Thursday, February 10, 2022


I dont have any tattoos, mostly because I cant decide between a bust of Shakespeare, my children’s names, and my longtime motto e pur si muove.


However, you may be surprised to find out I used to have a navel ring.

As part of a minor midlife crisis, I got my belly button pierced for my 35th birthday. My boyfriend at the time, Skinny Pharmacist, researched the hygiene at various local establishments and supervised the piercing process. For the next decade I hid my secret identity under a T shirt.

I had to give up my belly button ring a few years ago because of my right foot. And my children.


Have you ever had a stress fracture? They’re tiny cracks in bones caused by repetitive force, often from overuse but sometimes from structural problems. A few years ago, back when I worked for a law firm that provided Cadillac health insurance, I had a stress fracture in my left foot. I wore an awkward isolating “boot” for a month as it healed. 


A few weeks later, I started to feel the same burning pain in my right foot. My Seattle doctor did two things. He sent me to a podiatrist who analyzed my feet and gait before prescribing some of the custom orthotic shoe inserts I still use. (My original inserts are held together with duct tape and relegated to my house slippers.) Because I experienced stress fractures twice in a row without noticing any particular jarring event, my doctor also ordered an MRI to find out whether I have the bone density of a little old lady.


This was the only time I’ve even been inside a fancy imaging tube. Before the technician let Magneto do his work, she made me remove my navel ring, just in case. In the excitement I left the ring behind. 


Afterwards my children forbade me from buying a new one, so I let the piercing heal over. Apparently middle-aged parents with belly button rings are “gross.”


This is not a stress fracture boot. It’s a “night guard.” Not the mouth night guard that used to ease the impact of grinding my teeth, before Buster chewed it. Instead, this is the foot night guard I bought last year after my Bellingham physician Dr. Heuristic diagnosed me with “plantar fasciitis.” Your plantar fascia is the tendon on the bottom of your feet connecting your heel and toes. You know you have plantar fasciitis if the heel pain is at its excruciating worst first thing in the morning when you step out of bed, after your tendon curls up overnight. 


It takes a few miles walking with Bear every day to keep both of us “functional.” Fortunately, with expert guidance from both Dr. Heuristic and the earnest folks at Fairhaven Runners & Walkers, I gradually learned to pace our walks and recover an effective equilibrium. Recently I’ve only needed to wear my plantar fasciitis night guard once or twice a week, on the days when Bear cons me into walking more than ten miles.


A couple of weeks ago, I started feeling a familiar burning in my right foot. I recognized the signs of another stress fracture, but I wondered whether it was merely part of life with plantar fasciitis. Last Friday while the kids were at school I walked into our excellent PeaceHealth same-day clinic to find out.


On this visit, I didn’t see our usual urgent care physician Dr. Practical. Instead, after having my foot X-rayed upstairs, I met with “Dr. Frank.” He tends to be the most candid of my healthcare providers. Dr. Frank immediately diagnosed a stress fracture, even though it didn’t show up on the X-rays. (They never do.)


Dr. Frank is also a power walker, so we sat and commiserated about chronic foot problems. Obviously my big question was how long Bear and I would be off the trails and stuck on the injured reserved list. Dr. Frank said his 17-year-old daughter recently suffered a similar stress fracture. (My daughter Eleanor was at the basketball game where it happened.) Dr. Frank said his daughters foot was already better after resting for only a week. 


At this point Dr. Frank got up from our tete-a-tete and walked over the computer station, muttering the words “fifty-seven-year-old man” under his breath. He grabbed the after-visit summary for “Foot Stress Fracture” from the printer. It said Bear and I should expect to forego long walks for six to eight weeks. 

As I wrote this week in “SLOW DOWN!!!,” lately I’ve made huge progress in learning how to slow down my writing and thinking processes. Finding the right pace helps accommodate the various limitations that PTSD and other stressors place on my Executive Function. Regular walks with Bear have become essential to achieving equilibrium.


“Slow down” was supposed to be a metaphor. Living with a stress fracture already is a literal catastrophe.  For example, because I can’t hop away from the computer often enough, I already feel twinges of karpal tunnel and tennis elbow. Driving with a boot can be awkward. Bear is miserable. Hideous typos slip through the editing process. Life is a disaster.


Our family has compensated in other ways. I’m getting more hugs. The kids are doing more dishes. I meditate longer. My stack of library books rivals my mother’s. Yesterday I crossed the border for my first in-person Vancouver Men’s Chorus rehearsal of the year. I’m rocking Wordle. I bingewatch affirming television shows, starting with The Good Place and Ted Lasso. 

Somehow we’ll make it to spring.

Ursula Kroeger LeGuin (1935 - 2018)

Growing up, Ursula K. Leguin was always one of my favorite authors. Her slowly evolving Earthsea saga remains one of my literary touchstones. In recent years I’ve also read LeGuin’s works about the writing craft itself. She is an elegant and observant essayist. 


LeGuin shared her daily routine during a 1988 interview:


5:30 a.m.—wake up and lie there and think.

6:15 a.m.—get up and eat breakfast (lots).

7:15 a.m—get to work writing, writing, writing.


1:00-3:00 p.m. —reading, music.

3:00-5:00 p.m. —correspondence, maybe house cleaning.

5:00-8:00 p.m. —make dinner and eat it.

After 8:00 p.m. —I tend to be very stupid and we won’t talk about this.


I highlighted the first item in her schedule. A writer’s life requires opportunities for sustained attention, away from the temptation of a keyboard or pen. Although walking with Bear has proven most effective for me, I’m similarly productive during the drive to Vancouver, or sitting at the beach.


Later in my day, “lie there and think” would equal sleep. Fortunately, like LeGuin, I find inspiration in the early morning.

Currently I’m learning how to sleep late enough to get all my work done. I can get plenty of tips from my children, who are experts at sleeping in.


Ursula K. LeGuin’s advice comes with a bonus. Although Bear is charming and friendly, he is also an introvert – just like everyone else in the household except for Eleanor. Bear is too self-absorbed, fidgety, and passive-aggressive to spend the night with me. [Ed. Note: Bear says it’s because he hates to listen to snoring and podcasts.] 


However, it turns out Bear loves to crawl in bed for morning cuddles.

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