Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Misery Loves Company

I read that in the past forty years doctors are seeing more broken ankles because of a more active older population. Well, that makes me feel better because misery loves company!

Am I going stir-crazy?  Am I seeing things? Finished eating a chicken wing and the more I looked at the bone the more it reminded me of my ankle before I broke it in two places.  Well, maybe not exactly like my ankle but it sure reminded me of two healthy bones!

It has been eight weeks and now that I am weight bearing, I am taking steps with a walker while wearing a heavy, black boot. When I am not walking I am still in a wheelchair. When I fell, so many weeks ago, I never thought it would take so long to recuperate. Or that I would be seeing my ankle in chicken bones!

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Muscical Instrument For Me


"It's easy to play any instrument:
All you have to do is touch
the right key at the right time
and the instrument will play itself."
Johann Sebastian Bach

 After my 4th grade class ended for the day, I rushed home to tell my parents I wanted to play the violin.  The music instructor had told us he would teach the class three times a week and he had extra violins for those that needed them. Watching him play the violin looked easy and I thought it looked like fun.

A black case, with a red lining, held my violin and the day I brought the violin home was exciting for me. I squeaked a few notes for my parents. My Dad said, "Let me see your violin."  He then played a tune as if he had always played the violin. At that moment I no longer wanted to play the violin.

When I would listen to the music teacher as she stroked the black and white keys I wanted to play the piano. My mother rented, with option to buy, a large upright piano that barely fit in our small front room. I practiced the scales. I did finger exercises. I played  tunes like Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. One day, my father sat down at the piano and after a few rough starts began to play melodies from his past. All of a sudden, the piano did not seem so interesting to me. That piano stayed in my family and even my daughter took lessons on it.

Later, I tried guitar but never quite grasped the idea how my hands had to do different things at the same time! In the back of my mind, I blamed my father for discouraging me by his ability to pick up an instrument and play it.  He played songs on a harmonica and once told me it was simple, just a matter of breathing in and out. Without his knowing it, I tried playing the harmonica and all I could get out of it was the same whooshing noise going in and the same whooshing sound coming out. The accordion also interested me but that was even more whooshing and complicated. Musicians shouldn't make it look so easy.

I've always had a fantasy that I would be somewhere traveling and enter a building, resort, barn, or auditorium where a dusty piano sat in a corner.  I would dust off the keys and play wonderful music.  So far, that fantasy has not happened.

A few years after my father passed away, I decided to take piano lessons again. Surely, now I would be able to play without his up staging me! I began taking lessons sometime in April and nine months later I was learning simple Christmas tunes.  It was frustrating that the pupil before me was an eight year old who played like a professional and I could only play Jingle Bells. That Christmas after returning from my vacation I never returned to my piano lessons.

It finally hit me. I could no longer blame others for my being unable to learn to play a musical instrument. I faced the fact that I am not musically inclined.

But, this morning on Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood, I saw an instrument that I may be able to play.
Theremin is the only instrument played without touching. That was encouraging. One hand is moved up and down beside a rod while the other hand floats above the horizontal rod. Eerie music can be heard. I Googled the weird instrument to find out more about the Theremin. Single oscillator instrument that uses two metal rod antennas to control pitch and amplitude. Since it makes spooky or haunting music it would be a perfect instrument for Halloween that I could play!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Patch of Sun

Raven from Massachusetts
My mother loved all animals and we always had cats, dogs or a rabbit in our home. One grey cat was extremely smart and when it needed to go outside it sat on its haunches and meowed.  "Just like a dog," my father would say, "not the meowing but the sitting up."  One cute kitten I liked was all white with blue eyes. I like kittens but somehow the grown up cats are too independent for me. I wonder what is going on behind their sometimes round or narrow slit eyes. Whenever I had a nightmare, it always involved cats.  Maybe that is why a cat is not my favorite pet.


Even though I am not a cat person, lately it seems as if I understand cats a bit better now than in the past. Every day around 3:30 to 4:00 in the afternoon, sunlight comes streaming in my front door. It  is just a small patch of sunlight, but enough to cheer me up and to warm me. For half an hour everything is right with the world. I either look at my neighbor's tree across the street, close my eyes and day dream or read as I soak up those golden rays!

It is strange that I had never noticed the sunlight in that certain area, but now that I am in a wheelchair, I have found the sunny spot. I have seen cats on window sills, in the sun, dozing or grooming themselves. It always looks as if the cat in the sun is very content. Now, I understand how they must feel because I also enjoy basking in my patch of sun every day.

"If there is one spot of sun spilling
onto the floor, a cat will find it 
and soak it up."
Joan Asper McIntosh

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Simple and Repetitive Motion



 Tai Chi...might well be called
"medication in motion." There
is growing evidence that this
mind-body practice...has value
in treating or preventing many
health problems.
Harvard Health Publication, May 2009

 
A few years ago, I joined a Tai Chi group at the Arvada Community Center.  What I recall were the animal names of all the movements: tiger, crane, dragon, sparrow, horse, snake and monkey. It seemed that each movement had a special name which also included flowers.  We stood and stretched in a supposedly flowing motion into what was supposed to look like an animal or a flower. After a few months, the class ended, but I did not pursue Tai Chi any further.

While recuperating, after breaking my ankle, I temporarily moved into an assisted living apartment where Tai Chi was offered twice a week. This time, instead of moving around on my feet, I sat with one leg outstretched in a wheelchair. From my sitting position, I tried to follow the instructor's smooth and graceful movements.

We warmed up by shaking our hands as if we were trying to shake water off of them. Then we clenched and unclenched our hands a few times. I wiggled my good ankle. I loved the mental picture the instructor put in our head as we slowly raised our hands in front of us. As if your wrists are being raised by a balloon. Palms up bring them slowly toward your chin and push your chin backward. Exhaling turn hands outwards and push hands forward in front of you. As if you are pushing a shadow away from you. Then push hands down slowly and gently.Press as if you are slowly pushing a beach ball into water.

Every move is supposed to be slow and flowing.  Some moves were to practice hand and eye coordination. Some were to stretch. Some were to tone up muscles. All of the moves were to enhance flexibility and balance.

"Tai Chi (Qigong) a Chinese health
practice based on gentle movements,
meditation and breathing, has wide-range
benefits including improving balance,
lowering blood pressure and even 
easing depression."
Wall Street Journal, Oct. 22, 2013
Article by Laura Johannes

Our instructor was from China, where Tai Chi originated, and she had just become a United States citizen.  After each class she put on soothing or meditating music and went around to each student and rubbed their back, shoulders and neck. Somehow, the class made me begin my day feeling better!

"When you change the way
you look at things, the
things you look at change."
Wayne W. Dyer

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Planordo

After my unfortunate accident I coined a new word: Planordo.

For over six months I planned a trip to southern Colorado and New Mexico for the Young At Heart Group of Spirit of Christ Catholic Community. I called bus companies, hotel/motels, restaurants, and places of interest to find the best prices.  I prepared information sheets, advertised, collected money, purchased items needed on the trip and made sure everything would be in order for our trip to take place on September 9-11, 2013. Some of our stops would be the Stations of the
Cross in San Luis, Colorado; Indian dancing in Taos; Santuario de Chimayo; tour of the Santa Fe Cathedral and the Madonna's outfits, the Spiral Staircase, and a trolley ride through Santa Fe.

On September 4, 2013, I slipped on the bottom step as I was going to the basement and ended up with two broken bones in my ankle. Now what? Could I disappoint the 38 persons who were planning on going on the trip? Should I cancel the trip? I tried to get the doctor to give me pain pills and to wrap up my ankle and after I returned from the trip he could do the necessary surgery.  He told me I was not taking anybody anywhere and scheduled the operation for the following day.

As I lay in and out of pain, drowsy from medications, I kept thinking of who could take over for me.  Two persons stood out in my mind as being capable of taking the group. I called them and both agreed to help me out.  Luckily, I had everything written out, step by step, because I had to make sure of the amount of time needed at each stop so that the itinerary would be easy to follow. 

Luckily, I had already purchased some of the things needed for the trip but they were at my house. I called a husband and wife team and gave them a key to my house so they could pick up the items. They took the water, cookies, booklets of the Stations of the Cross, and a game to their house so that the volunteer could get the items from their house. The most important item was a blue folder I called "the Bible."  It held all the information that would be needed including checks, cash and jokes.

The new leader and I met a couple of times and went over the information.  I tried to guide her, from my past experiences, how and what to do. The bus driver who knew our schedule as well as I did because I had used him in the past, called to tell me he would not be able to drive our group. That was a huge disappointment because I was counting on him to help out.  Now, two experienced persons would not be going -- me and the bus driver.

On Monday the 9th of September the journey began after a few tense moments which made them late for their lunch in San Luis. They got back on schedule for the rest of the trip and  I got reports that everything was fine and it sounded as if everyone was enjoying the trip. We kept in touch with our cell phones. The new bus driver, I learned, was cheerful, happy, and willing to help in any way he could. The leader turned out to be a natural tour guide and reports coming back to me were that everyone was enjoying the trip, loved the food, and liked the tours. I was happy for them and yet, sad that I could not be with them!


Many prayers were sent my way and I am sure my pain was minimal because of their prayers. When I received a card signed by everyone and with a small pewter foot with some sand from Chimayo, I smiled through my tears! The travelers were doing all they could to make me feel better!
 
Almost everything went according to plan and when the group returned I received cards and calls thanking me for a well-planned trip. My response was that the people traveling make a trip wonderful because no matter how well a trip is planned, if the "pilgrims" do not get along, the trip will not be a success. All I can say is a great big thanks to all the travelers, the photographers, the bus driver and especially to the tour guide and her helpers!

So, is it better to plan a trip or to do it? Hence my new word of Planordo!


Kahlua

A visit from Kahlua, an alpaca, to the assisted living facility was a treat to the many residents.  I had heard of dogs visiting and calming residents, but an alpaca was a surprise for me. Once a month a visit is scheduled and everyone, residents and workers alike, look forward to the visit of the furry brownish-blond alpaca.

The Incas called the alpaca wool,"Fiber of the Gods." I found out the the alpaca resembles a llama and originated in South America in Peru,  Bolivia, Ecuador and Chile. Something I have never forgotten, after vacationing in Peru, were herds of llamas or alpacas huddled together in green fields proudly surveying their surroundings. I have always kept my distance from the proud, big-eyed animals because I had heard that they spit and leave dark spots on your skin. The owner reassured me that Kahlua did not spit!

Most alpacas in the United States are raised because of their fiber which is very much like wool.  The   difference is that a sweater or hat made from alpaca is not prickly like wool yet it is warmer than sheep's wool. Alpaca fiber has been found to be hypoallergenic. I own a soft scarf made from alpaca and it certainly is warm!  Most alpacas live from fifteen to twenty years and there are twenty-two different colors of fiber.

I asked the lady who brought Kahlua to visit what kind of food is fed to the cute beast. "Hay, grasses, and some grain. Pretty much the same diet as a horse," she told me. I found Kahlua to be gentle, loving, and seemed to enjoy being touched.  When Kahlua  nuzzled a cheek we were told, "Kahlua is giving you a kiss."

While I sat in my wheelchair, Kahlua came over to me and brought its head down by my face and gave me a dry kiss. He then moved down to my foot and since I was afraid it would bite my hurt foot, I asked, "What is he doing?"

"He can tell that something is not right with your foot and is letting me know," the owner responded.  That surprised me but I did not quite believe her.  Later, as they were leaving, Kahlua again came to where I was sitting and went directly to my foot.  Maybe he did sense something which made that alpaca pretty smart. When I mentioned it to my daughter she said, "Maybe your foot was stinky!" I guess I will never know why Kahlua went to my foot.

It was a fun visit of a cute and peaceful animal and everyone had fun petting, kissing, stroking, and having their picture taken with Kahlua. I was told that even Alzheimer patients enjoyed Kahlua's visit.

The End




Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pain Pill Addiction

Many articles about people becoming addicted to pain pills and television shows listing stars who have died because of addiction to prescription pills always made me wonder how and why. How could one person get so many pills? Now I know.

Eight weeks ago I was headed down to the basement and the next thing I knew, I was sitting on the floor with one leg beneath me and the other one in front of me.  As I worked the leg out from under me, I could see my foot hanging askew. I took the floppy foot and straightened it to the correct angle. I knew my ankle was broken but no bones were sticking out. Not realizing that a broken ankle is considered an emergency, I slowly crawled up six stairs, rested on the landing and crawled up six more steps. Reaching the kitchen floor, I scooted on my rear to where my purse hung on a chair.  I pulled my health insurance card out of the purse and called my insurance company.

Immediately, they called 911 and an ambulance came to pick me up.  I was surprised at the size of the women who were going to lift me and put me into the ambulance.  They looked very small and young. I said, "You won't be able to pick me up," Their response was that they were trained to handle any size person. I was impressed to see that they were strong and efficient as they braced my ankle, moved me to the gurney and into the ambulance. We headed to the Good Samaritan hospital about half an hour away.

Emergency room protocol: Check in, take vitals, answer questions, check insurance, x-ray, and then left alone for long periods of time. Odd that I can't recall much of my stay at Good Sam in Lafayette. I recall bits and pieces as I lay in the emergency room. Next to my bed was a large refrigerator-like appliance where warm, wonderful blankets were kept. If I mentioned I was cold, a blanket would be taken from the machine and I would be wrapped in a warm cocoon.  What a comforting and secure feeling. The other neat machine hung above me and it dispensed pain medicine automatically whenever I pushed a button. I loved that machine.

My deformed, fat, puffy, aching ankle had been left with no one coming in to see how I was doing for a long time.  Two and a half hours had passed since the x-ray. When the orthopedic doctor finally came in I said, “Just give me some pain pills and wrap the leg up because I am taking 40 persons to New Mexico on Monday. I will make sure to keep my leg elevated." His reply was, “You are not going anywhere other than to surgery. You broke both the tibia and fibula in your ankle."

I remember nurses in and out of the room at all hours. Temperature, blood pressure, oxygen levels, blood sugar, and pulse were taken periodically. I used a bed pan since I could not get out of bed. All my clothes were taken and I was flat on my back, naked, in my hospital gown. I ordered meals from a menu and even though I did not feel hungry I was encouraged to eat to keep my energy up.

A blue boogie like board was used to move me from the bed to an MRI machine and then to the operating table. I slept through the whole operation. When asked what my pain level was between 1-10 with 10 being the worst I always answered around 4 or 5. I thank God that my pain was not an excruciating pain and I felt more uncomfortable than pain.

After three days, I was told I would be discharged to a rehab center. My leaving Good Sam was scheduled for the afternoon of September 8 but the move did not take place until 8:30 that night. Wearing just a hospital gown, sitting in a wheel chair, I was rolled unto a ramp on the van. With lots of creaking and clanking I was raised, my wheelchair strapped in and the bumpy and rattling road to Westminster Live Care Rehab Center began. I held a white plastic bag with Patients Belongings on my lap.

If I mentioned I had pain, two capsules were popped into my mouth. I finally decided to only take a pill when I was going to therapy. After ten days of rehab where I learned everything there was to learn about how to function with a broken ankle, what exercises I needed to know, the different parts of a wheelchair and how to "drive" the wheelchair, I was dismissed. Getting into my house was impossible due to steps I could not handle and my plan to fly to California was nixed by the surgeon because of blood clotting fears on a two hour flight. My only other option was going to an assisted living facility. I moved into Sunrise at Flatirons where I would spend a month recuperating. As I left the rehab center I was given a packet of 22 pain pills. By this time I was not using any pain pills but I took them with me in case I should need them in the future.

Assisted Living was perfect for me.  It was the best decision I could have made while I strived to get better.
My studio apartment was perfect with wide doors, wheel chair accessible, clean and with a great view. I enjoyed seeing the sun rise most every morning. Meals were prepared, my laundry was done, housekeeping came in once a week and there was someone around in case I needed help. While at assisted living, another packet of 30 pills arrived.  I informed the office I did not need them or want them. Sadly, I found out that once the pills are issued they cannot be returned. Now I had 52 pills.  After four weeks, as I was leaving assisted living to come to my home,
another packet of 30 pills arrived for me. I now had 82 pills. I cannot figure out why so many pills were being issued to me since I did not request them. Now I understood how some people can make it a habit to take pills.  Insurance companies keep sending them whether pills are needed or not. Maybe it is a way for their pharmacy to make extra money or they are trying to get people hooked by making them addicts!
Does Anyone Need This Many Pills?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Little by Little

Today I entered my home for the first time after seven weeks of being gone. I was asked if I was happy to be home.  That was a difficult question to answer.

I had left a place I liked to call "my cruise without an ocean."  I was fed, my laundry was done, my room was kept clean, and everybody was kind, friendly, and helpful.  Plus, there were daily games and entertainment. From my large windows I could see the sunrise, watch the trees as they turned yellow, orange and brown.  I watched golf carts moving along the paths of a lush course. I was content.

Now here I was, home again. After a bit of maneuvering to enter the house, I was sitting in my kitchen, and I was not sure if I was happy or not. The house had a stuffy and musty smell after being closed up for so long.  The mess I had left greeted me with open arms, and the house was cold.

My friends did what they could to help me: They helped me get into the house by careful placing of the wheel chair, brought stuff down from high places so I could reach, removed a door, adjusted my riser toilet to fit in my bathroom, turned up the heat, and helped me in any way they could.  Once they left, I was on my own.
My kitchen and front room are large enough for me to roll around in but the halls and my bedroom door make me strike my knuckles no matter how careful I am. My bathroom is too small for the riser, the walker and me! I had to devise another way to enter the bathroom by using the sink and the door. I then hop to the toilet.  The scary part was that I did not feel safe.  Fear of falling or wrenching my good knee worried me.

For dinner I fixed some toast with butter and ate an orange. After a few more racks on my knuckles I decided to go to bed. I ignored  the furniture covered in dust, floors needing sweeping, things to be put away and knowing I wouldn't be able to do any of those things gave me a helpless feeling.  A quick prayer and I headed for bed. Before I could crawl into bed I needed some pillows to prop up my leg. Back through the narrow hallway, a few more knuckle scrapes, and I got three throw pillows from the couch. Trying to rearrange my bedding from a seating position was next to impossible but I did the best I could!  It had been a long and frustrating day.

Up at two in the morning, sitting in the wheelchair and watching the Patty Duke Show and Mr. Ed. Back to
bed and finally slept for three and a half hours.

What a difference a day makes! I went through piles of accumulated mail, shredded, organized and felt good. My coffee table looked like a pharmacy with the many items I had accumulated from the hospital, rehab and assisted living. I made many trips and was able to put some of the items into the hall cabinet. Every thing else would have to wait until I am better. Little by little will be my motto!  



Friday, October 18, 2013

Beauty My Eyes Have Seen

Beauty My Eyes Have Seen

In the rafters perches a hawk,
small dogs go for a walk,
little rabbits hop about
Sasha watches everyone’s route.
A kind man feeds another,
daughter visits mother,
Helping each other
is never a bother,
sharing stories of the past
with memories that last.
The smell of cookies baking,
a bag of popcorn in the making,
discussion groups for talkers
in wheelchair or walkers.
Chefs prepare the food
which is healthy and good.
Backs rubbed by a Tai Chi teacher,
hymns from a religious preacher.
Trivia sharpens the mind,
a word in a puzzle is easy to find.
On tables all around
jig saw pieces can be found.
People enjoy sitting in the sun,
family and friends make it more fun.
Going for a scenic drive,
it's great to be alive!
Cases filled with books to read
art on walls, beautiful indeed!
A story being read,
before going off to bed.
Movies at night or
travel photos delight.
Kindness goes on for miles
with helpers' cheerful smiles.
Good Samaritans roam the halls
answering emergency calls.
Nurses ready to give a hand,
in assisted-living land.
Beautiful sights
bring delights
no matter what size
at Flatirons Sunrise.

Written for What's Happening Newsletter
at Sunrise at Flatirons by
E. Moscoso, a temporary resident.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Broken Bones

You're up
split second
you're down.
9-1-1
ambulance
hospital
two screws and a plate
a broken ankle's fate.
Rehab
revolving door
bodies
in and out
training
to learn
how
to talk
walk
struggling
to be
normal
again.
Ankle
in boot
feel like Frankenstein
weeks
in another life
another world
until
ankle
can bear some weight.
X-ray shows
hardware
bones patched
eight long weeks
exercises
advice
to all
be careful
where you put
your feet
to prevent
a catastrophic fall.




Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Dedication Pays Off

Wanting to write has always been a dream of mine. I know more people with the same wish and less persons that actually follow through and become writers.  One such person is Manuel Ramos, an attorney I  worked with in the late 70's through the mid-nineties. His rough good looks with black hair and black mustache gave him a Chicano look, if Chicano's have a look.

One day he told me he was taking a creative writing class and the thought that ran through my mind was that another dreamer was hoping to become a writer.  Good luck, I thought, it is not easy to write and get published. Then, I saw a poem he had published in a newspaper; I believe it was in Westword.  A good poem about turning 50.  The next thing I heard was that he had taken a sabbatical from work and was writing a novel. One day he asked me if I had my camera with me because he needed a photo of himself for the book cover of his novel.   I took his picture and the photo appeared in some of his early works.

Image of Manuel RamosI went to volunteer in Mexico and lost track of Manuel and what he was doing.  Imagine my surprise when  one day in the Denver Post there were pictures of Denver writers.  I did not recognize any of the faces but as I read I saw that a white haired, with no mustache, man in the photo was Manuel Ramos. He no longer looked like the man I remembered. In a period of about seventeen years he had not only physically changed but had written more than eight books. His latest book Desperado, A Mile High Noir, is a mystery and as in any mystery, I love being kept in suspense and this story certainly kept me guessing! I enjoy reading his stories about north Denver, how neighborhoods have changed, the characters he dreams up, especially an attorney named Luis Montez. It is interesting to read topics relating to the Chicano movement and the involvement of his characters in tangled mysteries. As I read the stories, I can picture the characters because his descriptions are so right-on. I can also see Manuel's dry sense of humor come through in his writing. He likes to throw in words from songs and as long as I have known him, he has been an avid jazz lover.

The Ballad of Rocky Ruiz (1993), The Ballad of Gato Guerrero (1994), The Last Client of Luis Montez (1996), Blues for the Buffalo (1997), Mooney's Road to Hell (2002), Brown on Brown (2003),  King of the Chicnos (2010) and  his latest book, Desperado, A Mile High Noir (2013) are some of his books I have read and enjoyed.


On September 17, 2013, he will come to our book club at Spirit of Christ Catholic Community to talk about his books and to give us some insight on how he became a writer. I now know how dedication and discipline pay off for writers and I can now say I know an  honest to goodness, real, live author!

As luck would have it, I had an unfortunate accident and was unable to attend his presentation to our book club but reports I have received are that he was interesting, a great presenter with a sense of humor and knowledgeable in what to do while writing a novel!