Saturday, December 31, 2011

Barkley - Always the Source of Mischief

Everyone asks about the knee and it's hard to admit that I took it out walking Barkley. OK, ice, the wrong angles between leash, knee and canine were involved but still. . . .

You never know what trouble the furry one will get into.

Officer, I was just fetching my toy.

Ship? What ship? I didn't see any ship, we're just playing with a ball.

Chasing it was more fun than catching it.

Hey, I always choose wisely.

You all be safe out there. Happy New Year Everyone!

- B.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Putting the "O" in Mobility

I've been getting my share of knee jokes, "old age" jokes, and scooter jokes with the knee injury. When I hit age 40, I started getting the AARP cards in the mail. Those folks just don't give up. Given the liberal policies that AARP has supported, we will all be 70 before we can retire so I find that a bit ironic. I saved the last one I got, to send back to them in a personal manner.

Even worse, with the AARP card, came an envelope from the Scooter Store (with FREE mobility assessment). Actually this last week, I did use one of the store scooters at the big box mart as there was no way I could get through the store on crutches for what I needed for the house prior to doing the surgery thing. Although friends visiting offered to go buy everything I needed, I wanted to see if I could do it myself once we got there.

The scooter was sort of fun, though one of the greeters came over and asked if I needed help operating the controls (which consisted of forward, backwards, right and left). Granted it might be more difficult than the T-39 (which was built when someone was having a sale on Relays) but I was good to go, thanking them for their help. Speed wise it was a fair it less than the INDY 500 and more than a snail on demoral. But I was not only able to do a cookie in the chicken aisle, I found that the displays in electronic made for great S patterns at top speed. I also disovered that fat guys with carts containing 200 bags of Tater Tots can move surprisingly fast when faced with a redhead in a Springfield Armory T-shirt, converging at top scooter speed.

Dealing with the crutches and the scooter was the hardest part. I tried holding them up, but that made it hard to work the controls. I put one one out front. Jousting - WalMart Style. (if you can knock a Billy Bass out of someone's cart with it, it's bonus points). I finally gave in and let my friend carry them while I tried to burn rubber doing .02 mph watching that the WalMart manager was not involved in radar trail tactics.

So although it was handy, I will NOT be getting my own scooter and I wanted to make sure the scooter people realized that when I got my special scooter offer in the mail not long back.

The targets are set up. For my "mobility assessment" about 40 or so feet with iron sights.

BLAM! A shot first at a regular target at 30 feet to check for windage. .

Then it's time to put the "A" in "AARP".

Next the Membership Card itself.

"Nice Shootin Tex" I hear, as Mycroft, one of the IND bloggers who was there, wandered over to see what is going on.

And it's goodbye Mr. AARP Membership Card. The perforated card splintered into fragments and fell to the ground. The pieces will go in the envelope with the custom return address and be sent back to them.

Along with my "Free Mobility Assessment for the Scooter Store".
(I didn't quite get the shot placement I wanted, putting the "O" in mobility" but I think they'll still be surprised when they receive this back in the mail).

We all have things that arrive in our lives that remind us as to how quickly time passes. Shadows stir, the season shifts and before you know it, another year is behind you. The summer is past, with days on the run, and still evenings aloft, and all too soon you're herded inside walls, the routine of chilled mornings and dark nights, cold absolution for the time you spent out in the sun in months past. The days themselves were unchanged, but what you were able to do in them was, with mornings and nights passing in the immaculate intervals of quick daylight and long nights in front of the fire wishing for the cold to pass and Spring to arrive. Yet, when Spring does start, you think again of how quickly another season flew away, and of the last months you ask yourself - did you really accomplish anything to warrant the passing of precious time?

I remember one cold night in front of the fire pondering over Joseph Conrad's story "Youth", an old man's story of his perilous experiences as a young seaman on a storm-wracked coal liner. Having always been a headstrong girl, taking on one dangerous job after another, I empathized with what he said. "I remember my youth and the feeling that I will never come back anymore, the feeling that I could last forever, outlast the sea, the earth, and all men".

How easy as a child, a teen, even into your 20's to think you are invincible. Certainly some of my adventures would indicate that I too subscribed to this vision. But with adulthood, not only comes responsibility, but loss. Suddenly, for myriads of reasons, aging, illness, war; the people around you, as reliable as the sunrise, leave. Someone I knew casually through work was ill, and terminally. All of us had been trying to visit and as I passed through the door after our last time together, she said. . "when will you be back?". I said, brightly, "soon" and the moment it was out I knew that I'd never see her again, and that we both knew it. We simply refused to give voice to it, as to do so, would be to admit our own mortality.

If I had the chance to be 20 again I wouldn't. Time and memory is what has made me who I am. Events in my life, even the ones I'd rather not repeat, all served to awaken within me a stranger who was strong enough to survive it, to grow, becoming someone forged new, honed sharper and stronger.
When I was a teen I thought 30 was ancient, now that I am past it I realize to get older is to be slowly born again.

I remember it as a childlike leap from a boat deck into pristine waters, as an aircraft frantic in a stiff wind over the Sierras, as a night camped out in the woods before a hunt with my black lab, pouring into my head every star, every smell - of newly cut grass and cordite, of black soil and wood smoke, baked honey wheat bread and deep red wine. I recall the breeze off the reserve, the cascade of air coming down Big Creek, the cleansing of a badly broken heart, the release of youthful rivalries and grudges, a discarding of impatient thoughts and anger, as in these last years I gained patience, persistence and trust. I've moved past the deception of Conrad's youth, to a place where my soul is still, my life is full and when I leap from a runway with the wind in my hair, I know I will not live forever on this earth.

But I still don't need a damn scooter.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Update from friends

Brigid asked that I let everyone know the surgery went well. She is home and safe (all office chairs have been limited to linear motion only.) Between the Morphine, Demerol, and Hydrocodone she is not up to posting, but all is well.

Midwest Chick and Mr. B are on standby, Barkley is fed, and I'll make sure she doesn't start doing fancy footwork on the crutches at 2AM. (It might scare the neighbors.)

She sends her love and thanks for everyone's prayers.


Off to surgery

I had surgery less than 12 months ago. So, when am I officially Borg?

They are going to have to remove a portion of the meniscus, as it is torn beyond repair. That may bring some arthritis problems as I get older, but the doc said he'd do what he could, to save what he could,. The dislocated knee? They will adjust and I start PT on Friday for that.

Just a word of advice. If you've spent 30 something years running, carrying big back packs, flying jets, rock climbing, dodging trouble and giving a cat a bath, do NOT try and walk your 90 pound lab down an icy sidewalk when a female golden retriever is going the opposite direction. Just saying.

I've a post saved to come up later if I'm on line. If it does not, do not worry. I've friends staying with me through Sunday to take care of Barkley and myself, He is sticking by my side, not knowing what happened exactly, but knowing that Mom is not doing her best.

Brigid and Barkley (aka "the mangler")

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

As most of you have already read, Christmas didn't turn out in the least as I planned, being pretty much immobile and in a lot of discomfort with the blown out knee, not able to visit family or friends out of town. But with the warm thoughts of friends, and a couple of companions who refuse to leave my side, it turned out just fine.

To all of you who sent cards and packages, thank you. I'm sitting in some warm and fuzzy outer wear, with slippers and a cup of coffee from my new Kureg coffee machine, books to read (Red Green!), and new videos to watch (Wallace and Gromit with the nefarious penguin, my favorite). And last night, there was wine in new hand painted stemless wine glasses from friends up North, while we listened to the seasons strains of Metallica with the SFO Symphony orchestra (what, you were expecting Burl Ives?)

Santa Paws even remembered Barkley, with a stuffing free fox to mangle and a giant squeaky ball with feet (why yes, Barkley that IS annoying).

Even better, Santa got me a BACON PRESS!!! Breakfast pastry had been premade and frozen so all there was to do to make Christmas breakfast was heat up a new cast iron skillet and tools and get out the Amish Bacon that Midwest Chick and Mr. B brought down for me.

I couldn't do church, I can't even get in and out of the tub without a chair, a crutch and some serious cursing in Norwegian, but I wanted a traditional breakfast even if it took help. Such treats are always a good memory for me.

When I was a kid, we'd usually waffles, abelskivvers or pancakes for Sunday breakfast, but sometimes we'd have them for dinner as well. It was usually when the household budget was tight. My Mom quit her 13 year career as a LEO to be a full time Mom, and Dad took a lesser paying position that allowed him to be home every night. Sacrifices I know we benefited from. Certainly I remember those dinners and the laughter and the love that lived in the house 24 and 7, more than any brand new bike I didn't get.

My brothers and I loved "pancake night". Dad would grumble a little. . unless there was Bacon. Bacon I think could solve any problem. World peace. Through Bacon. Oh wait, well maybe not, but it sounds like a plan.

With or without bacon, I can sit and eat some fluffy, maple infused goodness, and watch the sun go up or down and the taste will take me back.

Sometimes Mom would make two kinds. Sourdough and regular. Or some with nuts and apples, or little bits of sausage inside, along with buttermilk ones. There would be maple syrup, and genuine Lingonberry Jam and real butter from the farm nearby.

Little bits, little bites to try them all. Dad would finally relax after a long stressful day at work, and we'd tell the tales of our day and small childhood victories. For these breakfasts for dinner, no worries about money, or the mortgage or the future. Simply bites of life shared with those you love. I'd savor one flavor, even while anticipating the next, savory, sweet, maybe nutty, the golden disks disappearing like coins well spent. I was never able to figure out which taste I wanted to end with, one taste of time that was almost too sweet to bear, or that which was so dense that I would remember it always.

Like pancakes for dinner, such was this Christmas, unexpected, not ending as planned, but full of little bits of sweetness and caring from those that have become my family.

I usually try and leave comments for all of you on your blogs or send emails but just this little bit has worn me out. Just know that I am thinking of you, even if we are apart, even if I don't say so today. Remember every gift you have, that we all are to each other, through good times and bad. For that is what friends and family are for.

Tis the Season.
With love,

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Taking it Easy - Knee Update

It's easier to post than to send out 50 emails. Sorry.

The MRI last night shows a definite tear through the medial miniscus (between the medial condyle of the femur and the medial condyle of the tibia) and some significant bone bruising. My family doc took a look at it and got me off immediately to the doc that works on the local football team, one of the best ortho guys in the area. That doc said "I usually see this injury in professional footballs players, what did you do?" He didn't buy the ninja story either.

He'll do the surgery this week, hopefully. On the plus side, x rays and all showed NO arthritis or pre-existing problems in the knees. I'll be on crutches for a week after the surgery (Barkley will have to stay with friends) then 4-6 weeks until "normal activity" (i.e field work, rappelling, zombies, ninjas, changing the oil in the truck, hiking, lifting more than a 22 ounce Guinness, etc.)

I have hydrocodone though, so tonight I can put on some music and sing "We Three Kings Disoriented Are".

Til then, some rest, some lefse with cinnamon and sugar that I made last week, and a post for later. . . .

Friday, December 23, 2011

Road Warriors - Safety in Winter

I posted a shorter version of this last winter. After seeing in the news yesterday about a young woman who got her car stuck and survived for 9 days on two candy bars and melted snow, I thought I should repost it, and add to it. Please have your family members read this, or talk with them about it. It could save a life.

Think about your drive home today. The sun might be shining, but what will the weather be like when you come home from work? What if your car slides or is forced off the road due to another driver that leaves the scene. There you are, stuck in a ditch or broke down in an isolated area as the temperature slides quickly to zero or below?

More times than you know, after a strong and unexpected storm, people have died on their way home, having left offices in light coats to covered parking garages, expecting a quick drive home to their snug garage. They are just going from covered parking to covered parking. Who needs gloves or a thick coat or other things? And they died.

Being outdoors in the winter, how you gear yourself is crucial. You have to dress for it, layering the clothes, making sure you keep dry at all costs. My Mom would tell us to keep our hats on as we'd lose 90% of our heat through our head. I'd be a smart alec and say "so Mom, I can go naked and wear a hat and I'll only be 10% colder".

It's not 90% but she was close. Even though my Arctic weight Carhart has a great hood that snaps in front of the neck, I still have a scarf for additional protection around the exposed areas. You can lose over 50 percent of your body heat from an unprotected head and even more if your neck, wrists and ankles aren't insulated well, for those areas of the body have very little insulating fat and thus are good radiators of heat. If you don't cover your head well, because of the blood circulation in it, much of it close to the surface, can cause you to loose heat quickly. The brain is quite susceptible to cold.

You want to avoid overheating as well. If you sweat into your clothes, that damp will decrease the insulation quality of the fabric and as the sweat evaporates, your body cools. If you start getting sweaty, open your jacket up a bit, or remove an inner layer of clothing or take off your gloves for just a minute. Hands, like the head can really dissipate the heat.

Do take gear for outdoor activities, even a day hike. If you have room and are going to be in the woods, pack up tightly a heavy, down-lined sleeping bag. Ensure the down remains dry. At least take an extra jacket, hat, gloves, and a blanket. If outdoors and you don't have a sleeping bag you can make one out of some parachute cloth, which is easy to pack and nature's own dry filler, pine needles, moss, leaves (make sure it's dry), placing the dry filler between two layers of the cloth.

But what about those less obvious treks, that trip to the store, that drive home from the lab or a night out on the town. That small trendy coat is going to seem pretty meager if you end up stuck, and unable to run your car's engine to heat the vehicle.

I always tried to carry a small survival bag in the car or in the truck when I know I am going to be out in isolated areas, or after dark anywhere. You don't need enough to stock or arm an entire platoon, just enough for basic protection from the elements and nutrition for a night or two. Pack it in a small bag, or a box.

That of course, is in addition to a personal carry piece in those places I can legally have one in the vehicle. Remember, if your trip is going across State lines, please carefully review the laws for having a weapon in your vehicle for each State you will travel through. Many states do NOT recognize other State's permits. Make sure the weapon is secure on your person or in proper storage, loaded only if you intend it to be, and never for a moment pointed at anything you don't wish to shoot. But have it handy, where you can get to it quickly and easily if the situation warrants its use to defend your life.

Why a weapon?

I am going to come across to some as alarmist but I speak from someone with experience in the field and the daughter of LEO's. Not everyone that may offer aid if you are stranded, especially women, is a good Samaritan. Women are often victims of those they trust. If the person offers help, have them call the Highway Patrol, Sheriff or local police. and stay near you until they arrive. But if your life is not in immediate danger, stay in your vehicle, with the window rolled up, until that help arrives. If a lone car pulls up with flashing lights, but no markings, or makings and no uniform, ladies, ask the officer for their ID before you roll down that window. Look at it closely. They won't mind one bit, and would hope their wives or children of driving age do the same.

Now for assembling a basic, compact, easy to store winter kit.

What NOT to put in the kit is easy.

I think you can get along without a Margherita (alcohol is not the beverage of choice if you are conserving body heat), a snow globe (just look out the window), a DVD, or your lip gloss.

Hearing protection? Well gentlemen, that depends who you are stuck in the ditch with (I told you to stop and ask for directions ).

Here's what I would carry for trips about town - just the basics, not heavy, and it doesn't take up much space. For starters, already in the vehicle is a small shovel, flares in the glove box, that firearm and ammo (legally carried and stored, check your State laws), a map, cell phone charger that will run off the vehicle's power supply, a trash bag and a small first aid kit (throw some surgical tubing in the first aid kit, it can be used for a tourneqet, transferring water from a catch and is generally more useful than straps). Those things stay year round.

Now time for the winter kit or the kit that goes on any trip away from developed areas. Swiss Army knife, food high in in fat/protein and carbs, water for at least 3 days, a metal container to melt snow, waterproof matches (in a waterproof container), a backup lighter, a compass, waterproof ground cloth and cover, flashlight, 60 hour emergency candle, water purification tablets, something to signal for help (a mirror to augment the flares), an extra warm shirt or jacket and an extra warm blanket. (I throw in a sleeping bag alongside as well). Also, a bright colored warm hat to wear and something else bright colored to wear or hang from an antenna. Warm, waterproof boots, gloves, tape, string and hand sanitizer. Why? Cleanliness will keep you from risking dehydration with an upset tummy, sanitizer can also disinfect a wound and be used in starting a fire. This is in addition to the box of Kleenex and wet naps I usually have in the car.

click to enlarge

It sounds like a ton of stuff but you can put it all in a medium sized box or small duffel bag in the trunk. Better yet, if you are traveling solo, space permitting, have it in the vehicle with you so you don't have to get out into the elements to set up for warmth until help arrives. Stay with your vehicle, attaching a bright piece of cloth to an antenna for visibility. Don't try and walk out if can you help it. People have done that and been found frozen stiff only a 1/4 mile away from their vehicle after getting disoriented in the snow.

Simple advice. Small, useful things you likely already have around the house. Gather them up. Know how to use them. They may one day save your life, so you can get home safely and in need of proper refreshment.

And save the frosty things for when you get home.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Home- Driving Mr. Barkley

I am home from Illinois to see my Doc for a referral to "ortho guy". I'm not used to being a passenger in the bat truck but there was no way I could flex the right foot and knee to handle the land barge.

So I got to "front seat drive" while my friend ferried me the 150+ miles home for my doctor appointment tomorrow. I was pretty good with the whole "keep your foot elevated for 48 hours", though with the spotted bruising on the sides of my upper torso from the crutches, I look less like "Victoria's Secret" and more like "101 Dalmatians". But I'm getting around and I could even stand on it for a moment today so it IS healing. Yay!

Barkley was picked up on the way in. He loves the friends he stays with but he's always happy to be home.

Tomorrow will be likely an MRI on the knee and picking up packages that are waiting at the UPS store. I have a couple holiday cooking and cookie posts to come up though even if I didn't get any Christmas shopping done this week as planned. But I'm not complaining. The knee will heal, I have friends, both furry and non furry, making sure I'm safe, a warm, snug house to stay in, and, even if I have to hop all the way up there, plans over the holidays with Midwest Chick, Mr. B., and the Og family.

Thank you all for your well wishes and your own knee stories.

Cheers -

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Holiday Blow Out

I woke to a bit of snow and ice on the ground, a perfect, crisp weekend for a gathering with friends up north.

A little Christmas cheer, with music, snacks and desserts and drinks, for about a dozen friends, mostly of the non blogger variety, all fans of trains, planes and automobiles.

I was working Party War Room for planning (OK, where is the tiny pie crust recipe?) Partner in Grime and I both love to cook and this was going to be a fun day of preparation with my being able to help him with a few of my own recipes. (click on the photos to enlarge)

Baking was started at first light, and cooking continued on until 6 pm when the first of the guests arrived. We kept busy, talking shop and other things while things baked, simmered and seared.

The buffet was laid out with adult beverages, and there was going to be plenty to eat.

Before the outside light gave out, the 60's retro aluminum Christmas tree went up in the parlor, with a original, rotating color wheel (come on, I remember having one of these as a kid).

As a plane flew over on the way into the airport some miles East, I thought it might be fun to have it on the big front porch but I could see it now. "uh. . tower, we saw some lights, not a laser strike, thank god, but we see colors, there's four of them, red and green and orange and red?. . . .what the??. . .(just kidding, it's not hardly bright enough for the tree, but it did bring back some memories).

The menu (the evening light and my briefcase camera did not make for the best of photos) was as follows:
Cream Cheese topped with Homemade Jalapeno Jelly (a dip combonation you have to try) with triscuits and vegetable sticks.

My famous Hot Sweet Onion Dip, for which the recipe was requested by many, served with wedges of fresh Pita bread.

2 cups chopped sweet onion
3/4 cup 2% sharp cheddar
1 teaspoon hot smoked Hugarian Paprika
1/2 teaspoon Heavy Metal Hot hot sauce
1 cup mayo
dash of pepper

Mix and top with 1/2 cup grated fresh parmeson and a dash of more smoked, hot paprika

Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes until bubbling.

E's homemade yeast rolls, cut in half and topped with:

(1) goat cheese and sautied mushrooms and herbs, then broiled
(2) steak marinated in vermouth then rubbed with espresso salt and chipotle and seared, on top of pepper jack, also broiled

Finger sandwiches: Turkey, cranberry and cheese or ham and cheese club on toasted sourdough and honey wheat.

and dessert:

An assortment of cookies including my Mom's Rosette recipe.

Plus small, hand crafted mincemeat pies, sliced apples with caramel cream dip, peanut butter and chocolate cookies, Pfeffernusse, dark chocolate/ cherry biscotti (yum, thanks I. !), eggnog and don't forget the trifle, made with a homemade butter rum pound cake, french vanilla custard and berries.

There was no big screen TV, no fuss other than food, just lots of conversation and laughter, card games and quips, and remembrances of parties past (last year there were marshmallow guns). As always, big fun watching our host, Partner, with a butane torch, finishing off the classic touch to the evening, fresh creme brule served with hot mulled wine and coffee. Everyone went home with a little plate of goodies and wishes for the best of New Years. All in all a wonderful evening, with new and old friends, a perfect holiday blow out.

However, I managed to blow out my knee as well (no, NOT playing Twister, but with slippery outside surface) the morning after the event. I'd wrenched it badly a couple days ago, when Barkley on his leash, decided to go East when I was going West. It hurt like blazes but seemed a little better, so I just kept trucking. But today, crossing the street in a hurry, I went down hard, the knee just giving out with a pop. I tried to just get up and get on my way, hopping out to the truck in traffic (think frogger) and heading home but E insisted on taking me to the emergency room (poker face, I am not and it was about as pleasant as a bag of spiders.)

They diagnosed a possible torn miniscus. A pair of "don't ask what the insurance is going to bill me for the crutches", some hydrocodone to help me get through the night and off I went, under orders to put my leg up on ice (frozen peas were recommended) for 24 hours and stay off it and then go see an orthopedic guy in IND. I do say the Chicago hospital was happy to have a patient in the ER that spoke English and had insurance and they took good care of me (though the every so kind, middle aged admittance nurse did NOT buy the story about the jet ski accident while being chased by Ninjas, but it sounded better than "I busted a move".)

So I won't be home for a couple of days (and yes, Partner or Midwest Chick or Mr. B. will drive me back to IND where my doctor is if need be), but I am surrounded by those that care about me. I couldn't quite make it to eat at the dining room, but on a leaf from the dining room table, with a grand dinner of pasta with green and black pepper, olive oil, parmasan and mushrooms, with red pepper puree and pitas and. . of course. . green beens.

Life is full of surprises, but with friends who love you, you can get through the holiday blow out, or whatever life hands you.