Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays – finally!

As you probably noticed, there was no 2012 holiday letter. So a brief recap on the last TWO years:

In 2012, Andy took up the bass guitar, painted the sewing room and built some seriously beautiful shelves for me, and designed and built us a greenhouse. In August my father was hospitalized with an advanced staph infection, he spent 5 weeks in hospitals here in Boise while my mother lived with us, and he not only fully recovered from the infection—he survived Blue Cross of Idaho, which is even more remarkable. I began the year attempting to get my back/hip straightened out, joined a congressional campaign for a few months, spent 5 weeks trying to cope with my inability to cope with hospitals, due to all the stress ended up back in physical therapy as soon as my father was released, managed to sprain my back while doing physical therapy, and ended 2012 even less mobile than at the start.

This year has continued to be dominated by my back problems, but in June we were able to travel to Indiana to Andy's family's farm for a reunion and last “hurrah” before the farm was auctioned. We had a great time, and I got to meet the rest of Andy's family AND saw my very first fireflies. Thanks to GPS, we also got to see a great deal of Indiana farmland, which was interesting to me because the thought of farmland that needs drainage to cope with too much water is a bit hard to fathom—especially this year. The huge lawns still have me a bit baffled, but I can only guess that riding lawn mowers are very, very popular back there.

In August I started seeing a physiatrist for my back and acquired my third physical therapist. This time I am being treated less for the initial injury and more for the subsequent injuries and the effects of 2 years of pain. It turns out that, while my body has made no effort whatsoever to adapt to the increase in summer temperatures over the last few years, it cheerfully changed my walk and stance to accommodate the hip problem, which actually compounded the problem. So, in addition to therapeutic massage and some new core-building exercises that are a lot harder than my old ones, I have to relearn to walk and stand and am still learning “body mechanics”--usually the hard way. The hardest thing to get used to is how important it is to avoid pain. This probably sounds sort of self-explanatory (unless one played high school sports and constantly heard “no pain, no gain”), but when muscles have been knotted from pain for two years and the therapist has just worked those knots out, they knot back up VERY easily and getting into pain can wipe out two to six weeks of therapy in one shot. So, I'm trying to learn to rest frequently, avoid sitting and any travel for a while, and every week discuss with my physical therapist what I have done and what I think I will be doing the following week, and she tells me either what I have already done wrong or what I am about to do wrong. They aren't as obvious as one would think, as the latest thing-I-do-wrong was to wrap gifts while seated on the floor. As I had just spent the week decorating the house for Christmas and been very careful about the stepladder and reaching and lifting, I had honestly believed wrapping was an easy thing. But it turns out it's quite bad for anyone with hip or back problems. It's like an ongoing pop quiz for which one doesn't even know what book to study, but I do progress. While there are things I will never be able to do again and I still have a very long way to go, I am down to once-a-week appointments, which will continue into the next year, and I am finally starting to have a few normal days again—or as normal as we get around here.

Andy is still telecommuting, with occasional trips to the main office in California—usually during the coldest periods here which he swears are just purely coincidental. Following his sister's lead, he's training to extend his twice-yearly half-marathons to a full marathon, and is making great progress but isn't quite there yet. As souvenirs, he made wooden pens out of walnut from the Indiana farm for all his aunts and uncles, has learned to turn wooden wine goblets, and made a wooden music stand with the opening notes of “As Time Goes By” inlaid in stone for me. His latest woodworking project is building an electric mandolin from a kit, which looks like a miniature electric guitar. The trio he's been playing with each Christmas has named itself for the song they played last year, “Trio de Schlittenfahrt.” While it really means “three German dances,” things sound much funnier in German.

We continue with our gardening adventures (a.k.a vole wars), and after they finished off the fava beans and most of the cilantro, I finally got so desperate to get rid of the little monsters that I dreamed up the brilliant idea of boarding our cats while we were in Indiana so I could put down poison without risk to the cats. It does seem to have cut down on the voles, but so stressed out one of our cats that Theo is on permanent medication for stress-related urinary problems, and had to be on anti-depressants during our entire trip. So far, every time Andy travels for work, Theo requires a trip to the vet for pain medication, even though he largely ignores Andy's existence when he is home. All things considered, just letting the voles have the garden would have been a lot less stressful for everyone concerned. 
Things I've learned in the past TWO years:
  • There are basically 2 gardening seasons: “Please grow” and “Please die.”
  • There will always be people who assert that heart disease isn't linked to weight, but the size of the furniture in the hospital's cardiac ward proves otherwise
  • Sadly, doing one's physical therapy exercises faithfully is a really good way to surprise one's physical therapist
  • I don't know which pain pills are the addictive ones, but I am quite an expert on the ones that cause nausea and give one ulcers
  • A good way to get ALL your tomatoes to grow is to expect half of them to die
  • Nothing unsticks a stuck sprinkler faster than giving it a human target
  • When a doctor tells you “no running” on a treadmill, it seems he also means “do not increase the incline and go at the fastest pace you can.” Go figure.
  • If it's in a new greenhouse, even spinach is exciting
  • I was rather proud when I broke the “unbreakable” therapy band the first physical therapist gave me, but by the time the third one broke, it was just about getting flipped by a 6-inch wide rubber band and a huge bruise
  • Cats may sleep 18 hours a day, but this doesn't prevent them from developing stress issues
  • Nothing makes one more popular with one's gardening friends than to be the only one who didn't grow zucchini
  • Just because there are places that specialize in boarding cats, it doesn't mean it's a good idea
  • While killing off the voles would be nice, I am willing to settle for driving them into the neighbor's yard
  • It's a good thing I didn't choose to go into espionage. I don't know how I would fare with actual torture, but an extra 5 minutes of therapeutic massage alone would have me singing like a canary
  • It's easy to underestimate the perversity of cats until one has to get them to take medication twice a day
  • When doing exercises against a door, the smarter thing would be to make sure it's against the direction that opens
  • I was so tired of unsuccessfully battling squash bugs that I planted NO squash of any kind this year—and ended up with 3 types of volunteer squash...........which the squash bugs ignored completely
  • Even though some people were barely able to pass high school, given a Facebook or Twitter account, everyone is an expert on everything from medicine to economics
  • Sprinkling garlic water in the garden might get rid of some voles, but not ones that are actually eating the garlic in the garden
  • My parents didn't participate in the drug scene of the 1960s, but I think the hallucinogenic drugs they gave my father during his first week in the hospital topped anything the counter-culture ever tried.
  • Even after planting a whole crop of them, we still don't know what fresh fava beans taste like, but the plants are some sort of vole delicacy.
  • You know you've stayed in touch with your inner child when you have to set a house rule to NOT jump on the beds because you've stored the empty canning jars underneath them.
  • When one has to approach canning in moderation, one cans much less weird stuff
  • A vet who prescribes anti-stress meds in pill form for a cat has never had to GIVE pills to a cat
  • At some point in medical school, they probably need to instruct doctors to check what medications a patient has been given BEFORE asking the patient questions. Not that it wasn't funny to listen to my father's answers to their questions—especially the discussion about Shetland ponies outside the 5th floor window—it wasn't exactly medically accurate nor extremely helpful.
  • I was out of bed for Thanksgiving for the first time in two years! I absolutely love Thanksgiving, and it was so nice to participate in it again. Besides the wonderful spirit of the holiday, I love the idea that America's greatest culinary tradition started with someone looking at a piece of stale bread and saying, "Hm, I wonder where I could put this................"

Wishing you a wonderful holiday and a healthy 2014,
Toni & Andy