I had waited long enough

What I saw: maybe in 2000 I had my first inkling that everyday foot pain wasn’t normal/good and I went to see My First Foot Doctor who told me about his passion for tap dancing and about all the different bunion-prone races of people in the world. In addition to (incorrectly) guessing my ethnicity, and sharing his theories on race that he should have kept to himself, My First Foot Doctor described (too much like Dr. Frankenstein leaping around the lab shouting, “It’s alive!”) an unnamed surgery where he would cut my feet open, break certain bones and screw them back together. When he saw my enthusiasm wasn’t up to the same level as his, he sent me to get some custom orthotics, and told me, with authority, “Your feet have no integrity.  Never run.”

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No problem there. Running is for fugitives.

What it is: I wore the orthotics, got rid of both pairs of my beloved, ankle-spraining Dasko clogs, started wearing more boots and fewer heels. Ten years later I tried again, with a different doctor. This one was a little less creepy but so completely impressed with himself, in a way that only a credentialed white-coat-wearing tall white man who wants to cut your feet open, saw your bones into pieces, and screw them back together can be. He was disappointed not to be The First Man Ever to tell me to get orthotics and throw away all my high heels.

Things that were not funny: I had yet to have a doctor use the word “bunionectomy” with me, and I had yet to hear what the surgeries they were so eager to perform would do to correct the underlying cause. While addressing the problems, their bone-breaking-and-screwing-back-together had nothing to offer to prevent the recurrence. Also, the bone breaking and screws sounded pretty terrible. I could also say something here about the really terrific health insurance Microsoft used to offer back then, but I make it a policy not to say nice things about them.

Why I saw this show: New York is brutal on feet. Even if you mostly stay out of the city it will give you blisters when you don’t. My feet hurt and I’m getting too old for this shit. I tried a nearby podiatrist in Bedhead Hills. I could have guessed from the incomprehensibly ugly angular building, clad in pale green roofing shingles that it would be a no-go. The stained waiting room carpet was warped and curling in the corners. The receptionist did not greet me because she was on the phone talking about shit she shouldn’t have been talking about at work. There was original Weldwood paneling. The only other patient looked like she was going to die of ennui. The Bedhead Hills podiatrist held my foot in his hand and didn’t let go. He told me my good foot was actually worse than my bad foot. And he dropped the b word on me.

How I found a doctor that didn’t give me the willies: I go to Pilates a couple of times a week, not because I’m trying to be a cliche or anything but because I like it. Some of the people at Pilates talk too much. I try not to be that person, the one who complains about her anxious kids, or her friends and their poor choice of partners, or her husband’s career, or her feet. I don’t want to blurt things out about my children and their anxiety, or my friends’ relationships, or my husband or my feet, so I let my Pilates teacher do the talking. She counts and tells me things.  The subject got around to foot doctors and she claimed to know The Guy.

“He did my sister’s feet. He’s done several of my clients’ feet. He’s The Guy.”

I kept the piece of paper she gave me with The Guy’s name on it for a few months, pretending that I couldn’t read it or that I thought his name was a misspelling. I didn’t want to see a doctor in Connecticut because I have a known allergy to Connecticut, but as if to prove to myself that this guy would be just as creepy as the rest, I made an appointment. The office was clean and professional, and I was seen on time. I met his nurse and liked her. And The Guy himself was clear, upbeat, and unafraid to use the real names for things.  He told me that if I’d had surgery 10 years ago it would have failed by now.

He  described a procedure that would leave me with some airplane parts in my foot. Those parts would be the actual solution to the cause of the problem.

What I did beforehand: I remember being a kid and writing “1976” in my diary and thinking about how weird it would be that someday I would write “1980” or “1990.” I counted how old I would be in “2000.” I spent this summer thinking about the perfect date to do a surgery–a surgery more unimaginable than being 37 is to a 13 year old. Who plans to give up walking for a while? How do you put something off for almost 20 years, and then wake up one Thursday and look for a spot in your calendar for it?

And then there was the Bacon Provider’s work schedule to consider.  I imagined I was going to need him at home for about two weeks, and it would be fine to do calls after the first couple of days. Then I thought my normal self-sufficiency would return.

What I wore: I really only have two pairs of pants that work with the dressing on my foot post-surgery. This would be enough if I were currently the person in charge of the laundry.  So I am wearing pajamas all day which is fine anyway because mostly I’m in bed.

Who went with me: the Bacon Provider drove me to the ambulatory surgical center.  When I checked in, I had to prove my identity with a photo ID and my health insurance card.  The Guy greeted us and wrote on my foot so they did the right one.  A nurse gave me something to make me sleepy and someone else did a nerve block behind my knee and I don’t remember anything after that.

Things that were funny: when I woke up, they let me have a delicious cup of ice chips. I smiled at everyone like I’d done a fine job. The surgeon came and showed the Bacon Provider before and after x-rays of my foot, adding, “This is as bad as they get.”

“How do you even walk on a foot like that?” asked my husband.

“I don’t know,” said The Guy.

Something I ate: the next day, my friend S. sent us turkey and pastrami sandwiches and matzo ball soup and it was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever had.

Things that were sad: I came out of surgery with pins sticking out of my toes and couldn’t get my foot wet for a couple of weeks. The nerve block was supposed to last about 20 hours, but lasted longer, with a prolonged couple of days of bad foot feelings as the block wore off. I took the pain meds ’round the clock until I didn’t have to (and mostly it seemed like they don’t do anything about the pain they make it so you just don’t care). After two weeks I got my stitches out, and The Guy pulled the pins out of my toes (which felt a way I would forget if I could). Then I was cleared to take a shower, but showers are scary when you have to stand on one leg.

How I get around: I have a knee-scooter until the day when I get a walking cast, which is an exciting prospect about a week away.

Who should do it: lots of people get foot surgery, and even more need it and put it off for years because they hear/fear it will hurt and it will be inconvenient. My experience has been that it hurts, and is inconvenient. My estimates of how much help I’d need, and for how long, were completely unrealistic.

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What I saw at home: the cat has been disappointingly aloof, napping near me but not with me, trying to bite me if I try to pet him, and hiding from the knee-scooter like it offends him.

One more thing: I have to do the other foot someday.

I found something I could ride

Something I ate: when, back in April, my husband and I took our trainer to dinner and asked about his ideas for getting a new horse, I think I ordered the fish.  Horse shopping wasn’t a new topic of conversation, as this is something most equestrians have opinions about, so we weren’t surprised to hear him suggest going to Germany. “The main thing,” he said this night, and not for the last time, “Is find something you can ride.”

How do you find a horse to try: while I was able to use my personal connections to find someone to look for a horse for me in Germany, looking closer to home was still easier. And where are the closer-to-home horses advertised? On Facebook, in a large, open group. Facebook has gotten some tough press lately, for its role in interfering with democracy and in facilitating genocide, but until we overthrow our social media overlords, cast off the shackles of our Amazon Prime memberships, and find a way to circumvent the authoritarian monopoly on online search, it’s what there is beyond word of mouth.

What I did beforehand: a day before my flight to Florida, I got a message from the agent who was supposed to show me the horse. She wanted to check if I was still coming. I said I was. She said the horse I had first contacted her about was no longer available, but she had a number of others to show me. There are a lot of reasons I can think of that would make a horse be no longer available, like injury or illness, or if it was already sold, or if the owner changed her mind about selling it. But to be honest I was annoyed. Peeved, even. I thought about cancelling my trip.

Why I went anyway: when I somewhat testily pressed the sales agent, she cheerfully provided me details about four other horses, all theoretically suitable for my purposes. I got over my peeved self.

Things that were not funny: at the sales barn, the fellow showing the horse had a German first name, and everyone knew him by his German first name, and no one said his last name because apparently no one felt they could pronounce it. This feels terribly American to me, as does most mispronunciation of names. Put this on our list of things we should do to be better, America. Let’s all learn to pronounce each other’s names. Starting with me. I can’t pronounce the German guy’s last name.

What I saw: the first horse the fellow with the German name showed me was a little chestnut mare, darker than a penny but a shade brighter than liver chestnut. When I saw her in the cross-ties, I noticed she had an unusual pattern of white on the side of her face, and wasn’t sure I liked it. But there is no such thing as a good horse in a bad color, so I set aside this impression.

She seemed like a quality horse with a professional rider sitting on her, but the reason professional riders exist is because they can ride anything and make it look like a quality horse.

What I wore: riding clothes, but no spurs.

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What it is: riding is expensive and time consuming. Horses are simultaneously fragile and dangerous. I know of nothing more magical than the feeling of riding well, and also nothing more elusive.

Things that were funny: over the course of four trips to barns, I rode about 10 different horses, and it wasn’t until I sat on the little chestnut mare that I felt that I’d found something I could ride. My trainer’s advice, which had seemed at first to be so obvious as to not be important, turned out to be the best signal that I’d found what I was looking for. I tried to suppress the huge grin, but I felt right away that I had found what I was looking for. I just didn’t want to tell anyone yet. I didn’t even know the horse’s name. In fact, we left the barn without me finding out her name. I knew she was six, and what she was like to ride that day, but not much else.

Who went with me: the sales agent who did all the work finding horses for me to try in Florida, who was polite when I abruptly got off another horse I didn’t like, who laughed at my jokes, and who even got me the chance to try the horse I had originally wanted to see.

Why I bought this horse: other than being the one horse I tried that I really felt I could ride, she was the one that was fun without feeling inexplicably intimidating. Sure, they weigh 1300 lbs., but, as my trainer says, either you’re in charge or they’re in charge. And her face? Once I’d ridden her it seemed extraordinarily adorable.

Things that were sad: that other horse, the one I’d wanted to see in the first place? She was really nice, too.

I heard meowing

What I heard: that meow a cat makes when he’s in another part of the house and he’s like, “Hey, where you at?” Insistent, but not yet panicked.

 

What happened the day before: it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single-family house in possession of a goodly amount of wallpaper, must be in want of stripping. The project of updating Mrs. Gardenwinkle’s 80s museum has begun, starting with the gutting of the upstairs bathrooms. The rate of progress of re-modeling projects is chaotic at best, with stretches of steady progress, interrupted by the delays of backordered tile, or returning round drains when you wanted square, or replacing uneven concrete pads for the AC units. So in the time between small disasters our contractor assigned two workers to the non-trivial task of stripping the wallpaper from every room. They started upstairs. There was this one tool that made a screeching noise, and another that got everything wet but whatever. As they worked their way downstairs the house has been transformed, from a neat-but-dated 80s museum to just the sort of sad, shabby, destroyed ranch house that might be claimed by feral cats.

After a few days they’d stripped the upstairs hall, the stairwell, and the downstairs hall. While I was out they moved on to my bathroom and then my bedroom. I wasn’t quite ready for them, but my lack of preparation for the disruption was nothing compared to Schwartz’s. He’d been locked in our end of the house for days, and though he had food and water, his litterbox and plenty of good hiding places, he must have escaped. When I got home from the barn he was locked in my bathroom, crouched on the toilet tank, angrily overlooking a river of urine that he’d left running through the soon-to-be gutted bathroom.

What happened the next day: the next day the plumbers were working on the rough-in of the upstairs bathroom, and while they’d been very careful to keep the cat out of the basement, a drain pipe got installed in a way that prevented the upstairs bathroom door from closing. So of course they went to lunch and left the door open. A few hours later, after they’d finished and left for the day, I heard the meowing.

Who should see it: anyone who didn’t get to see enough disaster photos recently. Cat behaviorists studying the way a meow changes from normal inquiry to angry shout. Problem solvers.

What I wore: pajamas, which got splinters in them.

Where I sat: on the floor by the roughed-in pipes, with the cat screaming and reaching for me with one paw.

Things that were funny: I found the cat under the newly roughed-in bathtub, frantically thrashing and howling and unable to fit through the only opening left to him.

Things that were not funny:

How I got help: the Bacon Provider decreed that pets are useless and terrible, and among the primary obstacles to his happiness, so he was not interested in helping the cat until after he’d eaten his samosa and lamb tikka masala and chicken saag. Then I realized that a solution might include removing a newly-installed floor panel and I announced to no one in particular it would be necessary to use a power tool.

Who went with me: the Bacon Provider pretended that his involvement in the cat rescue was a great personal inconvenience. But he got to use the drill, so…<\shrug emoji>

Why I saw this show: it was love at first sight. The first time Schwartz saw the gutted bathroom he fell madly in love with it. Plain plywood floors. Exposed framing. Old pink insulation. Nooks. Crannies. Places a cat must never go. He could not resist.

Things that were sad: J.M. Barrie’s opening line of “Peter Pan” is, “All children, except one, grow up.” No cats grow up. And they persistently search for Neverland.

More things that were not funny: days later, when he returned to the upstairs, Schwartz begged to be allowed back into that bathroom.

Something I ate: we had Indian food delivered. It was very good. I might go have some more leftovers right now.

I was invisible

What I did: a user experience design (UXD) class at General Assembly

What I did beforehand: had a couple of conversations with people about this blog

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What I wore: Puma sneakers and jeans, mascara, irrational optimism

Who went with me: 29 other students, an instructor, and two teaching assistants

How I got here: I had taken a single-evening class there over a year ago and promised myself then that if I didn’t migrate my blog to WordPress within a couple of months that I would sign up for a structured class where I could do it. When I called to enroll, I let the admissions person talk me into a user experience class without thinking too hard about whether that was what I was really looking for.

Why: apparently, I will sign up for anything.

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Where I sat: in the front by the instructor, so I could see and hear and minimize how distracted I was. Still, I had to put my glasses on to see the white board and take them off to read my notes.

Things that were sad: feeling like I was old enough to be everyone’s mom; bringing cookies the second night because it was the instructor’s birthday and I am everyone’s mom. I interrupted a 27-month-long writing streak to try to improve my blog and caused a 3-1/2-month-long drought.

Things that were funny: my notes. Also, I have been complaining that I’m invisible lately. On the train, they didn’t even take my ticket.

 

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Not me

Things that were not funny: I have been feeling invisible lately. Maybe it’s safer this way.

Something I drank: Harney’s gen mai cha, because I carried a little Ziploc™ bag of tea bags to class in my backpack every week.

What it is: UXD is what they do when they want shit to work the way you expect it to.

Who should do it:  anyone looking for solid, up-to-date instruction in tech stuff.

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Joe, heckin’ good instructor. Am doin’ a teach.

What I saw on the way home: the menace of headlights from cars driven by fast-man-persons who pushed past me getting off a train.

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Things I find in my Basement #18

Answers to Today’s Questions (11 March 2002)
1. Meryl Streep
2. Garnet Yams
3. condensation
4. earthworm castings
5. calendula
6. black tea
7. J
8. homestead
9. less than 6%
10. fission
The list of answers is from an old computer. 
There are other files I will post another day. 
The elephant is from a box of drawings that goes back to the early 1970s. It has no date, but I would put it around 1977 when I was drawing elephants and dinosaurs.
You are welcome to offer up a list of questions for these answers.

How I learned to Ski

I was very young when I first learned to ski, probably only 5 or 6. I was largely governed by fear as a child, and have specific memories of being afraid of my parents, sports, strangers, crows, skeletons, other children, and being made fun of by other children. I was certainly afraid of going fast, and did not learn to ride a bicycle until I visited my cousin (who was a year younger and riding without training wheels) and was humiliated into learning to ride one.

My father’s ingenious idea was to take me out on the bunny hill with the movie camera. Back in the 60s, having a Super-8 movie film camera meant you could make soundless three-minute movies of birthday parties, boys throwing footballs and family members waving at the camera. If other families made different movies, I’ve never seen them. Later, after sending off the film for developing, the family could set up the movie projector and screen, bring some straight-backed chairs from the dining room into the living room, and gather all the folks for a movie. Silent home movies have the added advantage of allowing everyone to shout out whatever they want, and best of all, can be shown backwards after being shown forwards. Many a shot in our family’s movies was set up just to be extra funny when shown backwards.

So out on that beginner slope at Breckenridge, my dad shot film all afternoon, while I snow-plowed and linked my turns, hamming it up for posterity. Of course, only the first 10 seconds of my skiing were preserved on film, but I was only a small child and failed to realize how short those movies were. Nevermind. I learned to ski, and I liked it, and I didn’t cry the whole afternoon, probably.

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Years passed.  Basil grew.  There were times when the snake’s appetite seemed off.  There were other times when it would throw up the meal after a couple of days, and I can tell you that nothing, not a dead gerbil or dog vomit, nothing smells as bad as a decaying mouse that’s been barfed up by a snake.