Downtime (so to speak)

Connie has been assiduously trying to avoid this.

I’ve been, for the most part, quietly trying to have a nervous breakdown. Sometimes, the looming psychotic break has been kind of noisy. A few days ago I was quite convinced there was no way I was going to get through the holidays without a goodly amount of twitching, drool, and keening.

I did manage to correct my equilibrium and the holiday went quite well. But the last couple of weeks have been frenetic. To recap: HMOKeefe had a stroke, I had foot surgery, 70-hour work weeks, nearly a foot of snow that trapped me on the hill, and all of that has been punctuated by the need to Do Something About Christmas. I had been threatening to run amok at the Exxon with a $20 bill to accomplish my Christmas shopping, but I discovered (on Christmas Eve no less) that Macy’s was damn near paying people to carry stuff out of the store.

I’m kind of tired.

I was supposed to have left for Massachusetts yesterday – a 12-14 hour drive through the mountains, diagonally through Pennsylvania and New Jersey, up I-95 through New York, etc. etc. My foot still doesn’t work quite right and thought of trying to negotiate that drive with the threat of bad weather was just too much. So, in short, I have a week off that doesn’t involve a cross-country trek.

It was a really hard decision to make. HMOKeefe and I don’t get to see one another much and Christmas week has become a tradition. But, in all seriousness, if I’d gotten stuck at the Bates Motel during a surprise blizzard in the Cumberland Gap (which did happen once) or in Harrisburg, PA during a hail storm that dented cars (that too happened) or run over by a semi in New York (a really close call once), I’d have gone right over the edge to the land of haloperidol. But the decision was clinched when I learned I was having a house guest on January 6th.

The big red bucket, the big red sponge and the grungy mop.

Under the best of circumstances, my house is filthy. Three dogs, me, no time, and a general disinclination to spend my free-time with a bucket of soapy water conspires to keep me barely one step ahead of condemnation by the Health Department.

There is no hope whatsoever that I can turn this place into something June Cleaver would have been responsible for by January 6th, but I should be able to do a goodly amount of damage control. The house qualifies as a Super Fund Site right now, so you have to understand that any effort I make is naught but a feeble attempt at cleanliness and order.

I have often and, sometimes loudly, proclaimed, with all appearances to the contrary, that I enjoy having a clean house. I am not one of those people who is comfortable with domestic chaos. I won’t let people in and I do take the precious few minutes here and there that I do have to do the little that I can.

I also, and I’ll kill you if you tell anyone, kind of like housecleaning. The kicker is that I don’t enjoy it unless I have hours and hours to do it all. I can’t complete Step A unless I know I have time to do B, C, D, E and F.

I never have that kind of time.

But now I do.

I think I have everything I need other than bleach.

I am a little daunted by where to start. The leftover pan of lasagna that’s been in the refrigerator for two months might be a good start. And then there are the houseplants that have been in the guest bathroom bathtub since I dug them out of the garden to protect them from the first freeze back in October. The cobwebs that span the two posters on my bed are also candidates. (Cobwebs on my bed pretty much explain my life of recent.)

If I can really get my ass in gear, I might paint the family room. And, of course, there’s the finishing of the cow bathroom that seems like it’s never going to be finished.

In the old days when I had a ton of vacation time, I used to take a week off in the spring and another before Christmas to get and keep the house in order. I miss that. Like I said, I like a clean house. People talk about what they’d do if they won the lottery. Near the top of my lottery list is always to have someone come in twice a week and clean.

Dusting and mopping, scrubbing and scraping.

And so, I’m fixin’ to turn into the Housecleaning Fairy. I’ve loaded up the CD player, put on my grubby clothes, and fished out the sponge and bucket. I’ll probably have to run out to get bleach. By this time tomorrow, I hope to be wallowing in enough domestic order to begin to tackle the chaos that exists behind closed doors (closets, cupboards, shut off rooms).

Don’t look if you’re squeamish.

The post-stitches-removal bandage.

After de-snowing the car – an hour long process – we managed to get it from the top of my hill to the bottom of the hill – front first, no unplanned excursions into the ditch or the creek. This is good.

It was good, because it meant I could keep my appointment to have the stitches taken out of my foot. They had started to pull (and itch) and the stitches, more than the incision, were causing discomfort. I quit the Loratabs a day or two ago – that puffy pink cloudy brain was a lot of fun, but the rest of my body didn’t play well with the pills. It’s not playing well with withdrawal either, but I’m hopeful that will pass soon.

The Cutie-Pie-Boy who is my surgeon mumbled something about sending me to the Mayo Clinic if the cyst comes back this time, but he quickly backed that up with an “I’m kidding.”

Unwrapping the original dressing was interesting to watch. Under all those layers was blood-soaked gauze with an orange cast (betadine). It was pretty gruesome. It reminded me of mummies. I don’t know why. It just did.

Removing the stitches was far more painful than the past two surgeries. It’s hard to tell from the photos, but there’s a lot of swelling and bruising. He and I agreed that my career as a foot model was likely to never get off the ground unless I wanted to consider medical journals. I wasn’t considering a career as a foot model, so I’m too disappointed.

I said not to look.

I do find that the layers of scar tissue on my foot make me wince. I’ve never been known for pretty feet, but adding more ugly to ugly seems a real insult. Plastic surgery to remove some of it seems silly (not to mention expensive). Doc said to apply Vitamin E often and thoroughly to keep the scarring down. Part of me is tickled is that mainstream medicine has adopted some of what used to be considered crack-pot treatments.

I’m hoping that this really is the last round of foot surgery. This was No. 3 and I’m heartily sick of it all.

I also very excited to take a shower and wash the damn thing. I keep remarking (and I will again) that it surprises me how not washing one small part of my body (not that my feet are small, mind you) makes all of me feel slimy and dirty.

So. I’m headed for the showers. I can feel the water sluicing against my toes now.

A Not So Fun Silly Shoe Season

Talk about your silly shoe season.

The last couple of months have just been crazy. Oh sure, I can hear you saying, So what else is new?” It’s true that my life is a tragicomedy that would provide good ratings to some television channel should they decide I’m worthy of a reality show. But I’m opposed to reality TV. In fact, after living without for a couple of years, I’m pretty much opposed to the boob tube, in general.

So. What’s new?

I had foot surgery again. Oh, yes, again.

A few years ago, I developed a soft tissue mass” following a car accident. (Got my feet tangled up in the pedals.) The more precise term is inclusion cyst. As near as I can figure, this damn thing is a giant zit trapped deep in my foot resulting from skin cells that got trapped in joint fluid. Parts of one’s body is allergic to skin cells in the wrong place.  Go figure.

The original lump - May 2007

A couple of days after the accident, my foot started screaming in pain – loud enough to deafen the caterwauling of my back and hip. I trundled off to the emergency room where they first told me it was broken and then that it wasn’t. After rounds of doctors and weeks of pain, I finally got the correct diagnosis.

My surgeon, who can’t possibly be old enough to slice and dice people, assured me that it was a simple outpatient procedure that would fix me up for good. He was astonished when I walked into his office a few weeks after the first surgery with another good sized lump in the same place. He muttered something like, “In all my years, I’ve never seen one of these come back.” [All what years? He can’t be more than 16.]

No yoga for me.

So, he sliced and diced again. A couple of months later, I limped back into his office and told him I thought the damn thing was back. He looked horror stricken. He did this and he did that (I think the term is palpitated) and determined it was just a lot of scar tissue. He shot me full of steroids and sent me on my merry way. My foot felt fine for a week or so.

Determined to quit nagging the youngun’, I learned to accommodate a foot that always hurt. A few months ago, the pain started ramping up.

I was far too busy for such inconveniences.

Then the lump got big enough that I couldn’t sleep in my preferred position.

Well. When you start messing with my sleep, I get serious.

I hobbled back into his office. Suddenly, his story has changed. From inconceivable (I don’t think that word means what you think it means – name that reference), he now tells me these things can be lifelong nuisances. So we scheduled surgery.

Loratab and lounging - hey, they said to elevate it. So I am. With all the style and grace I can muster. I am I am.

In terms of surgery, this procedure is a No Big Deal. In-and-out outpatient, a few days whacked out on controlled substances, and a sexy shoe for a couple of weeks. That’s how they describe it.

The pain is significant. Walking around in the damn surgical shoe makes my back unhappy. Trying to negotiate life living alone while under the influence of pain pills is daunting.

And, of course, the timing couldn’t be worse. (HMOKeefe is acting up again.) I couldn’t put the surgery off because I had reached the distressing point where the lump was pressing on nerves – apropos of nothing, my foot would go to sleep – while driving, while walking, while negotiating stairs. It also hurt like hell. The lump also got big enough that finding a shoe that would fit on my foot turned into a search for the lost grail. There’s also the monetary consideration of having to start the HUGE DEDUCTIBLE all over again in January.  (Health care reform, anyone?)

While I have time for sinfully long, baths, it's not all I could hope for.

So instead of preparing for the holidays and nursing HMOKeefe, I’m elevating my foot, learning the art of trashbag duct-taping to prevent wet bandages, and enjoying, so to speak, the soft puffy pink cloud that my brain turns into on Loratab.

I’m also catching up on sleep, reading and laundry. The problem is that Chapter 3 makes no sense because I can’t remember Chapter 2. The other problem is I get so caught up in the wonder of fabric textures that my clothes wrinkle before I can get them folded. So, I’m trying to stretch out the Loratab fix as long as I can so that I have a couple of productive hours now and again.

But as inconvenient and unpleasant as it all is, I’m getting some badly needed downtime. This working 70 hours a week crimps my lifestyle. The puppies are delirious with joy that I have time for them – they’ve been even more neglected than this blog.

So, fa la la, people. I’m back – at least for a few days while I enjoy Loratab la la land.