Monday, March 1, 2021

How to survive rotator cuff surgery

rotator cuff surgery

So, after months of sleepless nights in which I rolled around in pain in just about any position, I decided to see a doctor.  First of all, no doctor will schedule rotator cuff surgery right off the bat.  It’s a process. There will be an MRI, physical therapy, and maybe even cortisone shots. After those things have been exhausted, the S word is spoken.


At this point, you may begin asking around to see who has experienced this type of elective rotator cuff surgery.  Heads up…there will be many.  And they all say the same thing, “don’t do it.” Even so, however, all will still say that it worked, and they have a painless full range of movement.  So why the horror stories?  If they had the choice to do it again, would they?  Well, no.  Have I scared you yet?


So, what follows is my ongoing experience.  No doctor-ease explanations that are difficult to understand. So, here goes:


Prepare yourself.  I thought I was prepared.  I bought cute clothing that I thought would help with dressing while wearing a sling. Toss out both words, cute and sling.  I went home from the hospital with one arm through a sleeve and a plastic size XX hospital shirt draped over my other half.


The sling for rotator cuff surgery is in reality, a brace. It is a giant Velcro-laden torture device that would be at home in any medieval chamber of horrors.  It held one’s arm with an added bulky pillow or bolster that made movement impossible.  It had a belt that went around the waist and even had a little stress ball, although I think it was there to allow finger movement. Nothing, cute or otherwise would go over this brace. The Velcro is industrial strength and takes the strength of two men to adjust, move, or remove anything.


So, I sent my husband on a hunt to find some XXX large clothing to replace the Xl shirt that had one arm through a sleeve while the other sleeve draped across my unclothed boob. And believe me, this device was scratchy, the Velcro pinched and rubbed and is not very kind to one’s skin.


Lesson one, never send your husband on a hunt for something to wear in a situation like this. It is much better to be prepared in advance.  I thought he would go to the large women’s area in a local department store and peruse the discount racks for large tops.  Instead, he went to the men’s department where he felt most comfortable, and, brought back a t-shirt that with the addition of a couple poles would make a great pup tent. At least after a painful struggle to put the shirt on the Velcro was no longer rubbing my skin raw. It may have fallen below my knees and gathered a ton of excess fabric but at least it was on and a barrier against the unforgiving velcro.


Another thing that men just aren’t up for the task, is to comb hair that is not their own. This is especially true if they have waved goodbye to most personal head hair. As my husband raked a comb roughly through the knots, I relived the times as a child when my dad would be forced to comb my hair while I cried and complained. This time, however, the hair had to be combed and put up in a ponytail so that the strap on the brace didn’t constantly pull at it.  This was a major challenge. His first try was a lopsided pony with half the hair down.  Someone sent me a video of a dad using a vacuum cleaner to make a ponytail for his daughter, but I just couldn’t bring myself to suggest it to him.  On the fifth try, he managed a droopy, sloppy pony that did the job, although I looked pretty ridiculous. 


Then, it came to my lower half. The brace and the pain make it very, very difficult to pull up one’s pants.  So be prepared with loose pull-on lounge pants and granny panties. Forget jeans.  Don’t believe me?  Try pulling up your pants with one hand and don’t use your dominant hand, I’ll wait.


At this point If you are like me, you didn’t sleep comfortably for months.  Get ready because you are not going to sleep any better now.  You must sleep with this cumbersome contraption you are locked into.  Recliners are nice and suggested, but to me, they are only good for a cat nap here and there.  And you will so ache to move around and sleep in a bed.  Some people, and you know who they are can sleep anywhere.  They sleep upright on planes and nod off at a desk. I can’t do it. So, since I have an adjustable bed, I raised it.  Sounded good until I realized I couldn’t get under the covers with the brace on. I tried sleeping on top of the comforter but kept slipping down.  A light coverlet is all that would work with the bed only slightly raised. 


I slept very little, you see, I am a side sleeper and the only way you can sleep is on your back. Adjustments need to occur in the form of a sleeping pill that only semi work.


It’s been two weeks since the surgery and things have gotten a little better.  I can comb my own hair. I can put on my clothes with minimal pain.  I cannot raise my arm above my elbow. The doctor did allow me to remove the torture device, first the pillow, then the entire brace.  It still hurts when I move certain ways and I still don’t sleep well. 


So, this is a list of things you should prepare for:


1.      Get some extra-large stretchy clothing, short sleeves, and preferably that button in the front.

2.      If you have long hair teach your husband in advance how to tie a ponytail 

3.     Make some healthy dinners before the surgery and freeze them for when you can’t do anything but re-heat unless your husband is a four-star chef.  In my case, it isn't much better than eating beans out of a can.     Make sure you have some stretchy pull-on lounge pants and larger than your size undies, forget about a bra for a while.

5.     For going outside in the cold invest in a poncho, or cape that you can throw over everything. No, a puffy vest won’t work.  Just ask the new one hanging in my closet.

6.     Stock up on ibuprofen especially if you are like me and cannot take anything stronger.

7.     Get an ice bag.

I start physical therapy next week, hopefully, that will alleviate the pain and allow me to sleep comfortably. Stay tuned for updates.  If someone asks me would have rotator cuff surgery again? The answer would be No, but then again it depends upon whether I eventually get the full range of movement back with no pain.  Then the question becomes would you do it if your choice is to live with pain when you sleep forever, or much worse pain that eventually goes away? Then my answer is Yes, in a heartbeat.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Winter of 2021 blues

Normally, I write humorous pieces.  This time, however, it will be a bit more somber.  2020 has been a very trying year for so many people.  Politics, pandemic, poverty, closures, and more have changed many people into different versions of themselves.  


Then there are those who leave us forever.  The chance to say goodbye at a funeral is gone.  My story is about a good man.  A man who was always laughing, smiling no matter where or when.  


I first met Fred and his wife when I was a young widow.  They lived next door to Vincent, the widower who would become my husband.  On one of our first dates, we attended their annual Christmas party.  They welcomed me with open arms, and that night, at a party full of laughing guests, on a tattered old love seat I fell in love. The next year we attended the Christmas party as a married couple.


Every year after that one we would attend that same Christmas party, on that same first Saturday in December, and sit on that same love seat. Oh, we’d sometimes complain about the games of word search and how many M & M’s were in the jar. I’d joke that it seemed more like school.  Then it was time for the gift game. Vincent and I each brought a gift that became a 

game of stealing and keeping.  More times than not I ended up with another item to put in my goodwill box.  


Through it all, Fred always led the party.  He enjoyed talking to everyone and especially being an emcee for the games. When all the others went to their home and families, decorations, and gift wrapping, we stayed to catch up.  The kids were growing up. This one was graduating, that one got married. The pet they had was no longer with them.  We were always the last to leave. And as we left it was always, see you same time next year.


The years passed. The parties changed guests, the baby next door became a toddler, and then a young lady. But we always stayed and caught up with our lives after all the others had left.  And Fred always wanted to discuss my latest blog post.  


You see, Fred was my biggest fan.  He would laughingly talk to me about my newest story.  And if I hadn’t posted he would encourage me to write some more.  Time and life whizzed by and my blog took a back seat. 


Then, two years ago, Fred and his wife stopped the parties due to a family illness. The only connection I had was through occasional emails.  


Yesterday, we got a phone call that Fred had passed on.  I can close my eyes and still see his jovial smiling face as he handed out word search papers for his games.  It couldn’t be that so lively and vivacious a person would be gone from this world.  There would be no funeral, no memorial in a pandemic world.  So, this is my memorial to Fred. I will remember his love for life.  I will remember his steadfast adoration of his wife.  I will remember his joy and vivre. And if there is a heaven, he is acting emcee and handing out word search papers.  And I know he will be reading this post and laughing.  

Monday, November 30, 2020

The trials and tribulations of 2020 and lucky black-eyed peas

So, I haven’t updated this blog much lately.  Guess I’ve just been super busy being depressed and quarantined. It's not all been lounging in pajamas and sleeping late, however. I have been working with Bowdabra blog as well as Make it easy crafts blog and there just isn’t enough time in the day.  I really do not understand it, but even though I have nowhere to go and the days seem endless, I never seem to get anything done! Perhaps it is the time change where it’s dark at 5:00 P.M. Or more than likely, the real reason is that when the days all seem to blend together and I feel like it's a scene from "Groundhog Day", it is hard to rev up my ambition. I've never before asked my husband so many times, "Is today Wednesday or Thursday?" 


Now that Thanksgiving is over, and Christmas is on the horizon how are those decorations going?  If you are like me, it is a little bit here and even less there.  In the past I was like Clark Griswald from "Christmas vacation", going overboard with three trees and a multitude of decorations. Now, I’m more like the Grinch, just hoping the holiday would pass quickly and quietly.  Why the big change?


Well, the world has changed.  So many restrictions and so many fears.  Solitude while once sought after for a moment or two has become the norm.  Ok, so I’m not totally alone.  I do have my husband and even though he is the easiest man to get along with, spending this much time together is a bit challenging.  I get cranky.  He gets cranky. It can only go downhill from there.


And then, there is streaming.  We’ve streamed everything that is worth watching and now all that remains are some dubbed in B movies and dopey Christmas romances. I'm just not into the bad acting and hokey stories. I've suffered through the Christmas prince meets the Christmas pauper one too many times. Even the holiday music is annoying. Not in the mood for a holiday tale? Ask yourself, how many times can they make a movie out of a giant, people eating sandworm?


I've never been one to binge-watch, but this year I’ve binged entire seasons of old TV shows in one day. 


I have a new studio and I cannot get the inspiration to paint. It used to be I would relish an extra hour or so to paint and now I have endless hours and yet I can’t manage that first brush stroke.


And while we are talking, what’s up with the mail. I went to order a Christmas present for my husband in November and even though they charged quite a bit for shipping, it wouldn’t get there before Christmas.  Nope, no gift arriving before January, that is, unless one will fork over another $15, $20, $30 extra fees depending upon when you want it to arrive.  So Cyber-Monday is deceptive unless you want to spend $50 for that personalized “totally free and only pay shipping” coffee mug.


Shop local…love to, if I only didn’t have to wear a mask.  I am unlucky enough to have suffered my entire life with asthma.  Covering my mouth and nose causes an anxiety-induced asthma attack and I must leave the store within five minutes.  Ever try to leisurely shop while you are suffocating?


When the clock struck 12 a.m. on Jan 1, 2020, I was in bed with the flu or something similar that took me 3 weeks to get over.  So, I didn’t cook my usual lucky black-eyed peas and rice like I have done every year in the past.  I think that was the reason the year 2020 was so difficult. I jinxed it.   This January 1, 2021, come hell or high water I am getting out the black-eyed peas and cooking up a double batch.  



Saturday, November 17, 2018

Where is the bacon? Musings from my vacation in Ireland

black and white pudding

I just returned from my vacation in Ireland or as the Irish would say, my holiday. I truly enjoy traveling the new places.  I love trying the regional dishes.  As unusual they sometimes seem at first, I simply say, "when in Rome, do as the Romans, do." Or, perhaps a more accurate statement would be, I will try anything... once.

My husband, on the other hand, tiptoes around anything new.  I have to give him credit, however, because if I tease him enough he will even take a tiny taste of say, black pudding.  

Black and white puddings are pretty popular in Ireland. What, you may ask, are black and white puddings?  To the American ear, the word pudding brings to mind, sweet and creamy desserts like chocolate or banana, or even tapioca. (Seriously, if we are talking about weird dishes here, what the heck is tapioca anyway?) 

But I digress.  White and black puddings are a type of breakfast sausage.  The white consists of sausage meats, seasonings, and some types of grain, like oatmeal.  The black sausage is a blood sausage.  Yup, that's what I said. It has the same ingredients as the white pudding with the addition of blood.  So the white pudding tastes like a mildly seasoned and less greasy pork sausage patty.  The black pudding tastes very similar, but the thought of cooked blood is hard to get out of your head.

White and black puddings are on all the breakfast menus in Ireland, as are baked beans.  What?  Did I really say baked beans, the staple of all American backyard cookouts?  Well, yes, I did.  Baked beans like the kind you sometimes got out of a can when you had hot dogs are a staple of the Irish breakfast.  It's as common a side dish as hash browns are in American breakfasts.  

Not being a bean eater even with hot dogs, I avoided the stuff which husband dear ate eagerly. Guess he had a lot of hot dogs as a kid.

The oddest thing, I think, was the lack of bacon.  It wasn't a total surprise since I’d already experienced that omission in Greece.  Order a bacon cheeseburger in Greece and your burger will not be topped with a crispy strip of smoky goodness, but a big honking slice of ham.

Ireland it seems feels the same way about bacon.  Yes, breakfast menus listed, juicy bacon as a side but you soon discover it is, again, ham.  You get used to it, however, so when you see the word bacon you are not as surprised.  What is it Shakespeare said?“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  I think old Will was talking about bacon here. And actually, ham is a lot healthier than bacon. 

I didn't go into McDonald's although they are all over the place so I cannot vouch for whether or not Micky Dees, is on board with the bacon/ham debate.

The food, all in all, was fantastic.  Everything, fresh and tasty and served with a pint of Guinness. Shoot, they use Guinness in everything, stew, tarts, and soups.  

Next post, castles, blarney stone and more fun things from the emerald isle.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Why do we even have Daylight savings time and what does it really save?

Daylight savings time

Honestly, this weekend will be rough.  It’s the weekend where we turn the clocks forward an hour.  Supposedly it is supposed to save daylight, but seriously there is plenty of research to prove that it saves nothing.  In reality, it causes many, many issues from more heart attacks to car accidents. 

People are walking around in a stupor for at least a few weeks afterward.  In a perfect world, the clocks will just stay where they are spring and fall. Why do we feel the need to readjust them twice a year?

You may think that I am just saying this because I am getting set to lose an hour of my time. You would be, however, wrong. I don’t do well even in the fall when we move the clocks the other direction. I am losing more than time.  My internal clock cannot just be rewound.  It will be on its own setting for quite some time before it bends to the government’s will.  Blame the circadian rhythm if you will.

So this weekend, while my body is thinking it’s 11 O’clock, my usual bedtime it won’t really be 11.  No, it will be midnight.  And then, the next morning, when my body will try and rise at 7:00 a.m., I will discover that it is an hour later.  And I will rush and consume obscene amounts of coffee in an effort to remove the fog that descends upon me.  And no, it won’t help. 

And since the first clock change in 1918 the powers that be are not happy with one time or date.  It seems that they’ve moved the dates later in the fall and earlier in the spring several times.  Pretty soon, if we are lucky the two will meet and then, voila! We will have the clocks stay the same for all 12 months!  One can only hope.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

5 reasons why GPS is a pain in the local driver's side


Year’s ago traffic was light.  In my small community, you could get from point A to point B in a flash.  Traffic lights were minimal and short in duration.  Then, development came and swiftly turned this small community into a traffic nightmare.  And GPS became the largest pain in the local driver’s side. 

Why this venom spewing at innocent old GPS?  I mean, seriously why this hatred? Sure, sometimes navigating Nancy may take you to a stranger’s front door instead of the football stadium you were looking for. And maybe she may tell you to turn the wrong way on a one-way street, but all in all, she’s got her act together.  Then again…when it comes to the local driver here are the top 5 reasons why I have come to really detest Nancy.

1.     She knows where the traffic is worse.  And she will take you on a wild ride just to work around it.  These are the back roads and little detours that local people had up their sleeves when traffic is in a snarl.  Take that advantage away and people who live hundreds of miles from the area can take those same routes, and leave the poor local driver SOL.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this acronym…it means S*** out of luck.

2.     The non-local people who are taking these alternate routes are unfamiliar with these rocky, bumpy, and sometimes unpaved road snags.  So that chasm in that charming little back road that has been there since last winter envelops the unsuspecting automobile whole.  Thus snarling traffic further.

3.     A big city driver following a GPS detour route may be driving a bit too fast for the curved back roads.  You, however, may be driving the opposite way.  You are sitting in a ditch and calling AAA while they happily ride on oblivious to your plight.

4.     And since so many people are using GPS on their smartphones, the highways that once were just a tad bit congested have reversed the traffic flow to roads with traffic lights.  So what once was a smooth ride becomes a crawl with lines that stretch for miles!

5.     GPS is only as good as the information it receives.  Sometimes it doesn’t get updates so when a road changes from regular to a toll road. Nancy just doesn’t know it.  The drivers that are unfamiliar may not be prepared to fork out a toll. In the greater Washington D.C., area…tolls can be quite frightening!  So unable to pay the fee, they may just blaze through. And then, a mile down the road they sit on the shoulder with blue lights flashing behind them.  How does that affect the other drivers?  Well, rubbernecking is a famous interstate highway sport and has a way causing a backup.  The result is a domino effect in a way with some resulting fender benders.

So there you have it, my five reasons why GPS is a pain in the local driver’s side.  The roaming traveler doesn’t get off Scott free, however.  While they are bopping along that back road they may be unaccustomed to the wildlife.  A deer may put an end to their trip as it bounces off their car’s hood.  Or they may discover that running over a skunk, even a dead one, will infiltrate their car with its delightful scent for months after their meeting.  Until that is, navigating Nancy comes up with a way of circumventing wildlife.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Are you hanging Christmas vacation style lights, or are you laser lazy?

laser lazy
Blue light fiasco

A few years ago as my husband was putting up Christmas decorations, he slipped and fell off the roof.  He broke his wrist, on one hand, his thumb on the other, had a hematoma in his leg and a concussion.  Sounds bad, and it was.  It took several months of recovery, but he was extremely lucky he made it out of that mess alive!

So the following Christmas I went on a hunt for a way to decorate our home for Christmas without pulling out the now taboo ladder.  As I cruised around looking for ideas I noticed several houses that had tiny lights covering the entire front. After a little investigation, I learned they were laser projection lights.  I had found the answer.

That year, however, was the first year of laser light introduction and they were as rare as hen’s teeth unless you shopped for Christmas decorations in July. So I spent hours looking in stores.  When that didn’t pan out I took to the Internet.  I was soon to discover that during that first year, laser lights will go down in history with the cabbage patch kids and beanie babies.  Oh yeah, you could get them on eBay if you were willing to pay ten times its retail value.  And if you went to a legitimate store, you could wait for months and by then you were thinking about sipping a Mai Tai by the pool.

I didn’t give up though and I found these large globe light strings with blue light projection.  I thought, why not?  You still had to string them up but at least you could hang them on the lower level porch and aim the projection towards the house.  My husband used a chair to hang them, which in my estimation was even less safe than a ladder, but at least it was only three feet off the ground. He got them up without further injury unless you count a sore thumb from poor aim with a wayward tack hammer.

So the on the night of the unveiling, I was a little disappointed.  To me, our house resembled a fish tank or a swimming pool with the dizzying projected blue moving lights.  Not the Christmas feeling I was searching for. So, after Christmas, they landed in our basement of lost lights.

Next year, I was better prepared.  As soon as the stores started putting out Christmas items I was there.  Sure, it was August but the early bird gets the worm, right?

I found laser lights that had an enormous repertoire of light shows, red, green, blue, white, you name it. I was beyond excited.  I felt like Jonas Salk must have felt when he discovered the first vaccine for Polio. It was an elation that would soon evaporate.

When we opened the box, the enormous round plastic globe looked cheap but convincing.  Then we put it in the ground.  No ladder, no chair, no injury, but also no good!  The lights were large blurry, moved erratically. The cheap plastic remote was confusing but we kept it because, again when the actual Christmas season came around, there weren’t any other choices. We used it that year in moderation because I still didn't care for it. 

And this year, when we hooked it up, the remote wouldn’t work.  I replaced the batteries, checked the connections, and it still didn't work.  And then I threw it at the wall and it shattered into a million pieces. File that under Crystal's epic fails. Unfortunately, there was no manual operation for it.

Fast forward to this year.  I went out and found a laser light.  It was on sale!  And they a ton of them on display! And this one does everything that I ever wanted.  It has tiny stars that cover the entire house. It has images that project as well.  It moves or stays still, however you choose.  It’s metal, not plastic and for now, it’s perfect.

Until next year…when the next new thing appears on the horizon!

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