Saturday, March 22, 2014

In which the virtues and limitations of spoons are explored (plus: poem!)

Roo is a spoon.

First day of real sunshine in the Swamp:
Roo is ready to enjoy it!

We discovered early in our lives with Roo that she isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer...she is, in fact, a spoon.

Being a spoon is perfectly fine with Roo.  She's a happy spoon--a spoon that doesn't have to worry about much, a spoon that is secure in her place in our home and a spoon who is happy to know that she's perfectly capable of doing everything we ask her to do. Whether it's barking at crows or walking slowly alongside somebody who doesn't walk very fast right now, Roo is the spoon for the job.

Also, there's something wonderful about the word "spoon."

It's one of those words that is fun to say:  Spoon.  Spoon.  Spoon.

It turns out that, in the world of people who are chronically ill or undergoing extreme physical stress (like chemotherapy), the word "spoon" has a connotation that the rest of the world doesn't really know about.

You can read the original "spoon" essay by Christine Miserandino HERE, and I recommend that you do.  Even if you are never chronically ill or have to go through chemo, at some point you will know somebody in that situation, and the spoon essay may help you.

Go ahead.  I'll wait right here.

Roo doesn't mind waiting.

Interesting stuff, huh?

The idea is that the resources each person has to get through a day is relatively predictable, and that in the case of some people the amount of raw resources is pretty limited.

This business of recovering from hip replacement surgery is giving me a very small taste of that.

Allow me to clarify:

Let's just say, for the point of round numbers and easy math, that the average person-on-the-street has about 100 spoons available to get through every day.

Obviously, because the world is made of individuals, some people have more spoons and some people have fewer.  Illness and injury can reduce the spoons, but some people just don't have 100 to begin with, and never have had that many.  They live their entire lives based on a daily count of 90 spoons, or 80.  And that's okay.

Some people always have more than 100 spoons.  These are great people to have as neighbors.  They are the folks with the time and energy to run the elementary school PTA, to organize the local food bank, to show up a city council meetings, to read the newspaper every night and to organize enjoyable and educational field trips for their Girl Scout troupe each month.

Extra energy is good if you want to take time to smell the flowers...or the grass

Some people have a LOT more than 100 spoons.  These 150-spoon people are the ones who drove their elementary school teachers crazy.  They are the ones who watch over the neighborhood during bad weather to make sure everyone has enough firewood and potable water.  They are the ones who volunteer for three unrelated, time-consuming projects each month on top of holding down a full-time job with a long commute.

Guess which kind of person I am?

Oh yeah.  150 spoons a day minimum, that's me.  In summer months when my solar battery charges all the way up, I can usually generate--and use up--175 spoons in a day.

Until recently, that is.

There's something about the process of months debilitating pain, followed by a strong course of opiates so that a doctor can hack through muscles, saw off a big chunk of skeleton, and "repair" the site by pounding in a replacement part like a space-age titanium tent peg to drain all the spoon-creating mechanism right out of a person.

Just prior to surgery, I estimate that I had about 30 spoons per day--enough, at the very end, to feed myself, ride my horse, drive to work, exist in some kind of vaguely useful way at work for some hours, and drive home.  And that was just about it.  I gave up wearing shoes with shoelaces--it took too many spoons to bend down and tie those suckers.  I gave up reading books--too hard to concentrate.  30 spoons, for me, is barely enough to survive, especially since I was determined to use a bunch of them to ride, knowing that there would be a time coming when I wasn't going to be able to ride for a while.

Then there was the surgery and the stuff immediately after.  Everyone--including me--is so impressed at my rapid recovery.  It really is going very well, from a "recovery" standpoint.  Two and a half weeks ago I couldn't stand up without tipping over.  Yesterday Roo and I went for a mile-and-a-half walk in the sunshine.  That's progress!

Roo is a wonderful companion on a sunny day

But, think of where "normal" is for me.  By contrast with my normal 150 to 175-spoon life, I'm nowhere near recovered.

If I had my usual 175 spoons yesterday, I would probably have done the following: Get up early, feed horse, dogs and chickens.  Clean the horse stall.  Throw something together for breakfast and take Luna to the vet for dental work.  On the drive home, stop and walk Roo at the park, 3 to 5 miles in an hour.  On the way home from the park, stop and get lunch, eat in the truck, maybe stop at a thrift store near that neat little mexican restaurant.  At home, turn over the soil in the vegetable garden, plant the peas and potatoes. Since the truck is already hitched and there's still 5 hours of daylight left, get something started in the crockpot for dinner, and then throw Fiddle in the trailer.  Head out to the trailhead and enjoy 10-15 miles of trail.  Come home, feed horse, dogs and chickens, have dinner, watch a movie or read a book and go to bed.

But I don't have 175 spoons right now.

So my day ran like this:  I took Luna to the vet. On the way home, Roo and I stopped at the park, and walked a mile and a half in about an hour.  After that, I was pretty much done for the day.  I had lunch, I took a nap, I made some food for dinner, I brushed my horse, I fed the chickens, and I read a book for an hour before bedtime.  It was about a 40 spoon day, and I used every single spoon I had.

Naptime is still a very important part of our days now

40 spoons is an improvement over the pre-surgery 30 spoons.  40 spoons is almost halfway to 100 spoons, which is "average."

But compared to 150 or 175 spoons?

40 spoons isn't much.

I'm getting better, there's no doubt of that.

Unlike people suffering from chronic pain or going through chemo, I add a few spoons to the stack every morning, and I know that tomorrow there will be even more spoons.

But 150 spoons seems really far away right now.

Here's a poem.  It's about spoons, and it was written more than 20 years ago by a young friend who is tremendously talented.  She scribbled this down for me in a coffeeshop one evening and I've carried it in my wallet ever since.

"Spoons"   by Aubri Keleman

Keep spoons in your pockets
they'll rattle when you run
when people ask
what is all that clatter
answer; spoooooon!  YES
Spoon is what
all this noise is about.

Leave them on the doorsteps
of the well fed
throw them at people
who have never had
anything interesting
happen to them.

Keep them by your bedside 
and you'll dream as if 
you're one
cupping all those things
knives and forks will never hold.

Never offer spoons
to friends,
let them lick their
bowls clean
later 'round the 
campfire you can play
them on your knee
singing out the
sweetness, the
strangeness of spoons.

Monday, March 17, 2014

In which this post has some flowers but mostly horses (as I promised)

In my last post, I promised a break from the medical (non-) drama that currently focuses my life, and that's what this post is all about.

(one-sentence update on the hip replacement:  I'm two weeks out from surgery, walking with decreased limp and decreased pain and decreased meds, but not riding yet because I'm not completely stupid, although sometimes that is debatable.)

Let's start with the flowers, because that part will be brief.  It's MARCH, fer cryin' out loud--although we had a sunbreak  today, it only lasted about 20 minutes, which isn't much inspiration for photosynthesis.

Here in the Swampland, our first "spring flowers" look like escapees from the movie set of Jurassic Park--mostly horsetail and skunk cabbage (aka Swamp Tulips).  It's even a little bit early for those, although I have seen some sprouting up in the marshland beside our road.  This is the first springtime in several decades I haven't documented their emergence from horseback.

But here on the farm we have a few sprouts to show, including these dinosauric-looking stems

 Down in the yard, the blueberry bushes are starting to awaken...slowly...
blueberry bushes

Above the house, I finally found something spring-like!

a very early forsythia blossom
 And then, at last, I remembered a repository of flowers:

gifts from friends while I was in the hospital
Now that I've satisfied the the "flower" portion of the post, let's get on to the HORSE part!

Duana and Hana have been practicing their dressage together for more than a year, with the goal of showing (as well as improving their communication skills).

Yesterday was their very first show--a local schooling show, only a few miles from Fish Creek.  The weather was beyond horrible (cold, wet, windy) so of course we all showed up.  Yes, even me--I've been looking forward to this!  I wrapped myself up in layers of clothing, piled on some horse blankets, and tagged along slowly after the group.

Du's tests were in the afternoon, so we watched the morning group before getting Hana dressed up.

The weather was so crummy that riders warmed up in the (covered) round pen

Miss Sally and Burley

In the arena, the rain on the roof was so loud that test callers used a little megaphone so riders could hear them!

Finally, it was time for the very nervous Duana to head back to Fish Creek and get her princess ready.

This is where Hana and Fiddle part ways.  Fee doesn't mind being brushed, as long as the brushing is brisk and purposeful.  Dirt is to be removed, tangles straightened, and shoe cliches tightened. Anything more smacks too much of the ridiculous for this practical mare.

Sensible Mare does not need "beautification" a la The Hunger Games
Hana, by contrast, would happily spend hours in the beautification process.

The Cowardly Lion's beauty treatment seems just about right to Hana Banana Wannacookie
Fortunately for Hana, Du is happy to provide plenty of "spa time."  They spent hours on Friday with preliminary bathing and clipping, so Sunday was abbreviated...but only by contrast.

washing the mud off the chrome

Shedding blade used liberally.  Fee is just starting to lose her winter coat, but
Hana has been dropping hair for weeks!

Mud removal on the face

combed out, and ready for braiding

A long pipe cleaner is woven into the long french braid to add substance

 And topped off with a kiss, of course!

Then, finally time to tack up.

A few warm-up laps around the arena at Fish Creek

The horses loaded up, fully tacked except for headgear, for the short trip to the show venue.  We haul our horses in their tack regularly, so this is not new.

Hiding from the rain in the covered round pen 
Finally, it was Duana's turn in the arena!

My little camera is not equal to the task of taking good photos indoors in a large space, so the following pictures were borrowed from Margie Thorngren's facebook album.

One last kiss for luck

Schooling show = can still wear endurance bridle!

In the arena, going forward nicely!

They did the same test twice, and learned from both tests. 

Score = not important
Surviving the experience = priceless!
Mostly, the day was about doing something brand new.  Duana was exhausted at the end, but completely triumphant and "officially proud."

I'm proud too.  Although I'm happy to take dressage lessons, and very eager to do so again soon, showing is not what I want to do.  But Duana was brave enough to try something brand new, to learn a bunch of skills she didn't have before, and to try something.

I was happy to be there.  Because clapping and cheering for my friend is a Good Thing.