August 7th, 2015

Yesterday, I spent the whole day in bed listening to a book on tape. (The Lunar Chronicles: a YA, post apocalyptic re-telling of Cinderella. Do not judge me.) Today, Heather is coming to town, and the three of us have tickets to a Cubs game. I’m supposed to be careful and avoid crowds as my immune system spirals down, but I have cleared this with the doc, and I will take hand sanitizer and medicine. I will try not to touch anything on the subway. I’ll only lick the pole once, I promise. Here’s an article if you’re worried.

Expert Claims ‘Nothing Traumatic’ Will Happen If You Lick the Subway Poles

Although I didn’t do anything yesterday, I do have something more to say about my visit with the psychologist in June. She’d asked me what the hardest thing I ever had to go through was. I told you that I immediately drew a blank. But I did, ultimately, think of something. Psychologists don’t let you off the hook that easily. I told her something about my little sister, how we are estranged, how hard it has been.

“How do you cope with that?”

“I talk to my husband.”

“How does he handle things?”

“With logic. And reality.”

“So, you’re good with reality?”

I shrugged. As long as my reality has a dose of magic in it, I’m good with it.

I went to her bathroom before I left (damn you, bladder!), and I flashed to other things that have been hard.

My mother has bone cancer and she’s doing great. It’s Atul and Reiki that have given this gift to her. She believes she’s going to live, is open to the possibilities, and a joy to be around.

But many years ago, when my mother had a triple mastectomy, her attitude was different. She had the first operation just before Memorial Day or Labor Day weekend, I can’t keep them straight. Both boobs were removed and new ones were constructed from her abdominal muscles. She was absolutely certain that she was going to die. My dad was sure she was going to live, and he kept cracking jokes about it and trying to kiss her. This didn’t help.

Over the course of the long weekend, one of the boobs started to rot. For some reason, blood wasn’t circulating. But it was a long weekend, so she would have to wait. Honestly, the whole house stank of death. My mother’s absolute certainty of her imminent demise only fanned the stench. There were a lot of tears on her part. I alternated between clenching my teeth and feeling helpless. I called my friend Amy a lot during this time, and she was funny and kind, as always.

When they took her to get a third boob (constructed from a back muscle this time), I stayed behind to scrub the death out of the house. She’d mostly been in a La-Z-Boy recliner, and I took to it with carpet cleaner and a rough sponge. I scrubbed and scrubbed, but I could not remove the wisp of death. Finally, I looked under the chair and found a dead toad. Old, petrified, and leathery.

I got a shovel, scooped it up, and flung it into the backyard. I checked under the couch. Two more toads. I found six in all, and threw them with force and anger into the yard with my Shovel of Toad Vanquishment.

Later that night, I stood at the back door. Three of the toads had gotten stuck in a tree by the crooks in their arms. I felt like I was sending a singular warning to whomever had sent the message of death. Someone thinks she’s dying here, but she’s not going to. Not on my watch. I’ve banished the toads.*

*My mother wants me to tell you that it was her cat that brought in the toads. This didn’t seem relevant to me when I wrote this yesterday, but now I’m imagining someone following me around, placing dead sparrows (Lance!) around my room in an ominous manner. So, okay, it was the cat.

14 Responses to “Magic”

  1. Peter on August 7, 2015 9:08 am

    Wow, Karen. This isn’t an “MS Blog,” it’s totally a Karen Blog. These are really fun to read, which would be such a strange (and maybe inappropriate) response to an MS Blog. MS sounds dark, and serious. Karen is fun and interesting and introspective. So from now on, I’m just thinking of it as a Karen Blog. Then I don’t have to look over my should to see if anyone caught me chuckling out loud…

  2. Stephanie on August 7, 2015 9:25 am

    I am on the third book of the lunar chronicles. Can’t put it down.

  3. Karen Staman on August 7, 2015 9:47 am

    I KNEW you would love them. I started on the third one yesterday. They are just right.

  4. Beki on August 7, 2015 9:34 am

    Is a giraffe faster than a toad? Why yes. Yes it is.

  5. Melanie on August 7, 2015 9:51 am

    I love this post. You have always seen the magic in the world, and have taught me to see it too. Reality can be overrated.

  6. Mom on August 7, 2015 10:29 am

    When my St. Martin’s Press editor first called me, praising my book, by the way, while I was on the phone my cat walked through the kitty door with a half dead bird in its mouth and proceeded to kill it at my feet while I was trying to impress my editor. How’s that for a run-on sentence? Feathers everywhere! Not just a sentence fragment but with an exclamation point! What can I say, except that I am worlds better with Reiki and Atul. No dread at all. And Atul taught me how to give secret Reiki to Karen just to make her (an me) feel better. So sometimes I feel that I’m helping. And yes, the gangrene in my rotting breast nearly reached the blood stream and did nearly kill me. Mom

  7. Laurie J. Edwards on August 7, 2015 10:32 am

    Sounds like you come from a family of survivors. Those are great odds.

    Enjoy the game! (and I’ll be interested to hear how that pole tastes).

  8. Gabrielle on August 7, 2015 10:38 am

    I think you’re one of the ones who makes her own magic.

  9. Meredith on August 7, 2015 12:31 pm

    Five minutes after reading your post I found a very healthy frog in my house: may he send good karma your way!

  10. Janet AlJunaidi on August 7, 2015 12:52 pm

    Go Karen!
    Go Mom!

  11. Shelley on August 7, 2015 3:37 pm

    Karen and Mom, Thank you for being so normal and so strong and so awesome and for sharing with us the dead things in your house so now I know I’m not the only one. My daughter stepped into her sneaker once and lost her s***. Come to find out, a dead mouse had somehow take up residence in her shoe. Oh, and the time her daycare called me at work because above daughter had gotten bitten by a mole. Really? A mole? She said she touched him because he was cute. A mole. Cute. I guess.

  12. Laura Staman on August 7, 2015 8:24 pm

    Well, I know I have heard the boob frog story before, but it still astonishes me. My mouth is agap and everything. What an awful time it was, and what a fabulous gift these times are with Mom doing reiki every day on herself. With such commitment, she is healing not only her body but her anxiety as well… No more dread. Thanks for the telling of the story in such a beautiful way, and thanks for showing us how we make magic!

  13. Marjorie Light on August 8, 2015 8:16 am

    I adore your sense of humor. But I must say, all I can picture right now is your mom with three boobs!

    Keep making your magic, my friend.

  14. David Kwee on August 8, 2015 10:57 pm

    I want a Shovel of Toad Vanquishment. Though I’ll settle for a Screen of Squirrel Repulsion. +3 of course.

    You don’t need magical items. You’re using your own magic. Thanks for sharing the spell.

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