Mr. Murphy & Me: Knee Replacement Surgery

29 Dec

My husband & I never planned to both have knee replacement surgery in the same year, but that’s what happened to us in 2018 & is the only reason I never got a blog post written in November.

Knee replacement is major surgery & has a long recovery period. Post-op most patients are in physical therapy for 2 to 3 months, which is grueling. The UP side of the surgery is that at the end of the line … when you can FINALLY see the light at the end of the tunnel (usually a season or two later … or it SEEMS that long) all the time & discomfort are worth it. Bone on bone pain, which is most likely what the patient has prior to surgery, is VERY uncomfortable & to finally be rid of that pain, have a straight leg again & generally get the active side of your life back is a blessing.

My husband had his surgery scheduled for mid-June & that went off without a hitch. It was his second knee replacement. Since he is still working he got to “go first.”

My second knee had been bad for a number of years but as long as it wasn’t debilitating & I could wear the majority of drop dead gorgeous shoes I wanted to wear & still walk, I would have put off surgery indefinitely & almost did. Having had one knee done years before AND having been an OR nurse for more than half my life assisting with knee replacements, just seemed to take the “glow” off the prospect of having knee #2 done. I was content to take care of Willy after his trips into that unpleasant knee replacement venue. It worked for us for quite a while.

As I said, knee replacement has a long & difficult recovery period … not only for the patient but for the caregiver. Somewhere during July while filling our Polar Ice Machine with ice that was in the freezer in our basement & ferrying it to the upper level of our house where the bedrooms are AND where Willy was & needed it for his knee recovery, my own knee started giving me a lot of trouble. By the time he went back to work in September, my knee was getting “hung up” while I was walking & I found myself, on far too many occasions, unable to move or bear weight. Even though it wasn’t in our plan, we knew it was time for me to bite the bullet & have my OWN knee replacement.

I made the arrangements with our orthopedic surgeon & was posted for surgery October 29. As we got closer to that date I started looking forward to getting it done & getting my “walking life” back.

My surgeon advised me that I would be able to drive in 2 weeks if I had a different car with an automatic transmission. Not wanting to be dependent on anyone to take me to therapy any longer than necessary, I bought a very nice used car … automatic transmission. My Celica will be 25 years old in February 2019 so we needed a more dependable car anyway, but I’ve kept the Celica because I have an emotional attachment to that “almost antique” car. If nothing else … I was PROACTIVE & the new little used car has already paid for itself.

Now just how is Mr. Murphy involved in this story & who the heck is he anyway, you may be thinking??? I’m not certain anyone has actually SEEN him but most of us know him or know OF him because of his dumb little law … MURPHY’S LAW … that says, “whatever CAN go wrong … will.”

And it kind of did.

My surgery went very well & in the Recovery Room I was glad I’d made the decision to do it & had it behind me, even though the recovery & physical therapy loomed out in front of me like a path filled with rotten persimmons that had fallen from an orchard of persimmon trees. Remember … I’d hobbled this path before.

Following surgery there was some concern that my blood pressure was running low but the nurses were keeping an eye on it.

That night the cleaning staff chose the hours between 12:40 a.m. & 3:30 a.m. to strip & wax the hallway on the orthopedic wing. I’m a light sleeper so that completely destroyed any chance I might have had to get any sleep but the nurses were coming in every 2 hours to check my low blood pressure so I really didn’t stand a chance.

At 4:30 a.m. a Certified Nursing Assistant came in, took my vital signs & asked if my BP was always so low? She said it was 88/44. Even though I was alert & talking with her, she left the room in a hurry & went to get an RN. When they returned, the RN checked the BP machine & she & the CNA quickly lowered the head of my bed, each grabbed me under an arm & snatched me up in bed as far as the bed board … (just in case, I’m sure, they had to do CPR). After that maneuver the RN took my BP & announced that it was now a healthy 113/70. My response to her was, “That’s because you scared the CRAP out of me.”

Next morning they gave me only 1/3 of my regular BP medicine & instructed me to see my medical doctor about it after being discharged … which I did.

The next morning at 8 a.m. the medication nurse gave me my first dose of pain medicine in preparation for my first Physical Therapy session. All went well.

At 12 noon I was given my second dose of pain medication in preparation for my second encounter with PT. By then I was so sleepy I had a hard time paying attention to what the therapist was telling me … BUT … I wasn’t having any pain even though I went to sleep during her instruction.

Believing that being so sleepy & eventually feeling like I had cotton stuffed in both ears was the result of having no sleep the night before, Willy took us home after I was discharged. Foggy as hell & starting to shake the rest of the day & all night long, I called my doctor the following morning. He instructed me to stop taking the pain meds since I was obviously having an adverse reaction to it. He said he would find something else to send me.

I felt the bad effects of the pain medication reaction for 2 days.

On day two I was scheduled to go to PT for the very first time after being discharged from the hospital. Since I still didn’t have any pain meds & I knew taking pain meds prior to the very painful PT was imperative, I called my doctor again. Speaking with a Physician’s Assistant I learned that since I have had reactions to so many medicines & due to the most recent one, I was pretty certain NOT to be able to take ANY narcotics. At that point I got the devastating news that I would either have to try a smaller dose of the medicine that I had the very bad reaction to or go it alone at PT with only Tylenol. Neither option had much appeal but rather than risk an even worse opioid reaction (may cause cessation of breathing & lead to death) I chose Door #2 & decided to attempt to develop a partnership with Tylenol. Even though we had a prescription for Narcan that reverses the effects of opioids if I stopped breathing, I decided to just do it with that old stand-by from “over-the-counter” & avoid any further drama.

Pointing out here that the pain following having parts of 2 of your leg bones amputated & replaced with metal & plastic components is NOT the kind of pain you want to use only Tylenol to control. But I did because my choices were limited.

So with Willy helping me, we went to my first physical therapy appointment.

One of the physical therapists told me, with awe in his voice, “You’re one tough lady.” Willy said he thought that HE was the “poster child” for knee replacement surgery until he saw me grit my teeth & have PT with only Tylenol.

Later & somewhere along the line I had a reaction to the Aspirin I was taking for avoiding blood clot formation & had to take a lower dose. And even later I couldn’t get warm & was sleeping in a sweat suit, robe, under 5 blankets & began losing hair. SIGH …. I went back to my medical doctor. Blood work showed my thyroid levels were low.

All this sounds like a nightmare & it actually has been. I wouldn’t recommend inviting Mr. Murphy to join you for ANY major thing in your life. Leave him off your invitation list AND your dance card. After my knee experience I know there’s just no place for him.

I’m usually a very positive person so I’ve taken a look back at the past 9 weeks & somehow I’ve been able to regain that positive attitude …. thankfully.

Even with the things that have gone wrong, I am still totally blessed. My knee is healing very well & except for a small problem bending it, I’m pleased with my recovery. My glass is definitely half full.

So many truly awful things could have happened that didn’t. The BP & thyroid problems are being handled by tweaking my medication. And through it all I’ve had Willy, without whom I couldn’t have done this at all. And I’ve had the very best, most patient, gentle & caring physical therapist that God has graced this world with.

I HAVE learned a few things following this knee replacement that I didn’t with the first one, which seems to be so long ago now. Most of it is related to going through PT following major (& very painful) surgery only taking Tylenol.

  • Just like I tell people who attend my breast cancer seminars:

We never know what we can do until we try & we never know how strong we are until we HAVE to be. I’ve approached physical therapy … me & my Tylenol … with that forever at the front of my mind. I’ve learned a lot by taking my own advice.

  • I’ve realized that if I didn’t go to physical therapy twice a week I’d have NO social life at all.
  • I just feel better being as much like my REAL self as possible. I shaved my legs with my electric razor about a week ago because I just couldn’t stand not doing it any longer. Had I waited another day I would have had a healthy donation to Locks of Love.
  • I’ve learned that I really AM one tough lady… and I LIKE that.
  • Mostly I’ve learned that with a lot of patience & practice you can learn to dress yourself with the twist of a wrist & a determined aim. I can perfectly lasso my foot with my underpants now & pull them up, which isn’t all that easy with a stiff knee but has been imperative to getting dressed without assistance.

Mostly I am forever grateful to Willy for making this journey with me; as he has in the past. I couldn’t have done this without him. He & his helping me is a testimony to the real & enduring meaning of marriage. Anyone can get through the good stuff but it takes someone & something special to get through the difficult parts. He’s seen me at my very lowest this time around.  He’s held me when I looked my worst & let me lean my head on his shoulder when I didn’t know anything else to do. I hope I’ve been there for him in the same way when he’s needed me.

No matter how long or difficult or challenging our paths become, we learn something from every difficult stroll we take down one of them.




Run, Forrest … RUN!

22 Oct

Our science fiction club will be 35 years old in April so we’ve been around for a long time. Of all the things we do for fun … & there are many … our Annual Halloween Party & Costume Contest are among the ones I enjoy the most.

When you’re part of a sci-fi club the members mostly don’t have a problem with dressing up on Halloween; we look FORWARD to it. I think that’s because we are dreamers of dreams, visionaries, hopeful for the future & are committed to the future we find in books of science that is still fiction, & a dedication to things that are good but somehow different.  So we all pretty much look forward to the Halloween Party & the chance to be anyone or anyTHING we want to be for that one night a year. And for us, the joy is also in the sharing … our costumes & our personas with friends who also look forward to sharing theirs.

I can remember almost every costume Willy & I have worn, even from way back before we were a couple. But the costumes we’ve put together as a couple have been the most special.

We usually start shopping early; when most people haven’t even gotten over Easter I’m combing through catalogs looking for our costumes for 6 months away.  I always ask Willy for suggestions & he always tells me just to pick something but eventually he drifts into my office & we look at all the costumes together. Sometimes he picks the costumes … like several years ago he chose Adult Squirrel Costumes for us, probably because we’d just spent 2 years attempting to evict a family of squirrels from our attic but actually because Willy thought the costumes with inflatable tails were the coolest. He only saw the error of his ways when we attempted to get into the car & ride to the Halloween Party. Most vehicles & seat belts with shoulder restraints were NEVER designed or intended for adult-size squirrels with inflatable tails. It was challenging but getting into the car left us both with a delightful memory that makes us laugh every time we remember it or look back at those squirrel costumes in pictures.

We’ve been Sumo Wrestlers & Minions & cheerleaders & Mousekateers.  We’ve been Marge & Homer Simpson & Adam & Eve, which was Willy’s least favorite. He said all night long at the party he kept seeing me out of the corner of his eye & had to blink twice while he remembered I was in a costume & not actually naked. Each costume has its memories.

There’s also so much fun at the parties … seeing who is wearing what & in some cases trying to guess just what the WHAT is. And the Costume Contests are fun, too, although winning isn’t all that important to me. I just enjoy being there with everyone for a special evening. If we win a prize, that’s just icing on the black cat cake.

After all these years, deciding on & finding a costume has become more difficult. We’ve been just about everything.

This year when we were going through the costume catalogs we found a running Forrest Gump (it included running shorts, shirt, socks, a long beard & very long-haired wig, & the famous BUBBA GUMP SHRIMP COMPANY cap) & a girl hippie costume for Jenny. Willy immediately did a Forrest Gump impersonation, “I just started running & I ran & I ran & I ran all across the country … & then I stopped.” It was Gump incarnate & we’d found our costumes.

So this year Willy & I were Forrest & Jenny & we DID win the prize for MOST HUMOROUS … primarily because Willy’s costume was just so funny & his impersonation during our presentation was ‘spot on.’ We had a good time.

There are so many moments associated with the Halloween Party & our costumes that are memorable.  But for us there is that one moment that makes it the MOST special for us ….

When the costumes come in the mail in a huge box with written on the side, I don’t open it until Willy gets home & we open it together … kind of like kids at Christmas. And then we try them on right there in the kitchen. To me that’s when the magic starts. If the costumes are funny … like the Sumo Wrestlers or the squirrels with inflatable tails (Willy actually blew them up on the spot there in the kitchen before dinner), we laugh … & laugh … & laugh. It’s one of those most genuine & private moments spent with your special person that are indescribable. We are exactly on the same page, enjoying a moment that is only ours that we will remember forever & cherish … & hold dear whenever we see the pictures.

When we get to the party we may have temporarily forgotten the memory of opening those costumes & trying them on alone in the kitchen & laughing, but they will always be in our memory & will warm us when we think of them 100 years from now. I looked around the room at this year’s party & wondered how many of our wonderful & goofy friends had had the same experience. I hope they ALL did.

This year when our costumes came & we tried them on in the kitchen, Willy went outside & ran up the driveway & back. I made a video & said, “RUN, FORREST … RUN!” When he got back to the porch he said he wondered how many of our neighbors had seen him doing that. But we decided we didn’t care if the folks across the street or our neighbor walking her dog shared in our special “costume moment.” They will be forever a part of this year’s memory …




When the Bumps Clump

15 Sep

If you’re a very new soul, your world is filled with warmth & love & smells & textures & shapes & all manner of wonders. It’s a wonderful place to have landed until your first miserable ear infection or until that first tooth starts cutting its way through your gums. Suddenly you’ve come face-to-face with your first “bump in the road.”

While life is a beautiful thing; the grandest of experiences, life simply isn’t constant joy & serenity. It would be truly a gift from heaven if we never had to experience a bump in the road. But if we live long enough … well, longer than just a few minutes … we find out that the road of life is littered with them … literally. That first ear infection thing or accidentally being dropped on your head at the end of your bath is the first tip-off.

I think somewhere we reach a balance between that bumpy road & the smooth one we hope lasts a long, long time but when the bumps CLUMP it seems like the scale is definitely tipping on the side of the bumps. I just had a day like that.

I’ve needed a knee replacement for some time but since the pain was only minimal after a series of special injections several years ago, (a minus 1 on that little Smiley Face Scale), it’s been easy to put it off … until it suddenly got worse a couple of weeks ago. I’ve had a knee replacement on the right knee so recognizing that stuff was definitely in a state of massive disarray inside my left knee was no big shocker; a no-brainer. So I did what I knew had to happen & made an appointment with my orthopedic surgeon.

I got to the appointment a little ahead of time & was seen almost immediately. After my medical interview with a nurse, my surgeon came in, sat down & asked how I was. I told him about the new bump in my knee road & he asked what I thought. I told him I thought it was time to straighten out that bump by having knee replacement surgery. His response was, “I’ve just looked at your latest knee x-rays & your knee is AWFUL.  It’s a MESS in there.”

It would have been cool if he’d softened his words a bit, maybe saying I had a really bad knee but he is not prone towards sugar-coating truth or any of the bumps one might find in the world of knees. When he said, “It’s a MESS in there,” I knew he wasn’t wasting our time kidding. It literally WAS a mess in there & I could back up his professional assessment because I knew/felt that already … & frequently could hear it crunching.

Telling our cat when I left that morning that I would be back soon turned out to be a huge lie & I hope it didn’t turn into one of Phoebe’s bumps in her cat road.

After speaking with the surgeon I went to the lab where I was stuck & a giant Dr. Pepper-sized bottle of blood was withdrawn. To add insult to injury I had both my nostrils swabbed; an intimate invasion of 2 orifices done by a total stranger.

I spent some quality time with a patient teacher. I was next shuffled along to a “scheduler” who scheduled my surgery for the end of October & scheduled & confirmed 6 appointments for me with various personnel & my surgeon at specific stages of knee replacement/recovery for specific reasons. I confirmed these all while checking my pocket calendar.

My next-to-final stop was in the office of a lovely woman whose very quality of life seemed dependent upon knowing if I had access to an elevated commode seat, which I do … that & a Polar Ice Machine, a walker, 2 canes & a walk-in shower. She was ecstatic. I’d just made certain there were going to be NO bumps in HER road that day.

My last stop was with a serious woman who gave me 2 things to read, “all the way through & take your time, please,” which I did while wondering if I was holding her up. She looked like she’d already run into a few pebbles before getting to me. I read very fast. She handed me a pen & I signed both; one giving my surgeon permission to do knee replacement surgery & anything else he felt was necessary when he actually began working on that “Mess in There.” I was OK with that.

The second document was the operative permit for the hospital which stated mostly the same stuff as the ‘Permission to Operate’ document but it also stated that there could be complications with any anesthesia or surgical procedure up to & including possibly death. As I signed that one I got a nudge from my colon alerting me to the fact that it was possibly going to erupt with an old fashioned IBS display the likes of which I hadn’t seen in a while.

I passed the serious lady my signed OR Permit & asked for directions to the restroom.

On the way home, finally, I stopped off at our local Walmart where I was greeted by the bone-chilling, blood curdling wail of that baby that LIVES in Walmart on aisle 6 whose mom is paid to give birth without anesthesia of any kind each afternoon while riding on a store-furnished hover round. (I don’t think that’s one of her bumps in the road. I’m convinced she’s on retainer & they PAY her & the baby to do that.)

I went to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription my medical doctor called in for me the day before. It wasn’t ready but they would note that the customer is in the store so I would be a top priority for getting my prescription ready. I think she noticed I was limping & was wearing a 6” Ace Bandage wrapped so tightly that my ankle & toes had turned quite blue (I’m guessing it was hard to miss)…

Instead of hanging around ogling the prunes & melons & listening to that screaming baby, I went to CATO just a few doors down. It seemed like a great day for a little “retail therapy” & turned out to be the one part of the day that had a totally smooth & uncluttered stretch of asphalt. I had a good time.

Back at the pharmacy my prescription still wasn’t ready so I hobbled across the store & picked up a loaf of bread. Back again at the pharmacy I had a bench seat where I & my multi-wrapped Ace Bandage & blue ankle & toes could be easily seen. I hugged my loaf of bread. It smelled so good but I restrained myself from ripping into the wrapper with my teeth & clawing into some semblance of the lunch that I had missed quite a while ago.

Finally, FINALLY my prescription was ready & I knew by the pharmacy tech’s face that maybe I should sit back down on the bench, but I didn’t. I’d gotten that far without a stroke or heart attack & whatever she had to tell me couldn’t have been as bad (or bumpy) as signing that OR permit & the following IBS reaction or the indignity of having both nostrils invaded by a stranger. I was wrong ….

The 120cc bottle of medicine cost me $387. She said insurance DID pay $20 of it & I breathed a huge … & sarcastic sigh of relief. Racing home in an attempt to arrive before the Orkin man showed up for his monthly appointment, I swore that I was going to be severely disappointed if that medicine bottle didn’t contain 120cc of the purest liquid gold & almost, but not quite, began regretting buying that cute little blouse at CATO on sale for the small sum of $19.99 that suddenly seemed more like 2 million bucks.

I got home with a very few minutes to spare before the Orkin man arrived. He did our service & remarked on his way out that my house “seemed hot.” I hadn’t been home long enough to notice.

I went upstairs to change clothes & immediately noticed the loft felt like a sauna. The furnace fan was running & the thermostat read 77 degrees. I walked around that huge boulder, went to my office, found our Heating & Cooling guys number, called & left him a message.

I was headed back upstairs to change my clothes when Willy drove into the driveway. He works really hard & when he comes home he enjoys just a few minutes to sit & relax before being hit with any unpleasant news. I met him at the door & said, “BAD FURNACE!” His homecoming road suddenly became littered with boulders.

While I was telling him the gory details the furnace guy returned my call. He was in the area & would be there soon. I told him we were going out to eat because I wasn’t about to cook after the day I’d had & he told us to go. He thought he knew what the problem was & could take care of it from the outside. When we were leaving he was arriving so we stopped long enough to exchange a few words & went to dinner.

Dinner was so good. At the mid-point headed towards starvation, I was very glad to have it.

Back home finally, the upstairs temperature was hovering around 70. Ignoring the icicles hanging in the shower & iceberg in the toilet we adjusted the temperature & declared … BERNIE, OUR HEAT PUMP  GUY WAS OUR NEW HERO.

Today was a much better day. We’ve stayed inside doing non-life threatening stuff & I enjoyed not having to kick any bumps out of my way on my road.

I think the bumps that suddenly appear in our roads must certainly build some kind of character. I KNOW for a fact that they make us appreciate the time we are blessed with between them. And mostly we manage to deal with them & move on around them. The most difficult thing to deal with is when they come in clumps.

As of the end of October the only knees in our house that won’t be fake knees will be on our cat. I’ve started grabbing one of her legs or another when she’s walking past me & she gives me a terrible look. She’s 12 years old & needs to be checked. You just can’t be too careful & I don’t know if they make Phoebe-size knee replacement components. Considering the looks she gives me as she tries to step past me by lifting each knee as high as possible, I believe I’ve turned into, if not her worst nightmare, at the least one of the more frequent bumps in her cat road.





Measuring Greatness …

26 Aug

In the past 24 hours we’ve heard a lot about greatness; about a man who was truly a “great” man. That made me wonder if there really are any truly great people on this planet so I looked up “greatness.”  I wasn’t satisfied with the definition so I looked up Quotes about Greatness. There were a bunch of those but I settled on one from Bob Marley that said, “The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity & his ability to affect those around him positively.” That brought my galloping horse all the way back around the barn & smack in front of the barn door again. It brought me to the realization that, if Mr. Marley’s quote has any validity, then the man so many have been referring to as having been a “great” man … surly was. Mostly I’d suspected that he was but my fact-checking self (a product of the paranoia induced by the last several years of exposure to the political arena) just needed to see it written down.

Senator John McCain was a great man.

Lost to death just yesterday due to the devastation of a particularly aggressive malignant brain tumor, the late Senator McCain was loved & revered by so many people … a global phenomenon … myself included. I didn’t always agree with Mr. McCain but I appreciated his honest approach & his ability to keep an even keel in the roughest of waters.

Until the past several years I had no interest in the world of politics but my interest peaked when the political world started going sideways & one of the few rational constants in that New World Order was John McCain.

In my opinion – (these days when writing anything that will be read by more people than your spouse & when you, yourself proof-read it aloud only to the family cat, it’s best to preface anything with those words, “in my opinion.” With a little luck they may help deflect a wash of other people’s opinions that we may just not be asking for) – Mr. McCain was an apolitical politician even while being affiliated with a party. He truly loved this country & RESPECTED it. He put the greater good of the people who inhabit this planet ahead of personal gain & did that without fear of repercussions. With determination & strength of will he defended the truth as he believed it to be, found good in his opponents (most of them) & represented the true meaning of humanity & humility even while “crossing the aisle.”

Perhaps Mr. McCain ended up with these qualities, attributes, virtues & abilities as a result of his many years held captive in a Vietnamese POW camp. He had a lot of time to think. Adverse situations open the door to opportunities to do that & to come face to face with what is right & what is wrong. Being faced with a life-threatening illness did that to me. I can only imagine what processes were afoot in the mind of Mr. McCain during his time of torture & imprisonment. Whatever the cause … & maybe it was simply a gift from God, Mr. McCain seemed to possess a definite understanding of what was right, what was wrong & the fact that there is good in almost everyone. He definitely had gifted insight.

There’s a quote from one of my most favorite movies that goes like this, “How we face death is at least as important as how we face life.” That also sums up Mr. McCain at the end of his life. Knowing his illness was terminal, he made his final months count & faced death with courage & dignity; continuing the trademark of his life.

I didn’t know John McCain but I had the utmost respect for him, his values, his integrity & his humanity. It would have been nice if he could have stayed a little while longer & maintained his voice of sanity & his grasp on reality. There are too few Senator McCains & the breed is diminishing.

We will miss you, Senator McCain. You were a great man ….

The Walmart Mystique

16 Jul

I’m convinced that Walmart hires a baby to be on the premises squalling every time I’m in the store … & I’m in there frequently. I’m a “Repeat Attender.” Maybe our Walmart Super Center has constant traffic because it’s located in the county where the entertainment level is low & Walmart just has so much to see. It’s definitely responsible for a dip on the boredom meter.

So every time I’m in Walmart that same baby is screaming its lungs out & possibly shattering the glasses in the Housewares section. I’m not sure how it can BE the same baby because that bone-chilling, blood-curdling squall obviously comes directly from the throat & lungs of a newborn; so new that it was certainly & violently spit into this world on Aisle 6 while its mama was riding a Hover-round & NOT watching her other 3 kids.

The baby notwithstanding, Walmart has a “fan following;” myself included. Maybe it’s the genius design of the stores. You go in to pick up a prescription at the convenient Walmart Pharmacy & you also need a loaf of bread & a jar of Cherry Jelly (Smuckers). The two areas are visible – one from the other – but they are separated by the Toys Department, Housewares (pillows, picture frames & candles) & Women’s Clothing. What SHOULD be a 30 minute trip ends up being a Gilligan’s Island Experience – a 3 Hour Tour. And by the time the “Greeter” sends you on your way with a smile & a, “Have a nice day ….” you have your prescription, that Smuckers Jelly, a Miracle Foam pillow for the guest room, a shower gift for a friend & 2 shirts & a pair of cropped jeans that were on CLEARANCE in Women’s Clothing. It’s a wonderful boost to the endorphins – getting so many fantastic bargains.

As you’re leaving the store, 3 people pushing a shopping cart loaded with a 75” flat screen TV dash past you. You absent-mindedly smooth your hair in case you’ve just been witness to one of those popular Walmart “wide-screen TV heists” &, through the miracle of surveillance cameras, somehow end up on the local News at 6.

Like sliding down the sharp edge of a knife, that baby squalling in the background as you’re ejected through the swinging doors into the parking lot, sends a slicing chill down your spine.

Yet I & millions of people can’t stay away from what … in our area … is affectionately referred to as Wally World. Some of it may be because so many of us are “repeat attenders” that it becomes a “social experience.” We run into our friends on the cat food aisle & spend 20 minutes blocking that space while playing “catch-up” with a friend.

If we are following the latest fashion trends, a trip to Walmart will help catch us up on the latest in sleepwear. You don’t need to go to “Nightwear” in the Women’s Clothing area to find out what’s IN in pajamas. You simply sit on that little bench at the exit designated for men who are waiting for the wives to complete their shopping & social experience, & watch as the Pajama Parade passes. My mama taught me better than to wear my night clothes shopping but I somehow always forget that she also taught me not to stare. Sigh ….

To be honest, Walmart has some great bargains & food prices in the Grocery Section that almost ALWAYS beat the competition.

My husband recently had knee replacement surgery. A friend asked how he was doing at the end of his first post-op week & he responded, “I’ve been suffering from Walmart withdrawal.” The feeling is obviously universal. Later we went on an excursion to “pick up a few things” & he got on one of the store-provided Hover-rounds & drifted back into society. I’m convinced that trip & Physical Therapy launched him into full recovery.

So the popularity of Walmart is due to a number of things; good prices, psychological design & layout of the store, variety, variety, variety, a place to be social while meeting friends, CLEARANCE signs that are easily seen, discount prices on cool jeans made from recycled plastic bottles, a chance to be witness to the criminal activity in the immediate area & maybe show up on News at 6, & an opportunity to interact with some really cool Greeters. I can’t believe you have less fun because you aren’t wearing pajamas.

The place would be damn near perfect except for the ear-splitting sounds of that screaming infant that rip into the very fabric of the brain.

Does anyone else hear that screaming baby or … OMG … is it just ME????


5 On the Floor

26 Jun

My stepfather & I didn’t see eye to eye on much. In the 35 years before his death that he was married to my mom I would be hard put to think of 10 things we DID see eye to eye on.  It was a strange & strained relationship but my stepbrother & I were close & that made it all worth whatever he & I endured from his father; my stepfather.

Having signed up to take Driver’s Education in high school, my stepfather offered these words of wisdom, “When you’re buying your own cars you can drive whatever you want. While you’re living here you’re going to learn to drive a straight shift.” It really didn’t matter to me … there was no shining, rebuilt older model car waiting to be gifted to me on my 16th. birthday & no way to purchase one. I just wanted to know HOW to drive.  In case a car DID drop into my life, I wanted to be ready.

My stepfather had a red & white Ford Fairlane that he was particularly fond of & none of us were about to be given the opportunity to learn to drive on that old classic. Instead, the boy next door … several years older, with a job & a car of his own … offered to teach me. According to my stepfather’s decree, his car was a straight transmission.

I learned, I drove, I parallel parked.

I took Driver’s Ed where I also learned, drove, & much to my instructor’s dismay, hit a skunk my first day driving on the highway in that “owned by & donated to the school system” automatic transmission vehicle.

By the end of my junior year I was a licensed driver fully versed in driving both an automatic & straight transmission vehicle, which was just cool even though I owned neither.

Throughout my many years as a driver I have owned 7 cars; 6 bought new & 6 of them have been straight transmissions. It’s what I learned to drive, what I became comfortable with & along the way I’ve felt a lot of pride in being able to drive most anything on the road with the exception of an 18-wheeler & that due to size more than transmission. I remember accepting a date with someone once & as the evening went on, finding out he couldn’t drive a straight shift. As strange as it may seem, that was a deal breaker for me.  I suddenly saw him as a wimp & never went out with him again.

So something my stepfather attempted to share with me, regardless of the manner, sunk in & made me … if not a better person … at least a better driver.

All this flashed through my mind last week when I took my husband to the hospital for knee replacement surgery.

The hospital is a lovely facility & ahead of its time in many ways; a plus for our community. Because there are many parking lots … some close to the building & some long distances from it, Valet Parking is an offered free service. After getting us to the hospital on time I decided to use the Valet Parking service so I could accompany my husband through check-in.

We got out of the car & I gave the valet my keys. Perhaps I should mention here that I LOVE my car. It’s a 1994 Toyota Celica, bought new & just one year away from being an antique. Among its many attributes is the fact that it’s a straight transmission … a 5-speed with the gear shift in the floor. It’s been a wonderful car & a delight to drive.

So I gave my keys to the valet & my husband & I entered the hospital. After checking in we took a seat in the lobby.

Looking up I saw the valet come in, walk towards me holding my car key in the air & she said to me, “Your car won’t start!” My first response to her was, “Did you push in the clutch?” “No,” she said & headed back towards the door & my pretty little, almost antique sports car.

I watched from the window.

She turned the key & the car hummed to life. She gave me a ‘Thumbs Up.’ I gave her a ‘Thumbs Up’ just as she choked the car to a jerking stop.

She tried again as I walked out the door to watch … & to pray. She released the clutch … several times … & hopped the car through the parking lot & out of sight. A man standing on the sidewalk talking on his cell phone shook his head & said to me, “I’m glad that’s not MY car.” Also shaking MY head & wringing my hands a bit, I responded, “I’m sorry it’s mine. I’d hoped to drive it another year …”

My husband’s surgery went well & at the end of the day I went to retrieve my car from the Valet Service. After quite a wait, a valet came & told me it would be just a little while. They were trying to find someone with the service who knew how to drive a 5-speed.

Sigh …

40 minutes later the valet who seamlessly brought me my car (could he possibly have been more than 14-years-old????) commented that it was “A smooth little car that just … purred.”

End of story, really. My car was unharmed & my husband’s knee is in better shape than it has been in years. EVERYONE at the hospital did a spectacular job … even the early morning valet who gets extra points for learning to drive a straight shift, 5 on the floor, in a matter of minutes as the sun was just starting to come up on a Monday morning. I give her bunches of kudos. It took me quite a bit longer than that.

I do offer a suggestion to any facility that offers Valet Parking, however. If the service is going to be made available, valets should ALSO be available who are equipped with the experience to drive cars with ANY type of transmission rather than making it an ‘ON THE JOB’ learning experience. That’s just good business.

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I grudgingly thank my stepfather for making sure I was equipped with the experience to drive most any vehicle available to me, regardless of his manner or intent.

If we’re offered the opportunity to LEARN, we should pretty much take advantage of it. You never know when that experience will help you out or come in handy in some way. Everything except learning trigonometry, that is. I can’t imagine how trigonometry will EVER come in handy.

But thanks to my stepfather anyway for his advice. Oh … & he taught me to change a tire, too, even though I’ve never been strong enough to loosen those lug nuts so expertly tightened by a machine.



29 May

Most of us have hair … or at least we start off fresh in this world with it … & mostly take it for granted. Maybe we give it a little extra thought when it’s time for a cut or trim or a new style, & as we get older we may think about it again when trying to decide whether or not to add color. Except at those special times I’m guessing we don’t sit around thinking about our hair on an hourly basis.

I guess, though, that I’m one of those people whose hair has been at the forefront of my mind on a number of occasions. Way back when I was a preschooler .. maybe even a toddler … my mom use to dress me up, add a matching bow in my hair, stand me in front of a mirror, clap her hands & ask, “What will they say when they see you?” That made me so rotten that after a while & before she had a chance to say it, I’d look in the mirror, then look at my mom & ask, “What will they say???”

I remember a very bad time in dancing school when my mom took me to a beauty shop & she & I got matching haircuts. Before I could even think to ask, “What will they say?” my dance teacher hit the roof & demanded that my mom tell her what she was thinking when she cut my hair. At the time I was the “star pupil” in a sea of little 5-year-olds who wore their hair long because my dance teacher thought all little ballerinas should have long hair. Until my hair grew & gained a little of the lost length, things were strained in the school of dance. My hair was the cause of the issue.

I’ve always had good hair. In the days when we’re most critical of ourselves I knew I didn’t have the greatest figure or the most beautiful face but I was aware that I had good hair. So in 7th. grade when my girlfriends & I were attempting to put together the “perfect girl,” she always had Becky’s hands, Pat’s eyes, Carolyn’s figure & my hair. It was good to be a part of something.

You may wonder why, if I had such good hair, I chose a profession as an Operating Room RN for 38 years where I kept that good hair covered 8-plus hours a day, 40-plus hours a week. I can only offer that with intellectual maturity came a desire to be part of a helping profession without a minute’s consideration of my hair.

Over the years my “good hair” has taken a direct hit from illness. I’ve lost a considerable amount of it 3 times to fluctuating thyroid hormones, which has been a disease that has caused an on-going battle for more than 30 years. In 2008 I lost most of it & resorted to wearing wigs for almost a year following chemotherapy for breast cancer. But we do what we have to do & just keep moving forward, thankful for the chance to have a longer life.

My generation was on the cusp of being “establishment” (because we were raised that way) & of being hippies, flower children & free spirits because the Age of Aquarius was dawning. While we dodged school hall monitors carrying tape measures threatening to measure the length of our skirts above our knees & attempting to comply, we secretly went home, closed the doors to our rooms & played the music of our time on our record players.

My ‘break-out’ album was HAIR; a vinyl record that came in an exciting cover & played at 33.3 RPMs on my record player.

I was fascinated with the often forbidden lyrics, the movement it screamed of & the off-Broadway play of the same name that drew daily comment & criticism because of the NUDE SCENE at the end of Act II. I was too much of a weanie to actually BE a flower child but listening to that album took me there simply by turning off the lights, turning ON a black light & increasing the volume to arc weld on that little blue portable player. It was my music & MY TIME. I must have played that album until the grooves from one side blended into the grooves on the other. I knew every word of every song; even the controversial ones. And eventually I let my hair grow … long & beautiful, flaxen waxen … my HAIR.

A number of years later I had an opportunity to see the play presented by a traveling troupe in Roanoke. We had far away balcony seats but we were close enough to be aware that at the end of Act II the actors DID INDEED appear, very briefly, totally nude on stage. It happened so quickly that before you realized what was happening, it was over … & sort of anti-climactic … but I’d finally seen HAIR in its fully advertised & uncut glory. It was the experience of a lifetime.

Here on the 50th anniversary of the birth of the tribal rock musical HAIR, our local Renaissance Theater had a 2 week run of the play. Local actors filled the roles of Claude, Berger, Crissy & the Tribe. Because I’m on the email list of the theater I immediately called a couple who are our age & very close friends & asked them if they’d like to see the play. Without hesitation they said yes & I proceeded to purchase 4 front row center seats without regard to cost.

With eager anticipation we looked forward to the night of the play.

We got there early.

The Renaissance Theater is small; several rows of bleacher-type seating to the left & right of the stage & a larger section of similar seating directly in front of the stage-area. It isn’t really a stage but is a large area where the entire play happens with a few minor set changes. A huge peace sign surrounded by flowers was painted on the floor & enhanced by a rotating black light. The atmosphere was electric as we took our seats in the front row.

As the play began one of the actors sat on my husband’s lap & another took off his jeans & handed them to our friend, Beth. Dutifully, & as a reminder of the years between us & HAIR, she folded them & held them on her lap until he came back to retrieve them.

The opening song was Aquarius.  My arms danced with chills & my mind flung me back to that place where memory suddenly takes us sometimes where we hear echoes of the people we use to be & songs that were a part of making us who we are today. I felt a huge lump in my throat that threatened to produce tears all throughout the play. I was catapulted back through time. It was surreal & wonderful & an experience I was glad I hadn’t missed … made so much better on front row, center seats.

The cast was amazing, talented & superb. It was impossible to make myself understand that probably NONE of them were even born when HAIR was an off-Broadway production causing such a stir.

You could look around the theater & KNOW instantly which members of that ‘sold out’ crowd knew exactly what HAIR was all about & which ones had season tickets, came to the play because they had those tickets & didn’t have a clue what HAIR was. There was a bald man (which may be significant) in the first row of the left section who looked thoroughly disgusted the entire duration of the play, 2 older women in the right section with gray hair wearing flowing skirts, shawls, sandals & a few strings of beads each who were exactly where they wanted to be, & an elderly woman to my right who sang along with all the songs. Mostly it was a crowd of like-minded people who somewhere in their past shared many of the same things, including dreams, the love of music & flowers in their hair.

After it was all over I wanted very much to go back another night & see it again but someone told me, “It wouldn’t be the same. We really can’t go home again.”

We didn’t go back but I disagree. For 2 hours on an April evening I was transported back to my youth in the presence of music I love, to a part of my life that was memorable. That never changes & as long as hearing a special song or having a flash of a special memory is possible, you CAN go home again.

HAIR remains a significant part of my life.

In the lobby as we were leaving the theater my husband looked at me in awe & said, “I heard you singing. You knew EVERY word of EVERY song!” I smiled & said softly, “Of course I did …”

Did this version of HAIR have a nude scene at the end of Act II? No it didn’t & I realized it actually added nothing to the play originally & was simply the hook that got people into the theater in those first tentative performance months in the late 1960s. Nudity on stage had not been done before & was what fed the public curiosity. And you know what? In the midst of the music & the nostalgia, I didn’t miss it at all.