Thursday, July 26, 2007

Snips and Clips

I am in the dog house. And I've been put there by the cat. I am apparently good enough to open cans and dish out food and good enough to hang on the end of the leash when he wants to go out and read the news.  Otherwise I am persona non toucha. I have the claw and bite marks to prove it. 

Can't say I blame him. Yesterday morning at 7:30 I loaded him into the cat carrier and took him to the Torturer and his apprentices. (Known to hew-mans as "the vet") 

There they gave poor Salvador his annual physical, his vaccinations, then knocked him out with some dreadful chemical substance and cleaned his teeth. (They pulled two of them) and then while he was still comatose  they shaved off about 80% of his fur.  

He looks silly. They left his head, legs and tail unshaved. They really should have shaved his legs and left a puff on the end of a shaved tail. He would have looked just like a mini-lion. Now he just looks like a moth-eaten stuffed toy in a velvet jumper.   

He felt so sore when he came home, and I felt so sorry for him. Poor puss, he couldn't even take a drink of water. But he's eating again now, and seems comfortable, if a little more dozy than usual. 

But there's no kitty on my bed, no kitty in my lap. He now loves only his Papa and is making a point of it by snuggling up to his Papa and offering belly-rubs. Oh sure. Papa can rub the velvet belly. I'm drooling to get my hands on that apricot-coloured velvet coat and he sticks out the claws if I even come close. 

I have to sneak in a quick feel while he sleeps. See for yourself. Could you keep your hands off those soft folds? Funny. He has no stripes at skin level. The little striations you see in the picture are clipper marks. Oh, now I'm just obsessing. Time to find something else to do. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

One More Lesson

All right,

Obviously the universe has some profound lesson to teach me that I can only learn when I am absolutely bone-dead-tired. I'm afraid to ask what it is. 

Dave says he likes watching documentaries where people swim or crawl through tight spaces. I can hardly force myself to watch those. I had paralytic polio as a toddler. I lost the ability to breathe for myself and had to go into an iron lung. I don't remember it consciously but I'm claustrophobic from it. Don't like tight-necked clothes either. If I were a guy you'd never catch me in a tie. 

But forget claustrophobia. Right now a nice dark, quiet cave would be welcome. If I could sleep a week I'm sure I'd feel better. As it is I have to pull up the boots, stop my whining and get on with the dozen tasks I need to do before day's end.  

Reading today about coming up against obstacles to enlightenment, one obstacle mentioned is a feeling of resentment about who you are, what you are - or your situation. I have no problems with who I am, and I certainly feel no resentment at my poor broken husband. This has been a very difficult experience for him. But is my impatience with my limited strength and energy a form of resentment? Those limitations are part of me, a part, that according to Buddhist philosophy I chose, in order to learn lessons I had not yet learned.


Looked at that way, over the years I have learned what my body is capable of, and I've learned to stay within those limits. Now it seems I need to learn how to deal with what happens when I have to go beyond my comfort zone. It's no fun but if I resent it the lesson only comes harder. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Empty Nest

I took Zak to the bus station at 6:50 am yesterday. Main Street was quiet, the air was blue with smoke from a forest fire down south, it all looked sort of nostalgic and dreamy. 

It was hard to say goodbye to him and our little nest seems empty without our two big boys to fill it up with laughter and their own special brand of masculine sweetness. 

We haven't seen enough of Zak and Mandy since they moved to Vancouver, and we miss our frequent visits with Ian, so our time together was a real pleasure. 

I had a nice post all written but pleh! It won't work. I always compose posts in Text Edit and move them over once I'm finished, since I work back and forth keeping up with other things. This time when I went to move my post it won't load in the Blogger text box, it jumps down and loads on the page below, and when saved it ends up one letter wide and 40 pages long. Who in their right mind would read a 40-page blog post, even mine

I was in a much better frame of mind when I wrote the post in Text Edit. This one is sort of a grumpy post; partially because Blogger is acting all weird and I don't have the patience to fiddle with it;  partially because I hurt stem to stern and partially because I am not a monkey. (Some may disagree but more on that later.)

I will add two pictures I wanted to share, one of my flower boxes and the other of the still-green but promising apricots on the old tree in the common. 

I was a little piqued the other day when I came home from town to find that some park "guests" had pulled some of the flowers in our site.

They'd also been over to the old apricot tree and helped themselves. The 'cots could certainly use a good thinning, but instead of picking individual fruits the "pickers" broke branches off the tree, then stripped the fruit off of them. It's an old tree, and already fragile. Breaking branches off of it to pick green apricots is kind of like hacking grandma's fingers off so it's easier to trim her nails. 

Most people who come through here are lovely. Courteous to a fault and so very pleasant. Many people use the back edge of our site as a path to the back of the park, which we don't mind, as long as they don't knock over or appropriate our lawn furniture. 

But you get the occasional person/group who tramps right across our site, brings their dog to poop in our yard and (honest to goodness) walks right up to our windows and peers in at us as if we were monkeys on display at the zoo! We now keep the back window blinds closed, but people walk around the end of the trailer, shade their eyes, lean into the window and squint in like they lost a nickel last week and suspect it rolled under my bed! You'd think people would have enough manners not to walk up and press their noses to your bedroom window! 

I'm trying to think of an appropriate response, and if you have a suggestion which doesn't involve firearms or fire hoses, neither of which I possess, I'd like to hear it.  I've already tried making faces, but that didn't work. They bring the family back for the free entertainment. I also told one couple that they'd have to drive around, the take-out window was closed. It didn't register. So please, nothing subtle. This is not an audience which comprehends subtleties!   

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Where There Is a Will

One trait I value in myself is a certain resourcefulness. Part of this comes from a lifetime habit of frugality and training in "making-do". I was raised by parents who survived the Great Depression quite successfully and never again spent a dime without thinking several times.

In 1930 a Kilgore Texas farmer accidentally tapped into the world's largest oil reservoir in his cow pasture. His discovery marked the beginning of the East Texas Oil Boom. The tiny town of Kilgore, population 200, grew to 10,000 almost overnight. In 1931 Dad was able to get work as a roughneck in the newly discovered oil field.

For men like my Dad, who was 26 years old, it meant a steady job at $2.25 a day when jobs of any kind were scarce, children were begging door to door and former bank presidents were selling fruit on the streets of NYC.

On that $2.25 a day Dad supported 12 people, as best he could. There was himself, my mother, my sister Ruby and my brothers, identical twins who were toddlers at the time. Then there was my Mom's father, who was 70 years old and had a heart condition, Mother's younger brother Lonnie, and one of Dad's brothers who was ill and couldn't work and his wife and two children. And, last but not least, a family friend who was old and had no place to go. The kids called him "Uncle Joe".

There was no housing in Kilgore. A tent city sprang up along the river banks. Dad bought $2.00 worth of lumber. He and the men in the family built a 12 x 12 wooden floor, and plank walls four feet high. They framed in a pitched roof with 2 x 4s and tacked wagon canvas over the entire structure. He made mother a stove from a discarded oil barrel.

They had tin washtubs for washing clothes and bathing. Mother ironed with a "sad" iron, heated on the stove, using a plank set between the backs of two chairs as an ironing board. Twelve people lived in that 12 x 12 canvas-roofed shack.

They had very little, but there were millions who would have been glad to have had what they had. They ate, even if it was beans, taters, bisquits made with water and what wild foods mother and the kids could gather in the woods. Fishing in the Sabine River must have been more than a way to pass an idle afternoon. You could catch some big fish in that muddy, languorous stream, as long as you remembered not to step on a gator sunning himself on the bank. Possum and squirrel found their way into the family stew pot, along with the occasional raccoon, wild turkey and even a big turtle or two. When you are really hungry most anything starts to look a lot like dinner.

My sister recalled that she and the boys had been out making "mud pies" when a local church group came around with apples for "deserving" children. Seeing my sib's muddy hands and faces they were deemed "undeserving" and got no apple. It was a memory which haunted Ruby all of her life. She probably would have forgotten a slap but that small act of smug, self-righteousness judgement wounded her so deeply as a five-year-old that she could still feel its sting almost 80 years later.

But, I find as usual, that I have wandered off into the tangled thickets of memory, where often hang sweet fruits, but just as often conceals a thorn or two beneath the gloss of the leaves. I was saying that I am resourceful.

I have a number of medical difficulties which I will not belabor, but I have a very difficult time sleeping in any comfort. For one thing I have to sleep with the head of my bed elevated. This is not so easily done when your bed is on a platform. I'd searched high and low for a foam wedge, without any success, but for the past months I've been using a stack of pillows, shoved under the mattress. They shift up, or down. They slide sideways and squeeze out onto the floor, they pile up and solidify into baseball-sized lumps. I wake, feeling like I've slept on a pile of broken concrete.

Zak said he'd build a support and attach it to the platform. Elaborate plans were discussed and pondered. The "how" became a matter of some days' discussion. Meanwhile, I thought of the "no-gravity" lawn chaises we bought earlier in the spring. I could happily sleep in one of those. But who ever heard of such a thing? Would the Sleep Police descend on us with tin whistles splitting the night air and dump me onto the floor if I dared replace bed with chaise? Besides the chaise wouldn't fit. My bed platform is elevated about 14", and there's a shelf above. Not a lot of clearance for a chaise lounge!

Pursuing my wicked and rebellious furniture thought I went outside, flipped the legs and arms of one of the chaises flat and found that, voila! It still retained its "no-gravity" shape. I picked it up, brought it in, tossed the mattress, bedding, pillows and various bric-a-brac off my bed and put the chaise on the platform. Then I plopped my (foam) mattress on top of it and - ta-da! perfect instant hospital bed. I can elevate my head, or my feet, or both.

I slept on my highly resourceful chaise/bed last night and never woke once. I was a lot more cheerful this morning, not as many dragon scales. I guess when you are sleeping on what feels like a pile of rocks night after night, almost anything can start to look like a bed.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Snap, Crackle and Pop!

When we first pulled into Bel Air, in late August last year, there was a gigantic motor home in the spot next to us. The "campers" were a couple our own age, and the nicest people you could imagine, Claude and Pat. After a couple of weeks they went on their way. We were sad to see them go. Some people you just feel at home with from the minute you meet.

Early spring and they were back, slipping into the snowbird community with ease and good humor. But, like the tide, soon they were gone again.

A couple of weeks ago, actually the day after Tony broke his leg, they pulled back in, and parked beside us. I was ever so glad to see them, and Pat's warm hug made me feel so comforted. She and I sat one morning a week or so ago and pitted cherries together. I dried mine and she made jam and we shared. I got jam, she got dried cherries.

Three or four days ago she brought over a pail of wonderful cherry muffins. The next day their little white car was gone all day, which was unusual, but I remembered she mentioned they were going to a wedding, so thought maybe they'd decided to simply drive the car, rather than take the big motor home. But then I saw Claude come out early in the morning the next day and drive away alone. Don't know when he got home the night before. I didn't see them around during the day but it was 105 degrees and no one was running up and down the road with gay abandon.

Yesterday evening while I was out in the yard with the cat Pat came around the end of the motor home with her arm heavily bandaged, with all kinds of hardware sticking out of it! She had fallen off the top step of the motor home and landed on her arm, breaking it very badly. She is terribly bruised and swollen. Poor thing!

She reported that the staff of the local Oliver hospital was wonderful. She was transferred to Penticton the morning after her fall, for orthopedic surgery, with the same surgeon who had done Tony's surgery two weeks earlier. I wonder if he realized that he'd repaired bones on next door neighbours within two weeks of each other?

Our other neighbour Dave had surgery on Thursday, and is already home and making the rounds. He was here this morning, checking on Tony. He's a good man, of the sort you can't keep down apparently.

If you are at all superstitious you might consider staying out of the conga line we've formed. Three households in a row, three injuries, three surgeries, in three weeks. Who said 13 was the unlucky number?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Time Flies

We have a new "pet" but he's up for adoption, as we feel we don't have the dedication to care for him. He doesn't eat much, takes little room, doesn't bark and gives you plenty of upper-body exercise. Yes, I have lost the fly-swat.

When I went after said fly with a rolled up paper Zak asked what happened to my Buddhist principles. They are intact. I figure this fly has learned all we can teach him, and vice-versa, and it's time he went on to his next incarnation. Hopefully if he can't manage butterfly or ladybug he'll at least find himself in a dairy barn in Winnipeg or Thunder Bay.

Tony has been home from the local hospital for several days. He was there four (five?) days. The Physiotherapist came by the day before he was scheduled to come home and looked over our truck (high off the ground and accessed with a running-board step) , looked at the beautiful new cedar stairs and landing Ian built while he was here, and looked at our weensy bathroom with it's 14" high threshold. She said we'd never get him in here alone and said they'd bring him home by ambulance. They did, which was much more comfortable for him than the ride home from Penticton in Ian's car.

He's been pretty much immobile since. He has a potty chair in the back, and has busied himself sorting and catching up on paperwork. Zak has been feeding us great meals, mostly grilled, and he's been keeping the laundry done. How cool is that?

I busy myself running for water, water, snacks, this, that and that other thing. This is fine most of the time but I am not a morning person. Like Henry Higgins of My Fair Lady in the morning I want an atmosphere as restful as an undiscovered tomb, and I AIN'T gettin' it!

Until I've had my coffee and my first dose of meds my dragon scales tend to poke out a bit, especially when I've spent the first 45 minutes of my day on potty duty, am contending with a 20 pound cat who is jealous and confused, and am short three hours of sleep. You may read this as "Buddhist gets the grumps". Lesson: Even a good person, taking care of someone they adore, can get grumpy. Don't be so judgmental next time someone is grumpy with me.

But today there was triumph! You think you were happy when little Billy was potty-trained? I am giddy. Tony made two trips to the bathroom in the wheelchair, assisted of course, but still... it's a big step forward. No more potty chair! But enough of that.

On Sunday Zak and I went to Pancho's Country Market, an artfully organized and presented organic farm market up in the hills above town. We bought blueberries and raspberries, some beautiful baby crookneck squash and some divine raspberry vinegar. My neighbour Pat and I sat down one day last week and pitted a bunch of cherries. I dried about five pounds worth. She made jam, and then we shared. I got some jam, and she got half the dried cherries.

Yesterday Zak and I went out to another fruit/vegie stand which was advertising apricots, and bought some, plus fresh corn on the cob, peaches, nectarines and other locally-grown goodies. The peaches were so fantastic that we went back today and bought 10 pounds and I filled the dehydrator this afternoon. They smell divine. Oh, they set me back 40 cents a pound. That's 80 c a kilo for the metrics crowd.

And to fill you in on the neighbours. Emmett and Maud still appear to be childless, but the two couples they pal around with, Burt and Connie, Bob and Jackie, have each brought their youngsters to the feeder this week! They are the cutest little balls of fluff you ever saw! They look just like brown speckled versions of the Easter chicks I used to get every year when I was small. Burt and Connie's three kids appear to be several days older than Bob and Jackie's four teeny babies. They are an inch taller, and quite a bit larger.

It tickles me that the parents are relaxed enough, even with me sitting outside, to let the babies nestle down in the grass and snooze once they have picked up all the seed they can hold. They blend in so well that you could walk right past them and never see them, if they were brave enough to sit still.

That's my week. It's been very warm. Almost 100 degrees the last few days and so far this afternoon our high has been 104.7 F. It hasn't hit the peak heat of the day yet, so we could be in for a good scorching. Salvador got overheated on Thursday night and I took him to the vet on Friday, just to get him checked over. The vet said he's very hairy (Is that supposed to be news to me?) and that he has quite a bit of adipose tissue, which serves as insulation. In other words he's a humongous hairy FAT cat!

Anyone who wants to talk about dieting with his orange Fatness is welcome to try. He takes his claws to me when I say "diet" to him, and cries pitifully if he doesn't get his cookies. It's cute - his fat rolls wobble when he sobs that hard. On the good side he has lost some weight since Christmas, when he weighed in at 23 pounds.

I'm having to water my poor flowers twice a day, and even then they pant like dogs in the hot afternoon sun. I pant just watering them. But they smell divine at sundown. Mmmm.... still living in paradise.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Maybe It's My Cooking?

My buddy SMM, who was my co-conspirator in many a visit to the sushi restaurant Momoyama (Peach Mountain) in Calgary has moved to the BC coast and can get fresh fishies. She recently made a plate of sushi and tortured me by sending photos.

I on the other hand bought a couple of trout for the grill at the local, and they turned out to be long time no sea, or at least no body of water. Whew! Fish fertilizer. We had steak instead. He ate it, and the grilled potatoes and the grilled vegies. Which made me assume that he liked my cooking.

But you know the old song, "How do you keep 'em down on the farm, after they've seen Pair-reee?" Well, Tony tasted hospital food and must have developed a taste for it, because he's back over there, eating their tapioca pudd and mystery loaf with "gravy".

All joking aside, poor old poop. He put on a brave face and suffered a lot of pain in the days he was home. That darn foot looked almost normal by Saturday night but then began to turn red, the leg got hotter and hotter and he started running a temperature. The foot swelled more and turned fiery red. He needed a doctor but we couldn't have gotten him out of here unless we took a chain saw to the end of the trailer so we called the EMTs. Lovely men. One of them, a big Native fellow, was one of the EMTs who took him to the Penticton hospital.

It took both EMts and Zak (Ian was gone) to get Tony into the ambulance safely and to transport him to our local hospital. We saw the new doctor in town, a lovely sweet and soft-spoken gentleman from England. It must be a bit disconcerting to move to a small community and find that everyone you meet already knows your name, your wife's name, how many children you have, where you went to school, where you lived before and other details which people normally take some time (and acquaintance) to discover. He was good humoured about it, but a bit dismayed to have drawn the short straw and to be working the first Canada Day he'd spent in the country.

At any rate he said Tony had an infection called cellulitis and needed IV antibiotics and a really good "going-over" to make sure nothing else was amiss. So they admitted him and we came home about 1:30 am.

Tony was feeling better this morning. The foot seemed not quite so hot and the red not so volcanic. His bed is by a large window which looks out onto two large trees, some flowers and shrubs and a vast rolling lawn with the hills beyond. Studies show that patients heal faster with a view of nature, so we have every confidence that he will soon be better and home again. But not until he is mobile enough for me to handle alone! I don't know how I would have coped without both Ian and Zak here. They have been wonderful.

This time I make fierce faces and will not let them discharge Tony too quickly. Thankfully he is only four minutes away now, not an hour.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Things I'm Learning

If, as Buddhism teaches, we choose our lives for the lessons we need to learn this has been a very instructive week. I've learned that I am cranky and bad-tempered when I am frightened and tired beyond tired. I don't deal well with the frustration of not being able to do what needs to be done all by myself, and I still think this is paradise.

Tony is home from the hospital after eight days. He had wonderful care, with one exception. It was impossible to impress on the nursing staff and physiotherapists that his muscles are not strong enough to do the acrobatics necessary to handle oneself one-legged on a walking frame or crutches. They couldn't seem to understand that he has very few working muscles in what essentially look like normal limbs. I do intend to talk to the surgeon, and if possible the Internist about this issue. Both were excellent, but they should have instructed the nurses more carefully about Tony's level of disability.

While we were there to defend him they left him alone, but when we were gone they insisted he get up and use the frame to go to the bathroom, which was a 12 - 15 foot walk one way. They also made him sit up in a chair with his leg hanging down, even though it was so swollen it looked as if the skin was going to separate.

Thursday night they thought he'd had a heart attack as he had intense pain in his chest, back and arms, but it was simply that he had strained his muscles using that blasted walking frame. He is now practically immobile, as with his disorder overused muscles grow more and more rigid over a period of several days, then become extremely weak. It may take months for him to recover his normal level of "strength", once he's back on his feet.

He can now only get up onto the commode which sits by his bed with the aid of two helpers (Zak and myself). It is a monumental effort which leaves him in pain, soaked with sweat and exhausted. It also makes his leg and foot swell and grow dark with congested blood. Needless to say he's only doing this when necessary, otherwise we have him using a urinal. By all rights he should be in a Rehab facility where they could deal safely with his muscle weakness, but I doubt that will happen. I'm not sure I'd trust him to someone else at this point anyway.

We have to take him to Penticton on July third to be assessed by the surgeon, and I am not looking forward to the trip already for his sake. But outside the weather is glorious. This is a holiday (Canada Day) and it's hot, sunny and beautiful. Tony is home. He can look out the window at our lovely trees and hillside, watch the clouds flow across the sky. We talk when he is awake and he hums as if nothing on earth were wrong. He has had many lessons in patience, and it seems they have served him well. He's better at patience than I am. It should have been my leg, but then he'd have a very hard time taking care of me.

It's just another day in Paradise. "Enjoy what there is to enjoy, endure what there is to be endured and through it all do not let your spirit be defeated." Nichiren Daishonin