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

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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

If I Lived on Mars…

If I lived on Mars, I’d be missing many amenities like say, oxygen. But I would have a half way decent internet connection which is something I don’t have at all at my current Top Secret Location.

According to FedTech Magazine, the internet is sort of slow on Mars. That’s because they’re comparing it to regular places like Bug Tussle, Oklahoma and Smiley, Texas and What Cheer, Iowa. I haven’t been to Bug Tussle (although we had one yesterday with one ugly specimen of an arachnoid).

Extra spaces provided here for those of you who want to read the rest of this post without having the smiling toothy spider watching you.

~

Mars is there, waiting to be reached.  ~ Buzz Aldrin

~

So, while I haven’t been to Bug Tussle, I’ve been to Smiley, Texas and What Cheer, Iowa many times.

Maybe what keeps them smiling and cheering is that their internet doesn’t have to go into orbit all the way to the red planet and back to find a signal?

We moved to a new TSL 10 days ago.

I’ve had maybe 5 or 8 times when my internet S.O.S. has bounced off some tower somewhere in OZ and popped on right before my eyes.

But most nights, even with the Wilson booster and 2 internet air cards (AT&T and Verizon), I’m left wave-less. My weak signals have proved to be complete aliens to the world of connectivity in the great Southwest.

The Land Rover, Curiosity, crawling around on Mars, can send the equivalent of an Instagram image in 1 minute and 55 seconds. It takes me 5 days to post a snap shot on Facebook.

In addition to regular internet connectivity, there are a few other pluses in the Mars column:

Mars is a dead planet so it doesn’t have toothy spiders to grin at me or bee-ish bugs that borrow in my head (had another one of those last night).

Mars orbits the sun every 687 days which means it would take me almost 20 years to reach age 65. I’m not certain if that’s actually a plus, but maybe?

It does mean that Thanksgiving would last for two days so people could have a proper Thanksgiving celebration the first day and then rush off to Walmart to begin their frenzied Christmas sales search on the second Thursday and still beat the Black Friday crowd which will soon be in need of a new name.

It’s very cold on Mars so I’m pretty sure my hot flashes would disappear altogether.

The gravity on Mars is about 37% of what we experience on Earth which means I could jump about 3 times higher than I can now. That wouldn’t help me much since I’m not a big jumper but it would have helped Heidi who wouldn’t have had to get the 3 step-ladder out of the truck to kill the toothy spider that was on the wall above the cabinets.

It also means that I could finally quit dieting.

I’ve been on a diet all year, sort of. I messed around with the idea from January to April and lost 10 pounds.

I finally got serious (no fooling) on April 1st. I’ve lost some weight. As a matter of fact, I’ve lost some of it twice since I had to re-lose the 8.8 pounds I gained during my 3 1/2 week vacation.

But on Mars, they say that a 100 pound person would weigh 38 pounds. Even at my current weight, which is 7 pounds from my goal and about 30 pounds over what the insurance charts think I should weigh, I would be WAY underweight for the first time in my life!

That means, with my new internet connectivity, I could order a pizza and eat the whole thing without a bit of guilt, when it arrived in 6 or 7 months!

 

Halloween’s Unintentional Ghouls

There is a child in every one of us who is still a trick-or-treater looking for a brightly-lit front porch. ~Robert Brault

This is my second Halloween as a TSA deep in the heart of an unnamed location. Later on today we’ll be passing out candy to the boys, who don’t wear costumes, and we’ll bake some colorful cupcakes.

Last year, we were in the midst of a drought down here in the south and there wasn’t a pumpkin to be found! This year, while not plentiful, a few popped up at the grocery store and Walmart.

For some reason, I like to carve pumpkins. I don’t know why since I have no artistic ability and I insist on drawing my own faces, even though they aren’t cool and artsie like most of the stenciled pumpkins nowadays.

SAH has no interest in this activity but she puts up with me, just like my love for coloring eggs at Easter. She was very kind about procuring my pumpkins and even had the stock boy dig through dozens to find two that still had stems.

I thought about a week ahead seemed like good timing for pumpkin carving.

I was wrong. For starters, when I cut them open they were empty – really. Just a few seeds and strings. I don’t now if they have a different strain of pumpkins here in the Big state or if these two were just malnourished. It did make the scooping out go a lot faster, though.

They look pretty regular for the first few nights.

Then, they began to simply fall in on themselves.

I think they’re only a day or two away from squishy.

They’ve gone from grinning to ghoulish – not by design. Just by inertia. Today’s pumpkins will be tomorrow cattle fodder.

May Jack-o-lanterns burning bright
Of soft and golden hue
Pierce through the future’s veil and show
What fate now holds for you.
~Author Unknown

Maybe not so much with these fellows…

Going On a Bear Hunt

Do you know the song/chant Going on a Bear Hunt? I learned it when I was 9. I thought it was great fun. I never expected to act it out in real life.

We’re goin’ on a bear hunt,
We’re going to catch a big one,
I’m not scared
What a beautiful day!

Going on a Bear Hunt was one of our favorite songs in Brownies. There were lots of verses about grass and mushrooms and rivers and lots of hand motions and clapping and foot-stomping that went with it, but I’m going to skip ahead to my own Bear Hunt story.

It was a beautiful day as the 5 of us climbed aboard the little float plane and soared off to a remote Alaskan island. 5 passengers plus a major case of the flu, which I was unwittingly spreading everywhere, on the one hour flight. I don’t look too sick in this photo but my gills were green 3 hours later. Most of the green was due to the flu – some of it was The Bear Hunt.

B,T,D & H

Once the second plane landed, our little group hiked to the top of the hill where we piled into a van and drove back to the path we would follow down to the bear watching platform just above the creek. Before the hike, we were given a safety talk by our guide.

Our guide J

His main points were:

  • This is not a zoo

Polar bear napping in the Anchorage Zoo

~

Bears have really big paws and claws

~

This Black Bear was napping on his hammock in the Anchorage Zoo.

  • Although they prefer berries, bears can eat you
  • Bears own this island (5 of them for each 1 of us)
  • Don’t make aggressive movements toward a bear or he will want to eat you
  • We’re entering a very remote area – try to spot bears on both sides of the path

He would look something like this only bigger and smellier and hungrier – and quicker

  • If a bear attacks you, make yourself as small as possible and play dead (doubt that this would take much acting)
  • Don’t climb a tree if a bear starts to chase you – they’re better at it

Bear scratches on a tree on the trail

  • Don’t try to pet a bear, he will eat your hand (you have to tell people this?)
  • As you walk through the forest, be very quiet so you don’t scare the bears away

This last one gave me pause. J concluded his 10 minutes speech about all the ways a bear might confuse us for a snack, by telling us to be very, very quiet so we didn’t scare any potential traveling companions away. We’d only been hiking a short time when the man in the yellow jacket stepped smack into a whole lot of scat. He wore his scat like a treasure.

Soon enough we heard/saw/ smelled a bear to our right. He kept pace with us for a few moments before veering off down to the river.

He’s there – you’ll just have to take my word for it

Heidi’s bear phobic (ursaphobia) due to a series of unfortunate and rather terrifying bear encounters as a child on the Boundary Waters in Ely. She was understandably tense. I wasn’t worried since I’m more completely irrationally arachnophobic having had just regular encounters with spiders when I was little. But just to be empathetic, I tried to imagine the forest teeming with 400 pound spiders and that was plenty creepy.

The scariest part of The Bear Hunt, to me, was our guide, J. If I’m going to take a hike, in the wilderness with a bear stalking me I want to be led by one of two types of people:

  1. a Bear Hunter (who carries a rifle and knows how to use it) or
  2. a Bear Whisperer (who rehabilitates bears and trains people) Instead we had
  3. a New Yorker who got tired of the city life, moved to Alaska, bought a Jimmy Riffle hat, a really big knife and a can of pepper spray.

Note knife and pepper spray

I’m willing to concede that by the time we reached the platform, where we did watch a black bear enjoy a salmon dinner – I had a fever and my flu symptoms were raging.

Shooting into the light with my camera phone – bear is on right of the big rock

~

Snacking on salmon

Still, it didn’t feel quite right when J said that just last week, a cute bear cub had climbed onto the platform in the middle of a tour. Everybody had a great photo opps until the Momma bear came snarling up. Ironically she reached under the sign explaining the Life Cycle of Salmon and grabbed her offspring. J’s words: I just stood back and watched while people got to get real close to the cub. How cool is that?

J telling the baby bear story right on the spot where it took place

~

Always respect Mother Nature. Especially when she weighs 400 pounds and is guarding her baby. ~ James Rollins

We’re goin’ on a bear hunt,
We’re going to catch a big one,
I’m not scared
What a beautiful day!
Uh, oh! It’s dark in here.
I feel something,
It has lots of hair!
It has sharp teeth!
It’s a bear!
Run in the house and lock the door.
Phew! That was close!

I’m not afraid!

Right.

The man in the yellow jacket got back in the van, still admiring his souvenir scat.

It wasn’t much like the bear hunt I’d imagined when I was 9 but it certainly was an adventure!

***Exit pursued by a bear. ~ William Shakespeare
[STAGE DIRECTIONS in The Winter’s Tale]

Lost and Found

People don’t take trips – trips take people. ~ John Steinbeck

And this trip certainly took us! This is the rest of yesterday’s story. I have one more short one to tell and then I’ll pack my bags. Here’s a recap:

  • We Found Tuscon without getting Lost (If you know us you, know that’s big)
  • H’s phone did get Lost (stolen) at jcp
  • We Found the best seat on the plane but Lost air space to the big blurry man
  • We Found our uglied-up luggage and my nice looking cousin in Seattle
  • We Found our ship and our room
  • We Lost our sea legs
  • We Lost our dinners

Our assigned table in dining room which we Lost for 3 nights

We Lost our dinners because I’m unfailingly polite. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes, not so much.

The great difference between voyages rests not with the ships, but with the people you meet on them. ~ Amelia E. Barr

For example, we Found Wala, our head cabin steward, finishing up our room when we boarded Friday afternoon. He soon got Lost and wasn’t Found again until Wednesday. Meeting him did make the voyage very different from all the previous ones.

On Sunday, we arrived in Juneau. It was a beautiful sunny day, which is really saying something about an area that gets 55-90 inches of rain between May and October and then it starts snowing.

Leaving Juneau by float plane

Heidi Found her sea legs but mine were still Lost as I griped my bottled water and filled up on tiny Tums.

Found these at the airport. How cool to get an antacid and breath freshener in one! They made up my entire Sunday breakfast. Haven’t been able to look at one since.

In Juneau, we took a float plane to a remote area and went on a bear hunt (which will be my next and final vacation story).

Beautiful float plane flight

I was moderately sick on the way to the island. I was really sick on the flight home and just barely Found the room before I Lost Saturday’s soup and a half a container of tiny Tums.

When we got back on the ship, there was a notice on the door.

Cruise Ship GIS warning

As it turns out, Heidi wasn’t seasick and I wasn’t tap-water sick, we had the Cruise Ship Flu. Since we got sick the 2nd day of the cruise, catching it so quickly was a mystery. The mystery was solved when I Found Wala on Wednesday, “feeling much better”.  Much of the crew had gotten the bug at the end of the previous cruise and the symptoms started when they saw us!

You probably can’t read the last sentence in the photo of our notice. It says:

The biggest problem is that this illness is readily spread from person to person (such as by shaking hands) as well as by touching surfaces and items that an ill person has touched.

In my pre-Top Secret Agent life, shaking hands wasn’t just polite, it was a standard professional practice. When we met Wala Friday afternoon, I cheerfully shook his hand. Heidi, wisely, just stuck with hi. In my weak defense, I doubt there was a surface in the room he hadn’t touched while getting it ready for us so maybe we would have gotten sick anyway?

Because this was a 2 week voyage, Juneau was followed by a 2nd At Sea day where I remained quarantined as requested by the captain. I Lost myself in book 3 of a Dean Koontz series I’d been reading on my Kindle. Everything on the ship changed. There were bars on all the books in the library.

Books behind bars

For a week there was no serving yourself anything at the buffet where the wait staff looked like surgeons in their plastic gloves. At nearly every corner, someone was squirting Purell on you. Even the salt and pepper shakers were removed.

Puzzles pieces were quarantined. I don’t do puzzles on cruises but it was strange to read puzzle warnings on the tables.

Missing pieces

To their credit, the staff did all they could to contain the virus and threw a party the second week with free wine (or soda) and cheer for all.

Celebration notice

Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey. ~ Fitzhugh Mullan

We Lost about 3 days of this 14 day trip, but Found new ways to celebrate the journey! One last story about Bear Hunting and then this vacation will be all packed up.