Saturday, February 28, 2009

I Get Around!

But not easily.

I got my knee walker just a few days after my surgery and I've loved it.


With the knee walker, I can move around quite quickly and have both hands free.  This allows me to cook, clean, move things from place to place (thanks to the basket), and to be out and about.

The limitation of the knee walker has been that I can't get it up and down steps, so I can't bring it with me outside the house without help.

But I love my knee walker like Tom Hanks loved his Wilson ball in Castway -- it's almost taken on a personality of a faithful, ever-present friend.

Now that my cast has come off and I've been instructed to gradually put more weight on my foot using crutches, my knee walker has become... well, a bit of a crutch!  I want to keep using it, but I must not.  Doctor's orders insist that I must rely more on these damn things...


...and if we're gonna make another Tom Hanks movie analogy (must we?), these things feel more like the broken lunar module in Apollo 13 -- I have no choice but to count on them and I just hope they'll get me where I need to go without launching me further into some strange orbit that I can't recover from (oh, that's bad... sorry!).  I feel unstable on these crutches and just hope, every time I plant them, that they "hold."

I'm supposed to put weight on my foot now, beginning with 20 pounds last week and adding another 20 pounds every three days.  That works alright when I have my storm trooper boot on...


...but I'm trying to spend more time moving my foot around (very important at this stage), which requires that I spend more time like this...  IMG_1189

... and even touching my foot to the floor just feels weird.  Weird, weird, weird!  My first reaction, when I tried to put my bare foot flat on the floor, was 'Uh oh... they put this back together all wrong' because my foot wouldn't even sit flush on the floor.

This is a huge part of my rehabilitation right now:


Each evening Tom massages my foot and moves it around to slowly increase my range of motion.  For some reason the massage is more painful than pleasurable, probably because my foot is still quite swollen.  But it definitely helps, especially with increasing my range of motion each day.  For now, this is the extent of physical therapy (other than our initial PT appointment at Harborview), but in the next few weeks I'll be paying someone to say to me, "No really -- this is supposed to hurt."

Gee, I can't wait.

On Monday I'll be returning to work full-time again.  I went back twice last week and braved that steep, scary staircase.  The second time I did it, I told my boss that I'll probably just work from the Microsoft building closest to our office (Microsoft is so amazingly, wonderfully handicapped accessible!) because I carry a heavy backpack with my laptop and files, and going up those stairs with crutches and my backpack, which throws off my center of gravity, is just downright scary.  Can you imagine if I went tumbling straight down them?  I'd be starting all this over again... at best! 

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Peter is 22! (I have to see that in writing to even begin to believe it.)

It's hard to fathom that this little guy...


grew up into this big guy:


I love you, Peter.  You so totally rock as a human being!

Happy birthday!  Love, Mom



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Thursday, February 26, 2009

My first post-surgery bath: blissful, bubbly, blog-worthy (yes-huh!) -- and dedicated to Lynn!

My dear friend Lynn stopped by unexpectedly yesterday, shortly after I returned from the "reveal" (cast removal) at Harborview Medical Center.  It was great to see her again and I apologized profusely for not yet returning the dishes in which she delivered that delicious dinner a few weeks ago.  (I'd been meaning to do that!) She she didn't have time to chat but wanted to drop off "a little something," knowing that I'd soon be taking my first post-surgery bath -- and how much I've been missing my nightly bath

This is what Lynn bequeathed upon me:


Thanks to Lynn, I just had the most gloriously wonderful bath, actually immersing my foot INTO the water and soaking it (and all of me) for a very long time!  Yes, I did keep thinking about how much work I have to do and how I can't afford this indulgence, but I tried very hard to quell those thoughts... over and over again.  It wasn't easy getting in and out of the rub (think about it - how do you climb out, keeping your weight off one foot?!), but it was well worth it and I do believe I'm back to my nightly bath ritual.

Thanks Lynn!

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

From a purple cast to a Darth Vader boot

Just as I anticipated, my cast was removed this morning: 

Not that I compared or anything, but Jessica (the other patient in the room who, it turned out had surgery the same day I did) had a cast that was vastly prettier than mine!  For obvious reasons, she kept her cast!  Isn't it pretty?  She also happens to work at Microsoft as -- you guessed it -- an artist!


So I'm going to do something very brave here.  Something that will prove that I'm comfortable in my own shedding, wrinkly, swollen, hairy, stinky skin.  I'm gonna post photos of my leg soon after it came out of the cast. 

I hope you haven't just eaten.


You're thinking I'm being overly dramatic, aren't you?  You're thinking that it really doesn't look all that bad.  Right? 

Well, brace yourself.


Now don't get all third-grade "Ewwwww...coooties!!" on me, but there you have it. 

Of course, one of the first things I did when I got home was this: 


It felt maaaavelous!  I followed that up with some of this:


And then I proceeded to massage my foot and attempt to move it around, per doctor's orders.  Any movement at all was excruciating and completely indiscernible to the naked eye.  Really, I tried to point my toes, even just a little, but they simply wouldn't move.  And rolling my ankle from side to side...

No, I can't even write about it yet. 

So this is what I'll be living in for the next 6 weeks:



It's very Darth Vader.  Even the name of it -- "AirCast" -- reminds me of Darth Vader's airy, scary breathing!  But the name comes about because I actually pump air into it, which provides both cushioning and support.  My instruction today was to put 20% of my weight on my foot using crutches to walk, and then increase the weight-bearing by 20 pounds every three days.

So as of today the healing process is out of the doctor's hands and in mine (or rather, in my feet).  If I use my scooter as I have been, I simply won't heal, so I need to start walking with crutches and moving my foot, no matter how much it hurts.  Wish me luck!

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How Being Broken has Mended Me

Tomorrow, almost two months after walking out my front door to take the dog for a walk and breaking my ankle instead, my cast will be removed. Immediately after my accident (in the ambulance, in fact), all I could think about was the need to call my boss and tell him that I most likely wouldn't be in the office in the morning. When I was told that the break was a bad one and would require surgery and six to eight weeks completely off my foot, I was at first in shock and then defiant.

"I don't have six to eight weeks," I insisted. "Not an option!" As a dedicated and consummate Senior Project Manager working on Microsoft projects, I am in charge of scheduling resources and following timelines to the tee for a very demanding client -- and breaking my ankle definitely was not in the scope of work!

No can do. Sorry. This injury doesn't fit into my schedule at this time. Thanks anyway.

The thing about project managers is that we seem to think that we can manage our own lives with the same control and finesse with which we manage other people's projects. That night, as I lay on the gurney in the emergency room, in agonizing pain with a foot that flopped awkwardly sideways, I began to realize that sometimes we can do neither.


The need for surgery allowed me to escape the pain -- both physical and emotional -- by focusing on a few project management tasks, such as finding the best surgeon in the Pacific Northwest, Dr Benirschke and scheduling surgery at Harborview Medical Center just four days after my accident.


I knew I was in good hands, but still, I had to insist to Dr. B, over and over, that "I really don't have time for this!" Clearly he'd heard it before and challenged me, sarcastically, yet lovingly, to get up and walk away if this didn't fit into my life's schedule.

Point well taken.

I spent four loopy days here... IMG_0680

....allowing me plenty of time to think. Even then, my thoughts were dictated by an I-don't-have-time-for-this attitude. And even in the hospital, I was in constant touch with my boss and co-workers, insisting that I'd heal faster than the average patient and that, fear not, I'd be back to work very soon.

I was obviously delusional, Percoset or no Percoset.

During the following week, I could neither think nor move without incessant, painful throbbing, and it was only then that I began to accept that I might not be as invincible as I'd made myself out to be, and that this injury might have a grip on me that I couldn't shake just by wishing it away. I was forced to accept that I had no choice but to slow down, stay quiet, let go -- and be grateful.


I'm normally an early riser, getting up and getting to work in my home office (or doing laundry or dishes) before getting in the car and driving to the office. But there simply was no getting up for the first three weeks after surgery. My toes would turn as purple as my cast within minutes and I was forced back to bed, elevating my foot and pacifying my pride. I had no choice but to slow down, to stay in bed, and to just simply rest.

And that's when being broken began to mend me.

I stopped fighting my injury and began to accept it. I learned to enjoy taking afternoon naps with Boo propped on the pillow, wrapped around my cast, or purring under the covers in the crook of my arm. I began to revel in not having to get dressed each morning and hurry out the front door, ready to fight traffic so I could get to work and fight project managers who -- oh, my god -- were in just too much of a hurry and who couldn't slow down long enough to ask themselves whether one extra day to finish a project would truly end the world.

I began to enjoy my mornings without an alarm clock jolting me from much-needed sleep. I began to enjoy watching TV in bed with Tom without my conscience insisting that there's work to do -- GO! And I began to let go of my need for control and revel in and appreciate Tom's devoted and capable caregiving.

I could feel myself letting go and, although I was more physically broken than I'd even been, I began to feel more emotionally quiet and steady than I'd been in a very long time. Suddenly work didn't seem so end-of-the-world critical, and what became life-saving critical instead was the commitment to walk for an hour every morning before work instead of work for an hour every morning before work (once this cast comes off).

I was changing and it was my injury that was bringing me this gift of perspective.

Soon I began to get up for longer and longer periods of time, starting with a few minutes in the living room... IMG_0426

... and eventually making my way down the steps...


out the back door (because I feared -- and still fear -- those outside, railing-less steps!). IMG_1033

As long as I have my cast, I still need help getting my scooter out of the house and into the car...


...but within five weeks of my accident, I was slowly beginning to return to real life, as I attended client meetings at Microsoft and even went out for dinner.

Even being out among the living felt different, though, as I became acutely aware of the availability of access for the disabled -- something I'd been only peripherally aware of before. I came to realize, through personal experience, that a long flight of stairs that pose no problem to 99.9% of the population can mean thousands of dollars of lost wages to one person whose family counts on her to put food on the table and a roof over their heads, and that a handicapped parking space means very little if there's no nearby accessible sidewalk.

Now that I'm preparing myself for the day that couldn't come soon enough eight weeks ago, I'm beginning to lament what I'll be giving up tomorrow when my cast comes off and I "walk" (with quotes, as I'm sure to hobble) the halls of Harborview Medical Center in my new Darth Vader walking boot.

Eight weeks ago I hit a brick wall (or flagstone step) that forced me to go from warp speed to mosey speed. But I'll be returning to full-time, in-office work next Monday and now I'm scared of something so vastly different than the fear that gripped me in the ambulance last January 4th: I'm scared that I'll forget the lessons of the past eight weeks and the peace that I found in the hidden blessing of a broken ankle.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Beer 101: How to brew a "Lusty Leprechaun Irish Amber"

When Peter was a baby, I'd occasionally enjoy a few sips of beer while I nursed him.  It was relaxing for me and the B vitamins were good for us both.  Once Peter was a toddler, he'd find anyone sipping a beer and beg for a sip.  I figured his love of beer was directly related to my mother's Bavarian childhood when she'd accompany her father to the local biergarten in the Bavarian Alps, sit on his lap, and sip the foam off the top of his favorite bierstein. I remember being concerned enough about Peter's love of beer that I called our pediatrician, asking whether it was normal for a toddler to like beer this much.  She suggested I keep beer away from Peter for a few years yet, but that he'd probably always like beer.

She was right.  Peter has definitely become our beer connoisseur. He still likes drinking it and is well on his way of becoming a master brewer of the stuff.  He and Aleks have even discussed starting their own brewery, called Schneiderbauer Brewery.  (Schneiderbauer was Tom's great grandfather's name.  The story is that he shortened it on Ellis Island, as a way of expediting the intake process!)  

So yesterday, while I went to Kat's dance rehearsal and Aleks tried to sleep off a bad cold (poor guy!), Peter showed Elisabeth and CJ how to brew an Irish Ale -- presumably for St. Patrick's Day -- and Tom played photographer.  (You can get this recipe at Mountain Home Brew's web site.  This is where we get all our brewing supplies.)

It's important that all brewing materials be very clean.  Wash the pot -- which can be used ONLY for beer brewing and never for any other purpose.


Sanitize the fermenter.


Now fill the pot with  2 - 3 gallons of clean, fresh spring water.  Don't use tap water, as it usually has too many minerals in it.


Bring the water temperature to 150 degrees.  While you're waiting for it to heat up, add steeping grains to a large muslin bag. 


Have agreeable and easy-going boyfriend be the steeping grains bag supervisor.


Also while waiting for water to heat, listen to your little brother teach you all about beer making.  IMG_0461

He knows his stuff, so listen up, even if he is your baby brother!


Once the water is 150 degrees, add the bag with steeping grains to the pot.


Take a whiff. 


Steep grains for 15 minutes.  IMG_0478

Tend to the beer while your brother and your boyfriend man-bond.  This is a good thing.  IMG_0480

Remove grains.  Be an adorable couple.  IMG_0483

Remove pot from heat and stir in powdered malt extract.  IMG_0498

Then add liquid malt.


All of it.


Taste it -- because you just can't resist.  IMG_0523

Add pot back to stove and bring wort to a gentle boil, then add in hops and gypsum. Boil for 60 minutes, adding Irish Moss 45 minutes into the boil.  (I don't have photos of this because Tom and Peter decided to go to the motorcycle store instead of taking pictures!)

Note that your mom notes that your boyfriend cleans up.  This endears your mother to your boyfriend and elicits comments regarding permission to date him seriously. 


After 60 minutes, remove wort from stove.  Remove hops and cool down quickly by surrounding pot in sink with ice cubes. 

Probably take part in some flirty ice cube games with boyfriend, since no one else was home at this point.

Get beer-serious again.  Once wort has reached 85(F)  degrees...


...add to your sanitized fermenter.  Top with 5 gallons more of cold, fresh water.  Aerate well and pitch in brewing yeast --which your little brother taught you all about before he and your dad took off for the motorcycle store.  IMG_0529

Attach the airlock to your fermenter.


Place the fermenter in a cool  (60 - 70 degrees) dark place.  Unless you want to hear "beer farts" for two weeks, put it in a closet and close the door.

Allow your beer to ferment until "complete," about 7 - 10 days, then bottle the beer, wait 10 - 14 more days and enjoy!

Add your home brew to this variety of beers already in the fridge -- from a cheap can of Bud Light to the $11 bottle of Dogfish Head IPA, which was shared by 6 of us last night:


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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dancing Kat and Birthday Pete

So a New York/LA choreographer (who shall remain nameless on this blog for privacy purposes) flew in for the day to teach this dance to the Kat's dance class yesterday. Catchy, eh?!

The dance company that Kat recently joined had to learn the whole dance in just six hours before the choreographer flew out again. I hid in the corner during rehearsal this morning and was able to catch a small portion of the dance on video.

It's great to see Kat dancing again! She was a very serious dancer (ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop, lyrical, etc.) in junior high and high school, but burned out and took a break for a few years. She's back now, but purely for fun. Is it just me, or does she have a gift?!

In other weekend news, we celebrated Peter's 22nd birthday (which is actually next Friday, but he'll be back at WSU then) at Red Robin this evening. Before he arrived, we asked our waitress to make a huge deal about it, and boy did she ever! She came out with the entire serving crew asked Peter to stand on the chair, which he steadfastly refused to do, and then announced that he was celebrating his SIXTEENTH birthday. Peter, the goofball, proudly lifted his beer into the air to toast that!




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