Tuesday, December 10, 2013


On Monday, heading out to the car for school pick up, I fell down the stairs. Don't worry---I'm okay, I'm just sore, twisted around, and shaken up. My right shoulder is a little strained, and my back is wrenched, but given my weight and my wobbliness, it's amazing I didn't hurt myself more.

I fell down the outdoor stairs at the back of our home, the ones that lead to our parking lot, and which seem to be icy the whole winter long, even when we haven't had precipitation in days. With our first really slick snow the day before, it was inevitable that a fall would come soon; at least one happens every year. While climbing up the four flights to get to our condo is usually our hardship, in the winter, coming down can be even more frightening. Yesterday, despite taking cautious baby steps in boots with great traction, I somehow lost my footing two and a half flights down, and fell hard, careening into garbage cans 4 feet below. Once I got my balance back, I still had more stairs to go, and since I couldn't very well leave my kid at school because I was having trouble on the ice---who in Chicago wasn't?---I steeled myself and went down to the car. Small step, grip the railing, small step, grip the railing, small step. Suck it up, shake it off, drive away.

Welcome to winter weather, day one.
Care for a fall? It's a long way down!

I don't have a good attitude about winter anymore, I'll fully admit it. Snow can be beautiful, and the cold can be very still and peaceful, it's true. Winter moments of beauty and peace aren't lost on me. For me, though, winter weather has become mostly about worry and discomfort. Will the car, which has sat out all night in below-freezing temperatures, start in time to get my kid to school? Will I make it down the stairs without falling? Will our sweet old dog be able to make it back up the stairs on the ice from her walk? Will our house be a sauna from overactive radiators, or will it be freezing, because the wind still manages to whip through, no matter what we do to secure the fourth-story windows? Will we all go crazy with cabin fever? If we do leave, will we be caught in a squall (it happened getting EJ from school at the start of the blizzard a few years ago, when we took Lakeshore Drive home right before it was shut down, stranding hundreds of people)? Will we be able to park, with (sometimes complicated) restrictions posted on signs everywhere, and lots of spaces lost to piles of snow?

I'm over it.

I grew up a good Wisconsinite, believing my ability to withstand freezing temperatures and drive in blizzard-like conditions earned me a badge of honor; as a forty-year old, I find this weather miserable, and I'm still waiting for my badge.

I know it does no good to complain, especially when I can't snap my fingers and move away. All I can do is to try to be in the moment, appreciate everything I love about the city—the activity, the variety, the friends we've made, the family nearby—and save my pennies until we can make a big move to a more temperate place. I can look for opportunities in warmer climates, and make my intentions known widely ("Hey, friends in warmer places! Do you know any killer jobs for me that would help me move? Thanks!")

Guess what? I don't feel like that right now. I don't want to ruin your "look at all the lights, pour some yummy cocoa, aren't we in a frosty wonderland?" buzz, but I'm not going to join in. Forgive me, please: I just fell down a flight of stairs. I don't want to be a good mood about ice crystals.

The night before my own fall, while EJ and I were out braving the snowy streets with our neighbors to attend a birthday party at the mecca for young Chicago girls—The American Girl Place—we had another crash in our home. While Mike was quickly doing the dishes, getting ready to head out to go to the gym and enjoy some time to himself, he heard a crash in our dining room, and came running. What he found was that a board from the beautiful credenza my father made us over a decade ago had split, and all but three pieces of our sushi porcelain—bowls, plates, serving dishes, chopstick stands, tiny plates decorative plates, sake cups, and soy sauce bowls—had all crashed onto the floor, shattering into shards that spread into the dog's bowls, down the hall, and in nooks and crannies we couldn't have imagined.
One broken board = a lot of broken porcelain.
All that remains: A flower, a fish, a cobalt soy sauce bowl.

Improbably, the Waterford crystal glasses we received to toast at our wedding, directly underneath this shelf, were totally unharmed. We can't actually figure out how that happened, but we are grateful.

Board missing, crystal completely spared.

The loss of our sushiware was very sad. Of all the items for which we registered when we got married 14+ years ago, this is the one we spent the most time picking out together, and were the most excited to receive. Mike had studied Japanese both during college and privately afterward, and we love to make sushi rolls, as well as other Japanese dishes, together. We love it so much, in fact, that every year for New Year's Eve, we host a big sushi-making party—more of this will come in a post later this week—where we take out all of our sushi porcelain, and enjoy thinking of our 25-year old selves, walking through Crate & Barrel with a registry list, adding items, imagining making sushi together for years to come.

In an unfortunate twist to this story, because we have worked so hard with a professional organizer this year to get our house looking spiffy to put on the market should we, you know, have the opportunity to move somewhere warmer, all our sushiware was placed together on this shelf for the first time in years. Typically, we hunt and peck around to find our pieces; had we been less organized, we may have lost less of this set; of course, who knows what else might have been on that shelf instead.

If I was being philosophical or thoughtful about these two crashes, or if I was listening to a friend reporting that this had happened to them, I might try to find more meaning in all of this. Of course, I could have been much more hurt, but I wasn't; EJ or the dog might have been with me, but they weren't, etc. If I'd broken a leg…I can't even go to that horrendous thought, even in speculation.

Our sushi porcelain was just stuff, and stuff is just that: stuff. It only holds the value we place on it, and we can still remember all those plates and bowls, and think about the years of their use, and be happy with our thoughts about them. And of all the times for the shelf to break, the sushi smash was nearly perfectly timed. It was only at the last minute that Mike decided to go to the gym that evening, in lieu of heading down to Water Tower Place with us to shop while the birthday party took place, so we caught a ride with our neighbors. Had he left with us, our dog might have walked straight through all the broken shards, cutting herself up. Had I not asked him if he could do the dishes before he left, himself, and had he not been sweet enough to do them, he may have already been gone, as well, and again, the dog might have been hurt. And of course, EJ wasn't home, sitting at her desk, practically underneath all the falling dishes. The whole thing could have been truly terrible, not just disappointing, and as bummers go, this one seemed set to a divine stopwatch.

Yeah, if I was zen about this, I might even find a metaphor linking this all together: the three, fragile but unharmed sushi items that remain are like the three of us; it doesn't matter how cold and icy our winter is, or how many pretty things we may lose, we always have each other, and isn't that enough?

I don't really feel philosophical or thoughtful right now, and I'm certainly not zen, so I won't be taking my own counsel, at least for a day or two. Right now I am cold, sore, and without sushi dishes—that's the unsugar-coated truth, and while I am grateful that things aren't worse, I don't feel like using the "grand comparison technique," otherwise known as, "no matter how much you hurt, things could be worse, just think of (insert truly horrible, painful thing)" to make my disappointment disappear. Some things just stink, and there is no fixing them; other things must be felt as painful in order to be spurred to change. That's where I am right now, and I'm sticking with it.


  1. Kori, I am truly sorry!! I HATE falling no matter what the season. These days I hurt myself in some minor way just walking down the hallway ;-) Feel free to wallow in the suckiness that is a Chicago winter and losing your extremely precious sushi set. For all the positive thoughts you send out into the world you deserve a day.

  2. I'm so glad you were not seriously hurt in your fall and that no one else was hurt when the shelf broke. Sometimes you just have to feel what you feel and forget about looking at the bright side.

  3. Its not as cosmopolitan as Chicago or San Diego, but Albuquerque is very nice! Im so sorry for your tough week. It can only get better from here...

  4. Ouch and ouch. In the parlance of our family, that suckity sucks.

    Save those shards, though! Among your wide and awesome acquaintance surely there is a mosaic artist or jewelry maker or other crafty sort who could turn these broken things into something beautiful as a memento of all those lovely parties and all that sushiware shopping together!

  5. So glad you weren't seriously hurt, but still that BITES. Those outdoor Chicago stairways are a menace. I will never forget tottering down ours, wearing slippers, on my Dad's arm the night Pebbles was born. Dad was so nervous!

    I can't help but think that your Chicago home is not just nudging you out of the nest, it's now resorting to shoves.