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Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!

Michiana Chronicles: Cleaning is dangerous

Heather Curlee Novak

Do you have that thing in your house that desperately needs to be dealt with? The pile of debris or that stack of bins or the closet where you hide the bodies of unwanted houseguests? I had a few totes in the dining room for too long. We used them every week, but we don’t have a lot of space in there, so they inhibited our daily life. My husband was working from home one Friday afternoon and I gleefully addressed the totes, squared off, picked them up and headed to the basement where they belonged. As I sauntered past my darling hubby, I grinned widely and proudly declared that after MONTHS I was returning the eyesore to its rightful place in the basement.

I was unfortunately overconfident in my abilities. I apparently skipped a few crucial stairs on my way to the basement. My husband came running as totes went flying (one made it into the basement end over end down the stairs unaccompanied). I knelt awkwardly on the landing gasping in pain. I have always been clumsy and falling feels like a hobby at this point. I began to check myself out and knew I’d hurt my ankle, but then it all got fuzzy. John was there at my side, fortunately, as I went into shock. I’m not sure why that happened, but it was scary. He gently coaxed me along with his warm presence and a glass of water. After a while I scootched on my butt back up the steps and to the couch to ice my ankle. As my leg changed shape and color, we decided x-rays were in order. We begged crutches off my sweet neighbor to avoid an ambulance ride. When all was said and done, I had a broken leg and needed surgical correction for damage around my ankle. I should have left the freakin’ totes in the blankety blank dining room. The last time I broke my foot I was carrying a vacuum cleaner up the stairs. Cleaning is DANGEROUS. I do not recommend it.

I had to be completely off the leg for a hideously long time. About eight weeks. Now don’t get me wrong, laying on the couch like the Queen of Sheba suits me just fine. For a few days. After that everyone in the house wants to start crying. I neighbor-sourced a knee scooter and moved into our downstairs sunroom/guestroom. My fashion choices centered on the boot, then the cast, and my energy level any given day. Sleeping in the clunky cast I named “Big Bertha” was crummy…moving was crummy…not moving was crummy.

I was whiny and demanding and couldn’t drink my sorrows away because I had to be fully with it to move my body safely. Even sober and not cleaning the house I fell, tottering off the scooter, falling with crutches, hopping wrong and crashing on down to the floor. After the sixth time, my friends threatened to buckle me into a wheelchair. I didn’t leave the house often. It was too hard, too scary. I was very grateful to stay home, to not have a job that needed me to show up on two legs. My friends made food, brought flowers, cleaned and sat beside me on the couch. I left the house with loving escorts so if (and when) I fell, help would be right there.

Now I am on the other side of the mountain. I can put weight on my ankle, but it isn’t easy. I’m still using all the scooters and crutches and it is frustrating. The physical therapy is helpful but unpleasant. Even folks who love me most are likely tired of hearing “Hey, would you mind getting-me thatsockacupofcoffeemycrutchthebook?” and “While you are up, could you please refillthebirdfeedergetthedoorletthedoginhandmethatpillowrunthevaccum?” I’m sick of me too. I feel guilty and foolish and there isn’t much I can do about any of it. I say thank you A LOT. I’ve hired some folks to do some things to hopefully take the pressure off my friends & family. I have made too many purchases on Amazon. Again.

John brought me to one of my doctor appointments and I noticed a young woman in my situation. She had a Big Bertha Boot of her own and a walker. She was alone. I ache for folks doing this sort of thing all by themselves. I wonder if it is by choice or simply circumstance. Friends beside you make most things better. I hope that each of us has someone beside us for the hard times, and the good times too. Maybe you can even get them to carry your thing back to that place for you!

Music: Soundtrack from "The Cleaning Lady" by Mark Isham

Heather Novak's professional history includes sales and customer service training and troubleshooting for businesses, but she loves motivational speaking best. Heather leads church events for youth, singles and women, has spoken for Chicago Apartment Association and many organizations throughout Indiana. Nowadays Heather is just another stay at home wild mama trying to loose some weight, keep some sanity and enjoy her life. She is being raised by two little girls named Portia and Libby and is indulged by a guy named John who was gracious enough to marry her. Heather blogs about F Words: Feisty Faith, Fumbling Family, Fairly Healthy Food, Failed Fashion and Fabulous Friendships. You can find her at