Monday, May 30, 2016

Non Impediti Ratione Cogitationis

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana
 My father was an automobile mechanic, so I grew up hearing a lot about transmissions and master cylinders and differentials, brakes, valves, heads, gaskets, and the like. The smells that bring back some of the fondest memories of childhood for me are not necessarily freshly baked bread from the oven or cookies or something wonderful cooking on the stove (although of course I love these smells as well).

No, what I remember with the most fondness are the smells my father brought in the house with him at the end of the day—lube grease, solvent that he cleaned parts with—the smells of a working garage where cars are fixed. Even today if I happen to go into the garage where our cars are repaired, it brings back so many wonderful memories of my dad. Well, that’s all to try to explain why I have enjoyed listening over the years to Car Talk, the public radio program hosted by Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, or by any other name, Tom and Ray Magliozzi.

Sadly, Tom Magliozzi died in 2014, but the programs continue to air. Tom’s self-proclaimed motto was

Non Impediti Ratione Cogitationis, or
“unencumbered by the thought process”

which is how I seem to be behaving since last Thursday in connection with my adventures with the knee scooter.

Just to expand a little bit on the scooter adventures, which I wrote about a few days ago.

My husband watches me trying to negotiate myself through the house and shakes his head. “This is too painful to watch,” he says

I suspect he had far more trouble using the scooter in his office than I am having in the house because it is such a congested mess in there, but I didn't actually witness any of this going on—I just heard groans, the yelling, and the colorful language—because about the only time I go in his office is when he calls me in so I can see the spectacular mess he has created (Fort Richard—piles of tubs that have found their way around his chair to the point where he is just about blocked in) or to to hunt down the cat if we have forgotten to close the door to the room once she is in the house for the evening. There are hundreds of places to hide in there and we don’t want to shut her up in that room overnight.

Maneuvering through the house is really is not getting that much easier, but perhaps it will. Especially if I remember some of the mistakes I have made and don’t continue to repeat them. And what are the chances of that? Slim to none?

So much of what I do during the day is unencumbered by the thought process; I mean, if just thought ahead a little bit to what I need to do. For example...  at about 9:30 this morning I decide it is time for a second cup of coffee and to visit the bathroom, so I position myself on the scooter and propel myself into the kitchen. I coast by the kitchen counter, pour the coffee in the measuring cup that I use to it heat it up in, make the right-hand turn to coast by the microwave, pause, put the coffee in and get it going, and then maneuver myself around (which morphs the 3-point "Y-turn" into a 7- or 8-point turn) so I am going into the bathroom backwards (for this reason I find it is better to visit the bathroom before the need becomes urgent).

By the time I come out of the bathroom the coffee is done. I am headed in the right direction for the return trip to my working space—so far so good, except I have forgotten to bring with me the insulated “mini-mega mug” I am using for my coffee. It is still sitting on the 18-gallon tub next to my chair (I have learned the hard way not to leave any liquid where it can spill on the computer keyboard). So, I have to go back into my working space, get the mug, turn around (again, this is excruciating—I almost inevitably get stuck so I have to muscle the scooter around), head back into the kitchen with the mug, transfer the coffee, add the stuff to make it palatable, then turn around (again) and head back to the computer.

Thinking all the while to myself.

This is ridiculous. Use your head next time. Don’t do this again!!

And then at about 1:30 or so I decided I would like some iced tea (it’s sort of a hot, muggy day) and that it might be a good idea to visit the bathroom again. So, I heave myself out of the chair and onto the scooter and wind up at the kitchen counter… wait for it… wait for it… without the mug. So I  get to go through the whole routine again.

Am I ever going to get it? I dunno. I hope so.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Done At Last... Done At Last

We are pretty much all aware by now that there are things we can do––and the things we should not do––to help keep us healthy. Unfortunately, sometimes the genes we inherit from our ancestors stack the deck against us, and all of our efforts to stave off what looks like the inevitable don’t have quite the result we hoped for.

I had known for a long time that I was at high risk for osteoporisis, so I did everything I knew to do to keep my bones as strong as I could. As “Not a Dr Bob” pointed out when he told me the news that I had compression fractures in my upper back and my DEXA scan results were grim – “If you hadn’t done all of that stuff, you might be in even worse shape…”

So he sent me off to see an interventional radiologist about a procedure where they inject plastic cement into fractured vertebrae to prop them up, but he decided I was not in bad enough shape for that procedure at the time so he prescribed a year of a very expensive osteoporisis drug that I had to inject every morning.

There was a great deal of stress associated with this drug, but it didn’t have to do with the injections. It had to do with fighting with the insurance company to pay for even part of the cost, and the requirement that the drug had to be kept cold in the refrigerator. It had to do with increasingly inept UPS delivery practices that had the insulated overnight packages with 3 months of the drug in cold packs being delivered to our neighbor’s house on a day when they were not home and sitting there for an hour or two in the hot sun before we realized the driver had made mistake… or riding around in the hot truck all day long instead of being delivered first in the morning… Had to have backup plans in place in case we had a power failure that lasted more than a couple of hours—and indeed, some friends in town were kind enough to keep the drug for me overnight once when the power went out.

The injections were not a problem: getting the drug out every morning while my coffee was heating, attaching the needle to the pen,

grabbing a pinch of belly fat (of which there was plenty), and pushing the plunger to deliver the dose came to be part of the daily routine.

And then suddenly there was only one pen left in the refrigerator, and before too long I had injected myself for the last time.

The interventional radiologist’s very capable assistant has been in touch, and as soon as the repair on my foot has healed, I’ll be heading back for another osteoporisis drug that has shown good results when used after the one I just finished.

But in the meantime, I’m done at last… done at last.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Foot or How I Learn to Drive the Knee Scooter

You two should write a book about the experiences of having foot surgery. Bet it would be a mix of comical and “I’m seriously going to kill someone.” K.M.c.L.

Behold The Foot.
The phenomenon that occurs when a body part (particularly an appendage) has something wrong with it and becomes the total focus of attention.

My left foot began breaking down a year ago, right about the same time the blood clot developed in that leg. For quite a while I thought that the problem in the foot was a consequence of the blood clot. But I was wrong.

After my husband's Achilles tendon repair in early March, the surgeon who did the operation came in to talk to me about what went on, and I asked him to look at my foot to see if he could tell me if it was a vascular problem or an orthopedic problem. He very kindly agreed to do that (without an appointment!). He eyeballed my foot, grabbed it, and pressed hard near the ankle, and I about went through the roof.

"Does that hurt?" He wants to know.

"Oh yeah."

"You have a flat foot deformity," he says, "that's my wagon wheel."

And so last Thursday he grabbed the wagon wheel and worked on my foot for about 2 hours to rebuild the arch and fix the torn tendons and some other stuff that he explained to my dearly beloved in the postoperative conference who, of course, did not remember most of it.

So far so good, I think. I have not had to take a pain pill since early Sunday morning, so I feel much better because my foot has stopped hurting and the pain medication made me very sleepy and muddle headed. There has been a lot of publicity lately about the problem of people becoming addicted to opioid pain medications, so I get it that it happens. The pain relief was great, but I don't like the way it made me feel, so I am very glad I don't have to take any more.

I watched my husband sail through the house on the knee scooter for about 8 weeks, and complain about it (but it is much better than crutches, he assured me), while he recovered from his foot operation, and now it is my turn to drive the knee scooter while I wait until the new and improved foot emerges from the cast/wrapping (which feels like it weighs about 30 pounds) in a few weeks and continues to heal until I am cleared to walk again. about 8 weeks.

I am gradually figuring it out, but I frequently find that I have gotten myself in ridiculous positions where I can barely move forward or backward and a "3-point Y turn" is impossible and I have to muscle the thing around so I can get going in the right direction. 

We have an incredibly tiny bathroom, and my dearly beloved suggested that if I were to back in, it might make transferring from the scooter to the commode a little easier. He was right -- backing in is no easy feat though and sometimes I am not sure whether I am going to make it in time.

It didn't take too long to realize that running over the toes on my good foot with the scooter was a bad thing, and so I have become much aware of where my right foot is and a lot more careful. I am sure there will be quite a few more lessons to be learned before I can walk again. 

I spent about 6 weeks fetching and carrying for my husband, and now it is his turn to fetch and carry for me. I don't think he is quite ready to "kill me," but the strain is beginning to show.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Imaginary Games

When we were children (we being me, the oldest, two brothers, and a sister), our summer vacations almost always involved a camping trip to Yosemite or another national park in that area of California. This was real camping with tents, sleeping bags, air mattress, Coleman lanterns, white gas stove, hot chocolate made with canned milk, washing feet off in a pail of water before going to bed.

My father had 3 sisters, who also liked camping, and often one or more of them, and their families, would meet us there.

I got along well with all of my cousins, but one who I had a special affinity with was my cousin Richard, who was a couple of years younger than I was but not enough for the age difference to make a difference by the time the 1950s were coming to an end. We like a lot of the same things. We were interested in birds and animals and science and nature in general.

I remember one camping trip at Yosemite in particular, which would have been in the late 1950s, when he was there too. He had dinosaur comic books – not sure what else to call them – fanciful adventure stories of intrepid “cave men” doing battle with the T-rex and other assorted giant reptiles. We read the comic books, played dinosaur, and had a wonderful time.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago.

The first thing I read in the local weekly newspaper (if it happens to be included that particular week) is the Police Blotter. Although I listen to the police scanner while I work, I don’t hear everything that goes on, and finding out what actually has happened on some of the calls I hear is very illuminating. Small towns may not have the murders and very violent crimes found in big cities but they are not free of crime by any means. In addition to routine traffic violations, there are a lot of calls dealing with peace disturbances, loose dogs, domestic assaults, custody exchange problems, burglaries and thefts, drugs (the county I live in is in competition with the neighboring county for meth capital of this area of the state), suspicious characters lurking--that sort of thing.

But on the particular day in question, nestled in between a report of an intoxicated driver at McDonald’s, who was arrested, and a call from a victim who said he let his friend use his debit card to borrow $20 but the friend took a lot more than that, was this little gem.
At 4 p.m., Officer J received a call of a fight in progress at the xxxx Apartments. Upon arrival, it was determined to be a group of children pretending they were dinosaurs
 Pretending they were dinosaurs! I haven't played dinosaur in a very very long time. I wish I could have joined them!

Friday, March 11, 2016

The leg condom

Last August the pain Richard was feeling in his Achilles tendon got bad enough that he decided he better see someone about it, so he made an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. He said there “wasn’t anything wrong with Richard’s foot” and decided he needed 6 weeks of physical therapy.

So Richard dutifully went to physical therapy twice a week for 6 weeks. The pain didn’t get any better – in fact it got worse. During the sessions the physical therapist mentioned that her son had broken his arm, and Richard was very curious about how they were keeping the cast dry so the boy could take a shower. She told him about the cast protector.

Recognizing the difficulty people with a cast on their leg or other body part have in taking a shower, a very clever and creative individual has designed a cast protector out of heavy vinyl with tight rubbery stuff at the top to seal the skin against water. When my arm was in the cast, we didn’t know there was any such thing, so we did the best we could to keep it dry by wrapping it in a plastic trash bag and using duct tape to keep it in place. It mostly worked, but it was not very convenient.

The physical therapist was concerned that nothing was working to help Richard, so she offered the opinion that “something else” is going on there and he should go back to the doctor. So he did, and he insisted the doctor take a X-ray of the foot. The doctor said the X-ray didn’t show anything.

With his frustration level about through the roof, he just happened to meet up with a man I used to work with at the post office. Chuck who had had terrible trouble with his feet, and had tried “everything” to no avail, told Richard about this great podiatrist in Arkansas who immediately knew what was wrong and had fixed him right up.

Richard got his name and made an appointment. The guy took an X-ray and immediately diagnosed a bone spur behind the Achilles tendon that was causing the problem and scheduled him for surgery to get rid of the bone spur. Richard came home with a knee scooter, a huge black boot, and a small box with a cast protector

So last Thursday we motored down to Arkansas for the operation. The regional medical center there is 70 miles away as the crow files, but sections of the journey are on a two-lane highway through the Ozark hills that could have been the inspiration for any roller-coast type thrill ride one might care to ride on, so it takes a bit longer than that.

To get rid of the bone spur, the tendon was detached from the bone, everything was cleaned up, and then the tendon was reattached. He was supposed to leave the recovery room wearing the gigantic black boot that would allow him to walk immediately, but the doctor changed his mind and put him in the cast, which he cannot walk on – no weight bearing for at least 3 weeks.

It has been a hard week for him. The antibiotic they gave him to make sure he doesn’t get an infection first made him itch all over and then made him sick, so we had to switch to another one. The “knee scooter” he uses to get around the house causes his arthritic knee throb. Friends have brought two different sets of crutches, but using them hurts the hip of the leg that is bearing all of his weight.

We almost had a disaster on Saturday when he managed to get down the stairs and around the house to the basement, but then I could see he was not going to be able to get back in the house. Had a friend not shown up right then (God’s timing!), who was able to help him get up the stairs, I probably would have had to call for the first responders to come and help. He has been watching YouTube videos on how to use crutches on stairs so he can go to church on Sunday. 

We call the cast protector the leg condom as a way to inject a little humor into the situation.

 At least he can take a shower, and is certainly a big improvement over plastic trash bags and duct tape.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Hangin' with Phil and Mary

Phil and Mary are members of the church we started attending almost a year ago. They live in a very elegant and distinctive-looking house on the main street in town. It’s not a new house: Phil says Mary grew up in in the house, and they began living there as a couple after they got married, which was 52 years ago.

The two-story white house looks like what I imagine a mansion in the South might look like. Four large pillars across the front porch support the second story overhang. The attic dormer that faces the street has a beautiful fan-shaped window. There is another large porch at the rear of the house. The doorknob on the front door is in the middle of the door, surrounded by circular molding. The only houses I have ever seen with doors like that have been in British TV programs.

The lot is huge, and there is a narrow ribbon of trees that run along the back edge of the property.

A few years ago the city did extensive work along the street where they live and put in new lovely new sidewalks. It is a great place to walk, and three mornings a week I walk by their house between 8 and 8:30.

One morning in late Fall I was startled to see that the trees along their property line were filled with vultures. I stopped and I was able to count 38 of them, but I know I didn’t get all of them counted because some began to fly off to began the day’s foraging.

The next Sunday at church I mentioned to Mary that I had counted 38 vultures in the trees, and she shuddered and said “60!” Phil said they couldn’t do much to encourage the birds to find somewhere else to spend the night because they are in the city limits. Aside from being in the category of birds that are protected from hunting, he said he didn’t think the local police would take too kindly with him firing a shotgun at them.

We just assumed the birds were gathering before flying off south for the winter. But that hasn't happened. They are still there. Why all of the vultures in the area are roosting in the trees on Phil and Mary’s land, when there are acres and acres of wooded countryside less than a mile in any direction from their house, is indeed an oddment.

Now Phil is a lovely man who has a lively, mischevious sense of humor. He is in charge of making the coffee for Sunday School, and yesterday after the worship service, he was bustling around in the kitchen cleaning the coffee maker, when I drifted in there to get the creamer for my coffee. After I rinsed the spoon and cleaned up the mess I made, he looked at me and said…

“How about some buzzard stew to go with that…?”

Saturday, January 30, 2016


A day or so after a light snowfall dropped a couple of inches of snow on the ground, I arrived at the park with the Mollywog for our afternoon walk. I was not surprised to see that I was the first person to walk on the path since the snow had fallen. I have frequently been the first person to tramp through the snow in the park. The path was not totally pristine though. Tracks from an unaccompanied larger dog (or perhaps a coyote) and a smaller dog (perhaps a fox), who seemed to be on separate missions were meandering about. Rabbits and squirrels had also been busy, along with some birds  with big feet – probably crows.

I never walk very fast with the dog because I can’t walk fast anymore myself and she has to stop and sniff every 10 feet or so and I let her get away with. I’ve always wondered what exactly she was sniffing if not pee left behind from other dogs. I was not that surprised to see her stop every few feet and sniff each footprint that the dog (or coyote) had left in the snow until she was satsified and went on to sniff something else.

The next day when I returned, I had company -- the high school track coach was running laps since school had been cancelled – but aside from him, again no one else had been there. The prints I had left the previous day were still there by themselves. We exchanged a few words each time he sped by me, and on one pass he observed that I had been the only other person there since I was now laying down a second set of identical tracks that weren't there when he began running.

The pattern of the snow boots I wear looks like waffles.


What a sweet fun memory that brought to mind. Dad loved to cook. Here he making my birthday cake a few years ago..

During the weekdays he would get up at about 5:00 a.m., long before anybody else was awake, and he made his own breakfast. He ate bacon and eggs just about every day, and ironically, after years of that diet, his cardiovascular system was in excellent shape -- no atherosclerosis, no blockages, no nothing – and still is at age 91, except his heart is slowing down now and he needs a pacemaker (which they have decided not to do).

But he would occasionally make waffles on weekend mornings. They had an old waffle iron that they had probably gotten as a wedding present, and he would plug that in and heat it up. He made the batter using Bisquick and he’d start turning out waffles. I loved the crispness and how the syrup would puddle in the depressions. It was a lot of work, and it was a mess to clean up because the batter always oozed out the sides and then baked on to the side of the waffle iron.

I remember at the Seattle World’s Fair that they offered up Belgian waffles, with strawberries and whipped cream. I had never heard of such a thing -- mom and dad were too careful with their money to buy strawberries and whipped cream for waffles for four kids.

I remember we had a waffle iron after we moved here – I think I got it at a thrift store – but it eventually broke.

I haven’t had a waffle in years. Perhaps I ought to do something about that.

We need to remember what's important in life: friends, waffles, work.
Or waffles, friends, work. Doesn't matter, but work is third
--Leslie Knope