Saturday, April 30, 2011
walking into a room
Well, I don't really miss stairs, I just miss having the option. It is a real eye-opener to go around the town and realize how important it is to have handicapped access facilities--curb cuts, ramps, those wide doors on bathroom stalls. Anyway...this is almost the end of the first part. We'll see how long and difficult the next part is. Who knows how many parts this adventure has?
Friday, April 29, 2011
PianoMan (I'll call him) flew down here from Seattle and we ate dinner at home the first night, and then, no surprise, spent the evening talking about music, looking at music on television, listening to PianoMan play music (piano, clarinet, guitar---we only have three instruments at the house, so he was limited to this). Then, we planned the next day to go a couple of places.
His friends had encouraged him to go get a deep-fried Twinkie (their reaction to him coming here for a few days was predictable: "VEGAS??? DUDE!!! So cool!! Your parents LIVE THERE???" And then of course he tells them that Mom teaches elementary school, Dad consults for the Navy; we live in an ordinary house; it's up by the mountain; etc. etc. We don't live at the Mirage, nor go out partying every night; we don't have showgirls for neighbors.) But, hey, it's still Vegas, Baby---and it's all within a 20 minute drive.
We had lunch at Hash House A Go-Go---really a fun place to visit---waaaay tooo much per serving, but always very delicious. We stopped off and picked up our tickets at the willcall desk. Then we went home and PianoMan went outside to read by the pool and get a badly needed Vitamin D infusion from the sun, which hasn't been seen in the Northwest for weeks.
Later that evening, the valet took the Silverado (we've learned, as adults of a certain age, that the free valet parking offered at Las Vegas casinos is totally worth the $10 tip.) We worked our way through the Mandalay Bay casino toward the theater, which is a little complicated with the stupid cart, and were seated in our "accessible" area (pretty good seats, actually) and settled back for two and half hours of award winning entertainment. It was terrific---costumes, singing, sets---the whole thing is worthy of all its accolades.
By 10:10, when it finished, we were finally hungry. But, we were also completely done with the casino atmosphere. Loud, hyper, ding-dinging, flashing lights---I really hate being in a room filled with slot machines. So, we knew of a place we'd been a couple of times just a few blocks away. And, hey! It's Las Vegas, we were headed to a brew-pub, and it was before 10:30 P.M. No problem, right?
Wrong---yes, people were in there eating, but--no, we couldn't join them. We could sit at the bar and drink, but the kitchen was done. So, we got back in the truck ( a 14 step process because of the cart....) and drove down the street to the Hard Rock Cafe---come on! Vegas! Let's eat! Except that this time, we were a little smarter. CoolGuy drove in through the drop-off, put it in "park" and went in to check before we did the whole little cart ceremony again. Nope...once again--you can drink, but you can't eat.
We went to Denny's.
And my point is, that if we wanted to go out for a meal at 10:30 P.M. in Provo, we wouldn't have driven to two different other places first. We'd have known that Denny's would be the only destination possible.
But---LAS VEGAS?? Sheesh.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Here's love and grief beyond degree;
Isaac Watts 1764-1748
Friday, April 22, 2011
2009 Pt. Mugu
2009 Pt. Mugu
1980 San Diego
1980 San Diego
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Monday, April 18, 2011
Actually, I've rarely watched CSI the original Las Vegas version. (But one year I had a student whose parent was an actual, real-life Las Vegas Police Department Crime Scene Investigator.) So, when we went to lunch on Saturday with my friend who was visiting us on her way back home to spend Spring Break in San Diego, we weren't even thinking of crime. We were thinking of delicious grilled chicken and pinto beans, and horchata.
I asked the people right behind us if they'd seen what had happened, because I'd heard them calling 911. Apparently, they heard the gunfire, and then they saw a man outside hurrying across the lot with a gun in his hand. They'd been told by the police operator that the situation was known to the cops, because the man they'd seen was a police officer who was responding to a threat and help was on the way. Well, the plot thickens.
We'd already been there ninety minutes past when our food had been consumed. We'd already been treated to an order of flan and some churros. CoolGuy had gone to order some dessert while we just hung out in the store, but the manager refused his money, and treated us. But, it was waaaaay past time to leave. I had missionaries coming to dinner in a couple of hours. So, I called a neighbor who was happy to come and pick up my friend and I. She loved my reason!! Bullet hole in your truck?? Crime scene tape trapping you in the parking lot?? Only you, my dear EarthSignMama, has such a lot of excitement in her life.
So, we left, CoolGuy hung out for three more hours (!!) and finally got home with the bullet hole. Seems, there is a steel strut right behind where the bullet went through, shattering it into fragments, most of which were in the spare tire, which is mounted under the truck, right behind the steel strut, right behind the license plate. So, the detectives got him to unlock the spare tire so they could lower it and collect all the fragments for their case.
It was rather interesting to hang around and watch it all. He and the guys who were with the off-duty school police officer who'd engaged the original shooters had an interesting time chatting. The three men (one was the officer) were driving home in a truck when they saw a man shoot another guy across the street from the restaurant. Then, the shooter ran across in front of them with his gun out, so these men pulled into the chicken store, and the off-duty police officer jumped out with his gun. He identified himself as a cop, and told the shooter to drop his gun. Instead, the gun was fired at the cop. Then the shooter got in a car that was on another street on a different side of the restaurant, and the cop shot back at the gun-holders in the car. (Later, two wounded young men turned up at a hospital and were arrested.) The detectives needed the bullet from CoolGuy's truck for their case against the wounded arrestees.
So, here's the hole in the license plate. Weird that this is the only injury to the truck---weird and good! Another view:
CoolGuy later called it a blessing that we had not gotten up to leave when we were first finished eating. We'd have walked into the parking lot just as the shooting started. One of us could have that hole in us, instead of the license plate. And none of us need that, I agree.
Credits roll...Special Guest Stars: Silverado, CoolGuy, license plate.
Friday, April 15, 2011
Families are invited to bring over whoever they want (grandma, grandpa, babies, aunts, uncles) and eat lunch with their students on our grass playground. We teachers join them, too, bringing out a blanket, so that if students don't have someone join them, then they'll at least have us to sit with them and enjoy a (usually) sunny day outdoors. If students always eat the school lunch, they just stop by the cafeteria and pick up a sack lunch provided for this day, and bring it up to the playground.
We get a huge turnout for this. Some families bring over fast food, or stop off for carry-out pizza. One of our families has many cousins who attend our school (one of the mothers is a teacher, too)and the grandparents come, with whichever of their children can get away from work, and all their grandchildren join them. The kids are in all the grade-levels, so the grandparents stay for both lunches. I guess they've been coming to the Family Picnic for about eight years, and I know there are some preschoolers who'll be joining them in years to come. It's such a great time.
So, CoolGuy drove me over so I'd be there when the fourth grade came out. He put up my lawn chair, and spread out my blanket. I'd told my co-workers that I'd come so that they could at least have the opportunity to go to the restroom during lunch that day. The lunch period is 45 minutes on this day, and the teachers are only asked to stay with their students for 15 minutes. (because it is in our contract that we get a 30 minute lunch--so the principal can't actually require any more time.) But I told them that I'd be there, so they could have someone to be there, if they needed to leave after the 15 minutes.
When I said I wanted to attend the Family Picnic, CoolGuy had a long meeting scheduled that day on the computer/phone, so I'd made a plan for a friend to drop me off, and then he would be free to pick me up at the end. But, the meeting ended early and so he was free. I'd only pack myself a lunch, so he drove over and picked up a sandwich and drink and came back to join us, at my invitation. I think he was a little surprised when I invited him. I said that he'd be a huge hit, if he actually showed up, because all my students had heard of him and were always agitating for him to come to school. And they were excited to meet him. He had a great time. And he again shook his head in wonderment that I can do that, all day, every day. He means the "on" business--teachers have to be "on" all the time.
If you're a teacher, you know this. Kids drifted by and some stayed, and every 22 seconds there was a new question or comment or request or dilemma to solve. Parents and grandparents would stop by to chat or be introduced by their student. Everyone was excited to see me, so I got a lot of greetings. But, it was pretty normal for school. He doesn't think he has the mental energy for the day-after-day effort that takes. Maybe not...but he was a fine picnic guest.
Then, Thursday night the fourth grade had scheduled a fund-raiser at McDonald's. We have an upcoming field trip and we need bus money. It was wildly successful. We made three times what we needed, so we'll probably share with some other grade level. But again, I went, and manned the raffle ticket table. The manager urged us to have a raffle with prizes that we invented (he gave us two $10 gift cards, too--nice guy) and so we gave out prizes like Lunch with your Teacher, 30 Minutes of Computer Play Time, School Snack Store Gift Certificates. Anyway, at one dollar per ticket, we made out!! I was busy all night, selling tickets, calling out the winners, chatting everyone up who came by to support us. We were there from 5 to 8 P.M. Yes, it was a lot of work, but it was easy work---just laughing and talking to kids and their parents. Between the two events I got completely exhausted, and napped the rest of each day.
This isn't really what my doctor meant, I'm guessing, when he said to take it easy and convalesce. But it's Spring Break now, so I'll just be relaxing at home.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
We've lived in several different eco-systems in our trekking about the country, and each of them has revealed some knowledge that locals are privy to, and new people have to learn, usually the hard way. Some of the bits were relatively painless, some harder. (Painless: put all your crackers and cookies into sealed plastic containers (ala Tupperware) in So. Cal. because the subtle humidity won't affect you, but it will make your soda crackers limp. Harder: every single thing you own will be covered with mildew and mold if you leave it in an environment (ie: garage attic) without air conditioning when you live in Maryland. Clothing, paper, plastic, etc. EVERYTHING gets moldy there. (I'll never live in Florida.)
So, what have we learned in Nevada, boys and girls? We learned swimming pool chemistry. One day last December, I was out looking at the pool for some reason and realized that it looked odd. The water had something in it---like clear gelatin, but shaped like little tiles the size of your thumbnail. You could reach into the water and feel them, but if you got a handful, it wasn't substantive enough to actually pick them up. They disintegrated when you took them from the water. Weird...
CoolGuy did some investigation and we learned that when you have a swimming pool in Las Vegas you need to empty the water out of it entirely about every three years in order to keep the mineral content in the water at a particular ratio. Or else, when the temperature drops to just the right low (maybe 40 degrees, I forget--it was quite cold) the minerals will precipitate from a solution into a solid form. Voila: we had performed a chemistry demonstration in our backyard.
All the time we've had this house and pool, we had just been adding water whenever we needed to compensate for evaporation. Of course, it was the desert's mineral-filled water. We have a water softener hooked up for household use, and I take my refillable bottles to the filtered machines every week because the tap water tastes yucky. So... as we added liquid, we were also adding dissolved minerals and, after six years, we'd finally achieved the correct solution, and the temperature got low enough for the transformation.
We just let the weird pool water sit there and we only used the hot tub, refilling and filtering it independently from the pool. And that was fine while it stayed cold. But a few days of balmier weather at the end of January quickly led to a yucky green hue, so CoolGuy emptied the pool. He let the residue dry a little, and there were two wheelbarrows full of powder to be shoveled out. When it was dry, it resembled the stuff inside of a piece of drywall. That's not too surprising, since there is a gypsum mine and drywall plant just up the road and over the hill in the desert to the east. However, it also could just be calcium.
This is a view of the empty pool with the powder stuff. There are also plenty of leaves and other wind blown debris in it too. So, he cleaned it all up and the pool has been sitting empty for a couple of months. We cut back all the dried grass and trimmed up the plants around the pool, and then this week, the weather has been excellent, and CoolGuy had the time to devote to the rest of the chore of pool renovation.
Here's a close-up of a grass seed-head that had drooped into the pool during this time. Notice how it is all covered in crystals? Every leaf and blade of grass and the pool cleaner hose and anything in the pool was also covered entirely with crystals. It was surreal.
But, you can see all the build-up of the minerals on the side of the pool, huh? So, after researching what to, CoolGuy got the powerwasher and the muriatic acid and went to work. Lots of it came right off with the power washer, he had to work harder at other spots--like where some leaves were resting (stains), but it looked fabulous and clean and smooth when he was finished, hours later.
Then, it was time for the refill. (Oooh--that water bill is going to be scary.) It took several hours, but the spa can be refilled independently of the pool, so CoolGuy did that, and turned on the heater. He was definitely ready for some soaking. I'd spent so much time outside watching and getting excited over the renovation that I decided I'd try the spa too. It was easy as the bathtub: sit down on the edge, remove RoboCop boot, swing legs over into the water, and gently sit myself down on the top step. Awwwww...relax, soak, enjoy. Nice!
And now we know: empty pool every three years to avoid Science Experiments at Home.
Sunday, April 10, 2011
Here is a charming card made on poster paper that one of my co-workers brought over. It was passed around to all the classes for signing. I was most impressed by the correct usage of apostrophes and capital letters and spelling! Also, it was very sweet.
It's almost been three weeks: half-way to standing on it again! I can tell though, from the occasional mistakes where I turn it the wrong way, or move it differently, that getting to stand on this foot again is going to be a process. It's very, very sore. PT is going to be excruciating.
And a new body-fail has happened! Wow...don't get old if you're not tough. I went to the ophthalmologist last week after I realized that the blurry spot on my glasses was not on the lens but on my eye. I developed a bunch of new big floaters. He diagnosed it as the inevitable deterioration of the vitreous gel in the eyeball. Now there is liquid and the floater is pigment and cells in a clump which will eventually sink to the bottom. However...this liquid stresses the retina and so Monday I will go in and get a laser repair to a weak spot to prevent my retina from tearing. Gee, I'm glad I got right on it when I noticed the floaters. I do not want a torn retina. I've heard from relatives and friends that this is a very bad thing.
So, here I am--Jabba-like, reclining on my throne. Periodically I go into the computer because I have several projects that need to be completed--some students papers to correct (I'm helping my teacher/sub by correcting what he assigns, so he can correct what his sub is doing--we need grades) and something for college and something for being out sick for the district. I really don't have nothing to do, but I do have to be careful and not overdo, because the foot objects and swells up and gets painful. So, slowly and carefully, I creep around on hands and knees or on the little scooter and now and then, I lay there and heal.
Friday, April 08, 2011
Yesterday, a lady from church came to take me over to school. (CoolGuy was involved in an on-line meeting the entire morning--he picked me up at noon.) We drove over and got my little cart all ready to go. She held the doors for me to go in and I turned the corner to enter the cafeteria where the presentation was going to be. I knew that the choir would be in place, and all the participants would be there so they could get their costumes on, ready for the 10:00 A.M. performance. Also, since the 9:00--9:50 block of specials is the fourth grade time, I also knew that many of my students would be in there. The music teacher would have nowhere else for that class to be. What I didn't expect was their reaction.
As I turned into the doorway to enter the cafeteria and find a seat, a little thrill rushed through the room. Then someone shrieked, "It's Mrs. [EarthSignMama]!!" A cheer went up and got louder, then they all started clapping! One or two of the more impulsive ones jumped up and started running over, which encouraged a flood--which was checked by all the teachers (including me) gesturing and calling out to just stay put, please. But, seriously, I was overwhelmed! If I'd have had Justin Bieber on my arm, they'd wouldn't have been more excited to see me.
I watched the program, which was completely boffo as usual. We have the most amazing people working at our school! Then, I went down to the fourth grade rooms and spent about an hour. I got out some more things from my file cabinet to help my sub with some issues. I talked to the students about how I was doing and when I hoped to be back. I took an artifact in that would help the Social Studies teacher explain the era of Nevada history they were studying currently. I also had the chance to stop by the office and sign my evaluation for this year. (Yes, I'm good enough to teach another year.) It was a fun day.
I was so exhausted from spending two hours there, that I came home and spent the rest of the afternoon asleep. So, I guess I'm not ready to return yet. But hopefully by the end of this month, I'll have healed enough to be able to go back when the doctor predicted. It is nice to know I'm missed, though.
Monday, April 04, 2011
We went to the doctor again today. It has been 13 days since the surgery. The assistant removed my cast. I guess I've never actually had a cast on, or at least I don't remember, because having her use that vibrating cutter that they use to remove a cast was quite bizarre! I've seen this tool used on my children's casts and I know it does not harm your skin and is simply vibrating at high speed to cut through the hard material. But it tickled so badly on the first cuts that I had to really concentrate not to allow my foot to fly up and smack her in the face. When she went down the other side there was some flexibility to the cast, so it wasn't so ticklish.
So here is my leg/foot all bandaged up. It was swollen quite a bit, which surprised me. It shouldn't have, though. Despite my faithfully using the cooler on my foot for more than half of each day, this poor foot had been extensively renovated, and what should have been surprising was that it was only swollen this much.
Next, she carefully removed all the bandaging. It is reassuring to see that they'd wrote "YES" on the leg and the side of the leg that needed the surgery. I'd forgotten that the pre-op nurse did that while I was still unmedicated after consulting with me that this was, indeed, the procedure, and the foot, I'd come in to have messed with.
Then, she had to pluck out the staples on my incision. There were a lot of staples. She used a tool that functioned rather like the instrument I use in school when changing out a bulletin board. The point is set under the staple, and then she closes the handles and it just plucks out the staple...except that these sharp staples are fastened to your skin with all of its nerve endings...ouch, ouch, ouchy, ouch. I practiced Lamaze by rubbing my knee and talking to CoolGuy and keeping my eyes open and my leg relaxed. There were about fifteen of them, too, as I recall. It's a pretty long incision.
The long, curved incision is where the tendon piece was removed and then the ends grafted to the other tendon in my foot. The smaller stitches up on my calf are where he went in and "lengthened" the gastrocnemius tendon/muscle so that my foot will sit correctly on the floor. The whole back of my leg is very tender and hurts severely with even a teeny movement right now. There is also an incision on the outer part of my foot, parallel to the sole where he cut into the heel bone to insert the titanium wedge, but the photo didn't turn out. So, there are all the injury points that must heal. I did notice, however, something that looked weird to me. Then, I realized that actually it was how my foot was supposed to look all along. The heel was straight under my foot. I mean, I couldn't seen any part of my heel shoved over to the right, like it has always been, most of my life. Yes, I will now be standing (well, when I can stand) on my heel instead of on the side of my foot with the heel shoved over to the side. Cool.
Then, the doctor came in and he declared that it all looked fine and dandy and he consulted the X-rays and approved of all he saw. He said I can actually get into the tub, take off the boot, then fill the tub, and soak my foot. Then, I should drain, dry foot, replace boot before trying to get out. So that is awesome! Tub time! I'm working on how to enter the spa in the back yard without actually moving my foot...but I won't even think about that for a week or two. I want all the wounds to be totally healed--no open skin at all.
We planned to see him again in four weeks and this time bring crutches to replace the cart. He agreed that I could probably go back to work on May 9th as I hoped, providing I continue to be a really good patient---stay off the foot, wear the boot, rest.Of course, I'll be in the boot still and possibly on crutches going back to work, but the idea is to gradually introduce my foot to having weight put on it. I know that PT will start about then. That should be excruciating. You can't believe how flabby and wobbly my calf muscle is right now. It had already atrophied just from the month I'd worn the boot before the surgery. I measured each leg and the right leg was one inch smaller then. So, this journey is only just begun (cue The Carpenters...) and, yes, as a matter of fact, I am tired of it. But--I was thinking...I should practice my Spanish language skills with Rosetta Stone every day. Or I could practice the guitar every day. In a month, think of what I could accomplish! Stay tuned!
Sunday, April 03, 2011
Friday, April 01, 2011
I'm calling it the RoboCop boot. It is going to replace this foot accessory that I'm currently sporting:
This is the fiberglass cast. In this photo, I have it wrapped with the cooling pad that is held on with a Velcro stretchy strap. When I'm lying down, this device is then plugged into a little condenser that pumps cool water through the whole pad and keeps my foot at a steady 43 degrees. You can see one of the valves poking up behind my toes. It is so much more convenient than ice packs--less messy, more consistent. I don't even think about it when I'm lying there on my futon bed reading the paper, napping, watching ridiculous fashion shows or those shows about people who have hoarding problems. I'm at the point where I rarely need pain meds anymore, so the T.V. is going to be off a lot more. I can read books!
Anyway, on Monday I go to the doctor to have the fiberglass cast removed, the wounds checked, staples removed, and then I'll leave in the RoboCop boot. I'm still not going to be allowed to put my weight on the foot, as I understand it. But, I will be able to lay in the sun on the patio without the boot for an hour in the morning and start tanning my legs---hope, hope, hope. I know he's said that I'm to wear the boot always, but, hey--one hour? I'll ask. Here's the poor ortho boot I have worn out in the last year. You can see the Storm Trooper boot has been through a lot. One of the straps tore off last month, so I pinned it back on.
There are inflatable plastic bladders on either side of the interior so that you can use a little hand pump (provided) to fill them up and hold your ankle snuggly so that it doesn't flop around inside of this contraption. However, one of the bladders is no longer able to inflate, so the boot fits oddly now when I wear it. Well, wore it during February and March before the surgery. The cover is put in place using Velcro and you can see how I've shredded it.
This boot is going to the trash, but I wanted to show you that, with enough persistence, one person can destroy a modern medical device designed to be tough and long-lasting.