Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Adventures in ambidexterity

“You may have torn your rotator cuff,” my doctor said.

Um. No. Not possible. That sort of thing happens to people who are athletic and do sporty stuff. I am not athletic. I am the antithesis of athletic. I am 48 years old and have never had anything that even remotely resembled a sports injury. While my friends were jamming their fingers playing basketball and spraining their ankles running track, I was in the library getting paper cuts.

But the fact remained that I had done Something Bad to my right arm. It hurt from elbow to shoulder to the point of being dysfunctional.

So I went to the doctor.

Actually, I did not go to the doctor because of my arm. I went to the doctor for my annual well woman exam. That’s what they call it now. Since my surgery last September pretty much eliminated the standard operating procedure of these exams, I was curious to see what it would involve now. (That is material for another post.) When my doctor asked me that critical question, “Is there anything you’re having trouble with?” I jumped at the chance to get the conversation away from my nether regions.

“I know this isn’t what I’m here for,” I blurted, “but my arm really hurts.”

If you ever ask your gynecologist to look at your arm, well, you probably deserve the look you get.

Dr. R. is a nice man. An amazingly nice man. An amazingly patient man. He made the transfer from my hoo-ha to my arm without missing a beat. Worked for me. My hoo-ha was just fine. My arm was not.

After pulling, pushing, twisting and asking “Does this hurt?” about a dozen times, he pronounced that he really had no idea what was wrong with it but I was exhibiting the classic symptoms of a torn rotator cuff and he would be happy to refer me to an orthopedist who would schedule an MRI and then discuss surgical options.

If I hadn’t been naked under that stupid little gown I might have run screaming out of the office and right down 1st Avenue.

I’m seven months out from last fall’s surgery. I have never felt better in my life, arm not withstanding. I have Important Things To Do this year. Rotator cuff surgery is not on my to-do list for 2014. It’s not on my to-do list for any year. Ever.

I must have looked completely terrified because Dr. R. quickly said, “Or you can go home and take anti-inflammatories and ice it and see if it gets better.”

I chose Door #2.

The day of that appointment and the two days afterward were the peak of the pain. Thankfully, it has gotten much better. I have eaten most of a bottle of ibuprofen and can now add  “Driving with ice pack on shoulder” to my resumé of odd skills, along with cooking bacon and eggs in a paper sack over a campfire and keeping contestants in a county fair 4-H dog show from killing each other.

I am right handed so I decided to become a leftie for awhile to take the pressure off my right arm. Well, that and I couldn't use my right arm for much of anything anyway. This was not as simple as it might sound. Straight forward in theory. Not so much in practice.

Ever try to brush your teeth left handed? It’s even worse to watch yourself in the mirror trying to brush your teeth left handed. Nothing seems to move in the appropriate direction and the harder you try, the worse it gets. Toothpaste goes everywhere, including up your nose. Comb your hair left handed. Better yet, try blow-drying your hair left handed. My hair was distinctly tousled for a few days. And not in that sexy, windblown, beach goddess way. More like a rabid weasel fell out of a tree and made a nest in it.

Getting dressed was a whole new experience in frustration. Try getting dressed without using your dominant hand at all. This includes putting on “small clothes” with only one hand. At one point, I thought, “I am not going to work today because I can’t get my clothes on.” Then I thought, “I am going to have to call The Farmer and have him help me get dressed.” Then I thought, “I am not going to work today because I can’t get my clothes on.”

In the end, I managed to get dressed all by myself like a big girl. A button-down shirt might have been a wiser choice from the initial ease of getting dressed standpoint but then there was the whole follow-up buttoning thing. I settled for a baggy sweatshirt that could be hauled on with a minimum of resistance from my arm.

For a week, I drove left-handed, "moused" left-handed, drank left-handed and ate left-handed. I got pretty good at left-handed computer work but if this had gone on much longer, I would have dropped some serious poundage. Manipulating a fork with my left hand was nearly as bad as the toothbrush scenario and getting containers open with one hand nearly negated the whole eating process.

By last weekend, I had regained enough range of motion that I could show Phoenix in Utility without looking totally impaired. By some stroke of genius I had not entered Open (group stay demons have reared their ugly head again) because I am pretty sure I could not have thrown a dumbbell more than two feet with my right hand and throwing it left handed . . . well . . . I tried that in training. There’s a learning curve. Yeah. Clocking my dog on the head with his dumbbell is not going to fix any of our problems.

So what was wrong with my arm?

Apparently, it found most of April to be disagreeable. The  month started with the mistake of being one of a small handful of women who showed up to set up for my club’s obedience trial. Yep, four fully-matted rings and all the subsequent gating, multiple sets of jumps and all the miscellany that had to be unloaded, carried, hauled, toted, moved, unrolled, adjusted and tweaked. This was followed by multiple sessions of garage un-cluttering, yard raking, flower bed cleaning and miscellaneous garden prep. After two weeks of such abuse, my arm revolted.

There you have it. If you needed confirmation that I am a genuine weenie, I suspect this is it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Stuff about stuff

It is allegedly spring here in the heartland. Spring has been a long time coming and I’m not  sure it’s really here or that it intends to stay. Given that we had shirtsleeve weather on Saturday, followed by snow on Monday, damned if I’m putting away my snow shovel. That’s just asking for trouble. It’s still sitting outside the back door. The cats find it amusing to hide behind it, then pounce at Phoenix when he’s not looking.

Signs of spring on the farm include the hydrant at the barn finally thawing out after being frozen since the first Polar Vortex in January. Subsequent Polar Vortices (that’s a world I really did not need to learn) ensured that it stayed frozen a good long time, which in turn ensured that the Farmer had to carry water in buckets from the pump house for the cows he brought into the barn to calve. That would be 60 cows, rotating through a bovine maternity ward. That would be a lot of water.

The “outdoor” cows were fine, since the water lines to the automatic, heated waterers in the cow yard and steer yards did not freeze. But the pump on the well did freeze, which meant from time to time nobody had water. It froze so many times the Farmer got really good at thawing it out with a space heater he borrowed from me. I got tired of borrowing the space heater back to thaw frozen water lines in the house and told him to go buy his own. He did. And then some time between Polar Vortices 1 and 5 (you think I'm kidding. I'm not.) we got smart and wrapped the water lines in the house with heat tape and insulating foam, which pretty much fixed the “turn on the kitchen tap and say bad words when no water comes out” problem.

Yeah. That’s how we spent our winter. Thawing out plumbing. Or not.

And now our toilet has issues. We are under a self-imposed flush restriction until further notice. Apparently the septic tank needs pumped out. Folks who live in metropolitan areas with city sewer lines can go through life in happy oblivion. You flush the toilet. Whatever you put in it goes away. Occasionally there may be a blockage in the line but if you can keep your toddler from flushing dog toys you’ll probably be okay.

Not so for country folk. Watching things come swirling back up toward you instead of disappearing is enough to make me want to go outside and build a little house with a half-moon in the door. Things you put in there do not come back for review.

We’ve lived in our house for 23 years. We’ve had the pit pumped once. I guess we’re due. After an amusing post-breakfast interlude during which I could hear the Farmer in the bathroom, applying the plunger with a great deal of vigor and creative language, he announced he would call a septic service. Is it really cursing to yell "Shit!" when plunging a toilet? Or just an observation on the state of things?

Of course, that means he has to dig up the pit first. But there is still frost in the ground, which makes it unsure if that goal can be achieved.

Seriously. It’s the middle of April and the ground is still frozen in places. We had frost depth of 27” in March. I don’t know if that’s a record or not but it’s got to be close.

There’s nothing like having questionable indoor plumbing to make you appreciate indoor plumbing. As a camping enthusiast, I’ve encountered a lot of outdoor plumbing. Some of it was more outdoors than others. After several rounds of battling our uncooperative toilet, I’m thinking it might be easier to grab a roll of TP and head outdoors to answer the call of nature . . . in nature. One really should not have to invoke a deity upon flushing.

In other news on the farm, Phoenix play-bowed to Bonus Cat the other day. Phoenix's play-bows are not for the faint of heart, as they come complete with the Crazy Eye and a full dentition display. Poor Bonus was so taken aback by being invited to play malinois games that for a moment I thought he might spontaneously combust. Phoenix did not seem to be unduly disappointed when his invitation was rejected. At least Bonus quit rubbing on him, which I suspect was his plan in the first place.

The Adorables (Siren, Gryphon, Weezel) have celebrated their first birthday. I watched them chasing a squirrel around in a tree the other day. All three kittens and one agitated squirrel were racing through the branches in a demonstration of aerial acrobatics that would rival Cirque Du Solei. The squirrel did not appear to be in a great deal of danger. Phoenix ran around the base of the tree, figuring something was eventually going to fall out.

Phoenix’s obedience career continues to resemble the kittens chasing the squirrel - enthusiasm, effort, poor decisions, breathtaking leaps of understanding, distraction, woulda-coulda-shoulda moments, damn fine work, WTF moments, balance, strategy and faith, all while I try to keep us from falling out of the tree.

Yes, I am getting a puppy. Yes, the litter has been bred. No, I am not going to say anything more about it until the litter is on the ground. Then I probably won’t shut up. You have been warned.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Welcome to the Foolish Optimists Club

The inaugural meeting of the Foolish Optimists Club was held Sunday morning, April 6, before judging began at the Iowa City Dog Obedience Club trial. Present were founding members Johnette, Paula and Melinda. Rufus, Johnette’s corgi, was also present although he slept through most of the meeting. Since he was the only dog who managed to qualify that day, it was later decided to overlook his lapse in attentiveness.

New member Tracy voted herself in and began making motions at random. All were approved unanimously in spite of no one knowing what was going on.

The first order of business was deciding what kind of pie to have for lunch. After much discussion, chocolate cake was chosen. New member recruitment was discussed but tabled on the grounds that Foolish Optimists generally know who they are and do not need to be recruited.

It was agreed upon that the mission statement of the group is “To train and show our dogs with joy in our hearts today and hope for a better score tomorrow.” The three degrees of optimism were reviewed. They are:

1. “Well, he’s never done THAT before,” usually felt by the handler upon leaving the ring after a disappointing performance wherein dog and handler did not appear to know, or like, one another very well.

2. “I wonder if I could fix that by (insert training idea suggested by friend),” followed immediately by setting up training dates with a group or lessons with an instructor to work on new approaches to solving problems.

3. “We are ready to show and this time we’ll do better!” Yes! Maximum foolish optimism achieved! It was agreed the ability to move rapidly from Step 1 to Step 3 indicates a high degree of mastery over foolish optimism. Newbies should be counseled on the importance of maintaining high levels of optimism in the obedience ring versus dwelling on failures.

The idea of serving therapeutic and/or medicinal drinks before showing was discussed. Suggestions included rum and Coke without the Coke and Baileys and coffee without the coffee. Members felt the judges should be offered drinks, too, just to be polite about it.

The meeting adjourned and members went to obsess about the Utility B heeling pattern and order of exercises.

The next meeting of the Foolish Optimists Club will be held Saturday morning, April 26, before judging at the Heart of Iowa Kennel Club obedience trial. New members are always welcomed. No secret handshake required. Just be optimistic about your dog.

(Editor's note: You think I made this up, don't you? I didn't. And this is why I love my obedience friends.)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

If cats took selfies

This is Bonus Cat. 
He moved in last fall.
He has always been a friendly cat.

He got neutered in January. 
Now he is over-the-top annoyingly friendly. 
He WUUUUUVS everyone.
Including Phoenix and the Farmer.
Who really don't know what to do with him.

Phoenix has given up trying to make him go away. 
Bonus just rubs and purrs.
And reaches up to pat you if you ignore him.

Bonus also helps with training.
I'm considering renting him out.
Phoenix says you can keep him.