Saturday, October 22, 2011


Football season is about to end.   Both Brandon and Sophia participated, Brandon as a player, Sophia as a cheerleader.  Fall weather is a mixed bag.  The temperature on the field during Brandon's first game early in September when the following photos were taken was 124F.  Two weeks ago, after Brandon's team was out of the playoffs but Sophia's was still in, it was windy and raining and the temperature was in the low 50's.  Absolutely miserable both times.  I couldn't shed enough clothes for the first game and couldn't put on enough for the second!

 Brandon isn't as tall as he appears standing next to Sophia, although he's taller than I am now (probably 5'2" or so).  But Sophia is that tiny, the shortest of the eight girls she cheered with, although no longer the shortest girl in her third grade class.


Football season for Brandon's team technically was over several weeks ago. Although they played six games, the Titans were in last place from start to finish.  They just couldn't score, therefore, didn't win a game.  Brandon, quarterback on offense and end on defense, is #42.


A team consists of about 15 players and each plays both offensive and defensive positions.  Players at this level (11 and 12 year olds) are drafted.  Picked to play as quarterback because of his passing ability, Brandon felt responsible when they lost.  He put his heart into every play and his frustration at losing brought him to tears early in the season.  Eventually he realized that there were eleven boys on the field and each had a specific responsibility.  Once he accepted that, he was able to play "looser" and enjoy the game.  He didn't like losing any better, but he was happy to be playing a game he loves.

Then there's L'il Miss Sophia who was a cheerleader.  Her gymnastics training proved worthwhile.  She can tumble.  And she can move with rhythm.  So she had a grand time, and she expected us to watch *her* and not the boys she was cheering for.  On occasion, each of the eight girls on her squad seemed to be moving to her own drummer.  One in particular rarely moved in sync with the others.  She was 1/2 beat behind (or ahead).  If right arms were to go up, it was her left.  If the squad  moved left, she went right.  But they're only 8 and 9, so we just enjoyed the entertainment.   

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I am a reader.  I have been since I was a child, although while Dawn and Brett were growing up, my page turning was generally restricted to the daily newspaper.  But now I'm back to books and I rue the day my eyesight cannot be corrected to allow that sedentary activity to continue.

My preference is mysteries.  My current favorite author is Lee Child who has written  over fifteen novels with Jack Reacher, who served 13 years as an MP in the Army before mustering out, as the main character.  I like the plots and Jack's perpetual ability to out-think and out-maneuver suspect parties.

When I'd blasted my way through those novels (and blast I did, as though the books and their tight story lines would disappear before I could more slowly make my way through the series)  I learned of Bill Bryson.  He writes both autobiographically and historically in such a way to often give people and circumstances a humorous edge. 

I'm a Stranger Here Myself is an accumulation of articles Bryson wrote while working for the Times and Independent while living in England.  The following excerpt is from the article, "At a Loss":

"...I always have catastrophies when I travel.  Once on an airplane, I leaned over to tie a shoelace just at the moment that the person in the seat ahead of me threw his seat back into full recline, and I found myself pinned helplessly in the crash position. It was only by clawing the leg of the man sitting next to me that I managed to get myself freed.

"On another occasion, I  knocked a soft drink onto the lap of a sweet little lady sitting beside me.  The flight attendant came and cleaned her up, and brought me a replacement drink, and instantly I knocked it onto the woman again.  To this day I don't know how I did it.  I just remember reaching out for the new drink and watching helplessly as my arm, like some cheap prop in one of those 1950s horror movies with a name like 'The Undead Limb,' violently swept the drink from its perch and onto her lap.

"The lady looked at me with the stupefied expression you would expect to receive from someone whom you have repeatedly drenched, and uttered an exceptionally earnest oath that started with "oh" and finished with "sake" and in between had some words that I have never heard uttered in public before, certainly not by a nun.

"This, however, was not my worst experience on a plane flight.  My worst experience was when I was writing important thoughts in a notebook ("Buy socks," clutch drinks carefully," etc.)  sucking thoughtfully on the end of my pen as you do, and fell into conversation with an attractive lady in the next seat.  I amused her for perhaps twenty minutes with a scattering of urbane bons mots, then retired to the lavatory where I discovered that the pen had leaked and that my lips, tongue, teeth, and gums were now a striking, scrub-resistant navy blue, and would remain so for several days."

Here's a bit from Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, starting with the "big bang": 
"A proton is an infinitesimal part of an atom, which is itself of course an insubstantial thing.  Protons are so small that a little dib of ink like the dot on this "i" can hold something in the region of 500,000,000,000 of them or rather more than the number of seconds it takes to make half a million years....

"Now imagine if you can (and of course you can't) shrinking one of those protons down to a billionth of its normal size into a space so small that it would make a proton look enormous.  Now pack into that tiny, tiny space about an ounce of matter.  Excellent.  You are ready to start a universe."

Now we skip a few sentences ahead:

"[to build a big bang universe] you'll need additional materials.  In fact, you will need to gather up everything there is--every last mote and particle of matter between here and the edge of creation--and squeeze it into a spot so infinitesimally compact that is has no dimensions at all.  It is known as singularity.

"...get ready for a really big bang.  Naturally, you will wish to retire to a safe place to observe the spectacle.  Unfortunately, there is nowhere to retire to because outside the singularity there is no where.  When the universe begins to expand, it won't be spreading out to fill a larger emptiness.  The only space that exists is the space it creates as it goes.

"...the singularity has no around around it.  There is no space for it to occupy, no place for it to be....  Time doesn't exist.  There is no past for it to emerge from."

Well.  After only a few pages, I was rendered speechless, overwhelmed as I tried to comprehend the concept. And unfortunately, once Bryson had gotten me through the creation of earth in Small History, I realized that reading about the next bazillion years didn't interest me as much as I had thought it would, and I returned the book to the library.

If my praises and quotes from two of his books haven't put you to sleep, then perhaps you would be as mesmerized by Bryson's compositions as I am.  (If not, ah well....)  While the concept of History turned out to be more than I wanted to undertake, I can vouch for A Walk in the Woods, At Home, and In a Sunburned Country being easier reads.  I found all three to be entertaining and educational. 

Monday, October 3, 2011


A few weeks ago I wrote about June's total joint replacement of my left knee.   Recovery was amazingly easy and quick.  I am convinced that the success I have had is due to doing what was asked in the physical therapy sessions, knowing that within a few weeks therapy would be completed and I'd be walking like I did thirty years ago, before brother Jeff and I climbed a mountain in Arizona to scatter our mother's ashes where she loved to hike.

Those six weeks of therapy preceded vacation with Dawn and the kids in Myrtle Beach.  As soon as we returned, I had a follow-up visit with the surgeon who gave me a high-five and agreed to schedule surgery for the right knee.  I had anticipated waiting several weeks, but was amazed when I was told there was an opening in seventeen days.  Fantastic!

Much was the same; some was different.  I'd opted both times for spinal and femoral blocks.  That meant I should feel nothing in the leg operated on for 24 hours following surgery.  That was the case with the first surgery.  But I had a different anesthetist for the second and those blocks wore off in the first 12 hours.  Like the left leg had been, the right leg was wrapped in several layers of padding and held together by an elastic bandage.  Sitting (or lying) still caused no sensation, but to pull myself up in bed required moving the leg and in the hours after surgery, that took my breath away!  I also tested for the return of feeling by using the muscle above my knee cap to pull the leg flat against the mattress.  Ouch!! 

On the day two, contracting that muscle became less stressful.  If I took a deep breath and moved quickly, I could swing the repaired leg out of bed and let my foot rest on the floor.  Twenty-four hours after surgery, the dressing came off and white elastic TED hose were put on both legs.  Occupational therapists came in to help me  learn to dress since my knee would be too stiff initially to bend so that I could put on socks.  Physical therapists came as well to help me learn to walk with my walker.  Over the years my stride changed because I hadn't been able to fully straighten either leg.  Now I could. With the new joints, I found that if I failed to fully extend my foot, the knee clicked.  It didn't hurt, but the sound reminded me to slow down and  walk correctly! Three days post-op, I came home.     

After the first surgery, I'd used a walker for a week and then moved to a cane.  By week three, I was walking unassisted.  When I got to my room after the second surgery, Dawn told me that there had been a hiccup during the operation, and the rod attached to the new knee had poked through my femur.  The doctor had repaired the damage, but it would need time to heal, and I'd  be required to use the walker for six weeks to prevent any possibility of falling.  Well, crap.  However, I reminded myself that six weeks is a short time in the long-term picture.  Get too big for my britches, fall, and spend months recovering from surgery to repair the damage?  Not an option.

Three-times-a-week physical therapy began the day after I returned home.  Good news, bad news.  While I was allowed to put full weight on the leg, the exercises could not stress the bone.   The doctor was firm in saying that I could not twist the knee or spin on my foot.  Apparently that also meant I could do no stair work, but I was encouraged to pedal myself silly on the facility's Nu-Step and stationary bike.  The stand-by exercises of leg lifts, knee bends and heel slides were equally worthwhile and required.

Three weeks post-surgery the staples were removed.  Those white elastic TED hose are annoying and somewhat uncomfortable, so being able to chuck them was welcome.  I'd hoped that the surgeon would x-ray my leg and announce that I could begin driving again and take on all recommended exercises.  Unfortunately, he held firm and said the only way to slow me down, to ensure I wouldn't fall, was to keep me on the walker.  Well, I didn't want to break a leg or screw up the new joint, so I didn't argue.    

However, shortly after that visit,  I allowed myself to use my cane for short distances in the condo.  Then five weeks after surgery, I quit using the cane while indoors but remained cautious as I walked.  As soon as I began taking a more normal stride, the knee muscles of both legs felt better. But the walker remained my escort whenever I left the condo.

When the six-week anniversary of the second surgery arrived, I returned to see the surgeon.  Hallelujah!  X-rays showed that the femur had healed, and I was finally given permission to do all physical therapy exercises AND given permission to drive again!  Finally Dawn was free of her tether to me as chauffeur to appointments.  As soon as she brought me home after the appointment, I grabbed my car keys and headed out to drive myself, free at last, to the grocery store! 

Physical therapy will continue for a few more weeks as the newly introduced exercises continue to strengthen my right leg.  Some muscles surrounding both knees remain stiff, particularly when I sit still for extended periods.  But walking is not painful and I there is subtle improvement every day.   And while I've had a relatively easy time rehabbing both knees, I'm also glad that I'm not an octopus with six legs to go! 

Sunday, October 2, 2011


We haven't had an occasion to meet as family, just us, in over 30 years.  Now as we're getting older, there's time available, or we three siblings are finally making time, to get together.  It was  going to be just a short visit, an afternoon, so with the exception of my daughter and her family and Jeff's daughter, none of our other children or grandchildren were there.  

Jeff and Jason entertained us with stories they recalled of our years growing up in South Bend. For example, mounted at the peak of our suburban garage was an old farm bell.  Mom would ring it when she needed one, or all, of us to come home:  1 dong for me, 2 for Jason, 3 for Jeff and 4 (or more!) for all of us.  

One day when they were between 11 and 13, Jason and Jeff were at a neighbor's playing football in the back yard with the boys who lived there.  Also present was another neighbor -- "Max", who was considerably older, in high school, and a bully.
Mom rang the bell for Jason and Jeff to come home, but Max wouldn't let them leave.  Either Jason or Jeff saw Mom, who was wearing a dress or skirt, come to the fence that separated the yards and then turn around and go back into the house.  

She came to the fence again in a few minutes, this time wearing pants and a T-shirt.  Instead of opening the gate, she vaulted over the fence and approached the boys. Looking at Jason and Jeff, she asked, "Didn't you hear the bell?  When you hear the bell, you come home."  

One answered, "Well, yes, but....," looking at Max.  

Max stepped forward and said with authority,  "We're playing football and they can't leave."  

Mom spun and *decked* Max and said, "Don't you dare get up or I'll put you down again!"  (It's doubtful Mom would have gotten away with that these days!)  

To which Max, flat on his back, replied politely, "Okay, Mrs. Currey."  

They entertained us throughout the afternoon with stories of the dumb/silly/stupid stuff they did -- shooting BB guns at each other while in the basement and throwing darts without being able to see the target, for example.

Brandon trying to land the helicopter on a beam
Jeff also brought out an infra-red toy helicopter that Brandon and Bob took turns trying to land on the open beams in the living room.  Once those attempts were successful, they moved on to landing the helicopter on the blades of the fan above us. Ah, boys and their toys.....

The time was too short.  But that only means that we will try hard to meet again, sooner rather than later.  

Evie and Jason

Jeff and his daughter, Brittany

Head chef Jeff and Mimi