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COLUMN: Friends, countrymen, lend me your (sympathetic) ears

I never thought I would have to ask for sympathy.

Once upon a time when I was hurt, sick or even uncomfortably pregnant for 36 months (not all at once), friends/family/complete strangers would offer a chair/reassuring hug/good wishes.

Now that I've been a mom for 13 years, zilch. It's as if being a mom means you have to turn in your sympathy card.

Let me give you a "for example."

It's been a whirlwind these last few weeks. We put our house on the market (I know, I know "it's a buyer's market") so we are all on red alert to keep the house clean. I've been trying to train my kids to pick up after themselves so we only have to straighten up rather than do a full-scale cleaning.

I also heard that a woman in Utah is trying to teach her cat to use the toilet. Hmm, I wonder who will reach their goal first?

Any spare moments I've had have been spent going through old boxes, cleaning and generally getting all the clutter out of our house. Since my husband works late and my kids have homework, it falls to me to get a majority of the packing done.

The other morning I had just gotten my kindergartener/rag doll dressed (it is amazing how floppy 5-year-olds can be when they don't want to wake up). I turned on the stairs to put him over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes, when I felt a sharp pain in my lower back. The pain caused my knees to give out and luckily I was able to avoid falling down the rest of the steps. I did manage to frighten my son, though, who awoke to find himself tossed back on the floor and his mother in a heap.

His older sisters were still home, so I called to them to get him some cereal while I silently assessed the damage. The pain in my lower back was intense whenever I leaned forward, to the side, well, really just anywhere. This had only happened about three other times in my whole life, and I remembered well enough how terribly inconvenient it can be.

It took an incredible amount of self-control on my part not to obsess over doing the breakfast dishes or reach for the vacuum as I sat eye-level with the top of the steps (my kids had cleaned the floor the night before but managed to miss a few dust bunnies the size of jackrabbits).

I managed to slide down the stairs and plaster a smile on my face so I wouldn't panic the kids. I just wanted to sit with an ice pack, but two of them still had to be driven to school. So I had to call upon my inner Super Mom and drive. At least my van is tall so I didn't have to bend down into the driver's seat.

When I got back to an empty house, it took me 25 minutes to shuffle slowly to the freezer, get an ice pack and round up all the pillows that still had stuffing in them to provide some support. I was pleasantly surprised that I did not have to hunt for the TV remotes, so I settled in for an afternoon of quiet, non-animated TV.

It isn't often that I watch TV, so I was a bit surprised to find that nothing is really worth watching during the daytime. I would have put a movie on, but I dropped the remote between the table and sofa and couldn't pick it up. So I was reduced to watching "Supergator" and "Sharktopus" on the Syfy network. I think I've had enough cheesiness to last quite a while.

My oldest kids were supposed to come home around 3 p.m. Since it was pure penance to try to get out of the chair on my own, I had put off the restroom break. They ended up calling me to tell me they were going to hang out with their friends for a while.

"Fine," I said, in my best martyr voice. "Don't worry about your poor, injured mom who is stranded at home all by herself and can't even get out of the chair to go to the bathroom."

"OK," they chirped. "See you later."

You'd think they would know sarcasm when they heard it.

I can't really blame them. When I told my husband that I hurt my back, the first thing he said to me was, "You'll do anything to get out of cleaning, won't you?"

I'm surprised he didn't ask me where the bon-bons were.

When I went into the office on Monday and started talking about my sore back, one of my co-workers - who isn't really known for her tactfulness - said, "Well, you ARE 40 years old, you know."

Where do I hobble to get my sympathy card back?