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Well, tis done. A week ago I got a whole new hip. The surgeon who was there when I opened my eyes told me so. And the whole episode was a kind of strange other-worldly experience.

PRE-SURGERY I stayed in a hotel in a handicap room with a “roll-in” shower.

I figured if I could roll in, I could walk in.

Not so.

I managed to slip on the very slick floor and thought I landed close to the bad hip. Then dragged myself to a carpeted room, and decided since there was no intense pain anywhere I could stay mum about the fall and go forward with the operation in the morning.

And that is what happened.

All went well in the morning including anesthesia with numbing of the back and me asleep in a flash with no nausea or any distress upon awakening!

But the saga went on.

It was agreed I would spend one night in the hospital. I was off to my own little room and bath and right next to that was a man who began a long diatribe of groaning, moaning, swearing, praying, and screaming. With colorful language and an actor’s ability to project, I began wishing relief for him via a sedative.

The nurses on the ward were in a constant huddle whilst taking abusive language as he was shouting, “Please, PLEASE, PLEASE! DO SOMETHING. I AM NOT GOING TO MAKE IT. HELP ME!!! OHHHHHHH, AAAAARGH, OWWWW, JESUS, DEAR GOD”, etc.

His language was so colorful and the nurses were so distraught that it became like an exciting audio story with dramatic sound effects.

Through this drama, nurses were still tending to other patients and would come in to check on me and would provide updates. Some said there was no reason for him to be carrying on like that, and how they were trying to get an on-call surgeon to come in. It was around 4:30 AM when I learned the Moaning Man was finally given morphine and was asleep which could not be said of the other patients on the ward.

The Moaning Man turned out to be a blessing because he actually kept my mind off my hip and on him.

I have been home a week since then and doing the exercises, walking inside with a walker, being pampered by Bill, son, daughter-in-law, and my three grandgirls.

All seems to be going well with more news to come as I progress from a slow gimpy gait to racehorse status.

So, how was your week?

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Hospitals are for other people.

Hospitals are o.k. if you are young and strong.

But now in a golden year and facing a hospital visit soon, I am grinning and bearing the notion that I am now one of those others.

Putting my right hip in for removal and replacement sounds easy peazy these days but the preparations and advance appointments are daunting, especially when a “post-op appointment” is scheduled for 3 days before the surgery.

Good thing my golden year left me with a golden eye that is able to catch errors!

Then there were two sets of lab work (in better words – “blood letting”.)

The first blood tests went well.

The second was conducted by a novice who, in an effort to collect seven vials, left my left arm a rainbow of black, blue, yellow and red bruises as evidence of cruel and unusual punishment.

My tests are clear though.

The Dentist says I am good to go.

The General Practitioner says so too. And after he proclaimed a clean bill of health he actually gave me a big hug and wished me luck. This had the dual effect of making me smile in the knowledge my doctor of over 20 years really cares and/or making me worry that he is secretly afraid he will never see me again.

Speaking of never seeing me again, I happened to be scanning Google stuff on surgeries and came across the little known fact that more people die in surgeries performed on Fridays! Wouldn’t you know it? I am scheduled on a Friday!

But, going on the premise that I will be the standout survivor of a Friday massacre,

I am practicing breathing into a gadget, doing simple exercises, trying to walk, and

the pre-op appointments that were scheduled correctly are now almost over.

Note: BigFoot is still affecting the Left extremity but sends regards. I keep mentioning to the orthopedic experts how BigFoot started over on the left ankle, swelled, moved around and is still capricious. But no one in the medical establishment pays a bit of attention. Evidently surgeons specialize in only one thing at a time and BigFoot will just have to wait.

Well the day is drawing near!

Please wish me luck my friends in the blog-us-fear.

There will surely be stories to tell when this is all over.

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We all have our little habits that die hard. I tend to rub my nose when I am uncomfortable or bored or I just need to get out or move. I kind of whack my nose and have been doing that since childhood. Used to suck my thumb too but that habit had to be terminated.

But did you ever meet a dog with an unbreakable habit? I am still discovering little clues about Elsa’s personality.

Elsa is our not-so-little Rescue Dog. She used to be lift-able but no longer. Now she is well fed (maybe overfed?) as Bill and I continue to hand out halved dog treats plus plus plus. Like in the film/book Eat, Pray, Love, I have begun calling Elsa “Groceries.”

Back to bad habits that die hard.

Elsa thinks flying insects are fair game. When in the outside world she lurks, stalks, jumps, and snaps into midair and sometimes actually nabs a bumble bee! Oh Mighty Dog, Mighty Hunter!

The problem is last week she swallowed one live!

We tried to estimate how long a living bee in the system of a semi-small dog could survive but came to no conclusions.

Watching Elsa provided some explanation though.

  • First, she plunged her nose in and out much like a harem dancer thrusting chin forward and back.
  • Then she coughed a hollow kind of deep cough.
  • Follow all that by an insane need to go out again
  • Followed by a desperate need to eat grass.
  • After consuming about 3 cups of grass, back inside for a restless nap filled with barking dreams,
  • Then repeat all of the above plus
  • Finally she began dropping her bottom to the ground again and again and again.

Can you trace the movement of the poor struggling bee trying to maneuver through a semi-small dog’s system?

I was beside myself with worry. Could it be something she ate? Like a live bumble bee? The vet was closed of course. I made up my mind to wait to the first open business day and I would take her to the vet.

After a bland dinner (chicken and rice) and a lot of in and out of the house, Elsa finally looked peaceful. Vet no longer necessary.

I have tried to tell Elsa (to no avail) that killing bumble bees is a terrible habit that has to stop. However, I now have a dog who is a serial bumble bee killer.

This morning she was on the deck on high alert. One of those great big flying predators was daring the mighty hunter.

I screamed, “NO! Don’t eat bugs!” and this time she listened but she is refreshed, happy, wagging and hungry.

And the world is full of bumble bees. Well one less after this eyewitness of the bumble bee murder.

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Somewhere in the journey from making childhood mud pies to adult culinary disasters there emerged a gigantic love for cream toppings.

I simply love anything like Heavy Cream, Whipped Cream, Sour Cream, Clotted Cream, and even fake cream in aerosol containers.

And then whilst traveling in France through my job taking printers overseas I was served something called Creme Fraiche. It is now my love over all the others – even whipped cream. Clotted cream comes close (I had that in England at the Hyde Park Hotel in London for high tea). What a job I had huh? I must admit the work for a large printing association introduced me to the world.

Back to Creme Fraiche (pronounced Krem-fresh). If you have not heard of it, it is a luxurious topping for just about anything you can think of. Fruit first of course since they are a natural pairing, but even meat will be enhanced by this delightfully smooth almost-whipped-cream-but-better-topping.

I make my own and have a recipe that is probably long gone and mostly forgotten and maybe my recipe isn’t even for Creme Fraiche after all. But I tell people it is. And it’s so good it is guaranteed to add to my (your) reputation as a gourmet cook!

And here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

One Cup of Sour Cream

One Cup of Heavy Cream

Yep! That’s it!

Equal to Equal. How hard is that?

Now mix the two in a glass dish until well blended. Then allow the mixture to sit uncovered for four or more hours until everything is smooth and of a non-runny texture. No need to stir. No added ingredients. Just wait.

When the mixture is just the right consistency – not runny but thick and creamy like sour cream, you can cover and refrigerate for use as you wish.

And as you use your newly found luxurious deliciousness be sure to go back and spread the top of the topping out so it is smooth and with no pockets to get watery.

Note: Now I know most Creme Fraiche recipes only include heavy cream and buttermilk and mostly for longer hours. I never have buttermilk on hand but I do always have sour cream. And finding heavy cream at the market is sometimes a challenge but I can always find heavy whipping cream. And that’s all it takes.

Enjoy!

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Peace and quiet are what I yearn for,

even more so in the golden years.

Instead the phone is ringing “off the hook”

with fake people scams and phishing,

so who has time to read a book?

Yesterday FedX and UPS came twice,

and sent the dog into a fit of barking

calculated to excite.

And others came to dig a trench and add a cable

for high speed internet to bring us up-to-date

that sent the dog a-running and a-barking

and the phone kept a-ringing

so peace and quiet have to wait.

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I love Spring in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. ‘Tis really the season for beautiful color and the clean clear beauty of nature’s reawakening. Even the deer begin boasting their new babies. And I feel happy and productive and eager to think about planting more flowers. But thinking is not doing and since I am still a slow motion walker waiting for a hip replacement I have not injected myself into the wild.

Photo taken by Daughter-in-Law, Emmy – Virginia Redbud

Spring is is also a time of imminent threat from the wild. Whether you go outside to feel your toes in the grass or not.

Three days ago I felt an itchy place on my back just below the left shoulder. A hot shower helped and I thought nothing of it.

Two days ago, the itch was back so I took a look with the help of a hand mirror and saw a red place with a slightly dark center. I asked Bill to take a look with a magnifying glass and he did. He said, there was nothing there…. maybe a little raised mole. So I put some anti-itch gel on it and went to a peaceful slumber.

Yesterday the itch was back in full force and when I looked at it with the hand mirror there was a pronounced dark center, much larger. Bill took a look too and said “it” (the dark center) was kind of hanging loose so he removed it. In my opinion it was a well fed deer tick! And I was immediately off to the doctor.

Results:

  1. It was probably a tick. An adult deer tick is the size of a poppy seed. There are no charts or photos I know of that show a well fed deer tick as opposed to a hungry one.
  2. The doctor said if you check yourself all over each day and you happen to take off a tick, no medication is necessary.
  3. Because I came in early, I only had to have two antibiotics immediately… no more.
  4. Evidently, if you have a tick bite and remove it within 34 hours, you will not need meds.

I am still confused over all of this.

Seems to me, you should report a tick bite no matter what. My niece contracted Lyme and suffered with it for many years.

Anyway, in addition to gimpy walking I now have the remains of a bite on my back. The culprit escaped a plastic bag I swear I sealed. He was a major escape artist.

The doctor’s answer for this latter issue was to put a cotton ball soaked in nail polish remover in the bag with the tick. He will then suffocate and die but his body will stay in tact for identification! More than I want to know.

I dislike ticks and other bugs, but do I hate them enough to become a wanton murderer?

‘Tis the season all right.

Spring has sprung in all its glory.

But there is a downside to living in paradise.

Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia

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Sometimes I feel like Rapunzel or Snow White from a mythical fairytale. Only I have short white hair and never sleep less than 7 or 8 hours even if there were a pea under the mattress. There is no wolf either, nor 7 dwarfs, nor 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 or even one.

The fact is though, I may have kissed a frog who turned into a wizard who freed me from a melancholy spell where I was comatose and jailed in a tower indefinitely (with not enough hair to weave a long braid to escape) and only one way to break the spell – a froggy/turned into a prince kiss.

Phew! Now there was a long sentence!

But all along it was the Covid-19 corona virus that sent me into solitary confinement and a stupor for over a year. Well, not entirely solitary. Bill was here trying to be the frog prince all along. But it was an evil spell for sure and much like when all the members of the kingdom were caused to fall into a deep sleep and then nothing in the kingdom worked.

Now suddenly the frog became prince and we are free! The spell seems to have been broken. I have been given a twice injected magic elixir that rendered me immune. And even Bill, the froggy prince, has had his magic elixir injections and will soon be immune too.

People are escaping,

meeting,

dining,

talking

and sharing almost like pre-cursed days in the happy kingdom.

Yes, there is joy in the kingdom but there are remnants of the spell threatening to reconstitute and reignite.

And as I jump for joy (well, not really since I have a bad hip) and begin to harbor ideas of entertaining friends and family, there is a dark foreboding that this Once-Upon-a-Time fairytale story may not be over until it is well, over.

Thus, since he is handy and immune, I am keeping the froggy prince around to guarantee awakening.

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My father was a painting contractor in that long-ago time when houses were done with oil paint. I understand oil is still available but mostly folks use Latex now. Dad taught me to use a brush up and down with quality oil paint and then side to side to avoid visible brush marks! He had his own business, carried his ladders on a truck, and was much like the painters today in our little rural community in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

I thought I knew it all about how to choose a house painter because talking to them would be like talking to Dad again. I would join the world of estimates, numbers of men on the crew, gallons of paint needed, scheduling, etc. I knew it all.

I wonder though, what Dad would say to this story of trial and error in the selection process.

We would like to get the outside of our house painted/stained ASAP so the question was, “How do we find someone to do a good job and show up when expected?” In other words, we were looking for a professional, trustworthy painter like my Dad.

First we learned over time to go to friends for shared names and experiences. I did that and got two prospect numbers from a trusted friend who had work done a few years ago.

Neither telephone number worked.

Next I went online and got a name and an immediate response! Wow! Impressive. And Wow! We had an appointment with “Ambrose” (fictitious name) to come to our house the next day.

Meanwhile I remembered a company who did some minor painting for us years ago and although the crew were the biggest scariest looking men I have ever met, they had done a stellar job. So I called that number too. Again, a quick response and an appointment for them to come out the next day.

Finally, my son did a little digging and came up with another name we shall call “John”, who was just as responsive as the first two! And we had another appointment for the day after the first day of appointments.

None of this is very scientific but what the hay, this is country living right? They say three is a crowd but in the case of obtaining bids, I figured three was a reasonable number.

APPOINTMENT DAY

Ambrose showed up and was great to talk to and not only said he did painting but he also does handyman work! We were excited. He went around the house, took pictures and measurements and then said he would get an estimate back to us in a week. That was Monday. Bill liked Ambrose. We were both leaning toward Ambrose but needed to see the other two.

John (another fictitious name) was supposed to come Tuesday but arrived on Monday so he was eager. He is a friendly extroverted talker who quickly convinced us he knows what he is doing, but we were still leaning toward Ambrose. Nevertheless, John produced a detailed estimate by email on the same day. We are definitely not used to this level of professionalism in this heavenly place my Mom called “No Man’s Land.”

Finally, the big big guys who had once done some work for us came out and remembered us and our place. We were hopeful and were leaning toward them since we already had a record of their great work in our house. These fine fellows are what people around here call “locals” and of course they, in private, call the rest of us “foreigners” since we were not born here. True locals have a Virginia dialect that is sometimes difficult for us foreigners to understand but we all managed to communicate and they promised to produce an estimate next day.

This they did.

But their quote was twice as high as John’s. Their quote was very very high.

Nix the Big Guys because they were just too expensive.

Ambrose waited a whole week to contact us again. He did call in precisely seven days to let us know he had not done an estimate and to announce that he was too booked up to take on this project. Huh?

Nix Ambrose because he said he was not available.

And so we are now committed/contracted to have our house painted in late May by John.

We trust John,

we think.

I will keep you posted on this yet-to-be-begun project but at least you know some dubious steps to find a house painter :

  • Call friends.
  • Look online.
  • Remember good workers from the past.
  • Enlist family members to help.
  • Or you may have figured out that if you live in No Man’s Land, it will be just plain luck if you find a painter as good as my Dad. On the other hand, you may not want to paint your house with oil paint either.

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I have decided to quit. 

I am tired of progress.

This gift is another very special thing that must be learned.

And I am tired of learning.

The school room was the place for that along with a younger more receptive mind.  And if you learned something well and once, it was good for a lifetime.  Well mostly.

When I was 17 I had a job as a gopher (go-fer this and go-fer that) and they told me if I learned to clean and operate an Ozalid machine, I would have some invaluable knowledge for life.  Noone I know today has ever heard of an Ozalid machine, have you?

Nowadays, however, if you learn a thing and think you have it stored and always ready to draw upon “you have another think coming.”  Nope.  If you learn one part of a computer it may be useless in a matter of hours.

Here I am with a shiny new computer I am calling Ogar (short for Ogre) that was given to me for Christmas with great love by my whole family.  I am truly grateful since the old object of their affection, which I had partially learned after 5 years of struggling was showing signs of ultimate collapse.

Groan.  How can I disparage such a thoughtful wonderful gift? 

Well, the process of transferring all the old stuff to the new Ogar may sound easy but HA!  Not so.  The process is more like a pulling a tooth.  You mindlessly explore with the tongue for a ghostly apparition of what might still be there, but in the end all the exploration yields only a gaping empty space.

My sweet family saw this sleek new marvel would not only replace the 5 year old relic, but it would  also keep me busy whilst waiting for a Covid-19 vaccine.  In addition to proving how warm hearted my family is, there is also an element of logic there.

Ogar is definitely a time guzzler.

And better Ogar than Covid right?

Ogar is certainly keeping me busy too, creating a roadmap of wrinkles upon my brow.   Thankfully I call upon my son to guide me through all the myriad options chasing an insane cursor through a maze of intricate maneuvers over an increasingly insane canvas. And only my son really knows where the mercurial sensor is going or why.

“You see that thing that looks like a cog?” he asks in his effort to guide me through all the symbols.

A cog? 

How do I know what a cog looks like? 

Where on this page of icons, symbols and totems is there a cog?

 “Settings?”  “Oh, you mean SETTINGS!”

I am definitely retiring from Progress.

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Bill and I live on top of a hill with a grand view of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. It is a steep 15 acre slope down which I call The South 40. The South 40 requires “bush hogging.” And when I began to see the forest primeval slowly encroaching I realized we were facing an upkeep challenge.

In the beginning we had two horses (Lucy and Martini). There was also Martini’s friend, Rossi, but he was too wild for us equestrian novices. We were told grazing horses would take care of keeping the grass/weeds down but that was “fake news.”

The horses did love grazing but the grass grew faster than they could chew and soon everything became weeds and trees in an overgrown pasture.

We decided to hire a bush hogger person to keep things trim. That was only successful off and on since not too many people have their own equipment who are willing to risk life and limb to clear our formidable hillside.

Finally Bill bought a John Deere – a big but not the biggest John Deere – so he could mow the slope himself. He had to go straight down to the bottom and then straight back up (no sideways trimming due to the danger of tipping over).

I had visions of Bill lying on the slope with the bush hogger machine on top! Twice a year Bill would do the slope and it would take him four or five days each time to complete the job and that long for me to worriedly chew my nails down too.

Note of interest: Bill was halfway up/down the slope when I ran out to tell him about the 9-11 Disaster. This should give you an idea of how long he has been dedicated to bushhogging our slope.

As Bill grew older – and older, and less interested in risking his own life and limb, a Miracle Man arrived. Dennis came from Texas and said he noticed many folks around here have steep slopes that need trimming. He then bought a special mower that allows him to mow across slopes instead of up and down.

Dennis named his new company Slope Goat!

Dennis the Slope Goat finishes mowing our South 40 in three to four hours instead of days. Now we are duly impressed and looking forward to retiring the big John Deere.

Lest I sound too cynical about our steep incline/decline, the slope has some desirable attributes:

  • There is an old forest and a gurgling stream at the bottom. This is great for horses since they must go down to the bottom to drink and come back up for food (lots of great exercise). The problem is, we outlived our horses who were 28 and 32 and had become longtime lawn ornaments grazing on our parklike slope. Our urge to ride slowly receded when it was too hot, too cold, too buggy or we didn’t feel quite like it.
  • The horses did look beautiful grazing though and our three grandgirls loved pony rides.
  • I used to take walks down to the bottom of the slope (but not for long since it’s a killer huffing and puffing back up).
  • When Elsa-the-dog was new and we turned her loose for the first time, she ran down to the bottom, back up, and down and up again. That was the first and last time she ever tried to make a break for it.

And here we sit, atop our hill. It is 30+ years later as we admire the ever-changing mountain view. But if we look down for a moment at the land, we can see all the way to where we know the stream is. And though we may be a bit too rickety to make our way down there nowadays, the memory is fond.

We smile because we are so happy to have found Slope Goat and hope that Dennis keeps at it through 2021.

Blue Ridge Beautiful

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