Thursday, August 18, 2016

They don't make 'em like that any more....


 
 
 
 
 
Today I attended the celebration of life service for a long time friend and mentor...the city of Mansfield said goodbye to Virginia Imhoff, who had just turned 90 in January.

When I was a teenager Mrs. Imhoff was my guidance counselor. To my teenage eyes she was elegant, educated and intimidating. So intimidating, in fact, that when I told her I wanted to drop out of school she verbally wrestled me to the ground and scared that thought right out of my head. It's something I've never forgotten and for which I've always been grateful.

Working in radio over the years I wrote commercials and did voice work for some of Ginny's campaigns as she moved through the chairs at city council, eventually becoming president. She was involved in so many things, always working tirelessly in the community.

This summer it was not unusual to drive along Marion Avenue and see Ginny walking her dog...always a boxer. From time to time I'd stop in and visit, only being allowed to enter the house after a good snuffle inspection from the dog. There were hundreds of former students that she referred to as “my kids”....I was lucky enough to be one of them.

Just a few months earlier our community lost yet another role model when Marilou Schwan died. She was 99, and until Swan Cleaners closed the year before her death she was behind the counter every day with her hair done, her heels on and dressed to kill. It was a pleasure to drop off dry cleaning just to get to talk to her.

Our community lost two amazing women when these two passed away. In a world where role models are in such short supply Ginny Imhoff and Marilou Schwan were examples of lives well lived.

A few years back Ginny was walking her dog along Marion Avenue when a mugger grabbed her. When she realized she couldn't out-muscle the guy, Ginny faked a heart attack and dropped to the sidewalk like a cement block. When the guy let go of her and took off Ginny ran into the street and flagged down a car for help. She simply out foxed the guy; I'm sure he never knew what happened. In any event he sure didn't have any bragging rights after that episode.
 
Years ago, on a work day just like any other day, a guy came into Swan Cleaners with a gun and took everyone hostage. Marilou, at the counter as usual, was forced to round up all of the employees and bring them to the front counter. Without any thought to herself she talked the guy into releasing the whole staff while she stayed as his hostage.  After several hours she talked him into surrendering to police. No one was hurt because she took control...but if a fight had broken out my money would have been on her.

Working in what was really a man's world back in the day didn't cost these women their femininity. Both gals were always perfectly coiffed and stylishly dressed as they spent day after day in the work force. Their humor and intellect was always evident, and they were both admired by so many of us. I feel lucky to have known them, and in their passing they've left some really big high heels to fill.
 
Today's memorial service has made me think about the quality of the memories I want to leave behind;  there's no doubt these two long time friends are a tough act to follow. How fortunate we are to be left with the memory of two strong and capable women who were always young at heart, always ahead of their time....and gone too soon.
 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Birthday Card






One year after moving in we are finally making some headway in our new home. It is, for the most part, just about the way we want it. The only remaining work to be done is in the basement, and that's all on me.

Everything we moved that didn't fit upstairs is now lurking in the corners of our huge basement. Finally I'm at the point where I need an organized space to work in. I need a place to write, a place to work on crafts and a spot to sort, scan and maybe scrapbook some of the thousands of pictures I've saved over the years. It's a tall order for one space but I've made some progress.

If there is one thing I've come to understand about myself it is that I have an abstract mind. Give me a concrete function and I'm bored in an hour...which also describes my reaction to getting organized. I'm a creative person who resents wasting time putting things on shelves, in drawers and wrestling stuff to the dumpster, but that is the task at hand.


Today, working toward some of that much-needed organization, I popped the tape on a big box that lurked under a table and, when opened, was found to be chocked full of things I've kept over the years. I dug through pictures and napkins and matchbooks and news paper clippings.  A thick stack of greeting cards was held together by a rubber band that broke as I clumsily worked it over the edge of the big bundle. I discovered dozens of cards from my (first) retirement, their handwritten notes made me smile and remember how much I enjoyed working with this terrific staff of broadcasters.  Out tumbled  Valentines Day cards from my husband, anniversary cards, thank you notes, Mothers Day cards from the children and hand made cards from our grand kids. Goodness! I realized I must never have thrown anything away in my whole life!

Digging deeper into the box I found a large manila envelope that I really didn't remember, but then I hardly remembered keeping any of this stuff. I dumped the envelope into my lap and out tumbled a bunch of birthday cards from my mother. Each envelope, some to me and some to my husband, was addressed in my mother's elegant handwriting. Inside each card was a personal note; I read each and every one, hearing them in my mother's voice. I remembered chiding mom for being so particular about the cards she chose. No “grab any card under $3.00 and run” for my mother. Oh no...she would spend hours, sometimes in several stores, until she found just the right verse. Mom didn't keep a diary, but each carefully chosen card spoke for her just as plainly. I sat really reading the cards, likely for the first time, and I knew she had carefully chosen this just for me or for her much loved son in law. After penning her own message to the inside of the card she would always tuck a crisp dollar bill, fresh from a special trip to the bank, inside. When our children were little mom always gave them a gift, but she also tucked a dollar into their birthday cards. My husband jokingly said he wanted his dollar, too! It became our joke and forever after every one of us got a dollar in our birthday cards.

 Mom never handed us our birthday cards; she always mailed them as if handing one over diminished it's worth. She took such pains with cards, and I now realized these really were my mom's expression of how much she loved us. After reading each one I carefully put them back into their envelopes, the dollar bills still tucked inside each card, and tied them with a red ribbon before I slipped them back into the larger manila envelope.

Greeting cards have always seemed to me to be a product trumped up by the card companies.  I've always sent cards out of obligation, almost never because I truly wanted to.  Now it occurred to me in the hurry of my younger day to day life I had missed the beautiful verses, had not thought about my mom making a trip to the bank for a crisp new dollar,  and over looked the carefully addressed envelope when it arrived in the mail. Of course I was busy with work, with children, with a house and the myriad of other things that kept me occupied. And there was always next year, the next birthday, the next card....wasn't there?

In spite of the fact that it is completely against my nature I will continue to try to organize my house, my space, my life.  I learned something today that might make it a bit more palatable:  I learned that we do not know how many tomorrows we have, but if we do the little things today with great love they can speak for us long after we are gone.             

Thank you mom...it was great being with you today.

Life is Good

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Hip, hip hooray!!!

  


Life is full of anniversaries, the yard sticks against which we measure the advancement of the years. This week is a special anniversary for me, the one year mark for my hip replacement.

It seems just yesterday I was sitting in the office of a very nice young doctor who makes his more-than-adequate living from replacing the worn out hips and knees of people in my age group. Since most professionals now look like “kids” to me, I found it reassuring that this young man wore a suit and put forth some effort to look like a grown up. I'm pretty sure I have handbags older than he is...so I really appreciated the effort.

After a perfectly dreadful summer I got my nifty new hip on July 27, 2015. I came home determined to be back on my feet in record time, only to discover that you can't “out stubborn” a joint replacement. Subscribing to the “I'll bring this body to its knees if I have to” school of thought I pushed my exercises to the limit as I forced myself to do more, more, more. Five weeks into my recovery my new hip came out of its shiny new socket, necessitating an unbelievably painful return trip to the hospital to have it put back where it belonged. My well dressed surgeon then sent me to have a brace fitted. This uncomfortable monkey suit was to be worn 24/7 for a couple of months.  I hobbled around in my white plastic shell looking for all the world like an injured Star Wars Storm Trooper. I found it to be a great conversation starter...

While my original plan was to be a shining example of joint replacement success, I turned out to be a cautionary tale. My healing process was slow and tedious, but with the exception of the joint displacement there was surprisingly little pain. Cussed impatience was my worst enemy, but as is always the case time marches on. I marked the three month, the six month and now the twelve month anniversary with something akin to happiness. It took nine months to be able to walk any distance comfortably; now at the one year mark I sometimes forget, if only for a moment, that I've had anything done. There is no feeling of having a foreign object in my body, and my movement isn't restricted by anything; I hope to be back in yoga class this fall and I've already returned to kayaking.

When I visited my surgeon for my final visit this week I was walking without a cane or a limp; on my first visit I arrived as a sullen mess in a wheel chair. The doctor originally told me I'd be feeling pretty well in six weeks, but that it would take a year to a year and a half to be fully healed. Although I was in a cast by the six week mark, he was right about the year to a year and a half healing period. He thought therapy was a good idea, but I stubbornly put it off because I thought I could do this on my own.  When I finally realized I was wrong the therapy helped enormously.

My husband and I celebrated my “anniversary” by going to the Y for our regular work outs, a routine that helps both of us keep moving. I am so thankful to live in a day when joint replacement is so routine as to be boring. Like replacing the tires on a car, I feel as if I'm good for a lot more miles now.

Since my surgery I've talked to so many people who have had or are facing joint replacement and I always give them the same advice:

Be patient...it's going to take a year of your life to feel better so get on with it.

Be careful...don't push your body beyond its limits; you'll pay for it if you do.

And finally, listen to your doctor. Chances are he's actually been to school for this and knows what he is talking about. You may think he looks like a sixteen years old who just passed his driver's test, but my bet is the hours he just recently spent playing video games is now paying off in terrific eye/hand coordination that serves him well in the surgical suite. 

My nattily dressed young doctor and I now have an anniversary that won't make either of us misty-eyed with remembrance, but it's likely one I will never forget.

                                                     Life is Good

Thursday, July 7, 2016

On a Wing and a Prayer









We stood on the tarmac, probably two to three hundred people watching the sky as the rain and two C-130s advanced on the airfield. Finally an airplane broke through the cloud cover; a cheer went up as it flew over our heads. As the happy crowd watched the impossibly big plane dipped it's wing in a salute to its own homecoming. The last of the deployed 179th was home after four long months in the war torn middle east.

Looking around the crowd I watched wives and children and parents and friends of all ages waving signs and cheering as the planes taxied to their final positions. Flags flapped, children danced with impatience and relatives carried home made “welcome home” signs. I looked around me and thought about the sacrifices some these families had made over these long months; the babies that had been born and the problems that had been solved while these young men and women were in a foreign country doing jobs I don't understand, for reasons I cannot begin to fathom. I imagined I could hear a collective sigh of relief as the plane's precious cargo came down the steps and finally into the arms of their loved ones.

My son in law was one of those returning young men who was met by a thankful family. The look of relief and love on the faces of our family and the faces of so many others was beautiful to see. The young people strode across the tarmac to calls of “daddy....daddy!!”....and “over here!” My eyes welled with tears and feelings of patriotism and pride filled me to the brim while words like honor, duty, sacrifice, bravery, and devotion ran through my head. I was unashamedly proud of these young people and America.

Later that evening I turned on the evening news and was assaulted by the now constant stream of murder, mayhem and ugliness. The never ending political coverage, the shooting and killing and threat of terrorism poured out of the flat black screen until I switched it off. I returned to thoughts of the plane breaking out of the clouds and the happy faces and cheers that had surrounded me. We can argue later about whether we are the greatest nation or just a war machine, about gun control and politics and the psychology of killing that seems to grip these times in which we live. For this one day I chose to be a proud American and celebrate the return of the fine young men and women who give so much to this country.

Looking back on that amazing afternoon I have a suggestion for the next president of the United States. I only ask that you stand on the tarmac on any military base in the country and watch our young people return from their assignments. Look around you, Mr. or Mrs. President, and hold on to those words that will undoubtedly run through your head as you watch the planes land and the flags wave. Honor, duty, sacrifice, bravery...the words that describe what our country should always be about. Look at the faces of the waiting loved ones, they don't care if you are a Republican or a Democrat, but not one of them wants to hear what pours out of our televisions any longer! We are the people you are elected to serve, and we expect you to do your job with the same dedication our military shows as they serve this country.  That is your mission.  It's been a long time...and we all want to come home again.

                                                                Life is Good







Sunday, May 1, 2016

Change is in The Air

It doesn't seem possible a year has passed, but it was last spring I took a walk down memory lane....on Radio Lane.  It was Ron Colman's, (Colman in the Morning)  last week on the air on WNCO FM.   For many years he had been the voice country listeners in mid Ohio woke to every Monday through Friday; now he was hanging up his head set and retiring.   It would be a big change for the long-time listeners, and for Ron.

I parked in the familiar parking lot at the station and thought about the hundreds of times I had passed through these doors over the years.  I was the first receptionist in this new building on Radio Lane when WMAN moved from atop the Ohio Theatre building on Park Avenue West in Mansfield, Ohio in the late 70's.  It looked palatial after the shabby offices and studios in the old place.

As the years flew by I would try my hand at copy writing and do some on air work.  The beauty of small market radio in those days was that you got the chance to do anything you wanted to try and were willing to do for free.  We called it experience.   Eventually I left to do other things; when I finally returned to that building in the early 90's it would be as the sales manager. Eventually I'd become the fourth manager since the station signed on, and the first female general manager.

Things had changed, but it didn't seem all that strange walking into the WMAN building to wish a WNCO employee well.  The Mansfield and Ashland stations had melded into a Clear Channel ownership in the early 2000's. After the acquisition the market group would consist of Mansfield, Ashland, Mt. Vernon, Shelby, Galion, and later Marion, boasting fourteen sets of call letters in all.   The challenge would be to create one cohesive group from individual staffs of former competitors....all under the flag of "radio".  My challenge was to travel between these markets to accomplish that, and it was an experience I relished.

Although I divided my time between three or four buildings at any given time, my home base was Mansfield.  Walking into the building that day I couldn't help but think  of the people who had passed through these doors over the years.  They were men I looked up to at WMAN in the early days, like Bob James and Chuck Carson.   There are many voices I remember today as well as the day they opened a microphone:  Mark Hellinger, Bill Friend, Marvin Cade, John Foster and Gene White.  I can still hear the much later  Y-105 air talent like Jeff Schendel, Michael Hayes, Matt Anthony, Tony and Chelly, Mr. Ed, Brian Moore and Eric Hansen.  News reporters like Ron Allen (who celebrated his 50th year in radio just before retiring last year)  Phil Linne, Dave Pennell, Jeff Swank and Greg Heindel kept the news stories coming.  Behind the scenes a dedicated staff of business managers, sales staffs and managers, traffic directors, program directors, engineers and  copy writers kept pace with the on air staff.  Theirs were names you might not recognize, but they made the machine that is a radio station run just the same.  These talented and capable people did their "real" jobs and still managed to turn up in commercials when they were pulled into the recording studio on a moments notice.

We were an odd breed in those days, we radio folk.  In every small market the staff would fight through blizzards and storms and floods to keep the station on the air.  Before the backup generators were sufficient to support the lights in the building we read commercial copy, weather reports and cancellations by candle and flashlight.  Telephones clanged constantly as staff members answered and typed stacks of cancellations for announcers to read.  The public could count on this group to be there because we were radio.

 I smiled to myself as I stood in the lobby,  my mind conjuring the vision of well remembered former co-workers moving through the studios, up and down the steps, and out the back door.  I would not have been shocked to see a nattily dressed Chuck Carson, or Gene White with his ever present huge mug of coffee, or Mark Hellinger with his infectious grin and a big bag of Jones Potato Chips clutched in one hand, walking down the hall.

Finally I walked into the control room to wish Ron Colman all the best in his retirement.  Somehow over the years the Mansfield and Ashland staffs had managed to navigate the road from competitors to comrades, and I wanted him to know I had enjoyed the trip.

If I counted all the people I've worked with in radio in the four markets I managed I'm sure the number would be in the hundreds; many I still consider good friends. I honestly think I was blessed to work with the best and most dedicated broadcasters anyone could ask for.  Some, sadly, are gone now.  Some of them have moved on to other radio jobs or other careers, but some are still there.  On the rare occasions I stop in I see lots of new faces, employees likely as dedicated and capable as their predecessors. I know they're busy making their own memories of  a different version of a business so many of us embraced and enjoyed.

Time marches on....enjoy the stroll.

                                                         
                                                   Life is Good






Saturday, March 26, 2016

Technology Pain

It seems no matter how little or big the price tag my laptops always come fully equipped with problems.  The new, sexy model I purchased in September will be boxed and on its way to HP repair next Tuesday if the polite man I spent so much time on the phone with yesterday knows what he is talking about.  Computers, like doctor visits, are a necessary evil that only lead to pain and frustration.

It was only after three and a half hours of listening to the lilting accent and the intermittently repeated eight bars of "on hold" music that I was instructed to take the laptop to Best Buy.  There they could replace the magical part that had developed some lightening storm of misfires.

At the store I was greeted by a very nice guy with an English accent who informed me that : 1.) They couldn't work on my computer because I didn't have a Geek Squad contract and 2.) they would have to run the same diagnostics I had just spent 3 1/2 hours on the phone having done.  After they personally verified the problem they would send it on to HP repair, and why did they send you here any how? The time is five to six weeks to get it back and, by the way, your hard drive will likely be empty.  Hope you didn't want any of that stuff in your folders.  Fortunately they can help me out by doing a back up for the neat sum of about a hundred fifty to a hundred seventy five dollars.  Of course I could do the back up myself with a handy-dandy external hard drive for just sixty bucks.  Just plug it in, click twice on the yellow box and all will be well.  The device is idiot proof (my term, not his) and the savings will just roll in.

I paid the price for the external drive, bundled up my computer and trundled out to my car.  My thought was I could do the back up there and still make this trip count by leaving the computer for repair.  Opening the box for the idiot proof back up device I realized that I had been fooled for the second time today by a man with an accent.  Opening the box required all my expertise....I had nothing left when the warranty guide in fourteen languages (I never did see any in English) fell out accompanied by a two inch square with the picture of a computer with the device attached to it.  Now completely depressed I headed home.

At the end of my earlier call the tech told me he would call me back in two hours time to make certain Best Buy would accommodate my repairs under the warranty.
Yeah right....like that's going to happen.  But surprise, he called as I was valiantly trying to decipher the on screen manual for the back up device.  I explained all of my developing problems.  He assured me he would send a return box to my house by Tuesday; after I drop the laptop in the mail I'm looking at seven to ten working days for return.   And the back up device was not a problem...he installed it by VPN and backed up all my folders.  Good humored through all my ignorant questions and my total lack of ability, he stayed on line doing the back up as my computer continued to shut down time after time.   By the time we got off the phone I was sure this technician super hero should be added to my Christmas card list at the very least!

Like many of you I've complained about "calling India" and laboring to understand the tech.  I've railed about sending jobs out of the country and wondered why we can't find enough geeks on our own soil to staff the repair desk phones.  Now I think I understand.....

Sending the calls to phone banks in India has nothing to do with the lack of brain power in our country.  We have enough 23 year old geeks eating Cheetos in their parents basements to more than fill the jobs.   I imagine it has something to do with what it costs per hour, although I am not certain about that.   What it's all about is customer service and attitude.

As I spoke with this young man yesterday it was just like every other plea for help I've made to one of these call centers....and believe me there have been many hours of my life I won't get back spent on the phone with these guys.  Imagine multiplying the calls from a sixty something woman with the most basic of computer skills,and a complete lack of estrogen,by a gazillion.  Throw in thousands of ill tempered males of all ages who demand the service they deserve RIGHT NOW!!  Still, after dealing with all those crazy people these techs are polite, calming and well trained.   Send those same calls to a phone bank in New York and think how the level of service, not to mention the tone, might change dramatically.  It isn't the level of expertise we are lacking, but the level of customer service. We are not a patient people, let alone a polite bunch any more.

I think it speaks volumes that a man in India was more polite, more concerned about my problem, and more informed than the face to face clerk in the store from which I purchased this computer.   While he wasn't rude, the store clerk made it quite clear my problem was not his to solve.  Happy to sell me another piece of technology, there was no offer of assistance to make sure I could actually use it.  It was obvious he wasn't trained to consider I might possibly be in the market for another computer, or a TV or appliances...the future sales that keep any company afloat.

Could it be that one of the biggest problems we face in job creation in this country has to do with attitude?   No matter which side of the counter you are on, or which end of the telephone, any situation starts with your attitude.   Maybe if we were better customers we'd have better service...and better service might just bolster sales and create more customers.   Something to think about.

                                                           Life is Good

















Thursday, November 26, 2015

Who's baking the cake?


Holidays...tradition...family gatherings. If you're lucky enough to have and enjoy all those things I believe  you are truly blessed.

All week I've rummaged for the recipe file that always gets pushed to the back of the top shelf in the kitchen cabinet right after Christmas. It's doubly hard to come up with this year because we moved this past summer and my whole life has been rearranged.

Finally, after reclaiming this treasure, I begin the long hikes through several cavernous grocery stores to find just the right ingredients. For our family the must have dish is a pumpkin cake. Its a recipe that stretches back into my childhood, and one of these sticky creations has graced the table each year at Thanksgiving and Christmas for my whole married life. If that doesn't qualify as a tradition then I don't understand the word.

When I was a little girl we always went to my Grandmother's house for the holidays. While the menu might have slight changes...from ham to turkey...salad to Cole slaw...the pumpkin cake was a constant. Time passed, I got married and my mom and dad came to our house for the holidays, visiting my grandparents a day later. This tradition transference meant my mom picked up the pumpkin cake and ran with it. It became her holiday signature Disney, and my children likely don't remember a holiday that the pumpkin cake didn't arrive in mom's dented cake pan. No matter what I bought her, that cake pan was her favorite; she'd frost the cake, put on the dented cover and scotch tape it to the dish so the cake couldn't slide out. Because she refused to replace it, the old dented cake pan also became a tradition, one that brought smiles every year.

After the feeding frenzy slowed and the desserts came out mom would make her yearly “I don't know if it's any good” announcement. Then she'd grin from ear to ear as the compliments flowed and the cake disappeared.  When mom died last year my daughter Wendy gallantly stepped up and made the pumpkin cake to keep the tradition going.   The celebration was more subdued, but seeing that cake on the table somehow made things a little better...a little more normal.

My daughter is a great cook, and her cake was letter perfect, but this year I've decided it's my turn. I sat this afternoon deciphering my grandmother's recipe card. Somewhere I have a card in mom's beautiful handwriting, but that will have to wait till I stumble upon it when I'm searching for something else.

As I write this the smell of pumpkin cake fills the house; I'm waiting for it to cool so I can slather the cream cheese icing on it. When that's do one I will put it in mom's dented cake pan, scotch tape it closed, and set it aside for tomorrow.

The years go by so quickly that you can easily lose track. Maybe you mark the years by how tall the grand kids are...or how many years you've been in your job. Looking back I can mark the years by who's baking the pumpkin cake. Once I've mastered this cake I will make sure a recipe card in my hand writing joins the others in the file. Tradition...it's the yardstick of life...and life is good.

                                                Happy Thanksgiving




Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Amnesty


This entire month, in truth the whole year, has been a constant 'this time last year' experience.  My mother died last year in the early hours of October 21st.  The last two years of her life had been a long, painful slide but I still wanted to believe she might pull it off one more time.   A fall had broken her arm but not her spirit; she had an amazing will to live.



Her last few days were spent in and out of consciousness, and I came to understand that she was preparing to leave as  I sat by her bed;  I had been there almost constantly since the accident.  I held her hand and, without ever opening her eyes she said in a quiet voice, "I saw Mom today.  She was sitting on the back porch.  She wanted me to go with her but I didn't."  I could tell the effort it took for her to speak at all.



"Momma, if you want to go with her you go ahead.  I'll be along in a little while, and we will all be alright.  I love you mom," I said with all the control I could muster.  Less than two days later she was gone.



At 89 Mom was frail.  Two years before a broken hip had healed, but in the process it had sapped her strength, her health and eventually her mind.  She was unable to drive, unable to live alone, she couldn't attend church any longer and slowly she retreated deep into a shell of illness and age. 



I tried to keep her engaged, tried to get her to move.  My efforts were met with "you don't understand" and eventually with the recitation of her long list of fears that held her captive  in her small, handicap accessible apartment.  She seemed absorbed with the twice a day pill schedule and the morning and evening eye drops that were now necessary.  She both resented and appreciated "those girls" who came in every day to help with medicines and bathing.  She had never required help and she certainly didn't believe she needed it now…It was frustrating for both of us.   Try as I might I could not take care of her in a way that would comfort her now and later give me peace;  I still wrestle with regrets and "what ifs" at times.



This last of many falls put  her into a downward spiral nothing could stop;  it was as if I was trying to hold the tide back with my bare hands.   After Mom's death I put my sadness in a compartment in my head where it couldn't overwhelm me and, when I was ready, I could take it out and look at it.   There was nothing more to be done.



Time marches on, and in the first part of this year my husband and I found a house we loved and we decided to make a move.  The move added physical stress to both our bodies, and my hip and his back declared a mutiny.  The day before the movers arrived his back attacked.  To keep the move on track I doubled my efforts; the lifting and stairs took their toll and my already challenged hip gave out.  We moved into our new house with the help of our children, some good movers, and dear family friends.  Eventually we both ended up in surgery…a less than auspicious beginning in a new home, I might add. 



In my effort to keep moving I had pulled out Mom's walker and cane to use until my scheduled surgery.   A routine trip to the eye doctor established I needed to use prescribed eye drops, morning and evening.  If I was able to go out to shop at all it was in a wheel chair or electric cart; I was unable to walk far or drive.  I less than six months I was becoming my mother! 



Finally at home recovering from the hip surgery, I relaxed in the family room  in my recliner.   The time had come to open that compartment; I sat thinking about how much I missed my mom.   The past few months of my life had given me a much greater understanding about her last months.  I now knew how it frustrating it can be to try to recover from surgery in unfamiliar surroundings; nothing you need is where it ought to be.   I learned shopping in a wheel chair isn't really shopping…it's moving and stopping at someone elses pace.  I remembered how difficult it was for me to take mom's car away, but now I understood how hard it was for her to be dependent on someone to not only drive, but get her in and out of the car and wheelchair.  The drugs, the eye drops, the endless doctors appointments…all things that she had come to dread because of her physical and mental deterioration were now mine to cope with.  The irony was just too big to step over.



As I replayed those last days in my head I remembered the tough times when either or both of us would lose what few patience we had left; but I also remembered the laughter.  I recalled doing her hair, taking her things to try to tempt her to eat, laughing about things that were too difficult to be taken seriously.  I realized we had both done our best under some very difficult circumstances.    



My mom couldn't come back from all the medical challenges at her age, but I am on the mend and  I am grateful for this last few difficult months.  It's given me a better understanding of what mom went through, and it's given me some peace.  I realize I did everything I could do to help make her last days comfortable, and I'm granting myself an amnesty for the things I didn't do.   It's what she'd want me to do...because she was my mom.



Now the first tough year is over; there will be no more 'this time last year' to deal with.  Our family laughs and jokes about the character who was my mother.   We all miss her…we all love her…all we'll all be along soon.



                                                            Life is Good




Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Surviving the rain

                                  "Into each life a little rain must fall"

                               I think I may have just survived the monsoon.

If you've been following along you know my hip replacement that took place July 27th was going along quite nicely till, five weeks to the day from the surgery, my new hip joint tried to get away.  At least that's how it felt when it came out of the socket.   After a day at the hospital having it put back into place my surgeon he told me I would have to wear a brace for six weeks.

Taking my prescription to the prosthetics office  I soon learned the "brace" was a plastic and aluminum contraption that I had to wear 24/7.  It wrapped clear around my midriff, clasped in the front, bars and plastic and foam rubber went down my right side to hold me into a position that (theoretically) would keep the hip in place till some healing could take place.  Velcro straps held the plastic plates in place around my right thigh, strapped in place like some high tech gunslinger.

A wide, hard piece of plastic that nestled into the small of my back was curved, arching my back as I lay in bed.  Struggling to find a semi comfortable position in which to sleep I realized I must resemble a large obstacle on a miniature golf course. (Putt through the tunnel and get a free Pepsi!)  Outside of bed I was locked in an 80% slant that wouldn't allow me to sit straight up,  the metal parts sticking out on each side stubbornly stuck under restaurant tables and trapped me in chairs with arms.  The right side is so big that I've come to think of it as an arm rest, and I can hang my small purse on a rather large hook that comes out under my ribcage.  I would love to get a peek at the design for this thing.  I'm sure it was created at the Marquis de Sade school of brace design, the most uncomfortable pile of parts in all of brace-dom.

This morning I prepared to return to see the surgeon; I dressed and strapped on the brace for what I hoped would be the last time.  My six weeks were up, and hoping for good news we headed out to see the doctor.

As the surgeon peered at my new xrays I held my breath.  After we had established that I've been a good girl, and everything looked good he said the magic words, "I think we can come out of the brace".   Yes!!  Six weeks of wearing  the lobster suit and walking like a penguin had paid off!!!   Woo hoo!!

I think my joint replacement odessy is nearly at an end; I couldn't be happier.  If I take it slow for the next couple of months, that includes not bending at more than a 90% angle, not twisting or reaching down and to the side, the odds that this won't happen again get better.   I will do everything I can to keep from ending up in that brace or an operating room again.

My experience has taught me that this can best be handled like any other challenge in life.  If you have a good support group, a positive attitude and a sense of humor you can get through most things.  Oh…and a little wine doesn't hurt either.

                                                          Life is Good



        

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Reunion....Whatever happened to the class of 1965??



Fifty years.  Fifty. Years.  Combine those words and you give recognition to a big chunk of time that should have produced a great deal of wisdom just with it's passing.  At least that's what l'd like to think.

At the end of my senior year in high school in 1965 I was poised to take on life and everything it had to throw at me.  I was eighteen years old, worldly and indestructible.  Drawing on my huge storehouse of wisdom I had chosen my life partner at the age of fourteen; now we were getting married to start our great adventure together.  With no clear goals in mind, I worked part time in the boys department at Montgomery Ward stuffing chubby little boys into pants labeled "Husky".  After surviving high school without any great accomplishments or upsets, I didn't know what I didn't know.  Now, in September of 2015, I was driving to my 50th high school reunion to re-visit those days. 

In spite of the fact that my husband had just had back surgery the week before, and I was sporting a huge leg brace to keep my newly acquired hip in place, we persevered.  The registration line stretched out the restaurant doors and onto the sidewalk.  As Larry and I stood waiting I mentally superimposed senior class pictures over faces, struggling to recognize my former classmates through the lens of our fifty year separation.   Some looked very old (gosh, do I look that old, too?)...some looked unwell (This darned brace makes me look pathetic!)...some looked pretty darned good ( shoot, I didn't look that good fifty years ago!)...but no one looked familiar.

I must admit I've kept up with only a few people since  graduation.  I've connected with more of my classmates on Face Book than I ever did in the halls and classes of my alma mater.  I was not the Homecoming Queen, or a cheerleader, nor did I sit in the "M Section" or work on the school paper or yearbook.  In fact I didn't engage in any extra curricular activities that might have marked my high school years as "the best years of my life"  Instead of being a joiner I marched to my own drum  accompanied by a smattering of friends and acquaintances who, like me, kept busy going to school days and working nights and weekends.

Like every high school student I was aware of the cliques:  the rich kids, the pretty/popular girls, and the tough kids who were always in trouble for smoking (gasp) across the street from the school.  The rich kids lived in big houses and went south for spring break.  The pretty girls had perfect eye brows and porcelain skin.  They wore angora sweaters, circle pins and dated football players.  The tough kids glowered intimidatingly from under their grey cloud of cigarette smoke and kept to themselves.  The much less obvious group I fit into was often awakened in the night by the clackity-clack of a train; the tracks ran through our back yards and we lived on the wrong side of them.  We mostly just felt invisible as we went about doing our educational duty.

I guess that feeling of invisibility is one reason I found it fascinating to peek in on this fifty year "fast forward".  As the evening progressed it was obvious some of my classmates had become doctors, lawyers or Indian chiefs, while others worked day to day and seemed happy just to have made it to retirement age.  As youngsters many of these people possessed advantages and talents that others of us did not, but fifty years later drive and tenacity seem to have played just as well for many of the class.  As for me, I turned my desire to be 'on the radio' into a broadcast career that covered thirty six years and kept me from having to get a real job.  At the end of the night I didn't walk away from the reunion with an epiphany, just the quiet thought that time and effort are great equalizers.

My old yearbook, The Manhigan, is a moment of time frozen between leatherette covers.  There aren't a lot of opportunities for us to see how things turned out for so many people, but a fifty year class reunion is just that.  I didn't talk to everyone I'd have liked to, but I left that gathering with the hope that all of them have enjoyed this fifty year ride as much as I have.

It didn't happen without a lot of work and a good dose of struggle, but the marriage that started when I was eighteen has somehow lasted fifty years.   My husband and I have watched our three amazing kids become three amazing adults who now manage their own careers, kids, and chaos.  It's all been worth it, and it ain't over till the fat lady sings.
 
I bet there were a lot fascinating stories in that room last month and I truly wish I could have heard them all.  Having said that I know one thing...I wouldn't trade places with any of them.  Long live the class of '65.

                                                           Life is Good




 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

If at First You Don't Succeed....




As promised here’s an update on my joint replacement progress; if it’s something you are contemplating this may be a more significant column for you to digest. 

Last Monday, August 31st, I was feeling very cocky about my recovery.  It was five weeks to the day after a very uneventful surgery.  I had arrived at the hospital in pain and left with little to no pain; in the five weeks since that time I had seldom needed a pain pill or had any problems.  Finally I'd been downgraded from a walker to the cane, but I’d given up on that too because my own clumsiness with the cane made me fear it might cause me to fall.  I was now “full weight bearing” and steaming forward!  That is until the doorbell rang……….

Opening the door is always an event at our house because our dog, Molly, feels it’s her duty to decide whether to welcome or deflect anyone at the door…the volume and bouncing are the same in either case.  As she jumped up on my leg to make sure I knew we had a visitor I reached down to scratch her head to calm her.  I must have twisted wrong, because that slight movement started a nauseating sliding sensation inside my right hip that soon became a crescendo of pain.  My brand new hip seemed to have developed a mind of its own.

I dropped to the floor on my left side, raised onto my elbow, and stayed in that position for the next five or six hours in the emergency room.    Within five minutes some nice rescue squad fellows wrapped and belted me in that position before they gingerly lifted me onto a gurney and took me to the ER.  They understood any movement caused me excruciating pain, and they did their apologetic best to move me with as little jostling as possible.  Their mothers would be proud.

Suffice it to say that it was a completely unpleasant experience, and I’ve berated myself for even bending a little bit.  I was lucky they were eventually able to knock me out and put the hip back into the socket without another operation.  I knew when I left the hospital that I had follow-up appointments for a brace and a meeting later with my surgeon. 

Sitting around before my appointments the family and I tried to figure out what a “hip brace” might look like.  My thought was a very tight girdle-like contraption, maybe with some kind of insert to keep the hip area as rigid as possible…what else could it be?

Arriving at the prosthetics company today I met with a young man who artfully fitted me for my brace.  You know that girdle thing?  Forget it!  My right hip is now encased in plastic, foam rubber, metal rods and Velcro from waist to knee.  I can only describe it to you this way:  Let’s say you head to the Halloween costume store determined to be a Star Wars Storm Trooper this year.  As you dig through their inventory you discover they only have a quarter of the costume on hand!  
Disappointed, but still determined to wear it, you put on the right leg to the Storm Trooper costume and head to the door.  Just as you’re exiting the building someone says, “Hey lady…you having some kind of hip trouble?”  That’s what my brace looks like, only not quite as attractive.

Later in the day I met with my surgeon, a nice looking young man who was wearing his “I think we discussed this” face.  He assured me I have torn muscles and ligaments but the implant doesn’t seem to be damaged.  I think that was the good news.  The bad news that followed was that I must wear the Star Wars brace 24/7 for the next six weeks while the soft tissue heals and grows to hold the implant in place.   We are starting over as far as healing goes, so I’m back to square one, doing very little except whine.   Hopefully this dislocation was a fluke, but if it happens again there may be more surgery in my future.
 
There are so many things I’ve been looking forward to doing after this hip heals; I (and everyone who cares about and for me) have been living this “hip” saga for six long months now.  Even the smallest things have been difficult to do, and now with this brace that has ramped up about a hundred percent.   I’d throw myself a pity party but I don’t have a thing to wear that even remotely compliments this darned brace.  I just have to put my gratitude and my mind in the right gear and get on with it.
If you’re facing joint replacement, and I’ve met so many people who are since this has happened to me, please don’t let this scare you out of the surgery.  Just remember that this is a rather rare event, and if it’s going to happen to anyone it’s going to be me. 

Yes....it's set-back, but this too, in time, shall pass.  Thankfully there’s nothing here that a glass of wine, a good cry, and a Star Wars costume won’t fix.

                                                         Life is Good
                                                      




Sunday, August 23, 2015

Walking the Walk


         
Tomorrow it will have been four weeks since I received my new right hip.  I know it’s not as glamorous as Bruce (Caitlyn) Jenner’s surgeries…not as ground breaking as the first face transplant…and not as obvious as a well done face lift…but it’s made a big change in my life.

I came home from the hospital in less pain than when I went in.  The first week I admit I felt rather fragile, wobbly and exhausted.  By the middle of the second week that had begun to change, and I found myself challenging the 6 to 8 week recovery estimate.  After pushing too hard and discovering the surgery may have been on my hip, but it still had the upper hand, I backed off and allowed my body to manage this recovery at its chosen pace.  My impatient nature had whispered to me if recovery for everyone else was six weeks, I’d be back on a bicycle in two.  If most patients used a walker for up to eight weeks, I’d be rid of that contraption much sooner.  My silly nature didn’t know what the heck it was talking about….and not for the first time, I might ad.

If you are facing joint replacement you need to know that, at least in my case, it has been accompanied by very little pain.  You also need to realize that being nearly painless does not mean being a cake walk.  I was amazed by how much the surgery drained me.  As I reach the four week mark I am now back to a normal energy level, but I still cannot push my body too far before it reminds me that four weeks really isn’t all that long.

I visited my surgeon’s office last week, x-rays were good and I’m progressing well.  I will be allowed to drive soon, and they told me I could begin to use a cane instead of a walker.  That was music to my ears!  I went home and immediately, put the walker away, grabbed my cane and took off.  By days end I was uncomfortable, experiencing pain and muscle spasms.  As I swallowed a pain pill and headed off to bed I realized I was going to have to think things thru a bit.  Now, a few days later, I am still weaning myself off the walker, allowing my new hip to experience full weight bearing a little slower, and using the cane as long as it is comfortable. 

I know there are some of you who read this blog who are facing joint replacement, and that’s why I wanted to share my experiences with you.   Being the personality type who has to make all the mistakes before she learns anything, I thought there might be some valuable information I could pass along….so here, for what it’s worth, is what I’ve learned:

Don’t let your fear of surgery keep you from reclaiming your quality of life.  Just do it…..
Don’t expect to be running a 5k two weeks after surgery….but know that you will very likely be able to do that in a reasonable amount of time.
Let your body be your doctor.  If you’re tired, lie down….if it hurts stop.  There is no glory in joint replacement martyrdom.
Take this moment in time to delete junk from your laptop…read the books series you’ve been saving in the back of the closet; do whatever it takes to relax and allow yourself the time to heal.  Give yourself permission to invest the time necessary to regain your health!
 Remember when it comes to recovery that slow and steady wins the race…and it’s not a race.

From here on out my recovery will hopefully be a matter of graduating completely to using a cane, then putting that cane into the back of the closet where it belongs.  I look forward to gradually increasing the distance I can walk outdoors, maybe even being able to enjoy some late fall days on the bike trail if the weather holds out. 
Like everything else, this has been a learning experience.  Just a year ago this cane belonged to my mother.  She hated the darned thing, always retracing her halting steps to find it hanging on a drawer pull or door knob.  I had no idea that less than a year later she would be gone and I would be looking for that same doggoned cane; at this very moment I believe it’s hanging on the dishwasher handle.

My healing ritual continues to be quite simple…sunshine and coffee in the porch swing, with a side of thankfulness.


                                                                   Life is Good