Monday, April 30, 2012

What's Wrong With This Picture?

And do you know why?? Look at the feet...yes, two (count them!)
TWO shoes are being worn. So exciting!

I went to the doctor this afternoon and his verdict is that my surgery was quite successful, the PT has done its job---ergo:  I no longer need to wear the StormTrooper boot every day. However, he suggested I "toss it in the trunk, in case, at the end of a long day, and [I] need to stomp around a grocery store" then, I might want to have it available to relieve my fatigue and any aching.

So tomorrow I'll wear my hiking boots to school because they are my most supportive shoes. And, most of my other shoes don't fit yet anyway--swelling. The swelling will be relieved by two things: walking around without the cast, and compression stockings. Even as the cast protects my foot by keeping it immobile, it also prevents good blood circulation by keeping it immobile. So, the act of walking without the cast will help relieve the swelling, and wearing the compression stockings will also help counteract gravity a little.

Bet you can't even tell which one was the most recent surgery candidate, huh? Bet you're thinking, "Egads, both of those feet look like giant, inflated balloons."  Hmmm, yes they do.  By the end of the day, gravity is just not my friend. So, I'll go now and prop them both up, eat dinner while watching the latest new cop show we've saved on TIVO, and give them a nice rest until tomorrow. (BTW: it's my left foot that was most recently the Recovering Appendage.)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Mountain of the Lord

I went up to the temple today, and I had such a pleasant time, that I wanted to write about it. First, the parking lot was crammed! There were cars lining the curb all along the temple grounds. I did find a convenient spot, under a shady tree, but why would I consider the many cars a good thing? It always makes me happy to see lots of people at the temple because then I know that the people who've donated their whole day to serving there will be busy. They've given up a Saturday to help others, and I like that there is something constructive to do. Especially today when the weather here is fabulous and the sky is clear and there is just the right amount of breeze. I'm happy that so many others are spending their time in the service of the Lord so that the temple workers will know that their job was worth it.

I also love that everyone is cheerful there. There are plenty of places I go each week where attitudes are not the best. But it is a rare thing to encounter anyone in the temple who is not pleasant, kind and warm. (Note that I said rare...not that I haven't met a cranky soul there. But it is unusual.) People are so funny when you come stumping through the door with a cast on your foot. Old ladies hurry to hold the door for me, when I ought to be holding it for them. Everyone I encounter smiles and several of them say something like "So great of you to come today--wow!" and the point to the foot. Seriously, I've spent so many weeks unable to go because of the non-weight-bearing rule, that it seems like nothing to show up in the boot. After all, I can actually walk! And drive! And the boot is mostly white, so it doesn't stand out too badly.

My interesting day stepped up the pace. As I looked at the name I had received, I saw that it was, in fact, four names long. This sister had been born in Algiers in 1863. Her name was obviously French, and her birthdate was just over thirty years after the area had been conquered by them and become a colonial outpost of France. I've never done temple work for a person whose birthplace was on the African continent and I felt a bit of excitement for this opportunity.

I took a seat in the chapel to wait and realized that there was a serious stir in the room. As each new person would enter, people already seated would crane their heads around. Smiles would break out--discreet greetings would be given. When someone would slide into the bench, someone nearby would reach around for a hug. A lady came back to whisper to a couple sitting in front of me, "We've made room, come up here and sit by your mother." Then, an older woman came through the door, wearing a name tag that indicated that this was her first experience in this part of the temple and most of the people seated in there broke into smiles that were practically audible. They were all so pleased to see her, and to be there to support her and participate in this fine, fine occasion. I watched them all through our session, and saw them later clustered together in the celestial room, wiping tears, exchanging hugs. I don't know a thing about their life stories, but it was obviously a very special day, and their joy made my day even better.

As I left the building, the courtyard was filled with children, teens, and adults all dressed very nicely, with a bright turquoise accent on every outfit, somewhere. A cluster of tiny girls wore identical fluffy dresses of the coordinating color, and it was clear that very soon, a freshly married bride and groom would exit proudly from the side door to join their admirers on the shaded patio built for that purpose. Along the sidewalks were little groups of teens wearing matching t-shirts that proclaimed the theme for their stake's Youth Conference. They were walking the temple grounds and enjoying the fantastic weather as one part of their conference experience. It was like being at the mall: cars pulling up and dropping off passengers. Other people climbing into vans to leave the temple for some other great part of their day. Hugs and kisses, greetings and farewells.

I walked over to my truck and sat inside for a few minutes and watched the hummingbirds flit around the flowered bushes in the parking lot. I saw one bird fly up into the tree that kept me in the shade, and realized there was a minuscule nest on the branch up there. If I hadn't seen the movement, I'd have never been able to identify that tiny bump on the branch as a nest. The eggs are smaller than jellybeans, the nest is about as big as a walnut shell. I finally started up the engine and backed out of my space, leaving behind the busiest place in the neighborhood. But I got to keep the joy, wonder and spirit that filled me for having spent a few hours in the Las Vegas temple.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

National Poetry Month

I didn't know we were to celebrate poetry, until I read this blog about it at the beginning of the month. I've been enjoying reading her submissions. Go and read them all.

So, today, I decided I'd post a favorite poem of mine. I first read it in high school. I think I was 14 or 15. At that time, I'd experienced a couple of great, and unrequited, passions. I may have kissed one boy up to that point. I'm pretty sure I didn't understand all the ramifications of this piece then. But I've come to understand it now. And I love the poem even more.

Love is Not All

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink,
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love cannot fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Monday, April 23, 2012


It's been five months this week since I first started wearing the ortho-boot. This time. Sigh... We were headed up to visit our grandchildren at Thanksgiving, and I knew we planned to go to some fun places that would require quite a bit of walking. So I traded the Velcro brace I'd been using to prop up my collapsed foot for the boot, and it's been on there ever since.

CoolGuy had to cut a piece of dense packing foam to put alongside my foot and ankle to prop my foot up straight. When I first put the boot on and tried walking in it, I realized immediately that 1) it really helped relieve the pain, and 2) my bones were crunching against the hard plastic side uncomfortably.  At the time, I was using my old, nearly broken down boot. This model has inflatable bladders that can hold your ankle and leg straight, but those had broken the year before and no longer functioned. When we got home from the visit and I realized how much more support I got with the cast, I ordered a new one on-line and began wearing it when it arrived. The new cast kept me going so I could attend my son's Navy boot camp graduation ceremony and postpone the surgery by 10 days.

Anyway, the exciting thing is: in seven more days...I'm headed to the doctor to have him evaluate the progress in healing and strengthening. I've been going to physical therapy for five weeks now, and I can tell a big difference in my foot. The plan (hope) is that at the end of this appointment, I'll be walking out of the office in two shoes, carrying the ortho-boot in my hand. I'm soooooo looking forward to it. So.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Inaugural Swim of the Season

Announcing: today I went swimming. It was the Official First Day of Swim Season, 2012. Thank you, thank you. The temperature reached 98 degrees on my patio this afternoon. Previous to this record high for the year, I'd been sitting poolside, reading the paper, getting a little sun on my pasty white, flabby, pathetic, scarred feet and legs. It was awfully close to that 98, I realized as the sweat dripped off my face onto the comics. So, I realized that the only solution was to get in the pool for a bit.

I knew it would be fine, because according to the pool thermometer on the heater unit, the water temperature has been steadily climbing from the uninviting 39 degrees it had dipped to sometime in December. Yesterday, I saw that it had reached 73. I've been swimming in the ocean in the summer in water cooler than that.

I stepped down the stairs and pushed off into the center of the pool, and after my initial little gasp, it was GREAT!! I swam back and forth, got out, dried off, laid on the chaise lounge for a bit and got back in when I felt the sweat sliding off my brow again.

So, the summer has officially begun. Or at least the swimming part of it. In one week I visit the foot doctor again. The goal is removal of the boot to be replaced by an actual shoe. (Two shoes, at once!! Imagine that!!) So, life is good.

Friday, April 20, 2012

It's Vegas, Baby

I got home from physical therapy early this evening, and CoolGuy was lying on the couch, napping after his dentist visit. He was watching a food show on television, and called me to the living room to look at a sandwich being served. I love this show. It always makes me need to get in the car and take a road trip to the place being featured and order that fabulous, yummy feast being served to the drooling host.

Then, the next episode featured the most succulent lobster roll we'd seen. We sat there watching these deliciously filled plates leaving a food truck in Minneapolis, and realized how hungry we were. I got up and looked in the freezer, to see if there was something quick and delicious to heat up in the microwave. I mean, I was really hungry, but I was also quite fatigued. "Quick" was the operative word here.

Then, CoolGuy looked across the living room and stated, "Well, we could drive down to Planet Hollywood and eat at Lobster ME."  What? A place, a few miles away, where we could show up and gobble down some lobster? And we live in the desert? Not on the Atlantic coast? Or anywhere near the Atlantic Coast?

That is right. And it was delicious!! We were sated. And then we sat there and laughed about our crazy city. I mean, one could have a food craving, and, without a doubt, that craving could be indulged somewhere along that 3.5 miles of pavement called "The Strip" or somewhere in this bizarre city. It is something I've come to love. We rarely go to Glitter Gulch, but we've learned to enjoy it, now and then. I've talked before about how much I really loathed Las Vegas during all those trips over the twenty years we lived in Southern Cali and drove through here on the annual visit to the Grandmas in Wyoming each summer. But, living here is different.

I would have never have chosen a trip to Las Vegas, for a fun time, up to this point in my life. But, now that I can go down there for a few hours, enjoy a show, or eat at a nice restaurant, or even just watch the Dancing Waters show at Bellagio, and then go home where life is normal again, I'm liking some Las Vegas-y things. It reminds me of the time I realized that people go on vacation to the beach. They rent a condo, and they spend a week. They want restaurants, arcades, bars, a near-by amusement park and other amenities. And various seaside locations advertise all their wonderful thrills to entice people to come and stay. It was only odd to me because the beach was a place where we'd go after lunch and spend a few hours, then go home, shower, eat dinner and go to bed. It wasn't a vacation destination because we lived in a beach town. We could go anytime we wanted.

And, we wanted to all the time. I rode my bike to the beach early every morning, on a neighborhood trail, for years and years. I'd just stand there and admire the surf and listen to the seagulls, then go home to start up the family daily routine. Sometimes, CoolGuy accompanied me and we'd even jump in the ocean for a brief, painfully cold swim. But, I didn't realize until I'd moved far from the beach, that living in a beach town gives you a different relationship with the whole scene than the vacationer. And living in Las Vegas has given me a different relationship with the many entertainment options here.

I'd still never, ever go to a club here to dance. (Well, that's not that weird...I have terrible feet.) But I also wouldn't go even if I had decent feet. I've just never been a club dancing sort of person. But, I no longer loathe the whole Vegas scene, as I previously did. Now, I read about a new restaurant, or I hear about a show, so I hunt around and get myself a "local's discount" and we go on a date.  That's what tonight was all about. CoolGuy asked me out on an impromptu date, and I felt my exhaustion fade away in the excitement of something fun popping up out of nowhere, and so we jumped in the truck and drove down to join the hoards of people who'd planned for months to come here and HAVE FUN, OR ELSE. It's a lot nicer for me to get my fun in smaller doses.

PS:  Just a comment:  When I see the billboard that features a bemused looking man with his shirt partly open, a large bottle of champagne in one hand, and his other hand clasping the long, naked leg of a partially clad woman, with the name of the establishment characterized as a "Gentleman's Club"....I don't think that the fellows who will be influenced by that photo to go to said club would actually be gentlemen. Know what I mean?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Seriously? A Week? That Long?

There have been many things occurring in the week since I last posted and I can't believe that this much time went by without me writing anything down! Now, there's too much! But I'll post some of it here.

Today, again, I LOVE my school. I mean the one where I work. We held the big Pep Rally for our CRT testing which will begin next week. That is the state test that ranks us as a good school...or not. This is the highest-stakes high-stakes testing we endure each year. It's a grind and we work so hard all year to teach our students and we despair when the test comes along and they struggle. But not all of them struggle! We have some very competent students, too. But, the pep rally...

Each year we have a theme and this year it was The Olympics. We've been singing a song called "Push It to the Limit" all year, and we had a very fine rally, indeed. Each of the lower grades adopts an upper grade to support. Our class had to come up with a name of a country for our class, a motto and our flag colors. While I was out with the Franken Foot 2.0, this information needed to be decided. Here's what my students voted for, while I away:

Capital city: Brokenfootopolis
Motto:  "Break a Leg!"

When my sub came by the house to tell me the results, I laughed very much. What a sense of humor! And they're nine years old! I love them!  Here's our flag:

Each student's name is written on the cast (get it: people sign your cast??) (Took me a minute...) Now is this hilarious or what? It is a giant flag that is probably four by four feet. We love it, and we're all fired up for the Big Test. Too bad the state doesn't get us the results till school is out. But, we have a very stable population and most of our students will back next fall and we can pat them on the back and give them congratulations for the job they're going to do.  

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Spring Delights

On our journey to Wyoming this week, I reveled in the evidence of Spring all around us. At the lower altitudes, daffodils and tulips were nearing the end of their glory, but the fruit trees were in full  display. In people's yards the weeping willows and other trees all shone with that particular shade of luminous pale green that lasts for such a short time each year. As we climbed into higher elevations, the only color was the bright orange on the new growth of the wild willows that mark the winding path of the streams and outline the edges of the marshland.

But we knew it was Spring because the range land was speckled with the tiny forms of newborn Angus calves. They could be seen lying curled into a sleepy lump, or gingerly picking their way over the tangles of grass clumps, or vigorously pushing their hungry mouths against the udders of their grazing mothers. They were everywhere. Now and then, some Herefords with their bright white faces shone out among the black bovines, but as we drove along the winding highway that wanders back and forth across three states' boundaries, most often the little awkward legs belonged to infant Angus. Once, as I gazed at the fields of cattle, I saw one mother standing up next to her shiny wet calf whose umbilicus still dangled damply from from its belly.

Another sign of Spring was the freshly plowed furrows stretching in orderly rows that curved up and down following the contours of the western landscape. There is something so inviting to me about a plowed field. Maybe it's the potential. Maybe it's the optimism it represents. A new beginning, another chance to produce and flower and provide. It invokes something deep inside of me that is purely pleasurable. Perhaps, despite all the many, many winters I've spent away from the frozen climate of my childhood, the sight of a plowed field just provokes some deeply ingrained thrill that the frozen time is ended and my psyche cannot avoid that automatic response of joy.

I saw a couple of tractors pulling harrows over dormant looking fields. I used to do that. Our dad would use the manure spreader to distribute the piles that we'd cleaned from the sheds and the barn all winter. It would be scattered over the alfalfa fields and pastures when they were finally free from snow, but not yet greening and growing. Then a 10 or 11 year child could be sent out on a tractor pulling the harrow (a big rake-like implement) to cultivate the earth, digging in the dried manure bits, stirring up the packed dirt, nudging the grass and the hay to start paying attention to the sun and the warm air. It was an almost fool-proof job. You weren't going very fast, you were in a huge field with no obstacles to steer around, and all you had to do was drive up and down and up and down. A couple of times, I turned too sharply and ran the harrow up onto the big rear wheels, but it wasn't that hard to undo that mistake. Driving! All morning!

We arrived in our hometown and another indicator of the season was the small groups of deer hanging around in people's yards in the late afternoon. If you live anywhere near a canyon or a draw you can count on deer showing up to nibble on the bushes and greening grass around your house. We'd seen little groups of pronghorns all along the highway as we traveled through the open range land. They had the small horns of yearling males; the females were probably hiding with their fawns in the sheltered areas near a stream bed or in a small canyon. But the town deer are not so shy. They just amble down from the hills and hang around nibbling on the convenient landscaping around people's houses. For them, the choice is to eat the shrubs, or go hungry, because up in the mountains winter prevails.

Spring isn't a smooth event in the West. The day can start out cloudy and ominous and then blow into a blustery blue-sky day in a few hours. It can be 75 degrees one day and then 38 the next (or just a few hours later!) You can be raking your lawn and enjoying your grape hyacinth on Saturday afternoon only to wake up to four new inches of snow on Sunday. Don't like the weather? Wait an hour---it'll change. But the constants---newborn calves, plowed fields and budding trees---they will always be there, and those are the real harbingers of Spring. Winter finally gives up, and the calves grow, and the leaves come out, and pretty soon, you'll be irrigating those once-brown fields.

Fruit tree in my daughter's Utah yard.

Granddaughter learning the joys of cultivation.

Deer ambling away from my sister-in-law's shrubbery.

Friday, April 06, 2012

His Human Experience Completed

I went a funeral this week. I attended as a family member, sort of, because the man being honored married my widowed mother-in-law thirteen years ago. I've known Doc Perkes my entire life; he having moved into our small town to be a doctor when I was just three years old. My title was taken from a quote that was a favorite of his, and was a theme of the service. "Always remember that we are spiritual beings having a human experience." He and I had a couple of memorable human experiences,  and I'd like to offer my tribute to him for those.

The first time I remember being his patient was when, at 14, I needed a doctor's okay in order to be on my church's volleyball team. This was a slightly traumatic event because, at 14, I was beginning the role of a young woman and had developed the associated parts. But until this appointment, I had managed to avoid any notice of them by others (naively discounting that boys had probably noticed) and was successfully masquerading as a teen-aged farm girl/boy. Well, I mean, I wore a bra, I dealt with the Monthly Visitor, but I never discussed any of it with anyone. Now, here I was in a medical office, dressed only in a little gown, being inspected by a doctor. When the appointment was completed, I received an endorsement of health to participate in volleyball, and I received an evaluation of my over-all physical excellence that I could really understand.

Doc Perkes owned a purebred Hereford ranch. He raised bulls for sale. He knew cattle and breeding and genetics. I, too, understood animal husbandry, and had actually participated in helping cows with the birthing of one or two calves by then. I'd spent many fascinating hours pouring over the breed books from the artificial insemination company used by my dad. You could pick just the right bull to use for each cow to improve our dairy herd. I got it.

So when I heard this evaluation of my overall physical self from Doc Perkes,  I got it: "You Welch girls are built like a strong heifer. You have great bones. When it comes time to have a baby, you'll drop it like a purebred."  A compliment indeed---someone else may have been offended. Not me. I recognized the praise. Turns out, he was dead on, in my case. I did "drop them like a purebred."

My next major encounter with the Doc occurred after I'd been to see him a couple of times with sick children while on vacation visiting our parents in Wyoming. One summer, I had two siblings being married, and so I just went to stay for the summer with my parents. We had three little ones at the time. My dad suggested that, if I'd like to earn some money while staying for those weeks with them, I could hire my youngest sister to babysit, and go to work at the new gun manufacturing plant there in our valley. They made small derringers that fired .22 caliber bullets; but the gun was almost a novelty in that could fit into a mount on a cowboy style belt buckle. Long story short: several weeks later, I ended up accidentally shooting myself in the hand while working in the test-fire shed. It's complicated....

Anyway, I was hustled up to the hospital, in great agony and whisked into the emergency room. The only doctor in our hometown at that point was Doc Perkes. I learned at the funeral that this period, lasting almost eight years, was a severe test for him and his family because of the overwhelming workload. I remember being very calm as I was being prepped for the doctor's arrival, asking if there was any damaged to my wedding ring. This freaked out the nurse who hadn't yet noticed I was wearing a ring---the big hole in my palm had distracted her. Fortunately they were able to remove my ring without having to cut it off--the extreme swelling I experienced came later.

So Doc Perkes arrived, checked the X-ray, trimmed, cleaned, stitched and repaired the damage that the blast had caused to my palm and put me in a large bandage and a cast. I have photos of the bandaged hand, as I stood serenely in my sister's wedding party a few days later, holding a basket of flowers suspended from it.

(And, may I add: I'd given birth three times previous to the gunshot wound, and would gladly give birth any number of times rather than experience another gunshot wound.) (Serious pain--serious.) (And if you've labored to give birth, you know that that experience is not exactly pain free.)

Annnnywaaay....we returned to our home in San Diego the week after my visit to the small town ER, and I went up to the orthopedic clinic there at the Naval Regional Medical Center for an evaluation by the specialists there. Mind you, these are doctors who'd learned on sailors and soldiers who'd fought in Viet Nam combat. So, they knew a bit about trauma injuries. They were very impressed at my repaired hand.

As the doctor examined me, he asked again who'd done the initial treatment. I explained again. There was a disconnect for the orthopedic surgeon. "A general practice doctor? Seriously? Where did you  say this was?"  I went on to point out that Doc Perkes had a lot of experience with traumatic injuries and childbirth. He was really good at repairing wounds. The ortho doctor called in his colleagues and his students and had them check me out and seriously complimented Doc Perkes for his excellent work. It was quite fun to recount this to Doc many years later when he became my almost-relative.

His funeral was a celebration of a life well-lived. One of his goals, as recorded when he was fifteen, was to be a small town country doctor. He achieved that by serving for fifty-five years in that capacity. He was a fine companion for my beloved mother-in-law, and they enjoyed traveling the world, serving their fellow man and presiding over his large, and marvelously talented, family together for the decade-plus they had together. I appreciate the few, but significant, times he impacted my life before I became a sort-of relative, and I just wanted to share my respects.

Their wedding day, September 18, 1999