Wednesday, May 21, 2014

On the Road

I'll be on the road for the next few days. Trying to get ready for this trip has been a stressor. I also did not know how much I would be physically wiped out by falling. I have been working some long hours, too, in preparation for what I'll be doing. Add all this up and when I come home, I'm exhausted. I fall asleep in the recliner for an hour or 90 minutes and then, of course, I cannot sleep at a decent hour.

I'm sorry if you have come here expecting some random thoughts or lots of photos and the same few posts and photos have been up for weeks. Things are slowly going to change. I'm making more "me" time in the next couple of weeks and that will help with feeling energized and wanting to write. I haven't wanted to write since I fell.

If you are a loyal visitor, please watch this space. There will be things coming soon. For now, I will leave you with one of my favorite things, Pilchard in the box of flowers Carole and Larry sent me for Mother's Day.

The Pro-Flowers box is perfectly Pilchard-size.

Beverage:  Water


Sunday, May 11, 2014


I've been missing the past week because I fell. If you don't like to look at bruises, this isn't going to be a post for you.

If you're a certain age, you remember the "I've fallen and I can't get up" line which advertised an electronic monitoring system for seniors. I have had elderly friends all my life and the one thing they mentioned when they reached a certain age was how falling was a death sentence. Your body just never recovered. I vowed that I would never live my life being afraid to tumble. How horrible it would be to be that afraid. Having fallen in 2011 and then again in January, although that was into a snow bank, I suddenly came to the realization that I had reached the "scared to fall" age. And then I fell.

I was working. It was an inspection. The reception area had two kinds of ceilings, drop and drywall. I went to the location where the drywall ceiling was because, if there were any defects, they would be in that area. What I didn't know and no one told me, was there was a step up of about 3 inches. Everyone in the office knew it. The carpet was a dark green and black fleck. I looked around but never saw the step and it wasn't illuminated well. My foot hit the step and I tipped right over, landing on my right knee.

My right knee and I have a somewhat stormy relationship. I hurt it in the 1970's while crawling across the living room floor. It swelled up and there was a thought that I tore something. Those where the days when knee surgery involved slicing the thing open, seeing what was wrong, maybe fixing it, and sewing it back up. If you ever walked normal again, you had an "L"-shaped scar across the knee itself. The days of arthroscopic knee surgery were a decade away. That kind of surgery was not used for teenage girls who may have simply twisted something while crawling across the floor.

Over the years, I have had my share of skinned knees, twisted knees, swollen knees and bruised knees. When I fell in 2011, it never really bruised. It swelled but didn't bruise. Instead, fluid collected behind the knee cap to the point that walking was an exercise in endurance. Once I had the knee drained, I felt like I'd been given a new lease on life. Then things started to ache again and I worried, at the beginning of 2012, that the fluid was returning. Was draining going to be my way of life from now on? Nope, it was merely rheumatoid arthritis.

January's fall didn't cause trauma. I tripped getting out of the Jeep and landed, face first, of course, in one of the piles of snow from all the shoveling I'd done. Other than my ego, nothing was damaged. But I did start to feel that falling was something to be scared of. You reach a certain age and there is no "bouncing back". Any sort of elasticity you used to experience is not a part of your body anymore. The collision with the ottoman leaves a quarter-size bruise on your shin or you can't remember where you got that quarter-sized shin bruise.

I couldn't, after I fell, stop what I was doing, go to my mom's because, of course this would happen when I was out of town, and put ice on it. I had to carry on. I did dash to her house once I was finished and she has the most amazing dog-eared ancient ice bag that we quickly used to cover my knee. I raised it up and continued reading the book (reviewed below) that I'd brought along. The next day, once I finished the rest of my inspections, I filled the car with gas and drove straight home. I had grand thoughts of seeing my brothers after work, but the only thing on my mind was getting home to ice, ice and my own bed, where I could prop up the knee and the foot.

By Sunday, the bruise had spread all across the knee and down the leg.

On Monday, the whole knee was purplish blue. And swollen. Holy cow. Think cantaloupe size. I tried to wrap it, but discovered that I couldn't get my pants on over the wrapped swollen knee. I tried to elevate it at work, but the way my desk sits in my office, I have to twist my torso to do my work. My gait has been radically changed and my hips will ache at the end of the day.

Honestly, I did not think I banged it up as badly as I have. I had a regularly scheduled RA appointment on Thursday and the swelling was easing in the knee. The bruising was subsiding. I have always been able to bend the knee, although only to 50%. I had gone down the basement stairs only once, to get the clean pants I knew were there, but I iced and elevated when I could. I tend to sometimes be too independent for my own good. I should have, just this once, used the valet parking considering where I had to park in the lot to get to Outpatient Services.

My rheumatologist was very worried. An x-ray was taken along with the regular blood work that I anticipated. The x-ray came back with nothing chipped or broken. She was worried a hematoma had built up behind the knee cap but there's no evidence of that. She felt something squishy and tried to drain it. I was expecting something like the first time my knees were drained. Oh lordy, not by a long shot. This was excruciating pain. She got blood not that mustard colored stuff I'd seen before. It's bruised and it's slowly, slowly healing.

The other thing that happened was a bruise at the spot where my blood was drawn.

Now, I have had blood drawn for years, decades even, to test for any number of things. I do not remember ever having a bruise at the drawing site. Maybe it's part of the trauma my body is going through. I don't know. The bruise is about an inch long by a quarter of an inch wide. I'm kind of embarrassed by it but putting a band-aid over it only draws attention to it. I, um, don't have any "flesh" colored band-aids. It's minions or nothing. I'm opting for the nothing.

My doctor called an orthopedist who said I need to get a knee immobilizer and wear it for a week. I looked at this thing and thought, "What the...?" This is well and good if you are living with someone who can drive you to work, do the laundry in the basement because you're out of pants for work or go to the grocery because you happen to be out of detergent to do that laundry. I've never been able to teach the cats to drive and neither one of them likes crowds to begin with. I'm also not interested in spending $50 on something I will wear once, even if insurance might cover it.

The more I thought about this, the more irritated I became and the more determined I was to find a solution that worked for me. I went to CVS and found a stretchy knit brace. I can't quite get it over my swollen leg yet, but it will be fine once the swelling drops a bit. I have at least 5 ace bandages, so I wrap the knee in the morning with a couple of them. Icy Hot cream was recommended and I've used that not on my knee but on my hips. It helps ease the ache from sitting or walking "funny". This has been the best purchase, however.

This is an adjustable gel wrap made by TheramaCare.

Once this one gets expended, I'm going to get another to keep in the freezer, assuming I don't still need it. It's lightweight and has 4 pockets containing freezable gel. It wraps easily around my knee, applying cold where I need it. The minute you mention you need an ice pack, people tell you to use frozen peas because they will conform to the body contours. Yes they will, but I love peas and think that's a waste of a vegetable. This is more expensive, than a bag of frozen vegetables, but it won't turn to mush after the 4th freezing.

So here I am, one week from the event. The swelling and bruising has traveled down the leg.
I was kind of surprised it would do that but I was informed that's normal. My right foot is swollen and tomorrow I'm taking my slippers to work because I don't have a pair of shoes that I can wear all day and be comfortable. I went to the grocery and CVS and did laundry yesterday. Then, I slept most of the afternoon. I find that I am more tired and I'm not sleeping as well as I could be. The knee hurts at night and wakes me up when I roll over. I am meticulous about where I go in the house. If I have to get up, I make sure I do a number of things while I'm up.

My doctor sort of scolded me. "You have to be careful," she said. I was rather hurt. There was a slight implication that I hadn't been careful. I looked at her and said, "I didn't want to fall. I was careful. You think this is fun?" She looked at me and I could tell she realized that she hadn't phrased her comment correctly. I'm not sure she needed to even say this in the first place. It's not that I will go around trying to trip and fall. She patted my arm and said, "I know. I know. You are careful." None of us who have reached this age and have endured a fall would go out of our way to throw ourselves against the ground, even for a physics experiment.

This is where I have been the past week, nursing a badly bruised knee and leg. I couldn't have a cat scan because every time Pilchard jumped up on the leg, the pain was too much. She was her diva self so when I'd try to get her to lie down, she wanted to stand. I've been so frustrated, too, because there are things I want to get done, things I need to get done, like cleaning litter boxes, but standing on the leg is painful. I'm told it will take 6 weeks to completely heal. Well, I'm not wearing shorts until July, that's for sure. And then I need to get into a walking regimen which will help me bounce back a bit better.

Still, I have reached the age where a fall is a life-altering event. I don't want to fall. It scares me, really scares me. It's going to take me a bit to get over this, mentally as well as physically.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


What a Difference

So this has become a somewhat distant memory. 

The grass is green. It's been mowed once already. The spring bulbs have nearly run their course. I expect the fragrance of the lilacs in a week or so. The almost second snowiest winter on record and the struggle to shovel are past. Windows are open. Breezes are enjoyed. Robins are back to waking me up at 5:15 a.m.

With this has come a surprising event.

There is a great lack of rain. We've had the cool, heavily overcast weather that portends rain, but as for rain itself, it's not so much. This is a far cry from last year's April that sticks in the mind as nothing but rain.

It's hard to look into the future, with the grass and trees lush, but it's dry below the ground cover. I have never seen so many squirrels coming to the bird bath for a drink as I do now. I have to keep it really clean. Thursday night, there was a clatter and I heard Pilchard, at the back door, growling. A quick look outside and there was a raccoon in the bird bath, not just drinking, but in the bath, rolling. If the local wildlife is coming to my birdbath for water, this could be a long summer of drought.

Friday, we got a morning of heavy rain.

It was that lovely warm spring rain, too, the stuff you don't mind getting wet in. Cleaned out the bird bath very nicely. There were no puddles. Everything soaked in. We could use a week of that kind of rain.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


2014 Book 7

Contemporary fiction is a lukewarm experience for me. I know there are great writers out there, but my previous forays into the world of current fiction had been less than rewarding. There's so much old stuff I haven't read. Why read something new?

WDCB used to have what they called "A Two-Minute Review". In 2 minutes, they would offer opinions on books or movies in the theaters or on video. I bought this book after hearing one of those reviews. It's been in the stack for quite some time. So far this year, I've read humor, fantasy, history, non-fiction and children's books. It was time to read fiction.

This is a good book. I see why I bought it. It's based on the life of Charles Carter, an early 20th century magician. The author weaves historical facts into his fiction. He takes the death of Warren G. Harding, while in San Francisco, and creates an engaging story of misdirection, suspense and magic. A thumping good story based on historical fact. Yes, that is my kind of book.

Gold did a huge amount of research into early magicians, what tricks they performed and how they did them. Harry Houdini shows up. There is the early disapproval of parents who weren't quite San Francisco elite. There is love lost and found. A dogged Secret Service agent comes into play. And the birth of television is set against the roaring 1920's.

It took me a couple weeks to read the book. It's not quite a 'can't put down' but close. There are periods of expository, to set up the next major event in Carter's life. Misdrection abounded. Just when I thought I'd figured something out, it was revealed as not the way I expected it to be. This is in keeping with the subject matter, a master illusionist. There's a lion and an elephant and the ability to make the rich and powerful disappear. I knew of the suspicion surrounding Harding's death; that it has long been alluded his wife poisoned him in retaliation for his numerous affairs. How that is resolved at the end of the book will leave you wondering.

I liked Gold's taking a framework of facts; Charles Carter, San Francisco magician; Warren Harding's death; the advent of television; the change from vaudeville to movies, among other things; and crafting a work of fiction within this framework. The novel held my interest from beginning to end and with the wrapping up of the various story threads, I felt magic was through the whole book. At the end, nothing felt unresolved.

As spring yields to summer, lists start appearing of 'beach books', those books you take on vacation. If you're looking for an addition to your list, I recommend this one. It's available in both paperback and ebook, for those of you who read your books electronically.

Beverage:  Scottish Breakfast tea


Saturday, May 3, 2014

What Month Is This, Photo 30

Travel again on Wednesday past. I had to go to Iowa for business. My work was on Thursday and Friday so I left Wednesday afternoon.

One of the fastest ways is to head west on Interstate 88. As it entered into mid-western Illinois, it dawned on me. Look at the clouds and the ground.

This could pass for November. Seriously. The grass is not that brilliant green we associate with late spring and in November, it's not totally brown yet. The trees have not leafed out and could pass for having lost all their leaves. 

And that sky. Sigh. Low clouds holding spits of rain, just like the cold November rains which are precursors to snow. Add to the fact that it was only 50 degrees and it really could be November. 

We can be forgiven for thinking that summer is never coming, that winter just will not give up. In Iowa, Thursday, May 1st started with 2 inches of snow on the ground north of where my mother lives. It feels as if I will be running with the heater on until the end of June when it will suddenly become 90 degrees and my air conditioning unit will go, "What? Turn on? Fat chance." 

What a way to end a month of photos. I will continue this into May. Maybe there will be sunshine photos instead of gray clouds. 

Beverage:  Scottish Breakfast tea


This Isn't Settling, Photo 29

You know those days when your mind is racing as you try to fall asleep? I've been having more and more of them lately and I'm not sure why. It's hugely frustrating, to be sure, as I'm not getting a decent night's sleep and find myself dozing off about 10:30 and 2:30 during the day, not good when you need to get work done. After consultation with my rheumatologist, she said melantonin would be okay to take with all the other stuff I take on a daily basis. (I never worried about drug interactions and now, anything new is met with suspicion.) Melantonin is not a sleep drug, in the class that Sominex or the prescription drugs are. It's a natural aid that aims to just calm you down enough to have you fall asleep, not knock you out. With sleep drugs, I awaken feeling "weird", is the best way to describe it. With Melantonin, I awaken as usual, but I fall asleep faster and it helps me stay asleep. As with any drug, your mileage may vary.

I keep a bottle in the medicine chest. I don't use it every day, only on those days when my mind is racing ahead 2 weeks or thinking of all those witty retorts I should have said 4 months ago or wondering if I have enough clean clothes to get through the week or what's that sound. The bottle was nearly empty so, because I had to pick up the next month of meds at CVS, I thought I would check their price. Well, what do you know. There's a "buy one get one" sale. I snapped up 2 bottles.

When I got home and went to put the bottle away, I actually looked at them.

There's no cotton in the bottle. Each bottle holds a quarter amount of pills. If I mixed the two together, I'd get a half a bottle full. To say I was shocked would be something of an understatement.

I probably should have taken these back and complained. I'm fairly sure it would not have mattered. The price was much less for these than for other brands of melantonin. You can be certain, I will look now at every single bottle of something that I buy.

I'm presenting this to you as a warning. If this is the trend, to only fill a quarter or a half of a bottle and then put the thing on sale, just know that you're not getting your money's worth. And also, look at the wasted space and wasted petroleum used to manufacture the bottles. So many are still not being recycled. All around, this is a bad deal. Check before you buy.

Beverage:  Scottish Breakfast tea


Calming the Stress, Photo 28

It's been a very long winter and early spring. The amount of going going going that I've had to do has started to wear on me. It's times like this that finding gratitude in daily life becomes a bit hard. I really have to look around and outside of myself to see what I can be grateful for when another client wants his stuff NAO and I have more things to do outside the office so what I do inside the office doesn't get done. You know the feeling. You want the world to STOP so you can get off, just for 24 hours.

A guild mate of mine got engaged to his long-time girlfriend. They are wonderful people and parents to a trio of very, very cute kittens. I had to send a card. I also had to be out in the field, yet again. So, I combined the work with the play and ran by a Target store to get a card. The thought crossed my mind that Target sells carbonated beverages and having some of those wouldn't make the long hours and the travel go away, but it would make them easier to bear.

To my surprise, there was a sale. You had to buy 5, but even the regular price in this Target was cheaper than the regular price in the Target near me. Although I prefer cans or bottles for portability, one must always be open to price, particularly on soda. You can see I dove into that Dr Pepper as soon as I got home.

Now, it hasn't made the travel any less of a bear or eased the knowledge that I will be working overtime through the rest of the month to get everything done. But I am grateful for ice cold beverages in the fridge for those days I stagger home and just want to collapse.

Beverage:  Scottish Breakfast tea


Volume, Photo 27

I don't know about you, but there are days when soup is the only thing I want to eat. Easy to cook, nourishing and portable, it's almost a perfect meal, if you're heating the stuff from a can. It's a little more complicated if you're making it from scratch, but once you have a batch made, soup freezes like a dream. There are also a lot of warm memories attached to soup. It's comfort food and the science says there is something good in chicken soup that helps a body get through and recover from the flu or a cold.

I don't make Campbell's soup with all the water they say on the can. I usually use just a half of a can. I like the taste of the broth and I buy the lower sodium version. It tastes a lot like dumping chicken parts in water and cooking them for an hour. I eat the whole can. It says 2 servings, but seriously, unless I'm eating a bunch of other things with my soup, I eat the whole can.

I usually use the mug on the left, but I couldn't find it. (It was under the dishes not put away in the drainer.) I thought the mug on the right was the same size but it wasn't. I had to drink some of the broth in order to put the entirety of the can into the mug. In checking, the Hawkeyes mug is an eight of an inch taller. That eighth is just enough to make it big enough to hold all my soup.

This was chicken and stars soup. My grandmother used to have this whenever we came to visit. It was too expensive for my parents to buy and the only time Gram used to have it was when we were coming. She'd serve this with ham sandwiches. I don't find chicken and stars to be any less expensive than chicken noodle so I like to keep a can of this and tomato soup in the pantry.

Chicken and tomato. Good meals. I just need to keep the Hawkeyes mug clean.

Beverage:  Scottish Breakfast tea