Cooking For Two

Last week I had to make a trip to Phoenix to see the cardiologist. Phoenix being the smouldering Valley of the Desert Smog that it is, I knew I’d have to be running the air conditioning non-stop, because this fancy sardine can that I live in concentrates heat like the dickens. I booked two nights in an RV park as close to downtown as I could get, figuring I’d leave Atina the Wonder Dog at “home” safely plugged into 30 amps (RVs can plug into electricity to run all their systems) while I caught a ride to the medical center. She’d stay nice and cool.

Quick recap: Atina, my 3 year old Belgian Malinois, was born without kidneys. OK, she had the physical organs, but only about 10% functioning tissue. And as she’s grown, her body has outgrown her functioning kidney tissue. Dogs, for some reason, do not do well with kidney transplants, and only movie stars can afford doggie dialysis, so Atina’s lifespan will be drastically shortened.

One of the things that is bad for kidneys is heat stress. It’s something that’s seen in humans, notably in agricultural workers, say, in California, where migrant workers are frequently affected by acute kidney failure from working in extreme heat without sufficient water. Turns out dogs are extremely susceptible to kidney heat stress. Every episode, even those that pass unnoticed by observers, kills a little more kidney tissue. And for Atina, who doesn’t have much to go on, a bad episode could mean the end.

With all of my good intentions, there was one thing I couldn’t control: potty breaks. We had to go outside. For pee breaks, not such a big deal, since Atina knows what “Go pee, quick!” means. But poop has its own timing….very few of us can conjure up a poop on command, especially on short notice (well, there are those of us who poop, like, every five minutes, but that doesn’t count.) So in spite of my best efforts to plan for minimal heat exposure, there were several ten minute treks around the impeccable white-paved park, its fields of white gravel radiating 100+ degrees in spite of the relatively chilly 95 degree day. It turns out that even these brief exposures took their toll.

By the end of the first day I started smelling old pee. I checked myself. Nope, hadn’t had any accidental leakage, so where the hell was the infernal stench coming from? Atina jumped up on the bed. Yeccch! I whiffed her fur. Oh goddess, please no. It was urea crystals forming on her skin because her kidneys have stopped excreting it in her urine. Now she is peeing pure water, and sweating pee. Soon the entire interior of my van reeked.

I quickly hooked her up to the IV bag that hangs from a hook in the van.

I put 350 ml under the skin, to slowly absorb into her bloodstream and help wash the toxins out.

The next crisis came at supper time. She flat out refused to have anything to do with her prescription kidney-diet dog food that she’s been gobbling for two and a half years. She refused breakfast too. This is no joke, as she’s already lost 15 pounds over the past year.

After two missed meals I pulled out the “sick food:” rice with chicken broth. She sucked it down and asked for more. I let her have as much as I dared to give her. Then I sat and thought about how to proceed.

The object here is twofold: keep Atina feeling as good as possible for as long as possible, and…keep Atina by my side because she keeps me alive.

That’s an old joke between me and my psychologist. When business owners ask me what trained task my Service Dog performs, I can tell them honestly: “She keeps me alive.” And it’s actually not a joke. How can I kill myself at this moment, when my Doggess has tucked my foot under her neck as if it were her sleeping puppy? She guards my life from moment to moment. In fact, hearing me sniffling a bit just now, she’s gathered up my entire lower body and is wrapped around my legs peering anxiously into my face.

So you see I must take the best care of her that I possibly can.

I thought first about getting the hell out of hot Phoenix. To tell you the truth, I thought I was going to be hauling a dead dog to my vet in Flagstaff, or maybe a dog who would need to be euthanized as soon as I got there. I thought of calling ahead, but there was no possibility of speaking without breaking out into sobs, so I put the pedal to the metal and blasted up the 80 miles and 7,000 feet of elevation to my second home town on the edge of the Coconino Plateau (my first home town is, of course, Jerusalem.)

There’s a place on I-17 coming into Flagstaff where you power up the steep grade of the Mogollon Rim, and just before it levels off, a breathtaking view of the four Kachina Peaks fills the sky. These peaks are where the Kachinas, the Holy People of the Hopi (and Navajo, under a different name), came out of the Earth to serve the People. They stand like 14,000 foot guardians over the land between the Mogollon Rim and the Grand Canyon. White people call them the San Francisco Peaks.

As soon as the Peaks came into view, Atina was all attention at my elbow, peering out the windshield. Not dead. Not a bit!

So I kept on driving, stopping to get groceries and top off the diesel tank before setting out into the Coconino National Forest to find a good spot to camp….and cook.

She loves potatoes, and yams, and rice, and cooked veggies. For protein, I add pretty much whatever I’m eating. I searched the veterinary Merck Manual and found critical information on nutrients in kidney failure, which I now use as a guide in my home hospice nutrition program. I did make an appointment with her vet to talk about nutrients and what to do when…..

We’re doing daily subcutaneous fluids now, and this has had the strange effect of taking away her sense of thirst. It frightens me that she doesn’t drink. The vet says the subcu fluids do her more good than what she actually drinks, and of course my medical brain knows that but it makes no sense to my human brain.

The temperature is a balmy 63 degrees in the daytime and in the 20’s at night. If you hadn’t seen my girl when she had a bit of kidney function, you’d never know she was sick. She’s hell on squirrels. If a squirrel comes into her perimeter, she’s off like a shot, hell-bent for the Ponderosa pine she knows that squirrel is making for.

Today she treed a bigger trophy: a lost hiker! Poor fellow, he had got himself turned around in the woods because he was trying to navigate with a dim photocopy of an outdated map and got on the wrong trail. Atina found him, though, and scared him witless by leaping up and staring into his face again and again. In the K-9 business this is known as a “silent hold-and-guard.” In the lost hiker business, it’s known as “out-of-body, where’s-the-toilet-paper!” I pointed the poor chap on his proper path and took Atina home for a few Milk Bones. I never gave her Milk Bones before (“doggie junk food”), but now that she is on hospice I don’t care. She can have whatever makes her happy, as long as it fits the ratios of protein, calcium, and phosphorus that rule her diet now.

She is the best Doggess.

Sticky Business

Life is full of embarrassing moments.

Like when my son was three, and we were standing in a checkout line.  I was standing, rather, and he was sitting in the cart, getting an eye-full of the other shoppers.

He pointed at the lady behind us in line, and shouted,

“Mama!  Look at that lady’s ENORMOUS breasties!”

I withered away to a mortified crisp, but the lady with the enormous breasties laughed it off, saying she heard that all the time.  (?)

So this time it’s my RV toilet.

RV toilets work differently than regular toilets.  Instead of “things” flushing into a city sewer system or a septic tank, RV human waste gets flushed into a PVC holding tank, where it mingles with whatever chemicals or enzymes one puts down there to digest things into a nasty black liquid.  When your tank gets near full, you dump it down a campsite sewer connection or a dump station.  Yes, your RV also takes a dump!

Well now.  Regular readers will know that I have bleeding guts from Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).  One of the annoying things about bloody poop is that it’s “difficult to flush away.”

That is to say, it sticks to the toilet.

Unfortunately, it not only sticks to the toilet bowl–I have a much more intimate relationship with my toilet brush than I ever anticipated or wanted–it sticks to the walls of the holding tank as well.  I found that out today.

I’ve been noticing of late that my holding tank has not been dumping very well.  I thought maybe it might be my macerator pump–the thing that grinds up any “solids” that are still hanging around after the chemical treatment.  The macerator grinds everything up and spits it out into the dump hose, to be pumped down the sewer drain.

Yes, lately it has seemed that when I go to dump my tank, not much comes out.  I can’t tell for certain-sure, because the sensors that are supposed to measure the level of gunk in the tank quit working the week after I bought this brand-new unit.  But I’ve noticed that the tank gets full more quickly than it used to, and it takes almost no time to dump before the macerator pump starts making the noises it makes when it’s finished with its job.  Er, duty.  Business.

So I took it to the repair shop, thinking the pump was bad.

As ill luck would have it, the RV repair guys who pulled the unfortunate job of working on my rig had an odious–and no doubt odorous–task to do.

Turns out the macerator pump was fine, but my holding tank was lined with layer after layer of…shit.  My sticky shit.

They washed it and washed it and washed it, but were never able to get the tank clean.  Yes, it’s supposed to get clean!

They quizzed me, with accusing eyes, about chemicals.  Was I one of those crunchy types who thinks all chemicals are bad?

They postulated that perhaps the previous owner had let the tank dry out.  I filled them in: it’s a brand-new RV, I’m the original owner, and I certainly do put the approved chemicals in at the approved times.

I couldn’t make myself explain that I have sticky shit because I have bleeding guts.  It was too much to ask.  I was already shriveling up from embarrassment….no doubt my face looked like a fire-engine-red prune.

So I just prevailed upon them to clean it really well.  I bought a special RV toilet cleaner-outer wand that you attach to a hose, then you stick it down the toilet and it goes whirr, whirr, and allegedly cleans the inside of the tank.

Of all the embarrassing things that have happened so far with this ass problem of mine, I think this one rises to the top.  After this, shitting my drawers in Wal-Mart was not half as mortifying as it was before the Encrusted Crapper fiasco.  A bright side!

Gut Shot

If you’ve watched a few Westerns, you’ve probably seen some poor bastard shot in the abdomen by a Bad Guy and left to die a slow and miserable death.  He’s been “gut shot!”  It’s a low down dirty trick.

Sunday morning I struggled out and in and back out of a hazy nightmare.  I had been gut shot, and I was dying alone in the desert, far from water or morphine.  Plus which, the bad guy had tied my hands to a stake above my head, and my feet likewise.  I couldn’t even writhe properly!

As I surfaced from the dream, I tried to move and found I couldn’t.  My abdominal cavity was a simmering cauldron of deep ache.  Some lousy sonovabitch gut shot me!  Not the first time, either.  If I can ever manage to catch the motherfucker who does this, I’ll…I’ll call Marshall Dillon, that’s what!

Saturday turned out to be a sick day instead of the quiet restful Sabbath I had planned.  The special food and the bottle of wine remained untouched, while the special RV toilet paper dwindled on the roll.  It wasn’t an unusual sick day.  Not even much in the way of blood or other nastiness.  Just sick in the typical way, for me.

So I was caught off guard by the gut shot deal.  (Yeah, right, do I ever get any warning?  No.)  It lasted fucking forever.  I couldn’t even think straight enough to remember my treasured stash of tramadol.  Hell, even had I remembered it, I wouldn’t have been capable of rolling over, sitting up, standing up, and walking to the cabinet to fetch it.  I was gut shot.

It was good that the pain woke me at dawn.  That gave me plenty of time to lie there in bloody hell agony contemplating how I was going to manage to get my sorry ass to North Carolina in order to register my new RV before the dealer tags wear off.

About 11 o’clock I had to haul out of bed to walk and feed my patient dog.  She had crept silently and gently into my bed, knowing I was in trouble and careful not to jostle me.  I don’t know how she knows these things.  She just does.  She stretched herself out alongside me like a giant heating pad.  It was very comforting, while I was tied hand and foot, shot in the gut, to have a giant heating pad.

So that was yesterday morning.  I got on my way a bit after noon, and drove a few hours before finding a place to rest.  I dosed myself up with my special “tummy drops,” drank a glass of kefir with lactase, fed and walked Miss Dog, gave both of us our pills, and hit the rack.  This morning was early and weary, but at least not painful.

I chose a route that took me through a lovely part of Ohio, passing through familiar towns in the hilly country approaching the Ohio River Valley.  I have lived quite a few years in Ohio, and have some fond memories of baling hay in the Dog Days of summer, finding new ways to cook the extremely prolific patty pan squash that invaded my garden, and losing our trampoline to a tornado that wandered through our front yard, only to have it returned, somewhat the worse for wear, by a farmer who lived a few miles down the road, who found it in his field as he was out with the combine.

I couldn’t resist doing at a farm stand that offered fresh-picked sweet corn and other veggies.  I steamed up a couple of ears, buttered and salted them, and crunched into the Kandy Korn kernels with relish (not pickles, just relish), all the while squelching that annoying little voice that whispered, “Laura!  Laura, do you think this is the wise thing to do, so soon after having been gut shot?”

Oh little voice, do fuck off!  I need to enjoy my Ohio corn fix, since I didn’t go through Illinois this trip for that most toothsome of sweet corns: Illini Super Sweet (pronounced: ill-EYE-nye, named for the University of Illinois football team, developed by the agricultural college) (and since the University of Illinois is one of my Almas Mater, I have eaten at least one ton of Illini Super Sweet).  So at least let me enjoy my fresh-picked (not exactly today, but it was certainly fresh-picked some time ago) Ohio Kandy Korn, and I won’t do it again for a long, long time.

Just to round out the dietary indiscretions, I bought a lovely ripe tomato that was winking at me.  Oh, how I love a good ripe ‘mater with salt and sushi vinegar on it!  Alas, it was the agent of my discovery of the latest episode of…aphthous ulcer mouth badness!  Ugh.  In the garbage with the lovely ripe ‘mater.

Just so I don’t wake up sick or gut shot tomorrow, OK?  I won’t eat the green beans either.  Whoever thought that “eating your veggies” could make you sick?

Welcome to Texas!

image

Do not feed the wildlife, and watch for snakes?

This is the view when you pull into the Texas Welcome Center.

As if the previous night in Louisiana wasn’t enough.

That campground was a simple piece of swamp.  When I got out of my rig to plug into the electric, I sank into mud up to the ankle.  There were signs warning not to leave garbage out, because it attracts alligators.  Bears, I’m used to.  Alligators, no.

So the next morning I balled the jack all the way to Livingston, Texas, which is a couple of hundred miles on barely-paved 75 mph two-lane roads north of Houston.  Got into my campground at 5:32 p.m.

500 miles in 8 hours.  How did I do that?

Drugs.  All legal.

1)  Starbucks Double Shot in a can;
2) I took my Adderal, which I normally hate taking, but it really does help me pay attention)
3) Nicotine tablets
4) There was a fourth one, but I forget now.  I’m having a major crash day.

So I’m watching for snakes.  I never feed the wildlife anymore, so that’s not an issue.  But snakes are important to watch for.

I don’t have a huge desire to hang around in Texas for longer than I have to.  The only reasons I have to are to pick up some mail that is waiting for me here, and to see if I can get my abscessed tooth taken care of.  There’s a place here that advertises crowns made in one day, so I’m going to look into that.

Good thing I’m a traveling pharmacy, otherwise this tooth would have hung me up before now.  As soon as it dawned on me that this pain, swelling, and fever was localized to a tooth that broke in half recently, and was half-heartedly repaired by a dentist who really wanted to do the, “Oh, what you need is a four-tooth bridge, maybe a couple of implants and a time-share on Key Largo” thing, so was put out when I explained that I was short on both time and money…so the shite filling she did ($270) started leaking almost immediately, with the result that the tooth became infected, during the blizzard, of course.

Where was I?

Oh, yes.  As soon as I realized that it was my tooth, I rummaged through my box of random medicines and found exactly the right antibiotic.  After three days the tooth quieted down, but I’ve continued to take the antibiotics, because the tooth is now essentially a foreign body, and until it’s fixed the bacteria will be hiding out in there, waiting for a window of opportunity.  Which I hope not to give them.

Now, there is a dentist in this town who advertises not only same-day crowns, but also sedation!  And takes emergencies!  Does it get any better? 

Yes, not needing a dentist in the first place. 

Higher and Deeper

The wind howls and rocks the van.  We feel like we’re in a space ship, hurtling through a hostile zone:

“The wind blew and spit icicles in their faces…” –Carl Sandburg

Periodically in the night we were awakened by crashes as layers of ice and snow slid off the sides of the van and smashed on the punky snow below.

Poor Atina was frantic to go out at first light, but we couldn’t risk it due to extreme high winds.  And since every window is covered either by Reflectix or by handy insulating layers of snow and ice, the only way to check the situation would be to open the main hatch and risk having the door blown shut on some body part–not worth the risk.  So I told Atina to cross her legs till the wind took a break!

When things settled down to where I was pretty sure we would not be impaled with flying tree branches, Atina watched anxiously as I slowly and deliberately donned layer after layer of mountaineering gear: double layer of silk underwear, water and windproof pants, microfleece vest, mask, thick wool socks, high altitude ski parka, ski gloves, and I sure wish I had a pair of goggles but I don’t.  I’ll have to hope that the anti-fog stuff I sprayed on my glasses actually works.

My parka hails from my ski bum days in the ’90s.  One of the benefits of my recent shocking weight loss is that it fits me again, over multiple layers of other warm things. Yay!

The hood of this parka snugs up into a visored helmet, thanks to a system of drawcords that don’t even get in the way like some annoying others I’ve had.  It’s designed for extreme conditions.  I love my good old EMS parka!  (Eastern Mountain Sports, not Emergency Medical System)

When I get finished with the ski togs system, not a square inch of exposed skin will remain, with the exception of what gets around my glasses.

Blizzard footwear: a pair of knee high fleece lined rain boots.  Love ’em.

Hiking sticks, because I fall over easily.

Had to kick the main hatch, also known as side door, open, as it had, as expected, frozen shut during the night.  A dangerous shower of icicles and chunks of solid frozen junk clattered off the roof.  I shut the door again to let the debris pass before trying to exit.  Atina bored holes in me with desperate eyes.

When it seemed safe, I opened the door and stepped out into a howling wasteland of grey.  Atina jumped out and made a yellow spot.

Very, very unfortunately, the sky has made layers of snow, sleet, freezing rain, and back to the beginning.  So instead of having nice drifts of light, fluffy white powder, we’ve got….crud.  It’s all frozen together.  Tomorrow it will be rock-hard.  The night time temperatures will be in the teens, with daytime temps above freezing.  That means a melt/freeze cycle that will just create a foot or so of nasty grey ice that would take a jackhammer to bust through.

My nice RV park people plowed out my driveway yesterday, but today you can’t even tell they did it.  I sure hope they’ll help me get out of here after this storm passes.

I wish I’d taken a shower before the storm hit.  I was so busy making preparations that I didn’t get to it.  Oh well, I thought, I’ll walk over on Saturday and get a nice hot one.

Well.  Snow is one thing, but I hadn’t counted on this wind.  I ain’t going out there unless absolutely necessary.  I’ll stay dirty till tomorrow.

 

If It Ain’t One Thing, It’s Another

That’s what I always say.

Yup.

I’ve been stranded at this rather dull RV park for over a week now.  Maybe longer, I don’t know.  The days here waft from one into another.  There are benefits: the Catawba River runs through my back yard, and even though the ground is still soggy from last week’s flood, Atina revels in having a place to run.

It’s a joy to watch her stretch out like a greyhound–she has the deep chest, sucked-in belly, and long legs that eat up the ground.  She never lets me out of her sight, though, and after a scary misadventure getting stuck in briars chasing a squirrel (she can’t resist a squirrel!), she always comes to my call.

Today she even got to play with a short pudgy mutt who didn’t mind getting tromped all over by a puppy three times his size.

There are real showers, and an expensive but clean laundry room, and a restaurant where they serve breakfast and lunch for cheap.

In fact, this morning while I was in the canteen filling up on lousy coffee, Atina found the new bag of laundry detergent, the kind that is little pouches of clear liquid, and decided to sample the wares.  Imagine my chagrin when I came in and found the bag ripped open, with an oozing pouch, and a guilty looking pooch on the bed.

I know a bit about detergent ingestions, and although I am trained not to panic, I did, a little, then read the label.  It said to wash out the person’s mouth with water.  Do not induce vomiting.

First I checked her mouth, in the vain hope that she had perhaps just sniffed the material and realized it’s not a treat.

But oh no, her lips and gums were slippery!  Thank goodness, she was not foaming at the mouth…But I had to wrestle her mouth open to check it (just try prying a Malinois’ mouth open, I dare you.  They’re not called “Malligators” for nothing!)  Her tongue felt unnaturally slippery, and there was a faint but present aroma of unscented soap.

So I wet a shop towel and went to work cleaning her lips, gums, teeth, and tongue.  Guess I won’t have to brush her teeth tonight.

Remembering the olden days when my ER was also the regional Poison Control Center (with a red phone, just like the White House), I counted up the pods and was relieved to find that all were accounted for, and that the one she had punctured was mostly full.  That was reassuring.

I did call the vet just to make sure, and he said the worst that could happen is diarrhea (oh boy!).

This is a great place to camp for a night or two, rest and refresh, fill up the water jugs and dump the holding tanks and be on one’s way West.

However.

It’s not the amenities that keep me here, but the repair shop.  Sadly, I’m becoming a regular.

First it was the mishap with the waste water tanks.  I went over a steep spot in a parking lot driveway and bumped the underside of my rig.  Interestingly, I was on my way to this very RV park to do my weekly chores (real shower, laundry, dump tanks, take on water) when this occurred.  I discovered the damage when I opened the “black tank (aka toilet waste)” valve to dump it, and instead of going down the sewer pipe, the nasty stuff poured out on the concrete pad, right under my rig!  Shit.

This was right before Christmas.  I begged and pleaded with the service manager to get my rig into the shop, just to look at it and see if it could be quickly mended, but they were working with a skeleton crew and could not do.

So I hung out till the following Wednesday, when they were at least able to look at it and decide that they could fix it, which they did and I am glad.

I went back up the mountain to my own property for a couple of days, because they were going to fix something else on Monday and I wanted a break from here.

So, on Sunday I started back down the mountain, because I had to have the van in the shop by 8 and I am not an early riser, so I planned to camp here the night before.

What is this “down the mountain”?

The locals call it “Cox’s Creek.”

It’s the most dangerous piece of mountain road in the Eastern United States, and according to one truckers’ guide to mountain passes, the most dangerous in the country.

Marry up continuous switchbacks with grades ranging from 7% to 12% and you’ve got a recipe for trouble.

Signs warn:

“The ONLY runaway truck ramp,” and

“ROAD WORSENS BEYOND TRUCK RAMP”

…balm to the soul.

I’ve been having some issues with the traction control thingie, or at least that’s what I thought it was.

Nope.

As soon as I pointed ol’ Jenny’s nose down the mountain, something went very wrong.

The front end of the van started bucking like a bronco.  I tried to slow down, but couldn’t!

I switched over to manual and put her in third, and the thing over-revved so I had to slow her down by tapping gently on the brakes until I came to THE ONLY RUNAWAY TRUCK RAMP, where I pulled off and got out to check for a flat tire, but there was none.

So I crept down the mountain at 15 miles per hour, with a veritable parking lot honking at me from behind, but there was nothing to do about it.

Got down to the relative flat, said a prayer, went to the repair shop in the morning, got my whatever it was (I forget now) fixed, and headed out the park gate to go back up the mountain to get something done before having to be back here on Friday (tomorrow) to get the furnace fixed.  Ho hum.

But as I took the gentle left curve out of the park, my brakes locked up completely and I came near to sliding clean off the road and over an embankment.  I caught the fear in the eyes of the driver in the oncoming lane.

So, rather than going up the mountain, from which I could no longer come down, I went to Wal-Mart to stock up, since it’s clear I’m not going anywhere for a while.

Having arrived safely at Wal-Mart, I thought it would be wise to check the fluids.  I grew up with grease on my hands, and even though these newfangled vehicles are now foreign territory to me, they still have oil and transmission and brake fluids, so I checked ’em.

Sonofabitch but the brake fluid was low.  Very low.  That made sense!

I consulted the manual to see what kind of brake fluid this beast takes, since I was at Wal-Mart and all.  But it said DON’T top it off if it’s low, because being low means there’s a leak somewhere, because it’s a closed system.

And so forth.

But what luck!  The town I happen to be stuck in is home to the only Chevy dealership for miles around that has a lift that can handle a 4 ton van!  Yay!

So, after another weekend stuck in my RV park (which is not free), I get to haul ass over to the Chevy place on Monday.

I was really, really hoping to get the fuck rid of this van before shit like this started happening.  I can smell a lemon when I’m living in it.

My new “unit,” as RVs  are called, should be finished, um, next week.  I’m supposed to drive to northern Michigan to trade in this heap and pick up my freshly built one, with dual wheels and four wheel drive, yay!

However.

I am not at all sure that I want to make that trip, in the middle of the WINTER that I was not supposed to be here for, in The Lemon.

Tomorrow, while the furnace is being fixed, I am going to call the factory that made it (The Lemon) and explain all these things.  My aim is to have the new unit delivered to the local dealer, with a considerable upward adjustment of my trade-in allowance.  Or Else.  Something.

As for The Lemon, all I ask is that it gets fixed sufficiently to get me where I’m going next.

Wherever that is.

Sonovabitch

Went downstairs
Getta glassa cider
There I saw the bedbug
Foolin’ around with the spider
And then
Went down agin
Getta glassa gin
Sonovabitchin bedbug
Doin’ it agin

One of these days I’ll figure out how to put sound files (like, me singing, eek) on these posts.

Sonofabitch.  Two weeks ago, or maybe three, I don’t know, time is all mashed up these days–I had steroid injections in both shoulders.  Hurt like a sonofabitch, but what to do, my xrays look just like those mace things the barbarians used to swing on chains, in order to bash people’s heads in.  I mean, they have these bumps and stickers growing out of the ball part oft the joint, diving into my ligaments and muscles and cartilage and whatever else they could stick into.

My left shoulder felt real good after a couple of days.  Right one, not so much, but better, I’ll take better.

No pain meds, we don’t do pain meds anymore, don’tcha know.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning to find that I couldn’t get out of bed the normal way. 

I sure started to, but the pain in my left shoulder gave me those black spots in my eyes and I had to lie back down and contemplate for a while.

After a suitable interval, and largely because my dog was standing by the door with her legs crossed, looking sad, I hove around and slid out of the sack, grabbing onto the towel rack (remember I live in a tiny RV where things are all squashed together) with my right hand YOW! 

Sonofabitch.  The right one too.

As if the cortisone wore off of both of them, synchronized, just like that.

I guess that is what happened.

So now what the fuck am I supposed to do?

This was my second set of injections.  So I did a little reading on the topic, and found that each injection can poke little holes in the shoulder cartilage, until eventually you need a joint replacement.

Uh, no.

But even worse, doing nothing will eventually lead to a joint replacement.

Mmmmm…..no, no likee.

Gotta find me a good acupuncturist.  I know one in Tucson.

Hell, I am a good acupuncturist, just real hard to hit those points on the upper back.

But sonofabitch, I’m stuck in Western North Carolina.

I had big plans to start heading West last week, but being a weather buff, I looked at the maps and said “nope.”

Good thing, because I would have headed right into that bad line of tornados and mayhem.

Driving around doing random errands, I scraped the bottom of my RV on a sharply angled driveway, and next place I camped I noticed nasty stuff pouring out the bottom of the rig.

Shit.

That’s what it was.

Somehow that minor scrape opened up a pipe joint (hey, that sounds good) in the sewage system.  All well and good, since I was parked at an RV repair joint..rollll another one…

But no.  It was a couple days before Christmas, and nobody was working.

I called RV repair joints all the way to Florida and the Midwest.  Same story.

But good news!  I got an appointment for this coming Wednesday!  Only eight days I will have been hanging around here.

But bad news, if they can’t fix it on the spot…it’s my home, you know…And if they take out stuff in the sewer system, that’s real bad, because I use it…a lot…between the fucking lithium that causes me to pee every five minutes to the Crohn’s that goes in cycles, but when it goes, it GOES…

Well, my full-timers rider on my RV insurance will pay for a rental car and a hotel room if my rig is out of service, but sonofabitch, I don’t even have a single one of my vast suitcase collection with me.

Why would I?  I live like a turtle.  All my stuff goes with me, wherever I go. 

Just another small conundrum.  The RV life is never dull.

In the meantime I’m stuck here in beautiful (not) Marion, North Carolina, where there isn’t even a Cracker Barrel.  That’s how small it is.

But it does have a rental car place, which got me all excited till I called them up, and the rental agent told me sadly that they don’t have any cars at the moment.

Oh, and there isn’t any lodging here, either, not even a Motel 6.

Oh well, something will turn up.

My mother, who lives 45 minutes from here in a place that makes Marion look like a booming metropolis, offered to come and get me.

Noooooooooooo!   I’ll sleep in the woods first.  Have done so before.

In the meantime, I’m back in bed, writing this on my phone with one finger and trying to keep from moving, so I don’t hurt my shoulders.

Atina the Malligator has her 70 pound self draped across my legs, warm and heavy, sweetly sleeping, but still scanning the environment with her ears: they are always on duty.

She is a sweet treasure, my Atina.  Living in close quarters, we grow more and more in sync with each other.  She doesn’t like to let me out of her sight, so I just tie her leash around my waist, and she is content to go where I go, do what I do.

I think that’s the way dogs and their people are meant to be.  Together all the time.

If I’m somewhere safe, without cars or people or other dogs, I let her off the leash.  She still sticks close, but the difference is, she carries a toy around with her and bugs the shit out of me to throw it for her.

Which I have no problem with, except my bum shoulders don’t allow for long throws; which means in two seconds she is back with the blasted toy, wanting me to throw it again.

Where is the ten year old kid when I need one?  They could throw the damn ball while I’m busy, then disappear till I need them again.

But I’m happy to see her all waggy and full of doggie joy, so I throw and curse, throw and curse, until I see she’s had enough.

Sonofabitchin bedbug
Doin’ it agin

And Now For A New Idea

Faithful Readers, I have a new idea I’d like to run by you.

After my last two posts, I don’t doubt that you are saying, Oh no, what kind of awful plan has she got now???

It’s not what you might be thinking.

I’m thinking I might get an RV and have it a bit modified for people with upper body disabilities…and go RV’ing around the country till I can’t do it any more.

I hate where I’m living.  The RV I would get will have a full bathroom, which I don’t have now.  It will have a full kitchen, which I don’t have now.  It will limit the amount of JUNK I can collect….I am a professional junk collector.

I want to go exploring in my favorite part of America: the Wild and beautiful West.  Maybe even find some way to volunteer at the National Parks, so I can camp there for free!  I can’t do trail duty any more, but I can answer phones…or “woman” the Information Desk and give out maps…I’m sure the National Park Service has volunteer gigs for disabled people!

Like I have said before, I don’t intend to let this disease get me like it got my dad…but neither do I want to just sit around this dratted uncomfortable place until I freeze in mid-air like Dad did!

If I can find a way to make the rest of my life fun and fulfilling, that will mean a lot.  Yes, Dad’s life was amazing right up to the point where his disease took over his life and he couldn’t do his magical art anymore.  Then he spent five miserable years dependent on others.  That’s when my life will go bye-bye.  Not doing that, if I can help it at all.

Dad lost his life–although his body stayed painfully alive–when he was 85.  My disease is progressing about 20 years earlier than his.  And my disease is in my neck, which his never was…and thus it threatens my whole body with the spectre of quadriplegia.  Not on the menu, if I can possibly help it.

When I think about cancer, I don’t think “chemo and radiation can help you live another (fill in the blank) months, years.  I am not interested in living with poisons and burnings.  Yes, I know that many of you are Cancer Survivors, and I totally applaud your courage.

However, I do not have the drive to live that others may have.  I welcome death.  I’ve had some amazing victories in my life, for which I am intensely grateful.  But now I am faced with two terminal diseases (Bipolar and Spinal Stenosis), and my chief aim is to enjoy the life that is left to me, and to go peacefully when the time comes….please God, let me know when the time is right so I don’t miss it and end up in a nursing home for years.

So.  I told you I wasn’t going to write about THAT, but it’s on my mind, so there you have it.

An RV would provide me with comfort, mobility, and FUN!  I’m getting revved about it.

What do y’all think about that idea?