Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Why You Got the Flag

It was a TV show, ending in a graveside military flag presentation. I've seen it countless times on TV and in movies. I've been there myself. This time I had a marginally different perspective.

The officer handing the folded flag to the grieving widow saluted. I wondered for the first time whether, when the recipient is a veteran, do they salute back? How about if they are active military? Did Steve salute when handed our father's flag? I was sitting right next to him and I didn't notice.

I do remember the decision to have the flag handed to him. It surprised me that there was even a question. Steve was the next generation veteran in the family and I just assumed that his was the honor and responsibility of receiving and caring properly for it. He'd do the job.

Today I realized it went further than that. I believe the only reason I was even in consideration for receiving it was that at the end our dad was living with me. If I thought anything about what was behind whether I should receive the flag, it would be that somehow I had "earned" it for taking care of him, at least in others' eyes. It wasn't that way in mine.

Steve was more than welcome to have the flag as a keepsake, as a way to remember and honor him that would be especially meaningful to him.  I had those two extra years of memories and getting to know the young person our dad had been as he reverted back to his childhood as he failed, something to keep and honor him by.

Maybe You Gotta Scream First

A really weird thing happened on Monday, and the wheels started grinding. Not sure whether I hope my thoughts on the subject are correct or not. Not even sure which way I hope the turn out.

Let's start with that visit to the neighbor's house a couple months ago. Quick recap: terrible chair, terrible "help" getting out, extreme pain. The thing is, even though it kept hurting for a few days afater that, my knee actually gained mobility after that.

Now this Monday, this time in PT, as the neighbors back up are enjoying their Canadian cool. I was lying back on the table, knee bent, foot flat, trying to pull my foot nearer to my butt. What I felt was a progressive ripping in the tissues under the skin, just as if there was a zipper there getting pulled apart one piece at a time. The therapist was pulling rather than me doing the work, and when I yelled, she stopped. But she made me try it again, and I felt it again, just this time starting where it had left off and heading further down the leg. The next morning, I felt it again, lighter but the same sequential kind of ripping feeling, going a bit further down.

I haven't felt it since, though I've been a bit easing off on the PT for about 36 hours, simply in fear of it recurring. There is no particular residual pain there. No bruising or discoloration, no swelling. Nothing to indicate anything actually happened. But something "came apart" inside my knee. Perhaps it had to. Knowing there is no actual zipper in there, my first thought was that the staples had caught up a little something extra inside their grip. My second thought was to wonder if the word "adhesions" was applicable. I didn't bother to look it up.

I finally went back to fully pulling for the bend in the knee, no longer going easy on myself. I know that doesn't really help me long term, so back to work. It didn't repeat, so I figure whatever it was that was letting go, it did what it needed to. I think I'm getting that bend a bit better now. 90 degrees with elastic belt assistance was near impossible, and now my eye says its happening.

So I'm wondering just how much you need to push "past the point of pain" as they say on the PT instructions. In order to improve,  maybe you just gotta scream first?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Worse The 2nd Time Around

There are two levels here. The first may simply be a forgetting of the pain from last time. It is thus all subjective, yet none the less real. As this is now day 4, and walking is much more tolerable already, plus I am not fighting against taking the full dose recommended of pain meds for all those reasons I posted about earlier, I am much more willing to go with the subjective part of the evaluation.

Except for one very big thing. This time, coming out of the anesthetic, was the very worst experience I have ever had. And I've had plenty. I like to joke that all the spare parts have now been removed.
When I hit a new doctor's office and need to list previous surgeries, it's almost too long a list to remember, and definitely too long a list to keep track of the scientific names for. Tonsillectomy I can pronounce. Spell even. But there's a fancy term for what's more easily understood as gall bladder surgery. That's so far down my list that I've given up on trying to even remember how many syllables it has, much less what they are and how they are spelled.

All of that is in favor of establishing my street creds for being able to judge what is my worst time of it. So if you can accept my background for judging, let's scoot right on over to the details.

From the very first second of renewed awareness, it was bad. I've never gotten the "shakes" from anesthesia before. Just in case you cannot logically extrapolate from the expression, tensed up muscles increase pain exponentially. Relaxing is a wonderful gift, heretofore underappreciated. All that tissue severed and pulling against the stitches and staples trying to hold it back together so you don't spill out all over the floor... can we just settle for a unconditional statement of never wanting to go there again? Please?

 I'm not sure just why it was different this time. Did they use a different dose? Different drug? Stop it at a slightly different time? I caught some background chatter about doing something different with the anesthesia once I was able to both feel the pain and recognize I needed to shake - like that was a choice? - and finally capable to move the right muscles to vocalize what was happening. I'm not sure if that background comment was actually about me, but people started moving around and dosing me with whatever, and after about 5 minutes it eased.

Five minutes is a very long time, unless you're eating very good chocolate ice cream. I wasn't.

I went back under for a bit after that, not remembering the actual lift and transfer into my room bed. That is a good thing, though it had an unintended consequence. I was not there to keep track of what was being done for me out of the list of things which were supposed to be getting done for me. Some of you will instantly recognize the phrase "it was shift change" and understand. I heard at least three different people tell me that ______ would take care of that for me as soon as he/she got in. I was trusting enough to accept that, or at least groggy enough not to fight against it.

Big mistake. There was an increasingly full bladder demanding attention as I would cycle around to consciousness again. There were pain meds that I was actually argued out of taking. Reasons I was given included it being too close to getting my next dose and not being as desirable a pain medication so maybe I really wanted to wait?

Seriously? My nurse is suggesting to me that despite my post-surgical pain (scale of 1 to 10, score 13)  that maybe I really wanted to wait to get pain medication? Are you freaking insane? My reaction at that point is every twitch of my body screaming "Fix it! Fix it! Give me the strongest stuff you've got and if it makes me unconscious, so much the better right now!" Plus I know I'm going to have to get up to pee, as in walking to the toilet, and that's going to hurt even more if I'm not properly medicated.

One of the ways I react to anesthesia, and probably one they deliberately go for, is losing not just the ability to move myself around but the will to do anything. Think lobotomy. I'm simply not assertive. I may be screaming on the inside but it never reaches the throat. It's being conscious without there being a "there" there.

It lasts a while. I was awake enough to read the clock but not capable of doing anything to follow up on taking care of my needs for two whole hours. Yep: two hours!

When my nurse finally poked her head inside the door enough to give me her attention, and I was able to say something to her, I had a list!

Unfortunately, she got defensive. Now intellectually I can understand the chaos of shift change. I didn't need it to all crash down on me, however. I'm sure I wasn't all cheery, friendly, or smiley as I listed my issues, but then neither was I blaming, swearing, yelling, or bitchy - unless just the process of enumerating a list of issues comes across as bitchy. But I didn't either want or need excuses. I needed specific attention. And I finally got it.

Of course, the pain levels  had been allowed to climb in the meantime, and it's much more effective to keep on top of them rather than have to play catch-up. Takes lower doses that way as well. But my much needed hike to the toilet was excruciating, so bad in fact that I wasn't sure I was even able to support myself without a fall. My escort just sort of rambled along next to me rather than observing that I was nearing the wrong side of coping. He also assumed aloud that I was capable of not only standing again but doing it steadily enough that I could safely wipe my own behind afterwards. You know, because that was when I should ring the bell pull for him to come back. Umm, did not do that so well. Scary. That experience encouraged me to delay the next few potty trips as well, exactly the opposite of what I should have been doing.

Contrast that with a pair of nurses that first night  after doing the first knee who made sure I felt neither reluctance nor embarrassment about needing to be wiped those first times, and in fact offered should I need an assist. Oh, and made sure for the first two trips I was wearing a safety belt for additional support and they were on the other end.

I should note that by mid morning of day 2 I was just fine with coping, and by day 3 steady as a rock and impatient at needing to wait for my escort back to bed. But this was immediately post surgery. (Well, plus those two hours of delay.) My first hike. I really needed him for what he was supposed to be there for, that first time.

And apparently I was still not so good at being assertive.

Let me insert here that I should have asked for someone to be there with me when I woke up. Knowing I would be something less than company, I turned down offers. Turn back the clock to when I was 40 and had nobody to wait in the hospital with me. Kids in school or working, no boyfriend, etc. A good friend insisted that I really needed somebody to be there with and for me, and took a day off work to be that person for me. At the time I thought it was loving and very sweet of her to do. I never connected it to "necessary", not until now. So once I regained some semblance of my mind back, I called her up and let her know very belatedly how much that meant to me even though I hadn't a clue at the time. She would never have let two hours pass before somebody tended to a stated need of mine.

Thank you again, Joan.

Once my most pressing needs were taken care of, I was clear enough to hold an actual conversation with my nurse. I do respect nurses, and more, recognize how vital they are to what happens during my hospital stay. Together we could plan my meds schedule, basing it around not only the clock on the wall but the needs of PT so I could stand to do the exercises. We could schedule cleaning up and dressing, keep information flowing both ways. I wanted to be sure we two could work successfully and amicably as a team.

My cardiac meds unexpectedly became involved in a disagreement on the last day, as well. My BP was a bit low. They plan on your not taking BP meds on the day of surgery. That was fine. It can bottom out under anesthesia. They also delayed the timing of my metoprolol, but they'd done that with the first knee,  explaining that morning meds just happened at 9AM for everybody, not 6 as in my home schedule. So I expected that as well. But then they were going to withhold, not just delay, the metoprolol, as well as the amiodarone, both of which I take to maintain cardiac rhythms. New-to-me nurse here, by the way.

I kept shaking my head and saying "no" as she listed each thing she wasn't giving me. I was also getting this look that told me she was finding me a difficult patient. It was not a look that indicated in any way that I would be getting my meds. Not even when I told her the two in my case were not just for BP but to maintain rhythm properly.

I suddenly had an epiphany. I had just set my kindle down as she'd walked in, and I keep two very important little strips of paper in its cover. So I switched the conversation around to having her acknowledge she knows how to read an EKG. Yes, she does. So I pulled the strips out so she could read for herself exactly what happened when I was not getting proper meds. They were the EKG strips taken in the ambulance on my ride to the hospital last summer. It impressed her enough that she let me know she no longer just thought I was being "anal" about my meds. Then after a quick check with the hospital doc who'd given the original order to withhold meds, I got the amiodarone back. Good enough compromise. I let her know I appreciated her following through on the matter for me.

There were other unsettling things about my first night. Obviously my brain wasn't working well, but I do recall that the list I had for my nurse had three things on it. I've no clue what the 3rd was. But the response I got was that it was something that I was supposed to have set up ahead of time, with time somehow defined as immediately after surgery but before now when I was functional. I still fail to understand just how whatever-it-was was supposed to be my responsibility when I was incapable of doing anything except feel a filling bladder and a knee that felt like a dozen knives had just sliced holes in it, nor did I recognize either name or function of the person I was to have set this up with.

It is remotely possible that item 3 on my list was a query about supper. It it was, I still don't see how I was supposed to have arranged it ahead of time. I did actually get my menu choices made in time for breakfast, and all following meals. I also thought I had not eaten the night before. However, while perusing the menu I read the details about one entry and could not only picture exactly how it looked on the plate, despite no picture in the menu, but knew how it tasted and felt in my mouth. I even recalled how much of it I had left on my plate!

Speaking of epiphanies, I have trouble fully communicating another one I had. There are two orthopedic wings in that hospital. One caters to "Joint Club" patients as first priority, the other to both the joint club overflow and to other  post-surgical ortho patients. In theory, they should be identical. Either can take the overflow from the other as necessary, both combine into one when patient levels drop, same floor plan,  both interchange staff.


Having had two mirror surgeries in 10 weeks, one recovering in each wing, to me they were different. Possibly it is due to the two opposite kinds of wake-ups. But I found just enough difference in primary function, that despite their attempts to keep them the same there were differences. When you specialize in the exact precise thing that I need, and do that precise thing for and with everybody, you do it better and my needs are better met. It may be as little as 1/10th of a percent of difference, but it's there.

Normally when they shut down one wing, it's the joint club side they keep open. This time it was the medical-surgical side. Same staff for PT, exactly. Many of the same supporting faces from last time. I would just hope, because the differences are so subtle, that they continue to keep joint club open when they cut back. Make the open wing "joint club plus" rather than "orthopedic including joint club". Maybe it's as subtle as how the first trip to the bathroom gets handled. Or which clock takes priority over distributing meds due to PT scheduling. Or knowing whether and just how high to raise the bed before I get out or in, and which leg needs how much assist to change position, chair or bed. None of those things are huge. The difference they make is.

For all who were wondering, I am home, reasonably sane, partially capable. I still have a schedule that alternates about an hour of sleep with  two awake, but sometimes it's the opposite. I can actually hear most of a question that's asked and process what's meant, and if it's a really good time, come up with an answer. I can almost watch a whole TV program without finding myself waking up to either commercials or a "Delete this?" box in the corner. Reading lasts about  three pages. In short, I'm recovering. Call me in a day or two.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

So, Are You Ready Yet? Huh? Are Ya?

Uhhh... maybe.

The real question is whether I'm ready for surgery tomorrow. Have I done all I need to? Am I mentally prepared?

Yes... and no. And/or no... and yes.

Obviously I've been here before, quite recently. I know what's coming, how to prepare. I also am aware of how much just can't be prepared for, and that's even when everything goes exactly as it should, no complications.

There's a bunch of stuff I won't be able to do for weeks afterward. Other that I can but won't want to. Of those, some things are done, some not. For example, I tried to save myself an extra trip to the pharmacy for a refill, but the insurance company says not yet. No problem with them if I refill while I'm actually in surgery, but....

I've tried to grocery shop ahead, but some will spoil while I'm not here and some things I'll suddenly decide I need during recovery. I've prepared with laundry - presuming I follow through with the load in the washer right now - and stuff is set out for getting packed in the morning. They've changed my surgery time three times now, but it's finalized so I know I'll have time for that without needing to set an alarm.

The pills I have to add to my routine have been added, and the ones I need to delete are stopped for now. WOW! Who would have believed how much of a difference in my pain levels and knee usage it made to have ibuprofin? Or how many times in this last week I could have taken note of that fact? And tomorrow, besides being NPO after midnight, I have to also delete my blood pressure meds from the daily dose so my BP doesn't drop too much under the anesthetic.

The house has gotten more of a cleaning that it got before the last surgery, including vacuuming. Which doesn't get done without including cussing, in turn. Sheets have been changed because the surgery department believes it matters the night before. Somehow they must think that my dryer sterilizes them, that they never touch anything on their way to being folded and unfolded as they travel from laundry to bed, that no dust wafts across the air currents, no dogs jump on the bed, and my before-bed special soap shower and clean PJ change also bring no germs into the environment, or at least that it's very different from doing it, say, yesterday.

Oh yes, I give myself another special-soap shower tomorrow morning before dressing in street clothes that somehow magically protect me from all microbes on my way in the (YIKES!) car to the surgery department.

Ahhh, optimists.

I've worked to watch all the backlogged TV shows on the DVR, catch up on bills, phone calls and emails as well as blog postings, petting the dogs to make up in advance for what they will miss, check out yard tasks (note I didn't claim to actually have done any), organize paperwork, etc.  If I remember, I'll actually charge my cell phone and kindle tonight. I don't recall even feeling up to inquiring where I might charge them on my last visit. It was way more important to know how to use the nurse call for my assisted trip to the bathroom. Uh, trips. I never did figure out how to watch TV in the room. Nor care.

The physical equipment is still set from last time. Steve will switch our laptops to the opposite chairs for about three weeks until I'm no longer needing the services of the lift chair. Toiletries have been stockpiled, along with changes for dressings and other items I didn't know I needed the first time. PT appointments have been all scheduled, and the battle to convince Medicare that they are my primary insurer has been won. (Long story. Remind me.) I even ordered a toilet frame sent to Paul's house to assist with our time there. Being able to reach back and push off will still be much appreciated, and it's completely removable to fold and store for some other time.

Plans to close up the house for the trip north are being more solidified, starting with rejecting all the extra hassle involved if we decided I needed to fly back. First I'd need a new drivers license, requiring documents I don't have like an old marriage license to explain a name change. Then there are the papers assuring TSA that I'm not smuggling IEDs onto the plane inside both my knees. And so what if we decide it'll take an extra day or two to actually drive up when even those motel nights would still wind up costing less than the airfare? It may seem like I'm way ahead of myself with all that, but I have a good respect for how little mental effort I'll want to expend for several weeks and then will be too late.

There's still stuff I haven't done and won't. I was thinking about baking cookies. Scratch that. No floor mopping either. I don't care what the dogs have done there! There's still over a half tank of gas in the car, and an oil change will wait another month or two. What's it gonna be? An extra 100 miles? Pooper scoop? Let Steve!  Seriously Steve, don't forget to scoop.

I do believe, though, that the most important question being asked within the umbrella of am-I-ready is whether I'm emotionally prepared for another round of surgery. The definitive answer is yes. And no. It's a mix of wishing to avoid the new pain levels I know await, particularly after having no ibuprofin to allow me enough comfort to roll over in bed right now to remind me just a bit what it'll be like. Plus knowing that the bone/joint pain will be gone very quickly when I start walking. It's wondering how much different it will be working with two replaced knees rather than one, and knowing how easy the recovery has been thus far with just one. It's finding out how it hurts to get in and out of the car after it didn't feel like that  for nearly 2 months. It's knowing how great the hospital staff was the first time through the process.

And there's a last weird one in the mix. It's about the anesthetic creating a bit of retrograde amnesia so that I have no recollection of the chemical smells from the OR. Back when, 4 surgeries and nearly 30 years ago, what they used did not have that effect. Every time I entered a hospital for years after that - and there were a lot through work - I smelled those same chemicals and some visceral part of me recalled all the pain of that most recent surgery. When memory vanishes before leaving pre-op, starting up again with the transfer into my own bed in my room, that doesn't happen. So I don't have to brace myself for it.

So am I ready?


Thursday, May 12, 2016

An After-Hours Swim and Other Crap

His name might have been Rick. It's been so many years, and it really wasn't important to me at the time anyway. It was back when I was a lonely freshman on campus and he was an upperclassman fraternity brother. Not just any fraternity, no, this was Alpha Tau Omego, ATO for short, right across the street from my dorm, home to the supposedly smart guys. They weren't like the "Teeks" who decided to flood their frat house basement for want of their own swimming pool, destroying its foundation and shutting down that frat on the campus, at least for a while. Not following that news, I have no clue how long it lasted.

Since I have been unable to come up with a better name for him, I'll call him Rick here. If it's wrong, he may thank me. He wasn't all that impressive, despite being an upperclassman and an ATO. There was just that one thing about him: some nincompoop on the faculty entrusted him with a key to the swimming pool, the real one, which he could and did use to offer younger females the chance to go for an evening swim with him. (Hey, I couldn't have been the only one, right? Even I figured that out.)

In all my life, there have been few physical activities which I actually enjoyed, and swimming was the first of them, once I finally learned how and managed to secure a reliable set of noseplugs. Bicycling was another early one, but by that time I was considered - and considered myself to be - too old for that. Later would come beledi and other forms of dancing, occasional canoing, and hiking over whatever terrain as long as a camera was involved. At the time of Rick's invitation, swimming was still big on my list of favorite activities, so without much thought, I answered, "Yes." After all, swimming! Didn't matter that it was late at night - that was part of the thrill, being forbidden, and if caught I could assure whatever authorities that Rick had assured me that this was perfectly OK - or that I didn't particularly know or feel attracted to Rick, because, hey! Swimming!

I know: unbelievably naive, right? Besides selfish, as well.

By fifteen minutes into the swim, I had a revelation. I had never realized that swimming could be boring! It turns out that even worse than having no company was being in the wrong company. If I drooled over fit guys, I suppose it could have been entertaining enough. But I didn't. And nothing that evening told me that Rick was very interesting to know, aside from his having that magic key, and despite his being in the "smart" fraternity. I really couldn't swim the way I wanted to, because Rick kept crowding me . I was a good enough swimmer that I kept getting away from him, back into my personal comfort space though it wasn't known as such those days, and he let me. I'd guess it was a fairly novel experience for him, being so thoroughly avoided, and finding out it wasn't just a game of playing coy. I really was only interested in the swimming.

The grown up me would feel like I owed him an apology for that, except for what came later.

I knew just enough about him that I knew he was engaged to some girl from wherever "back home" was, and was operating on the idea that his actions in the pool would respect that. I know: unbelievably naive again, right? Maybe just unbelievably lucky that actual rape wasn't on his mind. But with both of us being bored with how the evening was going, it wasn't a disappointment when it ended fairly quickly. The swim was refreshing, not to be repeated, end of story.

Or so I thought.

I was also unbelievably naive about what guys go back and report to their "brothers" about what happens on a date like that. They can't just say it was OK, but hey, didn't meet expectations. Nope.


I didn't find out about that addendum to our swimming date for several weeks. It came in the form of Ann F. and Gerri T., two girls who lived a couple doors down the hall in the dorm. They were, I decided later, the kind of people who love sticking their noses deep into somebody else's business, the worse news they carried the better, all in the smug sanctimoniousness of doing it "for somebody's own good."

It started as a warning. I was to quit chasing Tom M. and some other guy whose name is lost in the mists of indifference. I kind of thought I knew who Tom was, another fraternity brother, hence viewed across the street on occasion, but had no clue either on who the second one was or where this was all coming from. After  much back and forth with Ann and Gerri, I found out, and it was ludicrous. It was almost laughable, except that this was back in the day when these kind of slurs on a reputation meant something.

Switch back to first term astronomy class. I got there a bit late the first day and my seat was towards the rear of the auditorium and off to one side. I'm not sure why this didn't change, whether those default seats were assigned or it was just habit. I didn't think it mattered as I could hear and see well enough to learn what I needed to for my "A". The professor stood down in the center, and as it turned out, right in front of Tom and Whoosit in the center front row. I actually had noticed them in class, not just because they were in my direct line of sight but because they both kept turning back and looking somewhere over in my direction. Since their actions had nothing to do with me, I paid them little note other than thinking them foolish, and just kept my eyes and ears on the professor.

Somewhere in their little pea brains attached to highly oversized egos, they concocted the idea that I was busy staring at them all through class! As for supposedly chasing them, I have no recollection of ever speaking to either of them. Nor wanting to. Especially after hearing about this from Ann and Gerri.

I tried to point out to Ann and Gerri how ridiculous this all was, but found I was getting nowhere with them. It was all because of Rick, you see. They wanted me to be sure to know that I ruined his engagement because of seducing him that night in the pool!

Whoa! Wait! What?

Not only had that never happened but if any so-called news of it reached his fiancee, it was all on his own head, either his excuse for other fooling around or some credulous frat brother letting something slip during a visit. I figure the fiancee was lucky they broke up, though I wouldn't say that to Ann and Gerri.

As it turned out, I managed to say little to nothing at all to the two of them for the rest of my time on that campus. Ever. On any topic.

I still wouldn't, not on any polite topic. Of course I'd have to be re-introduced to them to know who they were. We've all changed over nearly 50 years. Perhaps that's a blessing. I'm not so guarded with my tongue these days as I was then. I'd likely inquire whether they'd reaped as much misery as they delighted in spreading. It's tempting to hope so.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Spring Marches On

You can only call it spring on the calendar. Days typically are in the 90s, a couple each week over 100. But they're not calling it monsoon season yet, so for the native Arizonans I guess it's still spring.

The yard has been cleaned up. Filipe came over with his blower and rakes and got up the pine straw and accumulations of dead leaves so it looks neat again. The bird seed block had just been finished but we waited a week to put the new one out, mostly laziness since it was sitting inside the house waiting, and the seed eating birds are returning to the back yard. It's mostly pigeons and dove varieties, but quail are coming back as well.

I hadn't seen quail in our yard for a couple weeks, though I haven't spent time looking either, getting organized for the upcoming surgery. No further baby quail, or larger youngsters have been seen, so I'm thinking they haven't had a good year. We have a neighbor who lets a cat roam at night, and it's easy to pin the blame there. The first pair of adults hitting the block this afternoon caught my attention. I couldn't figure out why they looked weird until I decided the female was limping. A further look from a better angle showed she was sans tail as well, so just had some kind of narrow escape. The male was keeping quite close to her as they crossed the yard.

The best rain of the season just hit, bringing us up to over an inch YTD. It was the same day the back yard got cleaned, starting just as the tools were being loaded into the truck, and it was a joy to look out after it fell and see standing puddles in the low spots, including around the trees we haven't watered since we returned last fall. They are thriving, by the way. Our palo verde doubled its height this last year, the desert willow is just finishing blooming, and the palo blanco has a hummingbird who has staked out its territory among the dozen or so seed pods resulting from hundreds of fuzzy pale catkins it bore earlier. One sees them all in silhouette, so you have to sort out the pod-looking-thing with a beak from the others.

The new bushes from last fall are still being watered and are thriving. The only one not yet showing signs of blooming is the Texas mountain laurel, but it's still just 2' tall. Maybe next year. The ones lining Hwy. 60 that we see on the way to Surprise are bearing clusters of buds, still greyish at this point, but I remember their abundance of purple from last year. Our little sage has bloomed twice now, the orange bells has never stopped blooming from its original foliage and has sent up nearly twice again the number of new shoots for next year's blooms, and the yellow bird of paradise, of which we cut back its single stem in February, now has two very tall stems, one bearing a bud cluster looking very healthy.

The honeysuckle, also cut back last winter, is twice as tall and just as full. We don't expect blossoms until fall. The biggest and best surprise has been the San Marcos Hibiscus. It's first pale yellow bloom was both a delight and a lucky sighting as we have found out they open for only a single day. A closer look shows all the stems lined with buds, and while one may bloom from a stem every few days, with all those stems suddenly growing every which way, it's not uncommon to see six or seven blossoms in a single day.

The big old ocatillo in the corner has bloomed its prettiest that we've seen since moving down, thanks to a broken lemon tree branch across the fence that was shading it until last fall. The young ones along the east fence are thriving, especially now that we realized the rabbits were nipping them across their tops and we had to replace their wire cages with ones twice as tall. No blooms there yet, of course, but we started with 6" tall babies. The blue agaves planted between them along the fence are thriving, even the one I thought I completely squished when I fell on it while doing the planting.

Tough old birds.

Our red yuccas in the front are surviving despite rabbit predation early and ongoing, even with their chicken wire cages. But one is stubborn enough to have sent up two flower stalks this season, charming both us and the resident front yard hummer. It now bears several growing seed pods even while still bearing profusely. Of the rest of the front yard plantings, the healthiest are still the rocks, so I guess it's a good thing we have a lot of those.

I have four more days to get through before surgery #2 . I really miss my ibuprofin! For a week I have to forgo all medicines considered blood thinners, so all I have left are Percosets. Since everybody has decided, absent actual evidence, that Prince is merely the latest famous person to die from opioid OD, everybody's jumping on the no painkillers bandwagon, at least in public. That leaves me concerned, not about personal addiction, but about personal access to an effective supply after we head back up north. It's one of the reasons I've been working so hard to cut back my usage, i.e. stockpiling, the other being that I can. Doc prescribed 3 per day (5/325) for this week, but I've been limiting myself to two, taking half tablets 4x day. It nearly works, but I miss the ibuprofin most in bed when I go to roll over from one side to the other. Legs get tangled in sheets, or rest on the other at some non-flat angle, and "ow-ow-ow-ow" is how I wake up. About 6 times every night. I need my anti-inflamatory too, and won't get it for about three weeks. Good thing I can sleep days.

Otherwise, I've been having Steve drive me around for appointments, shopping, etc. There are no more 8 hour periods since the last Perc, so I'm not legal. Again. But groceries are stocked, laundry is done but not put away, Ellie is shaved down, the biggest Fred furballs are picked up off the floors, the wedding ring is where we both know how to find it after I can wear it again, the calendar is full of appointments. I got an unexpected one today because the surgeon forget this 2nd time to get a "long bone" x-ray so they can tell how long my leg should be when they are finished. No, they assure me they can't make me an inch taller in the process! Darn!

There's been a lot of sitting around, reading, catching up on missed TV episodes, watching everybody else's bad weather on the news, snickering at alarm over annother 2-point-something earthquake up in the northwest corner of the state, loudly contemptuous over news anchors who still think Arizona is going to become beachfront property. Even worse was the "expert" who assured them it wouldn't happen for at least a million years, totally ignoring that the California plate is riding up over ours rather than preparing to fall off into the ocean.


We definitely need a better educational system.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Bird Brain

Literally! And demonstrably earning the denigration implied in the name.

Near as I can tell, after pouring through the bird identification pictures, and doing that only after actually holding it in my hands, it's a curve billed thrasher.

It's been around for a while. It likes the hummingbird feeders, it's bill narrow enough to poke inside the openings and grab itself a drink. We cut off the perching rings the feeders come with as a way if letting the hummingbirds rest while they eat, because they made it too handy for the thrasher. It wasn't deterred, however, hooking one foot around the plastic flower, the other around the wire hanger, and thus secured, dipping its bill into the sugar water. As territorial as the hummers are, they seem to have given up on dive bombing the bigger bird that simply ignores them until it's finished anyway.

With the first line of defense against it now useless, I gave up fighting it, partly in admiration for its cleverness, partly because the hummers don't drain the feeder fast enough anyway to keep the sugar from drying out in crystals on the bottom. It's much harder to clean that way before refills. So, what the heck.

It has gotten easier for us to passively allow the dogs access to the back yard by leaving the patio slider open during the day. Very few bugs fly in, perhaps two flies a week, and there are fewer puddles to wipe up when our timing doesn't quite match the dogs'. Lately however the thrasher has gotten to be a regular visitor - inside the house.

We're not sure why. Every time it ventures inside it gets terrorized by the dogs. They think it great sport to chase it around, and manage each time to get the little birdbrain to leave behind a few feathers in its panicked flights from curtains to windows to Steve's hats to the picture frame for which I think we have the right kind of glue, to... well, any and every where. The formerly clean and folded towels on top of the dryer. The window blinds, from which it requires an assist in freeing its wings. Cabinet tops. Chair backs. The fireplace mantle.

It takes a while and several sharp commands to call the dogs off and enclose them in another room so the bird can calm down enough to find its way out again. Usually in a half hour it's gone after being left completely alone. I've found that my chasing it does exactly as much good at encouraging it to locate the door it came in through as does having the dogs chase it. So I don't try.


This morning they chased it into a corner of the floor between the wall and a display cabinet. Fred could nearly push himself into the space. Ellie did, dragging the bird out in her mouth before dropping it at my command. The bird huddled back into the corner where I was able to slowly surround it by my hands and scoop it up gently. It didn't seem to be hurt, despite new piles of feathers on the floor, and was not fighting my holding it once I had it securely in my hands. (It hadn't been too thrilled when I first only managed to hold onto a single wing.)

Taking it back out to the patio to check it out further for injuries, it began to struggle in my hands. I tossed it up slightly and it flew off to the fence top at the edge of the yard, perched for a few seconds, and disappeared. I presume it is fine.

However, from what it has shown of a learning curve so far, I do not presume that it has learned to stay out of the house. One of these days it may discover a different set of consequences. Perhaps I'll simply come home to a much bigger pile of feathers on the floor. But they are much easier to clean up than the other kind of doggie presents, so I'm thinking we'll still keep a door open for the dogs.