Casting About

I have been in a non-weight bearing cast since August 15, almost 12 weeks.  In order to get around, I have a rented scooter.  We have purchased a ramp from our attached garage.  We rented a huge ramp so I could spend time outside while the weather was pleasant.  We also had to purchase a special seat for our shower, a biking machine which I use for my arms to do aerobics regularly, hand weights for strength exercises and a walker for close quarters.  I haven’t used the walker much because I have to hop on it.  Assuming the x-rays look good, I get rid of the cast on Thursday.  The prognosis from there is still unclear.  I may be back in a walking book, or a brace, or best news of all, paraphrasing the Queen in Alice in Wonderland, “Off with the cast!” and into a regular shoe.

I have learned a number of things while scooting around:

  1. Things will not go as expected.  The doctor told me that since this surgery was on my left foot I could drive.  I had images of continuing my coffee and lunches out with friends.  When I picked up the scooter, I realized that wasn’t going to happen.  I couldn’t stay off my left foot and lift the scooter.  I couldn’t expect my friends who are my age to deal with the scooter either.  So I can drive but I can’t get out of the car.  My visions of friendly encounters had to be readjusted to inviting friends to my house. Here how those invitations went, “Would you like to come visit me and bring the food and drinks?”  One of my long term friends from my Wyoming days spent a week helping me out when I first got out of the hospital and after Pete went back to work.  A number of my Boise friends were kind enough to come by with treats. These friends are a real blessing.
  2. People say a place is accessible and it really isn’t. I have gotten in numerous restrooms with my scooter and not been able to open the heavy door to get out.  Fortunately, either my husband has come to my rescue or someone is coming in the door and will hold it for me.  Most doors into buildings are too heavy for me to open on my own and very few doors have push button access openings.  I was on a tour with City Club at a supposedly accessible facility.  Rather than extending my hand, I allowed the elevator door to hit the wheel of my scooter tire while I was exiting. I was using my hands to direct the scooter over the elevator gap. The elevator didn’t stop and knocked my scooter and me over. Once on its side, the scooter did eventually wedge the door open.  I was bruised from the experience.
  3. I am capable of entertaining myself. I spent a great deal more time by myself over the past 3 months than I ever have. As long as I could get outside, however, I enjoyed reading the paper and having a cup of coffee on the front porch in the mornings. I could spend an entire afternoon out back streaming videos, reading books and sleeping on our comfortable wicker furniture.  Once the weather turned cold, I have found I am much grumpier.  I, for one, took having a great porch, patio, and yard at my house for granted.  I now understand why seniors flock to warm climates. Getting out in the sun is healing and important to one’s mental health.
  4. People with good intentions ask way too many questions. I just came from lunch where someone I didn’t know wanted to know what happened to me.  “Was it an accident?” No.  “What type of surgery?” Complicated, not regularly done on most people. It was suppose to take six hours and turned out taking eight.  I have many screws in my foot and I had a tendon removed. “What caused it?”  Running when I was younger, flat feet and old age.  I think people want to be helpful and acknowledge that they can see you’ve had some major life experience.  But a simple, “How are you doing?” is really all that is needed.  Asking further questions seems invasive and is annoying, not comforting.
  5. Health care is expensive. We have excellent insurance because my husband is still working.  We also both have Medicare.  We are the few people in America with public and private insurance. We had to personally pay for the ramps, walkers, bathing equipment and our deductible is in the thousands.  I’m also blessed that we have a large home so I have been able to consistently maneuver the large scooter.  We have a downstairs bedroom and bath.  I heard of someone who crawled up their stairs every day (Good exercise) and someone else who was able to use crutches up and down stairs.  I am not able to use crutches because of balance issues.  I also have weekly cleaning help.  We have paid for me to have a driver at times to get me to meetings and help around the house.  We have also paid for taxis and Uber to get to doctors’ appointments when my husband has not been available to drive.  In other words, much of my positive ability to deal with surgery is a direct result of the fact we have resources.  I’m not sure what other people would do.

I am planning on the x-rays being great.  I am thrilled to be looking forward to taking my cast off this week.   I’m so done with casting about.

Angel, the Cat Left Behind

Angel head shot
Angel, my daughter’s cat

White kitty entered our house from foster care at the Idaho Humane Society (IHS) as a kitten eight years ago.  My daughter’s girl scout troop had gone on a field trip to the animal shelter and a litter of kittens arrived while the troop was there.  The kittens were too young to be adopted.  My daughter set her heart on having Angel that day.  Kayla watched diligently online until Angel came up as old enough to adopt.  We went and got her.  Tip: Never allow your child to go on a field trip to the animal shelter unless you want another pet.

Angel entered our house as a playful, active kitten who had never had a bad experience.  This is to be compared to Satchel, our big gray striped tom cat, who had been found in the wild and we rescued from the IHS full grown.  Satch would always remain somewhat aloof and his own man.  Angel has always been in the midst of everything.  She comes to my daughter by name like a dog and kisses my daughter on the nose.  A trait I find disgusting.  Though it is not allowed, she sits on my daughter’s lap under the table at dinner when I can’t see her tail hanging down.  Unfortunately, my daughter grew up and went away to college last year.  This was a loss to Angel but not as big as one might think because she had Satch.

When Angel arrived, Satch made every effort to ignore her and be bored by her overtures to be friends.  But Angel was persistent attempting to play with him and licking him, curling up next to him.  Until Satch was overcome by Angel’s great love for him. By the time Angel was an adult, Satch and Angel would give each other baths at night at the foot of our bed.  During the night I could hear them racing through the house chasing each other in some random kitty game.

When Satch disappeared several weeks ago (blog: Cat Grief) Angel was devastated. Not only is her owner at college but her best friend in the world is gone.  She is now attempting to make me into her cat friend with limited success because I am not a cat.  She has tried licking me.  Her scaly little pink tongue is scratchy.  I refuse to lick her back.

She lays on me whenever I am sitting which is most of the time because I am in a non-weight bearing cast.  She pushes the rat terrier out from beside me so she can have the best spot.  Her worst behavior is she has decided that the Sheltie, Shani is the lowest on pecking order and should not be allowed near me.  When Shani walks by,  Angel slaps her on the head with her paw.  When we are lying down, if I am petting Shani, Angel moves up my arm until I can’t lift my arm to pet her.  This controlling behavior is all new.  Angel follows me  into our walk in closet and I have to scoot around looking for her under clothes to get her out before I can leave.  I am on a scooter because of my foot so this creeping around the closet is quite tedious.

Angel was always pleasant to me but not my cat.  She preferred Kayla and then Satch to me so spent little time chasing me around the house or sitting on my lap.  But in the absence of her two great loves, she has decided she will have to make do with me.  I’m the third ring on her love list but I’m better than nothing.

Cat Grieving

20160422_150516We lost our big a gray tom cat, Satchel, a few weeks back.  He went outside and never came back.  He wore an electric collar and had stayed in our yard for 13 years.

He started every spring, summer, and fall day the same.  Yowling at the front door until someone let him out.  He would hide in the front porch bushes catching lizards or bask in the morning sun.  Then he would sit on the red bench by the door and shout at the top of his lungs to come in.  He might have a sip of water or something to eat and then he would march to the back door meowing loudly until someone would let him out.

Once in back, he would patrol the yard all afternoon.  In the heat of the day, I could see him though the kitchen window lying under the high grass surveying his Savannah as if he were a lion surveying his territory.  We always got him back in before it was dark.  Then one night a few weeks back, he wasn’t there when I went to get him.  We looked everywhere and searched for days but he has not returned.

He’s been acting a little weird recently.  He had bitten me requiring a trip to the doctor.  He growled at my daughter, Kayla, when she tried to get him in while house sitting.  She said she wouldn’t deal with him anymore. It was her opinion that he was getting old and just wanted to be left alone to live his last few days or months outside.

Since we live in the foothills surrounding Boise, we know when a cat is gone; it is probably not coming back.  Our neighbors were out hiking once and found 17 cat collars in a coyote hole. Once outside the fence, Satch probably became one of the dinners of the many predators who share the hills with us including coyotes, foxes, owls, raccoons, and bobcats.

I have missed our big gray tiger cat.  He was such a character, directing us all with his loud shouting to be let in and out, then lazing around on the couch at night. In the winter, he chose not to go out at all and would frequently lay stretched out on the gas fire hearth for hours.  He was a big cat when he had his front paws stretched out and was lying flat he was almost four feet long.   He had beautiful coloring; big green cat eyes, like the marbles we played with as kids and matching gray/brown strips on his face that I would run my finger along.  They made me wonder how God created such perfect symmetry in nature.

I’ve looked up kittens online and my cleaning team has a worker who is trying to get rid of kittens but we won’t be getting another cat right now.  We’ve always had two cats since I’ve had children (25 years).  When I was single, I had a cat and a dog. It was much easier to handle one pet of each species traveling and housekeeping.

Now with the kids gone and just Pete and I in the house, I have resolved to go back to the one cat and one dog house.  We still have two dogs.  We won’t get rid of either but when I look at them I realize, just like Pete and I, they are getting older. We will be downsizing even if we don’t want to in the next few years. Dogs just don’t have a human life span.

I still have my daughter’s cat, Angel, around the house.  Angel has missed Satch the most.  This blog started as an effort to capture her grief.  But I realized one can’t understand Angel missing Satch without first understanding that Satch lived a big life.  He dominated the dogs, the cats and even the humans directing us to carry out his wishes.  We all understood his needs and wants. He enforced them with a huge unpleasant yowl.

I hope he had a joyous time out in the wild world beyond our yard before something caught up with him.  He was a man of action.  He would not have wanted a slow, belabored death.  Assuming my daughter is right, that he chose to go on his own terms, I wish him the best.  I want him to know he was a great family pet and he is missed.

Rock You: Linda Ronstadt and me

“Queen of Rock” was the term used to describe Linda Ronstadt in the 70’s.  She has a documentary about her career out now. My husband and I went to see it this weekend.  I was surprised by how many actual clips from her concerts it included.  During her rock period, she sold out huge arenas all across America, just like the Rolling Stones and Elton John. Her backup band was all male because very few women played rock music in the 70’s, especially bass guitar and drums.   Some of her hits included, “Your No Good”, “Blue Bayou” and “I can’t help it.”

She gave up touring big arenas because she didn’t feel it was fair to the audience or the band. She thought the acoustics didn’t provide the right venue for the music and the travel isolated the performers. She went on to become one of America’s most an eclectic  female vocalists moving from rock to country, staring in Gilbert and Sullivan “Pirates of Penzance” on Broadway and releasing an award winning album sung entirely in Spanish.  She is now retired and suffering from Parkinson’s.  When we told my 20 year old daughter, we had been to Linda’s movie she said she’d never heard of her; demonstrating that fame is extremely ephemeral.

Linda was most frequently heard around our Boise home when my son, Scott was preschool age.  She had an album we listened to almost every night entitled, “Dedicated to the One I love”, a series of lullabies with one of my favorite songs being, “Be my Baby” .Album

Lullaby, and good night
In the sky stars are bright
Close your eyes, start to yawn
Pleasant dreams until the dawn

Close your eyes now and rest
Lay your head on my breast
Go to sleep now and rest
May your slumber be blessed

One day when Scott was about 3, he ran in the kitchen singing what sounded like “Fxxk You, Fxxk You”.  My husband immediately told him in no uncertain terms that was not something we would sing around our house.  Scott looked really confused and pointed at me and said, “But Mom sings it all the time.” Pete gave me a horrified look.  I finally got Scott to tell us where he learned the song and he ran over and got the “Be My Baby” CD from the stereo system.  He was actually singing “Rock You” from “We Will Rock You.”  He was right.  I did go around the house singing it all the time.

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Scott, Annie our lab, and I during our “Rock Me” period

Linda Ronstadt may not be known to the younger generation.  But she will always hold a special place in my heart for being a female rock and roll star in my twenties, my party years and giving us one of our favorite family stories. “ROCK YOU.”

Indian Summer

fall leavesTwo weeks ago, we drove home from Bozeman, Montana To Boise, Idaho in a blizzard.  Growing up in Wyoming both my husband and I are used to winter driving.  My husband, Pete, was going slow and had our hazard blinkers on. In a heartbeat, a white truck slid a few feet in front of us and off the road, over the bank towards the river.  Pete had a hard time braking to keep from hitting the truck and holding our car on the road. We didn’t stop because we could see the truck behind us had stopped.  I called 911.  It took us 5 hours to drive from Bozeman to Pocatello (a 4 hour drive in normal conditions).  That night there were winter watch warnings out in Montana and Wyoming and a hard freeze in parts of Southwestern, Idaho, impacting even parts of Boise.

Last weekend, we were back to cool mornings turning warm by mid-morning and early afternoon and then rapidly cooling off as the sun sets.  Our yard has yet to freeze.  We have glorious flowers still blooming but I know some yards in Boise have been touched by frost.  When we lived in Wyoming, the flowers would definitely be gone by now. Their blossoms hanging downward and graying a sure sign that winter has snapped their summer glory.

“Indian Summer” refers to unseasonably warm, dry weather in autumn.  The term is attributed to the fact that these conditions are very frequent in the areas where Native Americans lived and hunted in the fall, the Mountain West. These are the areas I have lived my entire life; Wyoming, Montana, Arizona, Washington, Colorado and now Idaho.  In several of these locations, particularly Wyoming and Montana, one can expect snow as early as August.  In Wyoming, we would frequently have hard freezes leading to the loss of the beautiful fall foliage before it really had a chance to change colors.  But in Boise, Indian Summer is one of the most glorious times of the year. The trees literally shout, “Look at me! I’m gorgeous.”  The warm days encourage folks to take walks along the green belt where colorful falling leaves shuffle underfoot or sit outside with coffee and a newspaper enjoying the day.leaves on ground

The summers are hot in Boise; too hot for my taste frequently hovering around the high nineties to over 100. But when fall arrives, our backyard comes alive with squirrels scurrying to bury acorns, falcons soaring high in the sky, the occasional sighting of a plump owl, coyote and/or deer and gorgeous orange, yellow and red leaves bursting forth every morning.

I’m glad for a whole bunch of reasons that pickup truck didn’t plow us into the river a couple of weeks ago.  But the terror it caused me has made me more appreciative of our gorgeous fall weather.  One never knows how many seasons we have to appreciate the bounty around us.

The Cost of Pets

We spent the weekend in shani pink1, Montana for Parents’ Weekend at Montana State University.  While we were gone our next door neighbor took care of our pets; Violet (a rat terrier), Shani (a Sheltie) and Angel (a white cat).  When we got home on Sunday, I noticed immediately that Shani’s white fur coat was pink, looking like she’d eaten a bunch of pink cotton candy.  I couldn’t imagine what she had gotten into.

Like a detective searching through the house, I found a chewed up piece of round pink Styrofoam on our kitchen counter. There was a little core sticking out of it.  Obviously a fake apple shredded to bits, the source of the pink dog fur.  The apple had been on my office bookcase, a good five feet off the floor.  When I looked in my office, I could see that all of the animals were involved in a wild play time.  The white cat had to have knocked the apple off the shelf.  Acting like the Siamese cats in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp, she provided the temptation that led to destruction. Shani, like Eve, found the phony apple irresistible and shredded it, making her coat and the carpet bright pink.  Violet threw the blankets and pillows from the love seat on the floor.  Making the room look like a pink cotton candy whirlwind hit.

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Does this angelic kitty look like Devil Cat? The source of the phony apple.

I vacuumed up the remaining Styrofoam and tried a carpet cleaning product with a brush twice on the pink. The carpet is now quite light where I’ve cleaned with light pink shading.  Hopefully the rest of the carpet is not that dirty.  At a minimum we’re going to have to get in a professional cleaner.  Probably, we are going to have to replace the carpet.

On the way to Bozeman, I had read an article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) about how much people spend to have and maintain pets.  The particular story was about someone who had spent $125,000 to fix her home (https://www.wsj.com/articles/pets-can-take-a-big-bite-out-of-your-homes-resale-value-11569403804).  We have fenced our yards in Boise and McCall as well as adding an electric fence in Boise.  We built a special area for the cats to use the litter box in the garage.  We just replaced a door with a cat door that didn’t work for us. Our rat terrier has scratched up our back door and we will have to fix that before selling our house.  Now we are leaving it until something happens to her assuming it will just be scratched up again. Our dogs have run through our front screen door necessitating us purchasing a special screen with a metal lower half.  These expenses don’t cover the monthly food and treat bills and the annual vet expenses.

Readers without pets may think mine are particularly poorly trained.  But actually people who know the threesome think they are lovely animals, well mannered and house broken, loving to a fault.  I have always had pets around even as a child.  I can’t imagine a scenario where I would be in a house without animals.  The research is clear their companionship improves mental health.  Specially trained animals can help with a variety of health problems from blindness to PTSD.  But there is a cost to having pets.  I never really think about it.  Because I just think of my pets as family, I don’t assign a price tag to love and companionship.

24 Years of Toy Story

Toy StoryMy husband and I recently saw Toy Story 4 (released June 2019).  I think we were the only seniors in a sparsely crowded theater.  For me, it was a trip down memory lane.  I first saw Toy Story in December 1995.  I took my son, Scott, who was 22 months old at the time to a theater in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  I have to admit this was an act of pure selfishness on my part.  I was a stay-at-home mom.  Cheyenne was hosting a freezing cold winter, making me frequently housebound.  I had seen the previews on TV and wanted to see the movie.  Why wouldn’t a baby at least sit in my lap I reasoned?

I got to the theater and settled Scott into a seat, removing his snow suit.  Then I turned around to pull off my winter gear.  When I turned back, the seat had folded up on my son.  He looked like a collapsed pop-up card. The only thing that showed were his huge eyes,smashed between velvet.  I was sure I had broken every bone in his body.  Apparently, babies are quite flexible because as soon as I yanked the seat down he seemed fine.  I saw another mother arrive carrying a plastic baby booster seat.  I raced back to the entrance with Scott in my arms and got him a booster and we settled in for the movie.  He does not remember this incident but I remember being absolutely terrified.

Toy Story was the first computerized animated movie and it made the Pixar name famous. Now, the jumping desk lamp and Pixar are synonymous to theater goers. A huge success at the box office, Toy Story groused $373 million worldwide, the highest opening weekend for an animated picture at that time. The movie made household names of Woody, a stuffed cowboy doll with a pull string voice (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Ligthyear, a plastic astronaut action figure, with a push button voice (Tim Allen).

I was totally spellbound from the moment the movie started.  The animation was brilliant, the plot warmhearted, and the characters engaging.  Unfortunately, Scott was not as taken with the movie as I was.  Because of his fussing, we needed to leave early.  But not to worry, Toy Story was soon converted into a home video, expensive toys, video games and three sequels.  I was treated to seeing Toy Story 1 and 2 over and over again at home.

Toy Story 2 was released in 1999 which is the year we adopted our daughter Kayla from China.  The sequel is generally considered better than Toy Story 1 and generated almost $500 million at the box office.  More importantly, Scott was in kindergarten and old enough to understand the movie and be captivated by it. That Christmas, Woody and Buzz moved into our house and I would find them lying all around the main living areas when I picked up night.   Just like Andy, the boy in the movies, my son loved both characters.  When little boys in the neighborhood played in our house, I would hear, Woody’s voice, “There’s a snake in my boot.” Or Buzz shouting, “To infinity and beyond.”

By the time Toy Story 3 (2010) was released, my son, a sage 14, had outgrown Buzz and Woody, just like Andy.  My daughter, Kayla, age 8,  however, was still into animated pictures and more importantly willing to be seen with her mother in public.  She and I saw Buzz and Woody packed up by Andy who was going to college.  After a complicated adventure, Andy donates his beloved toys to a younger child, Bonnie.  Back at our home, Buzz and Woody had been relegated to Scott’s closet long ago.  When we moved to a new house that winter, we donated both toys to the Youth Ranch. I hope some needy family had a fabulous Christmas finding a well-loved Woody and Buzz under the tree.

My son graduated from college in December, 2017. My daughter left for college last fall.  Just when I thought I am left with only childhood memories, I pulled a small stuffed Woody without a head out of bureau in the guest room.  I think MacDonald’s gave little miniatures away with Happy Meals.  I didn’t have the heart to give a headless Woody away so I stuck him back in the drawer.

I decided I wanted to see Toy Story 4 which is probably the last time  I will hear Woody’s voice on the big screen. Absent any children to go with, my husband accompanied me.  I think it’s the first time he’s seen a Toy Story in a theater.  I thought the plot was a little dark though in the end the characters end up in a good place.  But if you haven’t followed 24 years of Woody and Buzz, I’m not sure Toy Story 4 would give you the great pleasure created by movies 1,2, and 3.

My son, now 25, was home this weekend.  He works at Starbucks Corporate Headquarters in Seattle. The corporate Halloween theme is Disney Characters.  While he was in Boise, he used his phone to order a cowhide vest and went out to thrift stores looking for brown cowboy boots.  He’s going as his beloved Woody.  No matter how old you are, you never really outgrow the things that made you happy when you were young.