Sunday, September 28, 2008

Not Exactly Hard Core

Uh... I meant hiking. What did you think I was talking about? I'll tell you this much, though: the use of the words "hard core" in my blog will almost certainly increase the number of visitors who end up here from Google. They will have to be pretty persistent, though. I don't think I'll make it onto the first page.

I digress. Silver Lake is hardly a hard core hike. Or even medium core. More like a city park, 15 miles out of town.

Here's the most scenic part of the walk. Am I talking about the tawny grasses and golden willows? About my spouse's backside? Or about the fact that he is walking around the lake using only a single crutch? His blood clot is still there, but is improving. The physical therapist has him working the leg already, so it will be in good shape for surgery when the clot does clear.

Silver Lake is up Big Cottonwood Canyon, about 3,000 feet higher than Salt Lake City, so the leaves are starting to turn color already.

It's always a little bittersweet for us to come up here. Our previous house (cabin, really) is only a short walk away. I used to take the kids to Silver Lake all the time. In the winter, when the lake was frozen, I used to come down here after the kids were in bed and cross-country ski by the light of the moon. It was romantic, looking back. So, whenever we start thinking these wistful thoughts, we have a quick reality check, called, "Five Truths about Living in a Cabin without Winter Road Access at 9,000 Feet". AKA five reasons we aren't still living there:
  • After a six-foot powder-dump, there is no time to ski in it if you are busy shoveling it all off the deck.
  • One forgotten item from the store? No going back. Once, I needed onion for a stew and had forgotten to buy any. I took some plastic bags and went skiing at Brighton. I ordered a hamburger, went to the burger-bar and loaded my pockets with onions, did a few more runs, went home and made stew. Expensive onion.
  • Shoveling a parking space out of five feet of snow out on the road, going to work the next morning, coming home and finding someone else happily ensconced in it.
  • Descending into Salt Lake in June and seeing everyone else's yards and gardens, knowing that you still have five feet of (rotten, ugly) snow in your yard.
  • Sled the garbage out. Sled the children in. Sled the dirty diapers out. Sled the groceries in. Put the groceries away and start cooking supper. Need tomatoes. Remember buying tomatoes. See that the tomatoes are no longer present. Get bundled up again and start walking the snow-covered footpath, looking for the tomatoes. Find them under six inches of snow, frozen solid.
  • And one bonus reason: it was a drag getting home with an infant and a toddler, wading through snow up to my waist and having to start a fire in the stove first thing every evening. After I shook the snow out of my undies.

BUT, for all winter sucked and lasted about 9 months, fall was fabulous. Damn, I should have had a blog when I lived up there. Plenty of material.

Si made it all the way around the lake, and is still smiling.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Let's Talk About Something Else

So, when I tell my friends that I'm overwhelmed because Si is laid up, and that I can't get all the stuff done that needs doing, they probably wonder why I then spend time baking bread, of all things. I don't know why. I never got high marks for "spends time wisely".

This is how to make"Walnut Boule".
It is a yeast-rising bread, the ultimate time waster. Soooo..... pour one cup of warm water into a large bowl and in it, dissolve 3 Tbsp. of sugar and a package of yeast. Let it stand for 5 minutes.

See that the yeast is doing its yeasty thing and feel relieved. I have killed my share of yeast.

OK, so this is a special moment dedicated to my blog-panion, Dive. When we have "Cooking with Dive" (the snob), we are encouraged to use only the best of everything. Dive always gets the freshest ingredients: the wild salmon; the heirloom miso. Of course, Dive has access to something I don't: London. OK, Dive - this walnut oil was bought with you in mind. I pulled this $15 sucker off the grocer's shelf and thought of you. Stir 1 Tbsp. of this fancy-ass walnut oil into the yeast mixture. Wonder what you will do with all the rest of it and tell yourself you had better think of something. Add about 2 cups of bread flour and 1 cup of whole wheat flour to the yeasty oily mixture. Put in 1.5 tsp of salt, too. Stir until it looks like...

Turn it out onto a floured surface and...

...start kneading. Go crazy with the kneading for about 5 minutes. This should provide ample opportunity to work through any anxiety, concern or sex-deprived feelings brought on by depressed spouses with knee injuries. The dough should feel smooth and elastic. If it sticks to your hands, add a little more flour.

Take a clean, large bowl and spray some Pam into it. Plop the dough in and flip it over, so that the Pam has coated it all over. This will prevent drying and cracking. Cover it with a dish towel and let it rise in a warm place (the turned-off oven, for example). Wonder if the food blobs in the bottom of the oven will show at this camera angle. Close the oven and go away for an hour.

Stop. Don't go. Come back, because you need to toast some walnuts before you can leave. Toast .5 of a cup of chopped walnuts. Do this sooner, not later. If you are dumb like me and you wait until the hour is almost up before toasting the walnuts you will regret it. When the hour is up, the dough should be almost twice as big as it was originally. Punch it down and knead the walnuts into it. If they have just finished toasting, this will feel a little like kneading hot buckshot into the loaf, so I hope you took my advice.

Shape the dough into a 9-inch round, and put it on a cookie sheet with a scattering of cornmeal. Worry that it is perhaps too small and has not been rising sufficiently. Cover it up again and put it back in its warm place for another hour.

OK, that is definitely doubled in size. I guess I'll stop worrying.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine 1 tbsp of milk and 1 egg white in a little dish and brush it over the top of the loaf. Cut a crosshatch on the top of the loaf with a sharp knife. bake for 30 minutes.

There! What a sense of accomplishment, right! No! Because the laundry still isn't done and the lawn it still (STILL!!) not mowed and Sara has a plantar wart and you need to make a gyno appointment and the peaches are falling off the tree...
But...bread is bread.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I'm Not a Doctor...

...but I play one in my bathroom.

Simon's injured knee was a short story that is rapidly evolving into a novel. A real page-turner. We did go to meet the surgeon on Monday; he showed us the MRI of where Si's ACL used to be. "You see this mashed potato-like blob right here?" It will have to be rebuilt, either from a ligament taken from Si's own hamstring, or from a cadaver. Hmmm... Hamstring? Or cadaver? Decisions, decisions... What do you think, Honey? Gosh! I don't know. What do we know about this cadaver? I mean, his ligaments might be unimpeachable, but was he of sound moral fiber?

I sit shivering in the surgeon's over-air-conditioned office, channelling "The Six Million Dollar Man" from when I was a kid. "We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better then he was. Better. Stronger. Faster."
Don't hum the theme song, Kate. Don't. Hum. The. Theme. Song.
Dah dah dee dah... doh doh doh doh doh dah dee doh doh.

My thoughts are starting to take me to some strange f***ing places.

The doctor asks him about pain, and Si tells him that his knee isn't that bad anymore. It's his calf that hurts. We show the doc his big, puffy calf and elephant-like ankle. The doc says, "Blood clot." WTF!!! Si has to have an ultrasound. "Don't worry, Honey! They're fun! I've had several." Sure enough. Two blood clots are the source of the pain. "Did you get to see them?" Congratulations, Mr. Diggins. Not just one, but two cute little clots! See? Here's the foot! Oooops! Well, it's pretty obvious THAT one is a boy!" They didn't even print off an image for him to bring home.

OK, Clot-boy. No surgery for you until they clear up. How long will that be? Oh, just a few days, weeks or months, depending. Depending on what? Depending on how fast they clear. Right.

Si had to go to a clot-clinic. He has to take blood thinners and I have to give him a shot in his belly twice a day. I don't know how to give shots. I call my mom, who is a (retired) nurse, and have a minor freak-out. "Oh, for heavens' sake!!" Mom comes through for me. She uses her best battle axe charge-nurse persona, which I find hugely comforting. "Anyone can do this. That drug just needs a short little needle. Have you seen the needle? It's nothing! Just pinch up a little fat and stick it in."

I'm getting used to it. In fact, I'm starting to like it.
  • I like the fancy, shiny, pre-filled syringes, each one individually packaged. It is a huge shame, though, to use each one and throw it out. I find myself thinking, "Couldn't we find a culinary use for these?" We could use them to shoot a nice raspberry liquor into some peaches. That would be awesome.
  • I like setting everything up. I "scrub" (wash my hands, then dry them on the bath towel I've been using all week). I take the cap off the needle and hold it up to the light to check the dosage. I check myself out in the mirror while I do this. Do I look medical? I love it that the pharmacy gave him syringes with the wrong dose in them, because I have to squeeze out .5 of a cc. I could just hold the syringe down over the sink, but I prefer making it squirt up in the air. Does anyone else remember the opening montage of that show "Emergency" (I watched it religiously), when Johnny Gage (when I was 9, I thought he was SO hot) squirts the syringe into the air? He had this really intense expression, which I immitate.
  • I like giving Si a hard time, in order to distract him from the fact that I'm pretty awkward at actually giving the shot: am I pushing the needle in at the right angle? It is OK that it leaves a little bump of medicine under his skin? I always say, "[Inhale. Exhale.] Breathe through the pain." My sweet revenge for the hours I spent listening to him intone that same mantra while I was in labor with Sara. Part of me has been waiting for this moment ever since.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Happier Thoughts

Yesterday, I was a bit down. (Yes, I would like some cheese with this whine.) Work is still posing some struggles for me, and Simon's knee is the 900-pound gorilla of our family life. It's becoming a family member in its own right: an annoying relative who comes for a visit and then won't leave. (Maybe we should name his knee "Anita". Except that I tend to think it as a guy.) Just showering or picking up something he drops is a major deal. We are making progress, though. He went in for an MRI on Thursday, and asked that the results be sent straight to the surgeon that he is interested in. We meet this guy on Monday. Si wants me to go along, less for moral support than to be convenient so we can play the planner game. As in, "WHAT?! No way can you have the surgery on THAT day! I have to do pretesting that day, and we're understaffed! What about the following Friday?"

Any sort of forward movement is instrumental in keeping Simon's personal raincloud from enveloping the whole family. Last night, he emerged from a long, grim silence with, "You know, sometimes they use a tendon from a cadaver." (WTF??) "Well, fine. The cadaver can spare it. Does that bug you?" "It's just weird. Or they take tendons from elsewhere in your body." I pondered. "Well, I'm sitting here wondering where I might have some superfluous tendons... If I think of any, you can have them."

Right. Time for some cheerful thoughts. Let's go to my happy place. Watch Kate attempt cheer without benefit of alcohol.

1. (A knee-related cheerful thought) It could be worse. I have pointed out to Simon that, if he were a Congolese cobalt miner and thrashed his ACL, there would be no MRI, no repair, no therapy. That's how it is for most of the world, right?

2. The day was perfect for soccer and the kids both had good games. Nate's team didn't win, but he made a goal. Si is persisting as the team's coach. He clops around the field on crutches and I traipse along in his wake, carrying clipboard, goal keeper shirt, etc...

3. I'm reading Anne of Green Gables aloud to Sara, which is fun, since Anne is quite the drama-queen.

4. The peaches are getting ripe. I climbed the ladder to the uppermost branches and found about 8 that were ready for picking. There is nothing better than a sun-warmed peach, straight from the tree.

5. I called my dad, who is a constant source of amusement to me. I had loads of fun applying my verbal flame-thrower to Ten Thousand White Women. He's reading it at the moment, and I HATED it. But in a joyful way - I devoured it, ridiculing it at every page.

6. Additional amusement from Dad. He has surprised me by telling me that he is going to the Gambia right after Christmas. Seems that, while he was at the Boyscout World Jamboree last summer, he struck up a friendship with a Gambian scout leader, and they've been corresponding. This buddy, Babu, has invited Dad to visit him, and Dad's going. They will travel up the Gambia River together. I am insanely jealous. And proud of Dad: for the way he makes friends and the way he is always up for anything. I can't help imagining, though, this Gambian guy talking to his wife right now: "Yeah, he's this old fart from America. What do you mean where's he going to sleep? Put him on the sleeping porch with everybody else. He'll love it - he'll think it's exotic. Yeah, I know, I know. It's gonna be a hassle; but when I invited him, I had no idea he was going to say yes! Man! What if he wears his scout uniform the whole time?"

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Looks Like It

Thanks for asking about Simon. He went to the doctor and it looks like it is the ACL. Oh, joy. So he has to have an MRI on Thursday, and then we'll need to decide about surgery, therapy, etc...

In the meantime, he's hobbling around on "crotches" (as Nate calls them) or lying down. For me, realizations are coming home to roost.
  1. I would say we are probably NOT going camping in the Tetons this weekend. Just a hunch. September and October hike dates, also not happening.
  2. The grass is already so long that it'll be more like making hay than mowing the lawn. Really. You could bail it. It needs doing. This means that I will have to learn how to use the lawn mower. I was so happy in my ignorance.
  3. Less competition for the computer and more opportunities for blogging, since he can barely make it downstairs to the office.
  4. Little things like carrying a cup of tea across the room...? Until he needed me to do it, I didn't notice before how often he did it. The guy drinks a lot of tea, it turns out. Same thing with putting his pants on. Has he always done that every morning?
  5. Sex is going to be...uh...searching for an adjective...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Dreaded ACL?

ACL is the...(let's see...can I spell this?) anterior cruciate ligament. A classic skier's injury. Bad luck for Si that the season hasn't nearly started, yet.

On Saturday, he joined a soccer league and played in his first match in almost 20 years. He was pretty nervous about signing up: would they all be a lot younger? Would they be cliquey and not want him around? Would it be hyper-competitive?

Turned out to be perfect: wide range of ages; co-ed; laid back. He had a great time, at least for the first 20 minutes. Then he was charging down the field, leaped up to kick the ball and came down in a divot caused by one of the sprinkler heads. They make deep holes sometimes, which people fill with pebbles and/or spray-paint orange. Not this time. So, down he went, with an audible POP from his knee.

The party I was holding with six of my colleagues was supposed to start in about five minutes when he dragged himself into the house and flopped down on the sofa. Simultaneously mixing salad dressing, setting up drink glasses and folding a load of wash, I administered the usual: ice, elevation, compression, and 800 mg of Ibuprofen.

That was yesterday, and I have to say it looks pretty bad. I have hurt my knee a bunch of times, but I haven't seen anything quite like this. And, frankly, I would rather have it be me than Simon. Not because I want to carry his pain in blind adoration; but because, as a patient, he sucks. Refused to go to InstaCare ("They don't know what they're doing."); only wants to see his regular GP; tells me Ibuprofen doesn't work for him and stops taking it, then sees that, without it, his knee blows up like a balloon and starts taking it again; he can tell me nothing about where it hurts or what kind of pain it is - it "just hurts, everywhere."

[exasperated growl]

Worst of all though, is the attitude. Si is kind of a "glass half empty" sort of guy at the best of times. So now, we have the whole mental thing going on. You know...

"Why did I think I could play soccer? I'm too old for it, and this is the price I pay."
"This is it for me. No skiing this winter. Maybe I'll never ski again."
"I was just on WebMD. Some of these injuries are impossible to recover from. 'Permanently limited mobility' 'Permanently limited strength'."
"You know, if the ACL is completely torn, it's impossible to fix. You never recover."

I can point out to him 'til I'm blue in the face that the hole in the pitch could have tripped up a younger guy in the same way; that it might not be the ACL; that, even if it is the ACL, we live in Utah, where ACL injuries are common and there are so many orthopedists per square mile that you can't turn around without bumping into one.

He doesn't want to be reasonable. He wants to have a pity party, and I'm cordially invited. In fact, my presence is required.

I will tell you the only thing that has comforted him. Nothing appeals to Si more than a little schadenfreude.

I guess, that at the Real Salt Lake match this past weekend, our star forward, Fabian Espindola made a goal. He likes to celebrate by executing a back flip, which he did this time, landing wrong and breaking his ankle. And the goal was called "off sides" and didn't count any way.

Si clipped that article and has taken it off to bed with him. Probably going to slip it under his pillow.

I suspect we have a long haul in front of us. He's going to try to get in to see the doctor first thing in the morning. If this requires surgery, it's going to be a loooooooong winter.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Short Cut

I suggested a walk to the grocery store. We took the "short cut", which is a big misnomer. Way too much cool stuff on the short cut.

...and the playing field behind the Mormon church.

The irrigation ditch.

The special tunnel that completes the route to the school.

Oh, the sprinklers WOULD have to be on.

I said, "Don't get soaked. Fine, but don't get really soaked, OK? Or you'll freeze in the deli section."

This is called the First Grade Door. Do only first graders use it?

And of course, there's the playground. All in all, the short cut adds about an hour to the trip.