Just Right

The Story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears Debbie and the Four Stairs

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Goldilocks.  She  went for a walk in the forest . Pretty soon, she came upon a house. She knocked and, when no one answered, she walked right in.

You know the rest of the story, Goldilocks eats the bear’s food, breaks their furniture and takes a nap. She was, however, pretty hard to please.

The first bowl of porridge was too hot,the second was too cold. The the third bowl was just right. so she ate it all up.

The first chair was too big, the second was too big too, the third was just right but when she sat in it she broke it all to pieces.

And,finally there were the beds. The first  bed was too hard, the second, too soft but the last was  just right. She fell asleep in the just right one. When she woke up, she saw the bears, screamed and ran away.

So, here’s my parallel story.

Once upon a time, there was me. I took a tumble and then a twist. There wasn’t any forest – just caliche and cacti. Eventually (after 6 months), I came upon the office of an Orthopedic Surgeon. He took a look, ordered an MRI, told me to call him in the morning – just like the song: Put the Lime in the Coconut !

And now, the rest of the story:

When I was 19, a drunk driver slammed into me going 65 mph. After the Jaws-of-Life peeled open my door, the EMTs had to remove the steel rod that had once held the steering wheel of my Dodge Dart, but was now buried deep in my knee.

If your tire is flat, you may be able to patch it and air it up. But if you have a blow out, you need a new tire. My knee was patched up with 48 stitches and a cast back then, but this time, I had a total blow out. Dr Elmer said my meniscus looks like a shredded tire not a flat one.

I’m too old for a meniscus repair (by about 10 years). He said I need a total knee replacement.

But, I’m too young for a total knee (by about 10 years).

So I’m too old and too young which means I must be just right!

Thank you all for your emails and well wishes and prayers. That’s the story. Whenever I write again, whatever I write about, it won’t be about my joints. (It’s like going to a nice restaurant and listening to people beside you talk about their gallbladder all through dinner!)

Dr Elmer suggested Cortisone shots or Rooster Comb shots. We’ll see. For now, I’m getting by and keeping my pants on. Life is very good!

Life comes from physical survival; but the good life comes from what we care about. ~Rollo May

Rips and Rants and Saggy Pants

In many towns and cities and parishes across this country, I’m breaking the law each and every night. What can I say, I was born this way.

I’ll explain, but first you need to know that I’m totally ripped. I’m ripped but not in the cool 6 pack kind of way. And not in the uncool but clearly inebriated kind of way. I’m ripped in the old-fashioned dictionary definition kind of way:

to cut or tear apart in a rough or vigorous manner: to rip open a seam leg; to rip up a sheet knee
to cut or tear away in a rough or vigorous manner: to rip bark ligament from a tree bone

First there was that Slip Sliding down the steps back in early February which led to the original tearing my medial meniscus.

Every day for the past 5 1/2 months, I’ve thrown myself down on the floor (literally –  there’s no graceful way to land with a torn meniscus), faithfully doing my rehab exercises. After about 3 months, I started getting better. My knee quit throbbing and it didn’t hurt to have the sheet touch it when I went to bed. I was encouraged.

However, one night in late June, while making the hazardous trip from the sofa to the sink, my knee buckled even though I was wearing my 4th (not even from Walmart) knee brace and I was back where I started. Actually I was behind where I started since pain was racing down the inner and now the outer side of my knee.

At that point, things started getting loud. I was thumping a lot when walking and dropping and plopping when attempting sitting. All of this extra commotion put a serious scare into Heidi. She started getting up multiple times every night to see if I’d fallen and become road kill.

It was time to build in some extra safeguards. This is what I’ve come up with.

I dress carefully – often, but not always –  wearing my special shirt to send out an advance warning to any who may encounter me upright or prone at the gate.

I always wear my knee brace. This is a picture of the 4th one. I have a 5th one now. I’ll get to that later. Both personal experience and a Google search confirmed that frozen vegetables stay cold longer than more conventional ice packs.

It turns out Sugar Snap Stir Fry stays frozen even longer than peas. Who knew? The biggest draw back (besides the smell when they thaw and leak) was that I didn’t always have time (or remember) to take the bag out of my brace on the way out to the gate. It’s funny how people don’t really know what to say to someone walking around with vegetables dangling from their leg.

Because of Heidi’s fitful sleeping, it seemed prudent to take a few additional precautions. Personally, I don’t think all of these are necessary but she sleeps better this way.

If I fall down the steps again, the long-handled hoe should be within reach. That way, if there are rattlesnakes under the RV, I won’t even have to get up to chop off their heads. (That is SO not happening but I pretend like I would do it to pacify her.)

One of my bosses bought me BLUE pepper spray that he strongly believes I should wear during all the dark hours. To be honest, unless it’s a real breeze-less night, it hangs by the door. The wind here (and there’s almost always wind here) is constantly changing directions. If I’m not real precise, I could be the one streaming blue tears. And no one will let me practice on them so I don’t even know for sure that it works.

In my leg pocket, I’m required to wear my phone so that I can call Heidi and say: Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up! – just like in the commercials. She sleeps with her phone. Of course, she also sleeps with a sound machine rumbling, the air conditioning humming and ear plugs jammed in her ears. Just sayin’.

Anyway, we recently received a package from Swayback Ranch that included a CRKT knife. I wear this on my vest in case I fall and get hungry. I figure I can whip it out and skewer a grasshopper or an over-sized beetle or take a stab at a scorpion if it flips it’s tail at me.

So with my fair warning shirt glowing, my brace full of stir fry, the mace hanging around my neck nice and handy, my phone in my pocket, and the hoe and knife ready to be brandished, I felt pretty prepared for just about anything.

Just about anything except a TROM. Since my knee was still buckling with my hinged brace, I went all bionic and bought some serious hardware.

With this latest brace, I can pretty much just lock my leg in place. I have it set on zero which allows for barely bending at all. This has made navigation interesting.

I’m a very average 5 foot 6 inches tall, but I have remarkably short legs and a long trunk. Until now, the worst part of this has been that my pants sometimes drag. But as you can kind of tell from the photo, this new brace goes almost all the way to my hip.

With short legs and a telescoping brace, even UN-telescoped, there are issues. For one thing, I have to balance myself very precariously on the edge of the toilet seat. At least If I fall off there, odds are, Heidi will hear me and I won’t have to call her on the phone or eat bugs.

I’m re-learning how to walk, making sure I have a clear path to swing my leg. Sometimes I just shout out Look out, leg coming through. No one but Henry is listening to me but I feel better saying it.

I’ve always been a step bounder. Heidi says the RV shakes a lot less now that I have to two-step the steps. That’s a plus, I guess but it’s slowed me down some. When I get to the door, I stick my arm out and start waving right away, so people will know that the rest of me will follow eventually.

The worst part has been the Sag-Factor and this is where I could get into some legal trouble if I lived in, say, Terrebonne Parish, LA or Wildwood, NJ or Houston, TX. This is one heavy brace and it pulls my pants right down when I walk. And I do mean down. I’d be in a world of hurt if it weren’t for my fairly substantial hips.

I’ve tried wearing the TROM under my pants but it’s really not possible. This is a BIG brace and I’d need to buy pants 2 sizes larger which I think would just increase the Sag-Factor. I’ve tried it over my jeans and over my ultra cool black- fabric- that- breaths pants. That’s all I own so that’s all I can try. No luck. So I called the DonJoy Company.

In retrospect, I suppose this should have been an embarrassing conversation but that didn’t occur to me then. Desperate measures for desperate times.

Me: I just got my new DonJoy TROM Brace which is very nice and sturdy but it pulls my pants down and I was wondering if you had any tips?

Beth: I think I’d better transfer you to John.

Me: Thank you.

I repeat my dilemma to John who is the customer fit specialist. John and Beth and I are on a 3 way call – for quite a while. They say they’ve never encountered this problem before.

After a fair amount of brain storming, John decides to send me (at no cost) 6 feet of Velcro that he thinks I can stick on my pants. I tell him I have short legs so 4 feet would probably do. He insists on 6. I say thank you again.

The Velcro hasn’t arrived yet. In the mean time, I hope to find another means of victory over the sag because, well, you know – as the billboard says, RAISE YOUR PANTS RAISE YOUR IMAGE.

I’m considering suspenders…

Slip Sliding Away

I’m not clumsy. It’s just the floor hates me, the tables and chairs are bullies and the walls get in the way. ~ unknown author but it could have been me

Three months ago, on a dark and stormy night, much like this one, I took an embarrassing tumble – more of a slipping sliding landing on my seat stumble, down my RV steps. I was pretty sure this fall was a little more complicated than the last or 20 or so I’d taken. Usually I fall over and bounce right back up like a Bozo the Clown punching bag.

Maybe my problem is that I still cling to the imagine of an entire P.E. history of A+’s and I haven’t come to terms with my past mid-life clumsiness. Truth is, I tip over a lot. In this instance, however, the steps were wet, I was in a hurry so the guys at the gate wouldn’t have to wait, I went down and I didn’t bounce back.

My not so subtle landing on the last step (there are only 4) shook the RV like an explosion (always a possibility in our business). Heidi woke up, got dressed and was out the door in about 57 seconds. I’m pretty far past stoic when it comes to pain but this time I just sat there. It’s hard to describe. It felt like someone had just rammed a fiery poker through my knee.

I wrote about this back when it happened. I fell the first week of February which was fortuitous, if a fall can be fortuitous, since 10 days later we had a week off between the stacking of our old rig and our Company Man calling us to follow him at his new rig.

During the week off I did all the things you do with a bum knee. I sat – a lot – with my leg elevated and wrapped in ice.

I tried Ibuprofen and Aleve and Aspercreme.

When it was time to get back to work, Heidi bought every kind of knee brace Walmart carries. I have 1 that I can wear under my black pants which are loose and 1 that I wear over my jeans which aren’t and 1 that I sleep in so the other 2 can air out.

After 3 months of being afraid to exercise or move really, our rig came back to the area where my PA is located. I went in this week and it took her about 2 minutes to determine that I have a torn meniscus – a common injury of athletes and old people.

My PA referred me to an Orthopedic surgeon who would do an MRI and then would prescribe surgery or PT. Self employment has it’s benefits but medical insurance isn’t one of them.

For some reason, the diagnosis discouraged me. I don’t know why? After 3 months of quite a lot of pain, what was I hoping she would say? I already knew it hurt – a lot – so why I thought a torn meniscus was bad news, I’m not sure.

Here’s what happened that night. The gate was quiet at my TSL.  I watched 3 old episodes of Glee and 2 of Jeopardy. Pathetic, I know. It’s was during the “Think music” that I got over myself and started thinking.

I made the uncharacteristic decision to be ‘pro-active’ – a word I’ve never even used in a sentence, let alone applied. I Googled torn meniscus, read about 20 articles and looked at 5 or 6 sites with rehab exercises. I picked the WebMD exercises because they have a good reputation and pictures. I need pictures. I get confused without pictures.

I wrote every  exercise out in detail. Then I got the great idea of putting the computer on the floor (so I could study the pictures) and I plopped myself down beside it. The first exercise was called a Quad set. The exercise required a towel under the ‘injured leg’. I started to get up to get a towel and found out that, well, no, getting up wasn’t really an option.

I know me. I was pretty sure that once I managed to get up, I wouldn’t get back down again so I scooted over to the chair and grabbed the yarn, needles and all – stuck the yarn under my leg, prayed for no traffic and began my rehab.

During those 30 minutes, the bell didn’t ring even once. I eventually rolled myself over to the sofa and dragged myself up. I felt entirely better. My leg hurt maybe just a little worse but my attitude changed completely.

I was very impressed with myself. When Heidi got up I shared my new rehab plan with her. Ever the practical one, she thought probably it would be better to carry out this choreography while she’s up and can get the gate. True.

Yesterday was rehab day two!

A Very Un-Shakespearean Comedy of Errors

What is the course and drift of your compact?
~William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors

It seems our course has run somewhat adrift of late. Picking up where I left off last time, I’m still on the rebound from the fluke of a non-flu bug. I think that I might have been nearly well yesterday, if not for another unfortunate chain of events.

I broke my toe once. I was on a beach in California looking for sea glass. I ran away from a wave right into a rock. I broke my 2nd toe which took the brunt of the hit because it’s longer, if not bigger, than my big toe. I share this only to preface what’s about to follow. Stubbing a toe which sticks out anyway, particularly underwater, seems understandable. What’s happened here, maybe a little less so.

By the way, it was a beautiful beach and I did find tons of sea/beach glass. If you’re terribly bored and are inclined to hunt, there are 15 obvious pieces of sea glass in this photo (green, brown, clear and blue).


The first time Heidi broke her toe, her little toe (this was years ago) she was at my house helping in the kitchen and she ran into my foot. At her request, I took her to the E.R. where the Dr pushed in back in place and taped it up. As it turns out, there’s not much else to be done with broken toes.

The next time she broke her toe – the same one – she was coming up her basement steps and somehow caught her little toe that doesn’t stick out at all on the step and broke it. She called me. I went over and, in an attempt to help, I accidentally set it by grabbing her foot too hard. She hollered and then I taped it up.

Every why hath a wherefore. ~ William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors

Although I’m not questioning the words of the bard, night before last when Heidi broke her toe – same one again – going up the steps (inside), I began to wonder about the why and wherefore. Somehow, she snagged it on the step, even though her little toe still doesn’t stick out at all, or didn’t until then. Not appreciating my last effort, she decided to set it herself. She hollered (only a little) this time and I taped it up.

She went to bed with her toes taped and wrapped in an icepack. Yesterday, predictably, business was booming which meant quite a bit of foot time for Heidi. I got up early to help. I worked while she kept her foot up and cold-packed.

All in all, things were going pretty well until I decided to fix dinner. I’ve done a lot of cooking in my time but this is the first time I’ve had a convection oven. The problem with the convection oven is that it looks just like the microwave oven because it is the microwave oven.

There should have been nothing to it since I was just baking fish.

I’m not sure what happened. I think I forgot that I’d pushed the magic button that transforms the microwave into convection. The timer beeped. The fish was ready and I brushed my hand against the side of the convected-micro and fried it.

Heidi had discarded the icepack by then, so after some cold water and burn spray, I stuffed it with little baggies of frozen Ragu because cold-pack was warm.

I’m pretty stoic when it comes to pain so I was surprised by just how much the burn hurt. I was even more surprised when, a little while later, I looked down to see blood trickling down my arm. It hurt, but I didn’t think it hurt that much.

The thing about baggies of frozen Ragu is that they thaw pretty quickly when your hand is on fire. I was in such a rush to cram something in the ice-pack wrap before Heidi hopped up and hurt another toe that I didn’t notice they weren’t in a freezer bags.

Upon closer examination, I realized that it was Ragu, not blood, trickling in a sticky sweet line down my arm. While I was washing up, Heidi ended up hobbling over after all and found a bag of peas which worked much better.

For some reason all this excitement reignited my diminishing flu systems which left me in the bathroom and Heidi with no choice but to tromp in and out with her taped up toes and sandals (even though everyone else is wearing parkas again).

By 8:30, she was sleeping, the wind was roaring and the newly promoted SA Henry VIII had taken the helm. He’s unflappable under pressure and has yet to break a dewclaw or burn a whisker.

Yet this my comfort: when your words are done,
My woes end likewise with the evening sun.
― William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors

Postscript:

I wrote this early this a.m.  Because some of you are given to worrying I wanted to wait to publish until I could add a health update:

Heidi’s toe is healing nicely and it barely hurts at all.

After a night of burn spray and peas and a day of sleep, my hand is healing nicely and it barely hurts at all.

The entire misadventure has worn Henry out. He’s sleeping in front of the fake fireplace, relieved of all Secret Agent responsibilities, and he barely remembers any of it at all. 😉

Feeling Funky: Flu or Fluke?

The trouble with being a hypochondriac these days is that antibiotics have cured all the good diseases. ~ Caskie Stinnet

I haven’t written much because I’ve been sick a lot of late in the non-hypochondriacal, funky non-flu fluke kind of way.

It all started when I got the Cruise Flu back in September. At least I thought it was the flu. Turns out it was just a fluke. The cruise flu, according to the CDC, isn’t THE flu. It’s a norovirus, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, sore throat, headache and fever and as the CDC explains, outbreaks occur more often where there are more people in a small areas such as nursing homes, restaurants, catered events, and cruise ships.

It looks like the flu, feels like the flu, smells like the flu and spreads like the flu, but it’s not the flu. Any similarity in symptoms are just a fluke.

I made a speedy recovery.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch…

We TSA’s* returned from vacation and soon relocated to a new TSL*.

At our next TSL* there was some TSS* floating around and pretty soon I once again had vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, sore throat, headache etc… as did just about everybody there except SA* Heidi and Henry VIII.

I divvied up my time between toilet bowl and the big red mixing bowl (which I just kind of carried about with me – handy-like).

For me, this second not-the-flu fluke lasted for, oh, off and on most of November and December.

Just before Christmas we moved to a new TSL* and after about a week I started feeling down right regular again, peppy even.

It was lovely.

Then, my the-first-Doctor-I’ve-had-in-5-years, called and said I needed to come in and have a physical. Feeling fairly fit and needing her to renew my RSL* Rx*, I complied and arrived at the office Monday afternoon. She listened to me breathe and looked in my ears. All clear. Her nurse gave me a cup, took some blood and told me to come back in a week for the 2nd half of the exam and test results.

Oh, and then she gave me a flu shot.

I’ve had flu shots in the past. SA* Heidi, however, refuses to get a flu shot. She worked in a hospital for 7 years. They required all employees to get a flu shot. For 7 years she got one and the next day, 7 years in a row, she was sick with the fluke flu.

Every year, rumors circulate claiming the flu shot can cause the flu. Every year flu shot authorities say it isn’t possible. They do list potential side effects of the flu shot as vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, sore throat, headache etc… Just like the cruise flu and THE flu but different.

As a night-shift SA*, I sleep in the day time (obviously). There’s a good bit of noise so I sleep with a sound machine chugging like a freight train by my head and ear plugs stuffed in my ears. My symptoms didn’t hit until Tuesday morning.

For the 3rd time, I have/had the not-flu-flu. It’s been back to toilet bowls and red bowls and bowls of chicken noodle soup. After a slight relapse this morning, I’m once again on the mend and can sit down without feeling like the cow who just ate the cactus.

Since I’m something of a non-flu pro now, here’s my advice:

  1. The flu shot? Shoot, I don’t know, that’s up to you
  2. Wash your hands 57xs a day until your skin falls off (if you’re like me, you’ll get sick anyway but it’ll just be a fluke)
  3. If you’re thinking of throwing up, take your ear plugs out first (I was really sorry I didn’t think about that ahead of time – I just about blew out my right eardrum)

I’ll leave you with this tale of just how far you can go with the flu and a fluke:

The patient went to his doctor because he had flu and the doctor wrote out a prescription for him in his usual illegible writing. The patient put it in his pocket but forgot to get the tablets from the pharmacy.

Every morning, for two years, he showed it to the conductor as a railroad pass. Twice, it got him into the movies, once into the soccer stadium, and once into the symphony. He got a raise at work by showing it as a note from his boss. One day he mislaid it. His daughter picked it up, played it on the piano and won a scholarship to the conservatory of music.

Be safe and stay well!

~

Decoder code:

  • *TSA – Top Secret Agent
  • *SA   –  Abbr for TSA
  • *TSL – Top Secret Location
  • *TSS – Top Secret Stuff
  • *RLS – Restless Leg Syndrome
  • *Rx   – Prescription