrap of paper to cover her mistake before she could continue her work. I would have loved to see these kids creatively incorporate their mistakes into their project and go with it, or just shrug it off and move on. But upon realizing their mistakes they were horrified, embarrassed, and brought to a standstill.

Huh, so this is a thing...

In my time helping out in Berzo's classroom, I’ve repeated this experience with virtually every kid. From backward letter Bs, to misspelled words, to circling the wrong picture... Upon realizing their mistake they'd call me over, desperate for my help.  I’d tell them that’s it's OK, just line it out and keep going. And that's why they’re in First Grade, to learn these things and make mistakes.  If they already knew everything they would be in the Second Grade then there would be a whole new set of mistakes to make. I told them that I make mistakes. All. The. Time.

They’d look at me like, “Really? Well, I don’t. Help me fix it before someone else sees!”

They are FIRST GRADERS, so literally everything in academia is new, and yet they expect perfection from themselves and they shut down when they fall short.

My own kids are this way too. Innocent mistakes and missteps own them and shut them down. They live in constant fear of messing up. They are even embarrassed in front of us. Charley hears, “Don’t tell Mama.” I hear, “Don’t tell Papa.” Us! We have changed poopy diapers that blew up their backs and out their collars countless times, and they act like we don’t know they aren’t perfect.

Boots said, “I’m just going to be the quiet little mouse that never speaks up,” about her 6th Grade year.

I said, “Why would you do that? I think the world needs to hear what you have to say.” This kid is a deep thinker and has a lot to contribute.

Boots said, “I might be wrong. I might sound stupid.”

Damn, she’s just like me. 

I said, “So? If you ask a ‘dumb’ question, you know you just asked it for the at least half of the class that had the same question, right?”

“I just cant, Mama.”

Berzo won’t even let me put water in her lunch bag because one time last year it leaked and got her backpack and pants wet. She was horrified. It. Was. Just. Water. I would have loved for her to have said, “Haha! It looks like I peed my pants! So funny! Can you pass me a paper towel, please?” Nope, she’d rather choke her food down dry.

I have a feeling the people who reach their personal goals are experts at failing.

I have a feeling that every person in that People are Awesome video is an expert at falling.

I taught my girls to walk, but did I teach them to fall? I’m pretty sure, my “Uh-Ohs!” when they took a spill and a scoop-and-cuddle delivered the unintended message that falls are bad and scary  and should be avoided. They are learning to succeed in school, but what about persevering through failures? Their terror at making mistakes tells me, no, they’re not.

BUT there’s still time. I can show them fails/falls are not to be avoided but to be sought out and practiced, so that they don’t become a barrier to who and what they want to be.

Get used to being wrong, and learn to admit to it, and keep moving forward.

Get used to losing, and learn handle it with grace.

Get used to being laughed at, and laugh too. This was super-hard for me. But I’m pretty good at it now.

Get used to falling down, and learn to do it well.

Get used to being rejected, and learn to shrug it off.

Get used to falling short, and evaluate the scenario to figure out why and fix it.

Makes mistakes, and learn to own them, so they don’t own you.

Learn to fall, so you can learn to fly.


Miss you Tom Petty. Say “hi” to my dad for me.

 I'm flying!  Hold my hand!

Rock on! But be safe!

Look at you go! Don't fall!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Lice Capades

I kinda wanted to cry a little.

I kinda wanted to shave my head.

I kinda hated hair.

On a chilly night last spring, I reclined on the sofa snuggling my blanket, sipping tea while watching a show with Charley. Berzo came up and flipped her head down exposing her neck and said, “Mama, can you check my hair for lice?”

We’ve been dealing with lice for a couple weeks and I felt confident that the problem had been eradicated from our household. But, hey, doesn’t hurt to check, and it’ll set Berzo's mind at ease.

“Sure. Go grab the lice comb.”

“OK, Mama!”

She ran off then came back and put the comb in my hand.  She flipped her head down again. I started to comb.

I combed and looked. Nothing. Nothing.

My mind began to wander.

Gosh, I’m tired. I’m so glad it’s Friday. Don’t have to get the kids up early. Morning coffee with Charley will be nice…

Wait. What the fuck is that!

I stopped and inspected the bug that was scrambling on the comb.

“What is it, Mama?”

“Not sure. Go grab a paper towel, please.”

I wiped it off on the paper towel and experimented with smooshing it. It doesn’t smoosh. I smoosh harder and grind it with the comb tines into the paper towel. Still squirming. For a moment, I lost the bug in the towel folds and think it’s in my blanket. I pushed my blanket on the ground and searched the towel again and there it is. I expected it to jump like a flea, it didn't; it just flailed on the towel. I pinned it with one thumbnail to isolate the head, then brought in my other and pressed them together.
Crunch, snap. It’s dead.

Huh, so that’s a lice...louse..lice-louse or louse of lice?


I got up. I sat Berzo in front of the computer and got the Lice Detection Spray and hosed her head down with the stuff. I combed and found some nits and another louse. I comb and comb.

I wash the comb.

Lice are afraid of me.
I sat Boots the Impervious down and sprayed and combed. Her hair is much longer, so as I pulled it through her hair and she squealed each time as I neared the ends of her hair.



All the years lice has gone through our school Boots has never gotten it. Even when she’s played with kids for hours that had an infestation, for whatever reason she’s never gotten it. Until now.

As I combed my own hair, I informed Charley, “If I have it again. I shaving my head too.”

Cue head scratching.


The Lice Capades began with a frantic note home from Berzo's teacher about a lice outbreak in her classroom. Berzo was checked at school, no bugs found. Whew! I double checked her at home—no bugs. (Not that I really knew what I was looking for.)

I figured that our string of lice-doging luck was continuing as usual. Perhaps helped along by the magic spice spray we use on the kids before we send them off to school.

Then on a Monday, just as I was arriving home from helping out in Berzo's class, I got a call from the school with the report that Berzo had lice.

“Really? OK, I’ll be right there,” I said.

I picked up a distressed and embarrassed kiddo and brought her straight away to Lice Knowing You in Beaverton. We walked up to the door and I tried to pull it open.


What, what? Noooo….

“What are we going to do, Mama?” Berzo said squeezing my hand.

We idled for a few minutes while I tried to figure out what to do. We walked away to see if there was another entrance, when a head popped out of the door.

“We’re you just trying to come in?”

Slightly desperate, I say, “Yes…”

“We’re closed right now…” she looks at me intently, “but come on in, I’ll help you.”

“Oh, thank you so much,” I said. I wanted to hug her, but thought a lice expert might not appreciate the gesture.

Just like this...
She let us in and sat us down. She sprayed Berzo's head with detangler and ran a lice comb through her hair and wiped it on a paper towel. She walks over and shows me the myriad of lice bugs and eggs littered all over the towel.

“Oh, OK.”

She put a shower cap on Berzo to contain the zoo in her hair and checked me. She sprayed my hair down and ran the comb through a few times.  A paper towel appeared in my field of vision, “You have it too. See?”

“Oh, OK,” was all I said.

 Inwardly I was stunned as I watched the lice louses squirm in the sticky spray stuff.

That just came off my head!

On the flip side, it was nice to find out there was a problem moments before having it treated.

She deloused us both with oil and combing and combing and oil and more combing. My scalp felt bloody, but also kind of awesome, like it was a really thorough treatment.

Another person came in and she paused to help her. The phone rang. She answered it. Combing. Combing. Combing...

It took a long time. And then we were done.

I did some shopping. Lice Detection Kit—yes please. School and Play Spray refill—yes please. Comb for the neighbor boy who played with Berzo while she was infested—yes please. (That's the funnest part of lice, letting others know your bugs might have hitched a ride on their kid.) Prevention spray for her classroom—one of those too.

I gasped when I paid the bill. (It’s $100 per hour!) But she reminded me it comes with a 30 day guarantee; provided the other family members get checked. I scheduled their appointments then thanked her and left for home with a very oily head.

Berzo and I washed our hair, and washed it again. It actually felt quite luxurious afterwards.

Boots was horrified at the news that Berzo and I had lice, so I checked her hair with the new kit and couldn’t find anything. Charley shaved his head. I was a little jealous… They went in the next day and were both cleared.

We all attacked the house following the guidelines provided by Lice Knowing You. We were surprised to find out that lice in your environment is not all that much of concern. Any eggs that fall off die, because they need your body heat to incubate. Any bugs that fall off (they rarely do, holding on is their specialty) can barely move and begin to die within about 12 hours.

Reassuring as it all was, we still vacuumed everything, washed bedding, bagged teddy bears and moved all our couch cushions to the garage.

I brought Berzo back in the next morning to school with a clean head of shiny, spicy smelling, hair. The school nurse rechecked her and gave her the go-ahead to return to class. I brought her in and gave her teacher the School and Play Spray for which she was grateful and joked about spritzing the kids as they came in and out of the classroom.

I looked around and saw all that all the kids’ backpacks and coats were bagged. The fluffy green rug was gone. Most of the girls were in braids and pony tails. The boys had fresh looking short cuts.

Her teacher and I thought we’d seen the last of them.

We both reached up and scratched our heads a little. I wished her luck and left.


And then, like the Terminator, they were back.

I called the Beaverton office first thing in the morning and they are booked solid. She recommended I call their SE Portland office.

Through the tunnel! Arg!

We got appointments and all headed in to have our heads examined again.

She informed me that the head-check costs $15 per head and that any necessary treatments would be free.

“Can we skip the check and go right to treatment?”

I showed her the louse I saved in a plastic bag. She took it and gave it a good look, “Yep, that one of them. But, we don’t want to oil up your head unless there’s something left in there.”

“But we’re already so deep in this,” I said—pleaded.

She checks and her eyes widen when she sees our last transaction...

We waited for another family to be checked. Then it was our turn. She checked us all and we turned out to be clean. The re-infestation must have just gotten going.

I went up to pay for the head-checks and she waved me off, saying, “This one’s on the house.”

I tipped her anyway and thanked her for her help and we left. At home we repeated the vacuum, wash, bag.

And that was that.

I informed Berzo's teacher and she filled me in on the resurgence of lice in her room, despite all her preventative measures. "Stay strong," we told each other.


Now summer has summered. Fall has returned. The big yellow bus has swallowed up my kids and burps them back up for school. We’re working through our first set of cold viruses. Will the Lice Capades return?


Scratch, scratch.

Monday, July 16, 2018

A Heluva Day

The day dawned bright and full of promise. Our plan was to ride our bikes to the library. Boots had an appointment with a sixth-grade teacher from her school. Berzo and I were going to practice math by playing a rousing game of Dragon Wood.

The ride was lovely. The game was the most fun I’d ever had playing with Berzo. She was focused on her game strategy and did all her own math. She captured both dragons, but I ended up with more overall points. She took the loss in stride. It was great fun.

At the end of the hour we checked out a few books and collected a happy Boots. Then the girls got their obligatory donut holes and we headed back outside to our bikes.

The sidewalk down from the bike rack has a gentle curve on a gentle slope. Near the base there is a sharp turn connecting the sidewalk into a wheelchair ramp from the library. Berzo got going to the corner, panicked and didn’t turn. She ran smack into the railing jolting her whole body forward. She didn’t fall but let go of her bike and sat down. Then started crying out in pain, “Owe! Owe! Owwwwee!”

Oh crap, that’s the hurt cry. The real one.

I propped up my bike on the railing and ran over to her. She’s was flat on the sidewalk writhing in pain.

“What hurts, baby?”

“My wrist!”

“What about your pelvis?”

I remember the pain of slamming into my handlebar joint well.

“No, just my wrist and my arm! It’s broken! I need an ambulance!”

She is holding her right wrist with her left hand. Her right-hand looks limp and useless.


What to do. What to do. I need a sling. What will make a good sling?

I rooted through my bag.

I thought about my shirt and ruled it out as I am wearing a nude colored bra-let… I’d look naked. I thought about Boot's shirt and imagined her horror.

No...Maybe Berzo's shirt?

Then I noticed my para-cord water bottle holder. Perfect!

I popped the melt joints, and, with no small effort, unraveled the weave. It’s nice and long. I made a loop around the back of her neck and under her wrist being as gentle as humanly possible. Then I wrapped it through her fingers (at the Spock V juncture) and around her chest, nestling her hand into her chest at a slight upward angle. I made a few more wraps and knots and Berzo says it feels good. She stood up—reluctantly, and it’s fairly secured. Boot and I helped her onto her bicycle. I held on to her bike to balance and push her home.

I told Boots to leave her bike near the path and to push my new one home. (Her’s is an old hand-me-down.)

“No, Mama. I can get them both.”

“Boots, no. Just leave your bike and push mine.”

“No, I can get them both.”

Berzo and I wait and I make a phone call to her pediatrician’s office. They have an opening with a Nurse Practitioner that Berzo likes at 1:10.

“Perfect, I’ll take it.”

Berzo and I got moving again are getting quite a bit ahead of Boots as she fumbled trying to get both bikes rolling. I kept going. I expected her to come running up any moment with my bike or riding her own bike. Either way would have been fine, but she didn’t.

I kept pushing Berzo. Boots fell out of view.

I worry.

Isn’t this how things went bad in The Shack? The parent was helping one child and the other one… Oh God. No, she’ll be OK. She’s old enough to handle herself and the path is busy with parents and kids and dog walkers etc. Nobody could get away with nabbing her even IF a weirdo was around.

This I said to myself as Berzo sobbed in my ear as I pushed her on her bike. I pushed faster. I started to trot then slowed to a fast walk again when Berzo got scared of falling again. Sweat soaked into my clothes and ran in my eyes.

I got Berzo home and carried her into the house and placed her on the sofa. I got her a bag of ice and the TV remote. I told her I was going to go get Boots and that I would be back in less than ten minutes. She says, “OK.”

I planted a kiss on her head and dash out the door.

I was grateful that I’m was already dressed in running clothes because it’s too dang hot outside. I took off at a brisk lope. Worry pushed me on faster even though I’m burning up in the sun. As I passed a garage saler for the third time I briefly wonder what he’s thinking...She comes by with two kids on bikes. An hour later she’s pushing one kid on a bike and then five minutes later she barreling down the road on foot...WTH?

I kept on.

As I crested the hill there was a very red-faced little Boonie holding two bikes. She saw me and started to cry.

My worry made me say, “Why didn’t you just do what I asked? I was so worried.”

“I’m sorry, Mama. I just wanted to be strong for you and make you proud of me that I pushed both our bikes. I didn’t want one to get stolen!”

Tears mingled with sweat and ran rivulets down her red cheeks.

“I can replace a bike, but I can’t replace you!”

The last of my angst dissolved in the midst of her pain.  I gave her a big hug and told her how brave she was to try so hard to manage both bikes. I took my bike and noticed my lock was missing. I told her to stay put. I rode at Mach 3 back over the path looking for the lock. I found it in the grass about a quarter of a mile away. Then I barreled back to her.

Boots was not where I left her.

Arg! That kid!

She’s waiting in the shade about 30 yards from where I left her.

OK. Whew. I get that.  

“Let’s go home.”

We hurried home and parked our bikes and went in to see Berzo. She’s upset—Netflix isn’t working.
My arm hurts AND Netflix won't work!

I popped in the movie she borrowed from the library and checked the time on my phone.

Missed call. Voicemail.


I listened to the message. Someone scooped our appointment. I called back and talked to the receptionist. They had another opening at 1:50. After some unsuccessful cajoling to keep the 1:10 slot, I took it.

Berzo gets upset again.

I got her some food and she dialed back into her show.

 I rooted through our closet looking for one of their old slings. I find Berzo's from when she was itty-bitty. 

Darn, too small.

I kept rooting and found Boots'.

Perfect. Wow, my kids have hurt themselves a lot… Ug.

I took off the paracord sling and slide on this one.

“Ah, that feels much nicer, Mama. Thanks,” Berzo says.

“You’re welcome, Baby,” I said and gave her a kiss.

I downed a glass of water and it all flowed right out through my pores.  I'm soaked.

I offered Berzo some medicine—that we don’t have—and drove to the store to get some. I also picked up a bagel and cream cheese for Boots for her lunch. I zoomed back home and get food and medicine to my girls.

I managed to cram a little food into my gob too, then it was off to the pediatrician.

The doctor was kind as she asked questions and worked over Berzo's body checking for injuries.

“Oh, you already had a sling?” the doctor asked.

“Yes, from an old injury of Boots',” I reply.

The girls piped up with their stories, “Mama, remember when I fell off my bike and knocked out my tooth! I didn’t hurt my head or my chest, but it right I smashed my mouth right into the sidewalk!”

Boots, “I broke my arm too! I fell off a shelf! Oh, yeah, remember when I crashed my bike so hard it bent the tire?”

Oh God. You guys!

The doctor broke in, “Are the knees from the crash too?”

“Uh, knees?" I saw the band-aids on her knees and said, "Oh yeah. Uh, no. That was yesterday. She crashed on her bike going from the road up a driveway.”

The doctor raised her eyebrows.

I wondered if she’s seeing air-quotes around “crashed her bike.” I felt (feel) about two inches tall.

She turned to Berzo, “How long have you been riding your bike?”

“Um, like a minute or two.”

I butted in, “She started riding a Strider bike at 2 ½ years old. She’s been on a pedal bike since she was three.”

“Oh, OK,” the doctor says.

The doctor worked her way to the hurt arm and Berzo cried out a few times when she found the tender spots. Berzo did all of the maneuvers she asked her to do. The doctor decided that it was likely not to be broken, but thought it’s bad enough that she’d like to see x-rays.

“If it’s not broken, keep her in the sling over the weekend to remind her to be gentle with it and to also remind her to stay off her bike,” she said.

“Yes, of course. Good idea,” I said, nodding vigorously.

“Then if she’s not using it somewhat by Monday or Tuesday, we might need more x-rays. Sometimes a break won’t show on an x-ray until 5 days or so after the injury,” the doctor said.

Off we went to the imaging center for x-rays. (When did doctors stop doing x-rays? Has it been like a really long time now?)

A short, stressful drive later, I’m ready to expose my little daughter to a significant dose of radiation. I stand behind the safety glass and wonder why they don’t put lead helmets on the kids in there getting all the radiation. She initially says there will only be two “pictures” but end up taking three.

Do we need three? Like, really, need, three? If the doctor did the x-rays she’d stop at the first one if she could see conclusive evidence. But no, gotta make sure the radiologist has all the angles he/she might need even if the first would have done it.

“Please step behind the glass with me.”

Sigh. “OK.”


“OK, that’s it. After the radiologist has a look, they’ll call your doctors office,” the technician said.

Seems like a lot of middle people here… “OK, thank you.”

We headed home. I stopped and treated the girls to Jamba Juice. I parked Clifford the Big Red Truck in a spot designed for a Smart Car. I got out and squeezed in between vehicles to help Berzo get out.

We got home.

I felt woozy.

Overheated. Overstressed. Still recuperating from a cold virus I picked up last week. Carrying no small load of guilt that yet again one of my kids injured herself on my watch.

I long to call my dad. He always had a simple way of breaking things down.

“You had a heluva day, kiddo,” floated across my mind in his rugged voice.

A heluva day indeed. Miss you, Dad.


The doctor called. It’s broken. Damn.  They put a splint on it and told us to come back in a week.

Poor kiddo.