Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Twenty-Nine Hours

That is how much longer until I get this obnoxious plaster cast off my foot!!!  Then, on Thursday night, I'll get to slide into the hot tub and luxuriate before going to bed.

Yes, yes, I'll still have a cast on, but it will be the removable kind. And, yes, yes, I still won't be able to put weight on my foot for another three weeks. But I will be able to wash my foot! And I'll be able to scratch an itch on said foot. Sigh. The little things. You never appreciate them until they're gone.

It won't be long until I'm relaxing like this. Now, that is a count-down I'm really anticipating.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Teeny Tiny Toy

A couple of nights ago, I was sitting at the dining room table, correcting papers, when the cat strolled through the open patio door and began playing with something on the tile floor. She was tapping it with her paw, then it would move a teeny wiggle, and she'd tap it again. Suddenly, it slithered under the edge of the jute rug, so she worked on it until she was successful in turning up the edge of the rug and fishing it out onto the tile again.

It was dark outside, and I was using a lamp to focus onto the table top in order to read my student papers as I checked them. So, I really couldn't tell exactly what little object or creature she'd brought in to play with. She isn't fussy--she'll spend lengthy minutes batting around the plastic ring from a milk jug. A piece of cellophane wrapper from a breath mint can keep her busy for days, off and on.

At first, I thought maybe it was stick or bit of tree bark. But then it scurried under the rug. So, when she dragged it back out, I guessed cricket, maybe grasshopper, or small praying mantis? It was lying in the dark grout between our tiles and she was trying to flip it up in the air with her paw, but couldn't get it to move. So, I called in CoolGuy to come and see what living thing was the object of her rapt attention.

This is what he brought over to the table to show me under the light:

It was the tiniest lizard I've ever seen. His skin was almost transparent. He was so small! (Click on the photo and it will enlarge it for a better view.) He must have just hatched out of his egg and that nut KittyCat found him in the grass. He seemed quite stressed, understandably. If I were him, and a gigantic furry beast with huge teeth had picked me up and dropped me onto a cold hard surface that was nothing like the grass I'd just been living in, I'd be freaking out, too. 


So, despite our curiousity and desire to keep him and study him further, CoolGuy took him back outside and set him down in the grass to live (we hope) another day. Isn't he just adorable??

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Having Fun

Wow, I was going to write about it being my birthday (Thursday, Feb. 23) and then I was going to write about what I did on my birthday (Friday) and then--here it is Sunday--and I still didn't write anything!  But, I would like to tell you about my birthday, because it was fun.  Good, you may be saying--one's birthday should be fun. And I have made it a goal for exactly 40 years to celebrate my birthday the way I choose, and to have a happy day despite anything anyone else may, or may not, do to commemorate the event.

This year, being disabled and not at work, I decided to go there anyway and treat my Super Fans to cookies. I've gone on and on about how school children idolize their teachers and lavish us with holiday remembrances. Each year. I put my name up there on the birthday calendar, so the students know when I'm ready to have my special day. I also usually make them do the math to determine how old I am. It's an awe-inspiring moment when they finally get the right answer. Ooooo...she's old---there's a little hush when they figure it out. Wow.

But, anyway, I ordered eleven dozen cookies from the grocery store and then CoolGuy took me up there to pick up the bags and we drove over to the school. We arrived during recess, so the cafeteria was being cleaned between class groups. When there was a table wiped off and ready, I went in and sat down on the bench and arranged the bags of cookies so that kids could come by and pick up a cookie after they got their lunch. The adults in the room were happy to see me (it's been three weeks) and then, the first group of fourth graders appeared in the doorway of the lunch room. They squealed! It was my homeroom and they were so excited to see me. I knew I was getting the stink-eye from the teacher in charge of managing the chaos that is the lunchroom, but I urged the kids to get their stuff settled, and then come by for a cookie.

I got smothered in hugs. There were so many students who just "needed" to hug me. Even kids who I didn't think really liked me that much were excited to see me. Or maybe it was just the free cookies. No, seriously, I was touched at their response. As they were being dismissed, a lot of them lined up to walk past me and give me one more hug. "We miss you!" "When are you coming back?" "Thanks for the cookies." "Happy Birthday!" They'd also sung to me---the whole cafeteria, 4th grade and 2nd grade. It was great, I missed them too.

Afterward, CoolGuy commented, that from his perch up on the stage where he just sat and watched, he was really impressed with how genuine everyone's reaction was: "They really love you, it's obvious."  Well, I really love them, too. And in three more weeks, I'll be ready to go back there to my classroom.  It will be great because I'm so over being an invalid resting at home.  Soooooo over it!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Frankenfoot Update

Busy day today...we first bought gas for the truck.  HOLY TOLEDO!! I've been lying on the couch for three weeks and the world has gone crazy again...Wow. Gas prices went way up, huh? 

Then we dropped off a check at my bank. It was the tuition refund from the Spring 2011 semester that was finally processed. Just a mere 13 months after I had to drop the class because of the surgery last spring. Don't even ask. Higher education bureaucracy at its finest. I was only entitled to 1/2 of the tuition as a refund, but at least that was something. However, if I were to do the math, and see what my hourly rate was for harassing them to process this tuition refund request...well, it would be minimum wage probably.

Then we went by the school district offices to turn in my paperwork to receive disability payments from the policy I bought after the first surgery. I had to get a form filled out by my doctor, then I had to fill one out myself, and then the benefits office completes the third form and sends it all in. It will be good to get this processed. The way they pay here, I'll be getting a check on my next payday (Friday) but then I won't be getting anything more until April. That first check then will be small because I'll have only worked a portion of one pay period in March. By the end of April, I should be getting my full salary again. The main reason I went in person to drop off the paper work is my distrust in bureaucratic systems to actually route paperwork to the correct people. I didn't dare mail or fax it. Plus, then I can look a person in the eye, have them check out the forms to see that I have all I need, and that I've written all that I should have to prevent hearing in a couple of weeks, "I'm sorry, we don't have all of your information." Instead, I'd just like to be receiving a check, since I won't be getting one from my employer.

Then, we stopped off for a little lunch. It's always such a production to go somewhere. Everyone stares and tries to not let me know they're staring. So I usually speak to them and smile. They look nervous, and I offer, "It's so much better than crutches!"  Then they relax and sometimes they tell me a little story about their own experience with crutches. Little kids are the best. They just stop short and point. And often want to know if they can have a ride, or how did I get that boo-boo or is it fun to ride?  Ha ha!  Their parents are usually embarrassed. No sweat---I'm fine with little kids. They're totally honest and most grown-ups don't know what to do with that. I do, however...

Well, we got home and it was time for a rest to recover from running two errands and eating lunch. Wow. I miss having stamina. In about 10 days, I get this plaster cast removed and I'll be able to get back in the hot tub and I'll also be able to put my whole self into the bath tub. Whooo-hooo! Little pleasures!  And...scratch the itchy parts. That itch every day. I know, I's a sign of healing. But still...a plaster cast is an evil accessory to wear.  Here's a photo of Frankenfoot 2.0:

Monday, February 20, 2012

Six Faces

Today, I read an intriguing article called "My Story in Five Faces." The author quoted George Orwell, "At age 50, everyone has the face he deserves."  She'd written it down at age 30 and carried it in her wallet to remind her,or warn her, as she lived her life.
So, I decided that I'd try it, too. Six faces of mine through the years. I picked six because I'm almost ten years past fifty.
Age: 2
Yes, I am sitting on the potty. Yes, I am smiling cheerfully--probably at one of my big sisters who is tasked with getting me to smile so Mama can take my photo. I was an adorable baby--round face, big blue eyes, fluffy blonde hair. Apparently I was also compliant and easy-going. Good thing, because at age two, I already had a new baby sister...born when I was just 15 months old. So, of course my mom was eager for me to be potty-trained. Washing cloth diapers for two children, and then hanging the diapers out on the line to dry, was truly a chore that would have motivated me to get that two year old potty-trained too.
AGE: 11
Back in the Olden Days, there wasn't really any way to preview your school pictures. So, when the packages came back to the school, what you see is what you get. And they didn't do picture retakes, either. So when my fifth grade pictures were delivered, and I saw that when the photographer's funny joke had made me laugh pretty hard...and close my eyes...I was really embarrassed. But--it was a moment in time. My mom bought them anyway. Maybe I was really just hiding from my cheesy hairdo. It was the same hairdo I had until I was a freshman in high school, when I finally decided to do my hair my own way from that moment on. That little bit of personal expression took a long time, huh?
Age: 21

This is just before, or just after, we were married. I forget. We'd gone for a motorcycle ride to a coffeeshop in downtown San Diego. It was before San Diego was gentrified and this was just a place where a person could sit at the counter and have a BLT and gaze at the human parade on the sidewalk. Look how carefree and unencumbered that face is...

Age: 29

I am in labor in this photo. Our fourth child was born about 4 hours after this photo was taken. Do I seem calm? I probably was. We were about to phone the midwife and tell her to come over because it had started. We had the first one in the Naval Hospital, then the other four at home. It was much more serene. If you look closely, you'll see the furrow in the middle of my forehead. I said that my labors were more serene at home, but not less painful. I still don't have many wrinkles, but I do have the dark circles. Our oldest child was still only five years old. He was in Kindergarten, and would turn six in three more months. But, yes, I was a busy mother, and had stayed up late getting things ready for the Big Event I knew was coming with the morning.

Age: 41

Yes, that is me graduating from college.  It was only twenty-three years after I graduated from high school. There are more wrinkles and, just a couple of years later, the gray hair really started to come on strong. But I am feeling as cheerful as I look in this photo. I mean: hey! College! I'd actually done it! I wasn't finished, because in California there were two more years of school before they awarded  the teaching certificate. But I was excited to have accomplished this milestone. The next week, my oldest son graduated from high school, and I knew that the expensive years were only just beginning. I was pleased to be in a position to help with the children's tuitions/missions/weddings that we were anticipating.

Age 58

It's grandma time! I'm gray, I'm wrinkled, I'm chubby. I'm having a blast. You can't see the wrinkles too much here because I'm laughing and choking after catching the daring young man who just jumped off the side of the pool. It's usually a shock to look in the mirror and see this gray-haired, wrinkled person looking back at me. But, as long as I can laugh and smile and play in the pool with grandchildren, I'll take the wrinkles and the gray hair. They don't care---why should I?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Family Traditions

Today is my dad's birthday. He would have been 89. He died the year my youngest son was born. I didn't realize I was expecting until we'd returned home from the funeral, and then I figured out why I was so exhausted. (I didn't get sick usually, just tired and hungry.) My dad was a Navy veteran. He joined when WWII started, as did many of his peers. He spent the entire war as a sailor. He had a number of remembrances of his service. His boot camp was in Camp Farragut in northern Idaho. Then he recalled being in San Francisco which ignited his life-long taste for seafood. He told me once about traveling on the troop transport ship to the Philippines. When they first boarded the ship in SF, he said it seemed so large. Then when they were in a huge storm while crossing the Pacific Ocean, the ship was tossing back and forth with waves crashing over the decks, and they all feared they'd sink and drown. It didn't seem nearly big enough then. He said he'd "listened" to the war. He was a radioman whose job was to relay messages through Morse Code. He spent a long time on Mindanao, one of the islands of the Philippines. I have friends now who were born there, and have lived in the US for most of their lives. Small world. 

My dad met my mother while he was in high school. I think she was in the eighth grade. He knew her sister and loved to tease her, so when he saw them together in a car, he went over to bug Aunt Lila and was quite taken with the younger sister, Carol. I failed to nail down these time-lines, so I don't know how this relationship was started, but I do know he joined the Navy in response to the attack on Pearl Harbor. My mom was a freshman in high school at that time. She rushed through high school, graduating in December of her senior year, and then moved to Salt Lake City to attend LDS Business College. I know they were corresponding, because she had his photo on her desk where she worked at the Sunday School offices. And when he walked on in there after he returned to the states, dressed in the "cracker-jack" suit--ooh, la, la--her friends at work all wanted to know if he had a brother. They were married Sept. 5, 1946. She was three months shy of her 19th birthday; he was 23.

The war ended in August, 1945. I'm not sure the date he returned to the US. I got the impression there was a drawn-out schedule in order to accomodate all the sailors and soldiers who were no longer necessary in the South Pacific. But they also needed to maintain an adequate force. He told me once that the military had offered all sorts of incentives to people to re-enlist: money, job security, duty station choices. But, he, like many others, felt only the desire to go home to the girl and the life they'd been missing back home.

So, maybe something in my family history figured into my choosing a Navy man...the cute uniforms?  Who knows? But now we have another sailor in the family tree--the one I was expecting when we attended Grandpa's funeral--and it makes me proud.

 Here are some pictures of Navy men to whom I'm related:

 This was my dad in the Philippines, with a chicken on his shoulder. He said that there wasn't much fun there outside of playing pool or poker. Those beautiful women you might have seen in the movies weren't living on his South Pacific island.
 This was the photo that sat on my mom's desk when she worked at the Sunday School office. He was a handsome devil.
This is me trying on his uniform that my mom kept in her cedar chest. I'd have been a really cute sailor, huh?

This is the really cute sailor I married. He wore this uniform to my dad's funeral because he didn't own a dark suit that would have been more appropriate for the winter in Wyoming. But I'm glad I urged him to wear the uniform. My mom said it was an excellent choice to honor my dad's service. She was pleased.
This is at the cemetery.

This is the latest sailor following the family tradition.  Peter selected the submarine fleet, where he will be a sonar technician. He just got notice of his assignment for sonar school and so that means that after he completes submarine training, he'll remain in Groton, CT, for almost a year learning to put his remarkable skills with sound technology to use in an entirely different way. He'll listen to whales singing instead of being the singer.

I know you've seen these photos before, but I'll put them in anyway.

Go Navy!
Happy Birthday, Lynn Ray Welch!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

When Love Hits Your Eye...

This is CoolGuy's Valentine present. Lemon Meringue pie...It's a family favorite, and since it takes so many steps, and so many dishes and pots and pans, it's definitely a labor of love to create one. I did it in phases throughout the day. Balancing on my little go-cart. I love to make pie.

Here's my Valentine present:

I love getting flowers. So tonight we'll celebrate by having pie for dessert and watching a favorite TV show and laughing at the cards we bought each other that feature laying on the couch and intestinal gas. ROMANCE!! We've got it!!

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Yesterday, CoolGuy and I went to eat lunch at our new fav which became our new fav because the old one closed.  Sigh. Restaurants are notoriously difficult to maintain, I know. Going out to lunch on Saturdays is a ritual we've acquired in the years since the children all moved away. So often, we're too tired to go out at night. By the time I get home from school, we'd really just like to sit down and not get back up to go out.

I read a piece about lunch lately--specifically sandwiches--and it made me think about that meal and it's ramifications. As a child, I didn't eat "lunch"--farmers eat dinner in the middle of the day. When school was on, it was called lunch, but our cafeteria ladies were so awesome that it closely resembled my mother's creation, "dinner," that I ate whenever we were home. I didn't pack a lunch for school, ever. This is why, when my children began school, they usually ate lunch there. Also, we were incredibly poor at that time, and we could get reduced-priced lunches. It wasn't until they were a few years older, we lived in another state and I'd begun substitute teaching, that I learned that the modern version of School Lunch was icky. Nothing like the homemade yumminess of my childhood.

My kids packed lunch most of the time when we returned to CA and we were dramatically more well off. I recall buying stuff at Sam's Club or Price Club or one of those Clubs...and people would just pick from that what they wanted to take to school. I helped the little boys, but the middle school and high school people were on their own. I'd take requests, and I remember various staple items being vetoed eventually out of boredom. I don't remember school lunch being that big of a deal.

I used to fix CoolGuy's lunch every day. I packed it in a black metal lunch box that he'd found and renovated. It included a Thermos jug that fit in the curved top. It would be strapped securely to his sissy bar and traveled back and forth to the base. I baked all of our bread, so his sandwiches were on honey-wheat slices. I can't for the life of me remember what I put in his lunches now--I just remember fixing them. I know that sometimes he'd go out  with people--like on a Friday payday. But even if I packed his lunch, he always had the option to ride over to the other side of the hill where he worked on the submarine base, to the beach and sit surf-side while eating his packed lunch.  When he got out of the Navy and we moved to an Air Force Base town in Idaho, he worked the night shift, so there wasn't the "going out" alternative. I fixed all of those lunches too. He started eating out exclusively when we moved back to CA. I didn't miss fixing lunch. He loved leaving the office and driving his bike down the coast highway a couple of miles and eating clam chowder while watching the surfers. Nice life, if you can get it.

When I started to work as a teacher, it was clear that a teacher's "lunch hour" will never be an hour and you'll be lucky if you get 20 minutes of your half hour. There isn't time to "run out" anywhere, and usually my schools haven't been close to a food place, anyway. I developed a standard lunch which was quick to wolf down, gave me an energy boost, didn't create laugh...but imagine being trapped in a room with 28 nine-year olds and having nowhere to go, but needing to vent???? No, I'm really careful about what I eat for lunch.

At first, I'd go to the teacher's lounge and eat. You'd think--cool--chance to talk to grown-ups, relax, maybe use the microwave. And all those things are true. And sometimes, I'd bring lunch that needed the microwave--leftovers are great. But a couple of years into it, we got a new young teacher on our team, and for some reason, she had to pick on me. It was weird...even the other teachers noticed and finally, some of them called her on it: we didn't need a food police or a clothing police. She'd make fun of my teacher clothes, and she'd ask what I was eating and then say, "Oooh, that's just nasty" or stuff like that. Very strange. What finally clinched my eventual retreat to eating in my own classroom, though, was the principal's trend of eating during the fourth grade lunch and sitting by me and chatting like we were old friends.

We did share several things: we were both from the West--in fact, we'd grown up on opposite sides of a big mountain--she in Idaho and me in Wyoming. We actually knew people in common because of my brother-in-law owning a ranch over there on the Idaho side. It was a bizarre coincidence that we'd end up meeting up on the East coast. However---during the school day, as my supervisor, she was unrelenting in her campaign  to proclaim me as a total incompetent. It was harsh, it was difficult. I did learn to be a better teacher; perhaps I even needed the drill sargent approach to break me down and enable me to discard old habits. I credit her for helping to shed the bad and embrace the good. But no way could I pull off the lunch time chats. I realize for her, the harsh treatment was just business, but I couldn't deal with the schizo-ness of the chatty lunch when she'd ask my advice about her grown children, or her regrets at having left the church behind. (I was the only other LDS person on our staff beside her--and at parties, she always got drunk...)

So, that left me in my current habit of eating in my room by myself. I love it. I shut off the lights (I have glass brick windows for illumination) and I just sit quietly at my desk and read e-mails, or browse the web and eat 1/2 of my turkey sandwich, my small cup of non-fat cottage cheese, a few pieces of fruit and drink some water. I eat my square of dark chocolate, and then head down to the cafeteria for my 10 minutes lunchroom duty (all the teachers have the last ten minutes in the cafeteria) and I'm refreshed for the rest of the day. After the students leave, I eat the other half of the sandwich, the little cup of rice pudding and the rest of my fruit. Then I spend another two hours in my classroom (or I'm eating this in the car on the way to class).  At any rate, my lunch fuels me for about three hours and then it's time for more food. It isn't recreational. I need to eat in my quiet room away from conversations. I spend the whole day talking. I need to have that silent break in the middle of the day. It refuels my brain like the food refuels my body.

If I want to Lunch for Fun, then there is always Saturday when CoolGuy and I indulge ourselves with lunch out on the town. When I get back to using my feet again as actual feet, this lunch is usually done on the motorcycle, so that just adds another aspect of recreation. Food--it can be just a utility or it can be a party.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Deja Vu, All Over Again

Last year, when I was lying on this same couch, propping the right foot on pillows and trying to sleep, one of the things that helped me cope was the idea that my foot would someday be healed and I wouldn't have to do that again. So, it was really discouraging in December when the doctor diagnosed the exact same malady in my left foot, to be repaired by the same process.

Actually, the left foot's disintegration was more severe than the right foot, so the repair took longer. However, I don't think the recovery is going to be affected. That's good, because the recovery is icky enough as it is. I've reached a the double-edged milestone: I no longer need the narcotic pain-killer. This is good because it means the pain is greatly reduced. In fact, I only occasionally feel some aching. Unfortunately, (and I don't know if this is related) because I am not taking this heavy-duty drug any more, I no longer sleep. I don't know if the pain-killer has altered something in my brain for this short period of time, or if my inaction just makes me less tired, but I can't go to sleep.

Last night (this morning) I saw the time register 5:07 A.M.. Apparently I must have fallen asleep after that, because I awoke as CoolGuy left around 8:00 A.M.  I'd tried everything: a little bowl of cereal; some ibuprofen to knock back the aching; my bean-bag heated in the microwave to soothe the leg twitches. I even went to bed initially in my own, awesome waterbed (first time since the surgery) to see if that would help me drift off to slumber-land. Nothing worked. I finally got up and went back to my convalescent nest in the living room. It was the first night I hadn't taken the narcotic. But, I didn't want to because I don't need it anymore.

I'm going to try staying awake today as long as I can and see if I can fall asleep tonight. Last year, the doctor offered me a prescription sleep aide, but one of the common side effects I read about is sleep walking--I don't need anything that might cause me to get out of bed and attempt to walk on this cast!! Eek! So, I'll try herb tea and hot packs and soothing music and see if I can't get my poor brain back onto a schedule of unassisted unconsciousness.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Four Days

It's been four days since the surgery on my latest Frankenfoot. And, yes, I'm really tired of laying here, thank-you very much. (Actually, right this minute, I'm sitting in the computer chair with my foot propped on the knee-walker. So I'll type quickly, because this isn't very comfortable.) Mostly, I've spent the four days under the influence of a really nice prescription narcotic. So, time is rather indefinite for me. However, I failed to keep track of the time Saturday, and I let the painkiller wear off a little too much before I realized and took the next pill. It was a really ugly hour of excruciating pain. So, I've been careful to not get off schedule again.

The doctor announced to CoolGuy that everything went very well. The surgery was four hours long, and he was impressed with how destroyed this tendon was in comparison to the one on the right foot. Also, he fixed a messed up toe and so that will add one more layer to the recovery. I see him again on Thursday. Right now, I'm not wearing a cast, just a splint and a heavy bandage. I'm very careful to not put any weight on it and not move or flex my foot.

My students were so dear. On Thursday, they were hiding a big fluorescent green poster paper card in various areas around the room, getting everyone to sign it. They took it around to different teachers, and out to recess and got many signatures. I just pretended I saw nothing. Then, the four girls who'd gone to all the effort, presented it to me at the end of the day, and gave me big going-away hugs. They're just so sweet.

Kitty Cat has unexpectedly decided to acknowledge my existence this time. Last year, she refused to acknowledge me at all for weeks. But, right from the first day, she has been cuddling with me. So nice. I need to go lie down again, take a pill, and get my foot up higher than my heart. Amazing the difference that makes.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Count Down

  • I have lesson plans shaped up.
  • I have all the bird reports finished and gathered up.
  • I have finished gluing the last thing on my classroom walls that was sitting around waiting for that.
  • I have re-organized the crayons/markers/colored pencil holders.
  • I have found a friend to be in charge of recyling plastic bottles at school.
  • I have washed my comforter and dusted my bedroom.
  • I picked up the prescriptions.
  • I have my new cast.
  • I've got the knee-walker.
  • I've booked the hometeachers for a blessing.
Now, I'll finish my ironing, water all the plants once again, so I don't have to think about it for a week, and tomorrow, I'll make sure I write down all my passwords for my substitute. Then, on Friday morning...I'll be ready to do it all again.

Franken-Foot 3--The Left Foot Gets It Again, Only Worse!!