Friday, January 30, 2009

Kiss Me, I'm a Feeb

Thursday's visit to Dr. Jack ... didn't help.

He thought it would, but the pain increased into the evening, and hadn't eased this morning. I went back to him, and he broke my heart, telling me, "There's nothing more I can do -- you need to see your MD as soon as possible and find out what's going on in your neck."

I cried for a while, then went to my regular MD.  They were upbeat, gave me some short-term advice for pain management, and sent me straight to the hospital for x-rays. In a few days, I'll find out if there's an indication of a herniated disc or whatever.

In the mean time, I sit and wait, and mourn with my friend Wendy the passing of her magnificent German Shepherd Caribou.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What Next?

Tuesday morning at 4am I woke up, feeling wave upon wave of excruciating pain in my left shoulder.

I sat up to ease it, and oh, no, that didn't work at all; the waves just turned into a stabbing, burning encampment. Wondering what the hell I had done in my sleep, I found a more or less comfortable position, and fell back into the nightmares that have been bugging me lately. By 7:15 I was out of bed, hugging my left side, trying to find any position that didn't scream of profound personal injury. I thought that moving around would ease it; I was wrong. By 8, I was watching the clock to see it turn to 9am, at which point I was going to call the chiropractor and beg to be seen.

A hot shower helped not at all. At 9:01, I called Dr. Jack's office ... only to find that they open at 11am on Tuesdays. At the least provocation, I knew I would break down and cry from the pain. Fortunately, no one else was around. I prepped stuff for lunch, caught up on blogs to distract myself. At 11 o'clock, I was dialing and re-dialing Dr. Jack's number, until I got through and his lovely wife answered the phone. They had an opening at 12:40 and I took it.

The pain radiated not only across my left shoulder blade, but into my ribs on both sides below the shoulder blade. Oh, and onto my upper arm and top of my lower arm. I considered briefly that arm pain can mean a heart attack, but the source of the pain was clearly spine. Dr. Jack began to straighten out the kinks in my spine, setting off muscle spasms here and there as nerves reconnected properly, and when he was done for the day, told me to come back Thursday -- he'd done as much as he could in one day.

"Your body is going to tell you to 'stop' -- when you've pushed past your limit to heal, you will have to stop doing what you were doing," he told me. "Looks like you're spending too many hours at the computer."

When I left his office, the pain was far less, and confined to the muscles at the top of my shoulder and various places on my left arm. The rib pain was completely gone. Thank you, Dr. Jack.

Today, in spite of gulping ibuprofen all day, the pain was relentless. Then, at 7pm, I remembered that I had a tube of arnica gel in the medicine cabinet. I smacked myself figuratively on the forehead, and put the stuff on all the spots that hurt. Like magic, within moments, the pain receded to a tolerable level. Arnica won't heal something that's out of place, but by golly, it does more for me than Flexall ever did.

I'm hoping that tomorrow, Dr. Jack will be able to put my shoulder to rights. But I keep wondering, what is going to break down next?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Weather in High Def

It could have been a day like many others we've seen lately.

At this time of year, we frequently have high 50's and see storm clouds go sailing overhead to clash with the Sierras to the east.

That's what I thought I was seeing when I opened the garage door to let the afternoon light into my studio. The clouds were varied and gorgeous, and to the south, there were even what looked like a couple tiny showers in the distance.

I was working on a particularly annoying pastel lesson when the first few drops splatted noisily down through the sunlight. I smiled and went back to my work.

Then the splatting came back, louder than before, and there was a flash of lightning to the northwest. A few seconds later a peal of thunder accompanied another wave of drops. I ran to tell the family that the show was on!

In the safety of the garage, we pulled up chairs and sat and watched the hardest rain of the year so far come plummeting down in spite of the sunshine. Thunderstorms are very unusual here, so we found the weather to be very entertaining.

Then Lillian, who was bundled under a blanket on her mother's lap, got the surprise of her life -- ice started falling out of the sky. "Is it real?" she asked, and I retrieved a few tiny hailstones to melt in her hand, the first she'd ever seen.

I've seen it hail a handful of times in the 20 years we've lived in California, passing sprays of little pellets. This time, along with the ongoing roar of the thunder, the hail kept coming down and down. There are more pictures of it here.

And the sun continued to shine, sparkling off the trees, illuminating the waves of hail as they flew through the air, making a rainbow to the east of us (we had to run through the house to see it fro the kitchen door), peeking in and out of the dark clouds.

Then Alex noted, "Look! You can see your breath!" The temperature had dropped rapidly and the wind had kicked up. Bernie had on his good-to-20-degrees faux fur robe, Lil and Alex had blankets, the dogs their fur (though Sebastian was starting to look a little uncomfortable) and I my trusty 20-year old indestructible sweatshirt that's too hot for any time of year except unheated January, so we were all willing to continue to watch the storm.

There was a huge lightning bolt that stretched from cloud to ground in the distance, a loud "boom" of near thunder, and the lights went out! Our lights, from yummy PG&E. Across the street, where they have MID (Modesto Irrigation District) power, windows glowed with light in the growing dark.

I went into the house and opened the woodstove (it's an insert, and uses a fan to put out much of the heat) so that the heat from the firebox would keep the kitchen warm; I put up the spark screen securely, and then Bernie and I returned to the garage with a flashlight kept near, and watched the rain until dark.

While John and Alex and Lil cuddled and played a board game tucked warmly on their bed, Bernie and I lit a couple candles in the kitchen, poured glasses of wine, and played vicious games of dice on the kitchen bar.

And though I grumble about the lesser reliability of PG&E's power, in fact, across the street people were probably watching TV, or surfing the net, or cooking; maybe they were even so virtuous as to be reading books or writing letters. We had the better fortune -- we had each other.

When the lights came back on several hours later, I was ... sort of ... glad.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bad Kids

If I had done 45 years ago what I did today, my mother would have given me a walloping and grounded me for weeks.

Our rainy season finally arrived with a drenching, glorious rain. It poured all night, and poured all morning ... and tapered off to a gentle drizzle in the afternoon. Bernie did not have to work, as the plant is doing "planned non-production Fridays" this month; before we even had our lunch we were of one mind -- that was, to take the dogs for a walk in the rain.

The last time we did that, it was cold, and when we returned from the walk, we just dried the damp beasts off and all was fine.

Today the temperature was 56 degrees, if not more; I never did zip up my jacket over my t-shirt. We set off for Ripon's wonderful bike trail in the drizzle.

Along the trail there is a large field in which grow tumbleweeds, some phlox, grasses, and various other weeds. Since we were last there, the city had brought in a tractor and disked much of the weed life under.

Sebastian's sensibilities were inflamed by the loose dirt, and he galloped madly through the mud, churning up so much of it his underbelly and rear were caked with crud. Howie was not that interested in loose dirt, being of a more discerning nature. Howie's weakness is ... puddles of water. He found more than a few of them, and lay down in them to cool his belly, stretching out to maximize the mudpack experience.

Once the dogs realized that we were not angry with them for their peccadillos, they proceeded to find and splash through and roll in every mud puddle in the field they could find.

My god, they were filthy by the time we headed home.

I shouted in the door to John. "We got your dog really disgustingly dirty!"

He's so patient. "I need to take a shower anyway, send him in." (Sebastian loves to shower with his Daddy.)

Howie, with his longer, thicker hair, had to settle for a bath in the driveway, then a protracted combing and brushing in front of the fire.

So, had I done this with my dog when I was a kid, Mom would have gone berserk on me. But since Bernie and I are senior citizens ... heh -- we can be bad kids whenever we want.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Goodies and Baddies

The bad news is that Bernie went to his plant-wide announcement meeting this afternoon.

Not only will the auto plant have four-day weeks through February, and many of those days will be six hours (or less), but also, March will go to three-day weeks; in addition, there will be a minimum of three weeks of plant shutdown (planned non-production) before June.


So much for getting the floor re-done any time soon. Concrete is about to become a way of life.

Oh, well. We've been through far worse.

The good news is that last night, I was able to sleep, finally. It was such a successful sleep that I slept for a whopping 10 hours. When I woke, I felt like a real live person.

This is, over all, good news.

It means that as we head into the most beautiful season of the year, Bernie won't be dead-ass exhausted from overwork. It means that I'll have an incentive to get my ass out to the yard and tend veggies. It means that I'll get my shit together and plan meals and put up foods to maximize our dollar power at the store. It means he'll have time to work on his new novel.

Less garbage food at restaurants; less junk spending. More time together. More time for walks. More weed-pulling, which costs nothing. More time together.

More time together.

I'm having a difficult time seeing that the first part of this post is bad news, after all.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Howie and I Are On the Mend

This morning when we arose, I from my nest in the corner of the couch, he from the loveseat nearby where he can keep an eye on me, I did not immediately cough my kidneys loose, and he didn't wince when he put his right front foot to the floor.

He took a big divot out of the top of his paw last Saturday, trying to outdo Sebastian in tennis-ball retrieving. That night he was limping on both his tender right hind paw, and on the front right. Two legged dogs look downright pathetic. Sunday he spent draped across my lap, limp and content. It was nice to pet him ... it was all the effort I was capable of!

Today he was moved to give Sebastian a bit of a beating while I loaded the recyclables in the car; afterwards he was still fine. And I felt well enough to run the vacuum cleaner in the house. I had just finished three rooms when the vack died. I took that as a sign I'd done enough.

Both of us want to be able to get outside and play again.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Happy New Year

Along with a lovely chest-wracking virus from Lillian, I got two gorgeous fish for Christmas from Alex.

Fish were the theme for my Christmas treats, with the family all chipping in sinkers, snelled hooks, plastic baits, and a new reel.

I could not possibly eat any fish I caught if they were as cheerful and silly as these, however.

There are many more fish, and I'll link to them in my Flickr account in the next few days, as I recover from this horrid bug.

Bernie received these two fine birds to add to his collection of sightings.

In case you hadn't noticed, both birds and fish are crafted from eggshells; the birds, by some odd coincidence, have tailfeathers that look remarkably like the colors of a Scarlet Macaw.