Wednesday, September 20, 2017

And Suddenly It's Autumn

20 September 2017

Sometimes life is busy and I don't have much time to blog.  And sometimes, like this summer, one or both of us are recuperating from medical stuff, and so we're not doing much of anything - so we don't have anything about which to blog.

That's what July, August, and much of September have been like.  Physical therapy at the joint gym for me.  Walking with a cane.  Graduation from joint gym, and physical therapy on my own in the hotel.  Lots of time with the ice wrap, and practice walking.  Then minor outpatient surgery for Richard, and me taking care of him.  Richard with ice on his eye, me with ice on my knee.  Nothing exciting, just recuperation time.

In the middle of August, though, we did have a big exciting event.  My youngest brother married his long-time lady friend in a wonderful ceremony out in a beautiful garden park.  I had the honor of serving as the wedding officiant, something I did occasionally in St. Thomas and elsewhere.  It really is great fun to be a wedding officiant, though rather emotional when it's a family member getting married.  But, well, mind over emotions or something like that.

My brother and new sister-in-law met in first grade, when our family moved from New York to Bellingham, WA.  The two were at least acquaintances through elementary school, and worked on a project in fifth grade.  Apparently their garbage clean up and recycling project got them on the front page of the local newspaper, complete with a photo of the two of them together.  Who knew that some 45 years later they'd get married!!!  

Of course, our other brothers showed up, and almost all the nieces and nephews, so it was a wonderful family event.  (I went to the airport to pick up one niece, and wait for her brothers who were arriving shortly after her flight came in.  As I was waiting, another niece showed up, not knowing that her cousins were all arriving about the same time, and not expecting me to be hanging out in the airport!  It really was fun!)

So it was a lovely wedding with family involvement, gorgeous late summer flowers, and Dad's hat sat with Richard and also had a great time. 

I should mention that I've met some of my brother's friends through the years, and there were a number of people who recognized me, and who I remembered after they gave me their names.  Plus his work takes him to varied places around the world, so guests came in from places like Scotland.  Or Singapore.  Or, well, it seemed like all over.  That was exciting as well, to chat about where they live, especially if we've visited there.

And yes, the food was great!

We also spent a long weekend in Seattle, and my friends had our yearly get together communal birthday celebration.  Too much food, lots of talking, plenty of wine, and a really exceptional flourless chocolate decadence.  Time with another friend over breakfast, and returning most of the knee equipment.  Just, catching up and talking and finding out what's new.  When you only see friends a few times a year, it means that you cram in as much as possible on those few occasions when you see them.

And that's been it.  Finishing up the doctor's visits, shopping for items to supplement either our clothes, or replenish toiletries, or whatever.  Planning where to next, although until the final doctor visit and final okay, we really can't book our flights out of the country and onward.

It's a weird kind of limbo, waiting for the doctor's evaluation or scheduling a follow up or whatever.

But it has given me time to graduate from the cane.  Yes, now I'm walking without the cane, although when the terrain is uneven or uphill, I probably should use the cane for more stability.  But now I can walk around town or the mall or whatever like a normal person.  YAY!

So that's it.  Recuperation, a wedding, and more recuperation.  Exciting, huh?  That's why I haven't blogged more.

We've also been glued to the news of the hurricanes in the Caribbean.  What a year - it really is frightening to see our former home island just flattened.  Not as decimated as poor Barbuda, or even very sad St. Croix after the second round with nature's wrath.  But what a storm season.

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy Jewish New Year - and wishing the Caribbean a quiet and peaceful rest of hurricane season and time for recovery and rebuilding.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Where Did June Go? Oh, a New Knee!

8 July 2017

I can't believe it's July already.  June sort of flew by in some kind of haze.

We flew to Bellingham, WA, which is our sort-of home base.  When we began our life of travel, my dad was still living here, and we established residency, voter registration, medical care, all those normal things one takes for granted when one lives in one place.

Anyway, that's how Bellingham became our summer stop each year.  We're at that age where the doctors want us to check in, they want to listen to things, do a quick physical, and then re-up the prescriptions.  Not a problem, we can visit my side of the family and friends while we're in this beautiful corner of the US.

But this year - this year I was scheduled for a new knee.  Not a knee that just wore down from old age, oh no, that's too mundane for me.  No, I tore out a knee by falling and having my leg go the wrong way after a hurricane in St. Thomas, USVI, way back in 1999.  Torn meniscus, torn ACL, bruised bones, the whole bit.

My doctor there thought the hurricane story was a little boring, so the better version is that Tim Duncan - from St. Croix but star basketball player for the San Antonio Spurs - Tim and I were playing one-on-one basketball and we collided.  He had meniscus surgery around the same time as I did, so that's what happened, yeah, Tim and I crashed and tore our meniscuses (meniscii?), yeah, that's it!

Anyway, knees aren't the easiest joints in the body.  They take a beating, even if one isn't a pro basketball player.  And with all the walking we do as we travel around the world, my injured knee has worn down to that bone-on-bone point.  So, time for a brand new space age bionic synthetic knee!

The first twelve days of June were spent at doctors' visits and in joint care school.  Yes, it is required that people getting new joints attend a three hour class on how to prepare for the surgery and then care for themselves post-surgery.  Which included collecting adaptive equipment to assist with the daily tasks of living as one recuperates from such surgery.

Fortunately, I have a friend in Seattle who had both knees replaced about eighteen months ago.  He drove up with a walker, crutches, huge wedge pillows to elevate the legs, a device that holds an e-reader, and best of all, a circulating ice wrap thing - really, it's like an ice chest that pumps water into wraps that you velcro around your knee!!! 

And, the Lions' Club in town has a collection of adaptive devices that they lend out for three months at a time - no questions, just bring the stuff back.  Please make a donation.  If you have other items, we'll take them too.  They were amazing!  So, a sliding bench to get in/out of the shower, and a commode that goes over a normal toilet but makes it higher up, and with a frame to hold.

I added a bed tray, since we're in a hotel.  The hotel people gave us a ton of pillows, again to elevate the legs.  Offered us a chair from the pool deck, because those are the only chairs with arms.  (Really, one needs to consider such things.  You don't realize how much you use your legs until one goes on strike.)

And we were set.  Time for surgery, and yes, I debated calling it all off.  But I was brave and went ahead with this - my surgeon verified which knee.  My anesthesiologist chatted with me and agreed to get me good and snockered before she started the spinal anesthesia.  (Really, she was talking to me, I was sitting up with a strong young woman assistant standing in front of me - the IV started up, and then I woke up in recovery.  That's the way I like my surgery!!!)

Everyone at the hospital here was wonderful.  Helpful, friendly, interested in the patients - or maybe just interested in our life of travel, since I always have trouble answering the simple question of "So where do you live?"  Pretty soon, all the staff seemed to know that we were the people who travel all the time and don't have a home.

They also let Richard come and go without really worrying about visiting hours - seems as if patient happiness is more important.  Everyone checked on my pain level, and made sure I was adequately medicated.  They kept a stash of crackers so I could take the pain meds in the middle of the night.  (They're really rough on the stomach.)

Plus you know how hospital food usually is pretty bad?  Boiled to death vegs, starchy sides, all of that?  Nope, not here.  I had fresh strawberries at every meal except breakfast!  Grilled salmon one night, grilled chicken the next day.  Fresh green salads.  It was amazing!  They even sent lunch for the day I was discharged, just so I could eat before going back to our hotel!  (And yes, my fave strawberries again!)

One of the other great things about the joint care wing is that they have single rooms.  I'm guessing all the equipment makes a difference - can't have too many people in a room when everyone has a walker, crutches, different height toilets, etc.  

I even had a view across the parking lot to the wooded area beyond, with rabbits hopping around out there every evening.

So the schedule was something like this:  surgery on Monday afternoon (12 June).  Individual physical therapy in the morning on Tuesday.  Afternoon physical therapy in a group, but with my coach (Richard), on Tuesday afternoon.  Then group physical therapy again on Wednesday morning, prior to my post-lunch discharge from the hospital.  Plus twice daily walking around the corridor - each lap around the corridor moved my marker up the side of Mount Baker by 500 feet.  (I made it about halfway to the summit.)

Then a week at home, hobbling around the hotel with the walker, lots of ice, and doing my PT routine from the hospital.  I have to tell you, this is not an easy surgery.  While the muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc. aren't cut, they do get moved around.  They get stressed.  They freak out.  As I said, they go on strike.  For some reason, my thigh muscles decided not to work for a week.  I truly could not pick up my foot to put on a shoe, or to get my leg up on the bed.  I had to use either the exercise elastic band to do this, or hook my good leg around the ankle to push/pull up the other leg.  Talk about frustrating and annoying!

And yes, continuing on the pain meds.  We're talking bone pain here - not to go into a lot of detail, bones do get trimmed, or a bit more than trimmed.  There is bruising.  There is swelling.  Serious meds are needed to make the pain bearable.  It never goes away 100% - it just goes down to a slight grimace instead of being screamingly excruciating.  So yes, pain meds, major narcotics, opioids or whatever - every four hours, including in the middle of the night.  I can give up a little sleep to stay on top of the meds so that the pain doesn't start up again.

And that pretty much was life for the next few weeks.  Lots of meds.  Some pain.  Learning to walk with these assistive devices.  Learning to shower while sitting on a bench.  Trying to eat plenty of protein and calcium to help the bones and muscles heal and get stronger.  

Then we add in going to physical therapy joint gym and pushing myself to do new exercises that work the muscles even more.  Try to bend the knee more and more and more - I'm currently up to 108 degrees, though the goal is 120 degrees.  Try to push the knee flat flat flat and straight straight straight - I'm at a 1 degree bend, so I'm almost there.

Practice a slow walk up and down stairs.  Try the exercise bike, and not be able to complete a full turn of the pedals.  Work work work and finally get to that full rotation - yay, a reason to celebrate.  Learn how to walk with a cane and get rid of the walker.  Go back to standing up for a shower, and get rid of the sliding shower bench.  Go back to using the normal toilet.  But, well, we have a tub and it isn't so easy to climb in, so the walker is helpful to at least have a handle to hold as needed.

Seriously, that's been the last six weeks.  Doctors, surgery, meds, physical therapy, and exercising in the room two or three times a day.

Of course, there are also the occasional breakfasts with my youngest brother who lives in town.  Phone calls with his fiancée, who recommended my surgeon (who was described as "brilliant" by another one of my doctors).  Phone calls with Seattle friends, and plans to have slow and easy get togethers.  Going out to restaurants so I can practice a little more walking around.  

The only really fun thing was going to the supermarket where I get to ride the motorized wheelchair cart - those things are fun!  Not easy to reach some of the items on the shelves, and I did nearly knock over a display on my first time around of the store.  But I've gotten much better at backing up or going around tight corners.  And I only crashed into someone once, but it was her fault, she turned her cart and pushed it into me as I was passing around her.  Totally her fault, and she knew it.

Yeah, good times, right?

So, yes, these photos are prints of the x-rays of the new knee.  Side view and what I'm guessing is a rear view from the back of the knee (since we don't see the patella).  I'll keep the photos at the very end, so if you don't want to look at them, you can just read through and then delete the page.  But if you're interested, then the photos are there for you.

My doctor told Richard I was a great patient and that the surgery went really well.  Hard for me to comment on that, I was unconscious - probably why I was such a good patient.  (Surgery took 90 minutes instead of the expected two hours.)  The doctor also gave Richard these photos, which I decided to colorize just to have some sort of graphics for this blog.

And that's the story of June.  And my new knee.  There really isn't much else to say.

I'm doing well, I can walk about 1/4 of a mile with a cane, I can easily walk up a flight of stairs but walking down isn't quite as easy.  I can pedal all the way around on a bike.  And I'm working on rebuilding strength and endurance.

Richard is doing well - he brings in take-away food and makes sure I eat well.  He encourages me to sleep, whether I need it or not.  He brings me ice for that wonderful ice circulating wrap, numerous times a day, and one day at 5 AM when my knee was aching too much for me to sleep.  He's been wonderful about this all, and even puts up with what he considers my crummy taste in television.

We're starting to make plans for travelling come September.  Well, late September.  Apparently people shouldn't fly for about three months after a joint replacement, due to increased risk of blood clots and that evil DVT that sometimes happens on long flights.  But we're looking at warm locations where I can continue to build strength and endurance - like, oh, some lovely tropical islands where we can swim and snorkel and explore exotic locations.

We'll keep you posted on that part of things.

But it's summer in the Pacific Northwest, it's sunny and sort of warm and beautiful, and I'm improving daily.  We'll enjoy being here while we're here.

And then, before it gets cold, we'll move along.

Okay, photo warning!  But in non-normal color!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Some Days in the Parks With Friends

31 May 2017

Here it is the end of May, and I haven't blogged since my smash hit success in the off-Broadway musical comedy.  Obviously, I've been busy.  

We enjoyed our time in New York City, doing the things we normally do in this magnificent city.  We met up with a few family members, and I went to a dinner theatre production with my cousin, not too far from where I grew up in Westchester County.  It's always fun to see family members, especially when it happens only every several years.  Richard and I also met up with my nephews, who have reached the beginning of middle age.  This is when you know that we've hit OLD!  Okay, okay, we're not getting older, we're getting better.  Silver sneakers, golden seniors, all that stuff.  No matter how nicely one says it, we're the older generation and it feels weird.

So when I met up with friends in Bryant Park, between 40th and 42nd on 6th in Manhattan, we rode the carousel.  Oh, sorry, in Bryant Park it's spelled "carrousel."  I think because it's Le Carrousel, so I think that must be the French spelling.  (It also makes me want to use words like "methinks.")

I've ridden the bunny, but this year we three women of a wonderful age rode the horses.  Two of us have shin bruises from our frisky horses, but we all had a wonderful time!  One waved to her husband, who took some photos; I waved to random people, who got into the swing of things and waved back.  It was great.  And this is a lovely old carousel, with a kitten as well as a bunny, and of course all the gallant steeds who bound up and down and gallop away.

We also visited the New York Public Library, which is on 5th Avenue, and seems to be part of Bryant Park.  This is a gorgeous huge structure opened in 1911, with an entrance protected by two massive stone lions.  The lions actually are named Patience and Fortitude, I learned from one of my friends.  And yes, this Patience is a male lion, as is Fortitude, despite the fact that Patience was a name for females in the Puritan era.  But these regal beasts guard the library without complaint, and are one of my favorite spots to visit when we get to the city.

The Library hosts a number of exhibits each year featuring part of their collection of books and manuscripts, based on a variety of themes.  We visited "Love in Venice," which looked at a variety of illustrations, books, letters, and other documents centered around romance and love (and lust) in Venice, Italy.  My two favorite items: a letter from one of Lord Byron's mistresses who was complaining that he had found another mistress, that he insulted her and ignored her, and could he please come visit her soon; and a vaguely risqué pop-up book or two with illustrations of courtesans, where their dresses could be lifted to show their knickers underneath.  (Renaissance salacious literature!)

Richard and I also met friends at Central Park, New York's back yard, the most visited urban park in the US.  This park has nearly 850 acres, and contains some 20,000 trees which supposedly represent every species and type of tree in the US (or maybe it's in North America).  There are several ponds, the best known being the boat pond.  People rent remote-controlled sailboats and sail them around the pond, while others watch, or sit and chat, or just enjoy being outside in the fresh air.

I usually try to ride the carousel in Central Park, but we somehow missed that this year - it closes at 6 PM, and we got there just a few minutes late.  The sun is still bright and shining at 6, so it didn't feel as late as it turned out to be.  Ah well, I enjoyed the fence and the irises by the carousel.  (Very van Gogh, those beds of irises spreading on forever.)

But my absolute favorite sight this year had to be the mosaic murals in the various subway stops.  I have no idea how I didn't notice these random acts of art the last time we were in New York, murals are definitely something I notice!  The Times Square walls feature a huge scene of New Year's Eve revellers, complete with hats, masks, and noisemakers.  Then isolated vignettes of others celebrating the New Year continue along the tunnels leading to other lines, exits, entrances, and mysterious locations - just a series of celebrants bundled in their warm clothes but ready to party!

At the 42nd street subway station, also the Port Authority bus terminal, there were several related murals as well.  The largest was "Losing My Marbles" by Lisa Dinhofer, and this was probably my absolute favorite!  Imagine a black and white tiled floor, in a checkerboard pattern, with rolling glass marbles spinning around, all blown up maybe 100 times life size, surrounding you underground.  That's what it feels like to encounter this beautiful mural.  I'm not sure of the size, but it must be about six feet tall and a good 20-25 feet long.  (That's about two meters by 6.5 to 8 meters long, or so.)  It really was wonderful.

So tomorrow we catch our flight westward ho, to visit more family and friends, and I get a new knee in two weeks.  A little scary, but it should be a vast improvement to be a partially bionic woman.  

Especially since I haven't had any calls to audition for an ON-Broadway production.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

So About That Time I Was in an Off Broadway Production

18 May 2017

We left St. Thomas in early May, and flew to New Jersey to visit Richard's side of the family.  We've been staying near the south Jersey shore.  Spending time enjoying seeing various family members, especially the up-and-coming generation - meaning all the little kids in the family.  And their parents, as well, but the kidlets are cuter.

We've enjoyed the sunshine, an arts fair or two, and the exuberance of spring flowers.  Plus lots of good food.  

We somehow found this wonderful glass mosaic mural located in front of the Arts Garage.  This is sort of an arts collective on the ground floor of a parking garage, with all kinds of art exhibits and shops to browse.

The Peace Mosaic is outside, and is just gorgeous!  Lots of origami crane images flying through the glass flowers - bright, cheerful, and hopeful!

Richard and I decided we needed some city time, so we took the train to New York City.  We both grew up visiting the city, and it's part of our lives.  Plus we both have family and friends here, so it makes sense to visit every year or two.

So this is how it went - take the train from Philadelphia to Penn Station.  Walk through the station to the A train subway station.  Get on the train.  (I fell over onto the guy who was getting up to give me his seat.  I'm good like that.)  Head up to Inwood Park, way at the north end of Manhattan Island.  Find our B & B, say hi to our hosts, drop off our stuff.  Go back out to get a nosh (a chocolate egg cream, also part of our NYC childhood visits).  Richard is standing on the sidewalk, and who walks by and starts chatting but my eldest nephew!!!!!  He's living a few blocks away, is crazy busy with work, but was heading to the subway stop and wow, what a small world in this giant city!!!

We've been getting in touch with family and friends, setting up times and dates to meet, all that.

But we were free on Wednesday.  It was a nice warm almost summer day, so we headed into the center of the city, Times Square.  Went to the TKTS booth to buy half-price theatre tickets.  Of course, hot shows like The Lion King and Wicked were sold out, so we talked to some of the staff and settled on The Marvelous Wonderettes.  Which turned out to be an inspired choice!

The Marvelous Wonderettes is a small production (four actors, all women) set in 1958, at the school prom.  The Wonderettes (excuse me, the MARVELOUS Wonderettes) are performing at the Springfield High School senior prom, home of the Springfield Chipmunks.  They sing and dance their way through teenage angst, shifting friendships, mean girls, crushes on teachers, and young love.  We see them again after intermission, ten years later at their first high school reunion - once again singing and dancing as they tell their stories of love, loss, and friendship with pop hits like "It's My Party," "Leader of the Pack," "You Don't Own Me," and my personal fave, "Respect."

So it's light, fun, funny, musical comedy.

But then they go one step further, and involve a few members of the audience.

We were seated in the 3rd row orchestra - meaning third row from the stage, slightly to one side of center.  The first two rows were empty, deliberately as it turns out.

As we were waiting for the show to begin, the guy who took the tickets at the door asked someone a few seats over from us if he wanted to have the actors sing to him.  He declines.  They asked the man in the middle of the row behind us, and he agreed - his elderly mother was with them, and he and his wife thought she'd get a kick out of this.  They exchange seats with the couple at the end, and the man is right on the aisle for future singing.

Lights, mics, action, the show begins.  We're humming along, or mouthing the words, this is the music of Richard's younger years and these were golden oldies when I was a kid.  We're enjoying the show.

And then one of the actors says something about appreciating the help of the French teacher, Mrs. MacPherson, and turns and gestures right at me!!!!!  Well, I know all about being a teacher, so I wave and smile back at the actor - and all of the teenage characters wave and yell various French phrases at me (including "croissant!"), so I smile and wave again.  And then they all give me their signature Chipmunk move, which includes little hand paws and chattering chipmunk front teeth - so of course I have to do that back again!

People are all looking at me, Richard and I were laughing, it was so funny!

Well, my job wasn't finished.  Apparently Mrs. MacPherson also has the golf class (because she's Scottish, despite teaching French?) and they borrowed my pencils.  We got to vote for Prom Queen.  As the actors collected the filled in ballots, one of them came over and gave me the envelope, and reassured me that I didn't really have to count the votes, that was just in the play.  I told her I really was a teacher, I'd have been happy to count the votes.  She laughed at that.

Now, somewhere in here one of the actors confesses that she's in love with one of the teachers - who of course is the guy at the end of the row behind us.  Not only do the women all sing to him, he gets walked up on stage and sits there while he's serenaded through a few numbers!  He was laughing but also a little embarrassed, not realizing quite the extent of his "being sung to."

Okay, so the character bringing the ballots over to me "trips" and the ballots go flying.  We have a few more songs, I hand over the envelope, and my favorite character is elected and crowned Prom Queen.  End Act One.

During intermission, I chatted with the people behind me - turns out the guy who moved from the aisle seat so the other man could be serenaded really is a teacher, and his name is that of the character in the play!!!!  I said I was a teacher as well, though not of French.  It was definitely a cheerful audience!

In Act Two, as I said, we're in 1968, at the reunion.  More singing and dancing, the guy in back of us is on stage again with more singing, it's all cute and sweet.  

And then my buddy on stage, the one who gave me the envelope, is going through the trials and tribulations of relationships, and is crying and once again appeals to her dear teacher, Mrs. MacPherson.  She's on stage imploring me to wave and blow her a kiss, so of course, what can I do but follow through.  Though I finish with another chipmunk salute, which made her break character and laugh!

Afterwards, I told the male audience member/actor that he did a really good job - he and his wife said I did a great job too.  It just was one of the more hilarious things that has happened to us in a long while!  (Fortunately, I never had to go on stage, not even for the final bow, LOL!)

Their website:

And that, my friends, was my debut at in off-Broadway show!!!