Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hallmark Had Nothing To Do With It

What started as a bleak day brightened considerably. I was up and in pain at 4 am, couldn't find a position to lay back down that didn't hurt more than sitting on the edge on my bed,  I didn't call for a pain pill, instead I toughed it out until breakfast, building myself to a pity party that broke out after breakfast. I was scolded by the CNA and the nurse because I was obviously in pain and wasn't managing it correctly. I should ask for the meds when the pain starts, not wait so long that it becomes embedded..  

I rolled my way back to my room crying.  I was wiping my eyes and blowing my nose on my third tissue, sitting on the potty, when someone knocked at the door--as usual.  I asked "Who is it?" The male voice said "Maintenance."  I said, "No. Sorry."  

The next voice was female, "Barb, It's Rita, Are you on the commode?"  "Yes."  "We have a delivery for you. Can I bring it in?"

I invited her in thinking it was the surgical hose the doctor had ordered for me,

It was an Edible Bouquet with a "Thinking of You" balloon.  Suddenly the pity party was over.  I got my act together and prepared to face the day.  I shared some of the fruit at lunch with fellow residents and the nursing staff.  Everyone said to say thanks to the sender. It brightened their day as well.

I have the balloon tied to the handle of my wheelchair, so all can see that some as nice as Deb was thinking of me.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Time Flies When You're Having Rehab

You may be wondering how I can have no time to write when I am sitting at a skilled nursing facility with only 2 sixty to seventy-eight minute of scheduled physical and occupational therapy Monday through Friday.

Me too. I should keep an oral diary of how I spend the minutes of every day, but I would be afraid to look at the results. I know that they will wake me at 7:30 each morning to ask if I will be coming down to breakfast. Usually I am awake two hours by then.  5:30 the pain often wakes me and I spend the time it takes the sun to rise trying to unwrap myself fro the coil of sleeping without crying or moaning. One morning when I gave in too loudly, I had 2 CNAs at my door thinking I must have fallen.

So from 5:30 am to 10:30 pm when I have settled in bed for the night is 17 hours. Where do they go? Here's a schedule from memory of one typical day:

5:30 to 7:30- Waking up, sublimating pain, wishing someone would guess oe sense I need pain meds and bring them to me. I don't squeeze my call button because I like to think of myself as stoic. It takes part of that time to hurtle myself off the bed toward my walker  for the three steps and turn shuffle that gets me to the bedside potty chair. The potty chair has an invisible call button on it. I know this because someone always knocks on my door as soon as I sit on it.

7:30 to 8:10 Dressing, transferring to wheelchair and wheeling down to the dining room. Pulling up my pants consumes the greatest part of this time. I can't stand up to pull them up yet because it means I have to let go of the walker, reach around and tug--a destabilizing act. I have to wiggle, rock, and tug left right and middle to get them up to my waist. A dip at the back center seam worthy of a plumber is the common result of this system.

8:10 to 9:10 Breakfast:  Most of this time is spent waiting for the meal to be served. Officially the dining room opens at 7:30 but nothing is ready to serve at that time, not even the coffee. This meal is you choice of a combination of eggs, bacon, sausage, juice, coffee, tea, and bread of some kind. You can add a hot or cold cereal. You can have it all or just one item. Fruit is scarce except for the juices, raisins in the bran or a banana which they will grudgingly fetch from the kitchen for you if you are not on the "no banana" list as I am.

9:10 to 12:30 Therapies:  I know this is 3 hours and I am scheduled for 2 to 2 and 1/2. The leftover time is taken up by vital sign checks, meds, and rest which the therapists are very generous (some might say too generous) to give you between exercises.

12:30 to 1:15 Lunch:  Back to the dining room. This is the main meal of the day. Since Wednesday this week, we have a posted menu--state inspectors are here, more on that in another post--but often before that no one knew what we were having until it arrived from the main dining room kitchen.  Lunch consists of a protein, a starch, a vegetable, a bread, and a dessert.  An alternate protein is usually available.  Typical menus are fish, (or ham) potatoes, broccoli and a bowl of canned apricots; or chicken breast, (or shrimp) potatoes, mixed vegetables and apple crumble.  The other day someone complained at a meeting with the state inspectors that there should be a choice of dessert for diabetics.  Boooo! Up till that time I fooled myself into thinking all the desserts were made sugar free, otherwise why were they giving them to us diabetics.  That noon, after the meeting that broke up at 11, the diabetic alternative appeared. Pineapple cake was stripped of its sugared pineapple topping and given to us plain.

1:15 to 5:00 Free: A large expanse of time. I should write. Instead, I call friends, text my sister, read magazines, play angry birds, work puzzles, and sometimes entertain visitors.  On somedays, without notice, the therapy schedule flip flops to the afternoon. This makes the freed morning time useless because you never know when your therapist might pop in to take you to the gym giving you both morning and afternoon sessions.

5:00 to 6:00 Supper: a lighter meal than lunch. often a sandwich and soup. or a salad and chips.  Usually the dessert is pudding or a fruit cup.

6:00 to 10:30 Free: One more ample allotment of time. I should write here. But my sister visits almost every evening and how can I ignore her to do that?

10:30 to bed where I lie awake until 1, 2 or even 3. Another time to write. Instead I watch TV

There you have it. My schedule where I find time for writing here at rehab but I don't do it. Rehab is not unlike home in that way. I did not include the time I spend moping, dozing. sometimes crying.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Almost a Week Later

So much for the plan to come back later the first day and write more about my experience.  Here it is on Sunday, just now coming back. Since Monday I have had 10 hours of physical and occupational therapy. All you exercise enthusiasts are snickering at the paltry sum. I know it doesn't seem like much but it occupies a full morning or afternoon each weekday and is far more than I did at home were I avoided any movement that would cause me pain.

I still have pain though I have learned to ask for medication before my sessions. I have increased the weights on my arms from 1 to 3 lbs and on my ankles from 1 to 2. My standing time has increased from under 30 seconds to 1 and 1/2 minutes supported by the walker. Long way to go, but it took a long while to get to this point.

I have had knee problems for years. Bad knees run in the family. All the members of my immediate family have had knee replacements. I am stuck with the original deteriorated components not for sentimental value but due to the need to lose weight first, a seemingly impossible task for me.

In February, though, I was inspired by a tv commercial to go get some shots for my feet. I have had numbness in my feet which paired with my knee glitchiness have made me wary of driving. This clinic promised improvement through their "breakthrough" treatment and I decided to give them a try. The decision surprised my sister. I am usually so wary of doctors. She'd been suggesting cortisone shots for my knees for years. I had never complained much about my feet.

Doing the treatment series for my feet involved twice weekly shots (5) in my ankles and some electrical stimulus on my shins. February and March went by. Mary drove me to my appointments.

After experiencing some success in the foot numbness, I learned the clinic also did knee injections. I signed on for that series. Too bad I never investigated the success or composite of either injection set.  The ankle injections were an NSAID combination of some kind. The knee injections were supposed to stimulate the regeneration of cartilage.  In the long run neither of them worked. My ankles were constantly swollen. My knee pain diminished but never stopped.

During the process, I discovered my back pain was becoming my primary concern. It went for occasional discomfort to almost constant aching. Only when I was sitting in certain positions did it abate.  Climbing up stairs was excruciating.  Going down them was a little better, but scary.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Physical Rehab Day 1 (Sorta)

The bloodsucker came at three AM. She left behind her telltale sign, a cotton ball held in place with white  tape. When I peeked beneath this morning the puncture below was tiny and dry. From this draw the lab will be able to tell what I'm low on, what I'm high on (potasium, blood sugar, bad but not illegal) and what adjustments in medications I will require. It's my first Monday here in physical rehab, it's 8 AM and I think they forgot me.

I'm here because of severe lower back pain that has gradually immobilized me over the past few months. I'll give more details of my back story as I go along, for today I'll stick to current events. After Friday evaluations and a treatment plan meeting set for 2 PM, I expect physical therapy and occupational therapy to start in earnest shortly.  There should be a finger stick, morning meds, a vitals check and breakfast in my room before then. Nothing has happened yet. They are not big on letting you know ahead of time around here.

I woke before 6, stiff and twisted in the position I fell asleep sometime after midnight. The blue leglifter device was still around my right ankle. This thing looks like a stiff dogleash, the kind mimes use to walk an invisible dog. I used it to lift my right leg over my left so I could turn on my side last night. Sleeping on my side is a privilege I've not had sleeping in a lounge chair in my lower level family room for the past month. It doesn't feel that good on this hard bed, but a change of position is highly recommended to prevent bedsores or skin breakdowns as they more delicately call them these days.

Too stiff to reach the leglifter, I slowly pushed my leg toward the edge of the mattress. It moved until I could sit up enough to manually push my left leg in the same direction. I could have raised the head of the bed except that remote had popped off the hand rail some time in the night. There is a potty chair at right angle to my bed, just a few steps and a half turn away. I reach it by walker and pain, a feat I could not accomplish without human support Friday when I arrived.  I do it on my own now with no less pain and fear of falling but less indignity. One visit often takes me an hour with decision making holding me back coming and going.

I just rang the call button to remind them I'm here, so things should start hopping soon. I have to stow this laptop somewhere since I don't trust security in my unlocked room yet. Lord knows they pop in on me unawares often enough with soft rap on the door to announce themselves. Last night I was on the potty chair when the male nurse and the local "computer expert" resident barged in to help me get online with the guest WiFi. When they realized my embarrassment they ducked back out.

The nurse assistant answered the button and I asked for my pain pills. I heard her announcing as she left, "Everybody wants pain pills this morning, woman. 502, 509."

Gotta go, back later to proof and write more. Hit publish post

Friday, May 20, 2011

Is Oprah Killing Erica?

I know she didn't mean to but Oprah is probably killing Erica Kane, Luke Spencer, Bo and Nora and many of the other soap opera characters you have grown to know and love.  Oprah's leaving her talk show after 25 years is creating a giant sucking hole in the broadcast TV stratosphere, and the shortsighted  network execs are rushing to fill it.

Talk shows are cheaper to produce than soaps. No giant cast to pay. No multiple sets to build. No convoluted story lines to write. A talk show could get by with two chairs, a studio and a production studio.  You'll need a few more chairs for throwing if the show leans to the Jerry Springer style.

Maybe it's been a long time since you followed a soap. Their ratings have decreased since the glory days.  Some say the OJ Simpson trial was the beginning of the end.  The soaps were preempted daily for the weeks of the trial. People were introduced to the intrigue of reality TV and became addicted. Some explored other channels and never returned.

Or maybe it was the parade of women who joined the work force and abandoned daytime TV all together that doomed the dramas.  VCR's and the Soap Channel helped for a while, but who had the time to catch up evenings and weekends with meals to cook, laundry to do, and Dancing with the Stars to watch?

All I know is there used to be room for all formats during the day. A little talk, a few games, a bit of news, and the "stories" as my grandma always called them.  One of my oldest media memories was listening to Ma Perkins on the radio as my mom did the ironing. (Ironing, what's that?) Later, I would rush home from school to catch what Barnabas Collins was up to on Dark Shadows. In college, we arranged our classes to be able to join the crowd in the student lounge for viewing the latest Luke and Laura adventure as they tried to save Port Charles.

Now, where will our daughters learn that all romances eventually become triangles? That most weddings are likely to be interrupted by murder, old girlfriends returning from the dead, or other assorted fiascoes?  That a broken heart is a temporary thing, another cute guy is right around the corner? That most men are either doctors, lawyers, rich business men, or gangsters? That, no matter what you do to make a living, you will always have time to meet with your friends and enemies during the day? And that at Christmas time, your house will be magically decorated to professional standards overnight?

Now, it's all going. What will happen to all the soap mags? All the spoiler websites?  All the fan clubs? The Soap Channel is going Disney kids? A whole industry down in flames. The end of an era.

And the reason it's happening so fast? I just have to blame Oprah. I doubt she'll make room on OWN for  the soaps. Too bad.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

 Haunts of the Heart from aspenmountainpress.com and Listen With Your Heart from desertbreezepublishing.com are two of my books still available. 

You can enter a contest to win the faux soundtrack from one of these books by commenting on this blog or emailing me. Both soundtracks contain contemporary and historic music suitable to the themes of each.

Haunts of the Heart is an award winning Civil War ghost story for
adults, by Barbara Scott. It's available now. An excerpt is below.

The story...

Deanna Butterworth escapes the pain and indignity of dying in a cold,
heartless hospital by fleeing to her beloved but now abandoned
childhood home. But instead of peace and refuge, she finds the place
haunted by two very lively ghosts. Neal, an amiable if confused
spirit, steals her heart. But it is Anthony, desperate to hide his
dark secrets, who threatens her soul. Snatched away to the past,
Deanna must risk all she holds dear to uncover the treachery that has
bound Neal and Anthony to her house since their deaths in 1864.

An excerpt from Jesse's Journal

May 9, 1864

Safety is what we are working for in our own small way. Anthony works so hard caring for the wounded and dying that sometimes I think he will drop from exhaustion. Yet he gets up in the morning, sometimes after only three hours rest, and faces all of it and worse again. The sounds and smells are often more than I can bear, but he expects me to be strong and I try to be. I drench my hair and my clothes in lavender water to mask the smell of death and decay that fills the air, take my basin and dark brown soap and go from bed to bed through the wards.
Some of the men are strong enough to appreciate the soothing warmth of their baths. They call me by their wives' or sweethearts' names and talk of home and peace. But many of the wounded are too sick to speak except for their tortured cries of fever and pain. They cannot move except to thrash about. They seem to shrink from my touch as if it were another bullet ripping their bodies, or the edge of the knife that removed an arm or leg.
Neal is always with me when I reach these men, the dying ones. He seems to know when I will need him without my saying a word. He lifts them for me, talking to them softly in his deep, comforting voice, always with a smile and calm assurances. How many men have heard his voice as their last, have slipped into the next world, gripping his strong hand? Too many already. And too many more.

May 10
For months now, dragging into years, we've moved from place to place, following the battles, or to some other destinations in Anthony's grand plan. We set up our tents and our cots which are soon filled, overflowing to blankets spread upon the ground. A path of flags leads from our tents to the battlefield as if they need that marking to find us. For, too soon, the route is worn by dragging feet and marked by trailing blood. We work as quickly as possible, but it is never quick enough. Some die waiting and many die soon after. Most never reach us at all. Their bodies are buried where they fall if they are lucky enough to be buried at all.
After days of death and dying, we may move on to another field hospital or stay to build up a more permanent site. Like this one. It was an inn and livery at one time. Our rooms are in the loft above the former stable. It has been transformed into a hospital ward below. The inn, across the cobblestone courtyard, houses more patients and staff. We are on the edge of a small town, with a river not far across the fields. I can see it flowing lazily past the trees from my window and dream of the bigger rivers it flows into, ever southward, toward home.
There is a creek nearby also. Once, I'm sure, it was clear and clean. Anthony tells me it is my imagination, but I swear I see it now always tinged red with blood. I know I smell it filled with contagion. The smell woke me this morning, crying.
For once, Anthony was there. The wards have been empty for a while, a temporary respite in the fighting. But I had worked feverishly through the night, in my dreams. I was wrestling with a dying man, who was convulsed with pain, and I called for Neal.
"I am here, Jesse. You're dreaming." Anthony's arms were around me and he rocked me like a child. "It's over now. You can rest."
"The creek," I couldn't shake the nightmare from my mind. "The creek was oozing. The smell was making me sick. I was afraid and Neal was nowhere around."
"It's all right, Jesse. You're with me. We're safe. The creek is far away and it runs clear. It rained last night. The rain flushed away all the bad."
Anthony's strength and confidence began to calm me, and I nestled into him. "Are we right? Tell me we are right."
"Yes, my Love, we are right. If they are going to die, it is better to die quickly. Not like the man you were dreaming of."

Listen With Your Heart was chosen as a launch title from ebook publisher, Desert Breeze Publishing which is celebrating its second birthday this spring

What if the man of your dreams stepped into your arms? Can real life ever be as sweet as the fantasy? Set in 1871, Listen With Your Heart sweeps from the tragedy of the Chicago Fire ro the streets of New York and finally to the wild, dangerous coast of Ireland. "If you love a story with a charming Irish hero, an intrepid heroine, and a wee bit of mystery, don't miss this one!" Carol Carson, author of Family Man.

The bell sounded loud and intrusive. What if Daniel were sleeping and she woke him? What if he had found the first moment of peace since the fire and she disrupted it? Before the echoes of the bell died away, she had turned and placed her foot on the first step heading back into the street.
“Yes, Miss? May I help you?”
The voice, deep and mellow as moonlight, halted her. It was not Daniel’s. Of course, he would have servants to answer the door. She would give her gift to this man and be gone. How foolish to think she might actually see the great Daniel Connolly himself. She turned again to face the butler, who stood in the open doorway.
“Yes, I’ve brought something for Mr. Connolly. Is he home?”
“Mr. Connolly is not receiving visitors. If you’d care to leave the item with me, I will see that he gets it.”
Morgan wondered if he would. Or was this servant a practiced hand at turning away adoring fans who sought to press some trifling token of their devotion on his master? Suddenly, she saw how foolish she had been to think that a wealthy‹man like Daniel Connolly would need anything from the likes of her. He probably had a whole drawerful of gloves, all finer and softer than these.
“No, that is I--”
“Who is it, York?” came a gravelly voice from inside. She peered past the butler to see the figure standing in the far reaches of the foyer, just out of reach of the light. But it was Daniel, she knew it. She had to take this chance, perhaps the only one she’d ever had.
“Mr. Connolly? I brought you these. I read about your hands and I thought they might help.” She held out the gloves, surprised to see her own hand trembling so.
The servant moved to block her, fearing, she supposed, that she might barge into the house just to get a glimpse of her idol. Though she longed to do just that, she did not move.
“Its all right, York. I doubt the lass will bite.” She thought she detected a hint of amusement in the rasping lilt of his brogue, but it tore at her heart to hear it altered so from the voice she remembered, the voice that haunted her dreams.
The servant stepped aside just in time for her to see Daniel step into the circle of light cast down from the wall sconces that lit the foyer. A flame-gilded lock of his hair tumbled across his forehead, the slightest crinkle of a smile parted his lips.
But his eyes. His eyes were pools of such deep, infinite sorrow that she caught her breath to see them so. He must have heard her and thought the worst— that she was repulsed by the burns that marked his face— for the wisp of a smile faded from his lips, and he stepped back into the darkness.
“Take them from her, York. And get her name so we can thank her,” Daniel said, then walked away.
Morgan released the gloves into York’s outstretched hand. “I’m sorry, I didn’t— ”
“Your name, Miss?” he interrupted.
“Susan Smith,” Morgan mumbled. “It’s not important. He doesn’t know me.” Before the tears that threatened could fall, she turned and fled.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Easter weekend is coming fast. If your family is like mine, it will be a major photo taking day. Smile in your Easter duds, pose with that Easter basket, snap the baby finding an Easter egg. Cameras are everywhere and the pictures, though they may never be hard are quickly admired and easily shared.

It's interesting to look back on the history of photography and not too difficult to repeat it. It could be a fun project to share with your kids or grandkids, once the Peter Cottontail has hopped back down the Bunny Trail, of course.

People have been finding ways to save the images they see for thousands of years.  The Chinese first described a type of pinhole photography in the 7th century b.c.e..  Light was focused through a tiny hole into a dark room.  The light formed pictures on the back wall of the room.  By the tenth century, the camera obscura (dark room) had improved on the Chinese invention.  It used a smaller pinhole and a smaller room. In the 16th century,  the camera now as small as a box was used by artists and astronomers. 

You can make your own pinhole camera with an oatmeal box, an aluminum soft drink can, a manilla folder and some simple tools.

Wipe the oatmeal box to remove all dust.  Carefully spray paint the inside and both sides of the lid with the flat black paint.  Allow to dry.  Make a small hole in the box 2 and 3/4 inches from the bottom.  Enlarge the hole until it is 3/8 inches in diameter.  Clean out any extra paper.  Then wipe the inside clean again to remove dust.  Dust can cause white specks on your pictures.

Make your pinhole lens out of the aluminum can.  Cut a 2” by 3” piece out of the side of the can.  Use a needle to make a tiny hole in the center of this piece.  The tinier the hole the sharper the pictures will be. Sand to remove any rough edges. Clean the hole by running water through it.  Dry with a clean paper towel.

Apply a ring of epoxy glue around the pinhole.  Glue the aluminum piece to the inside ot the oatmeal box. The pinhole should be on the middle of the box opening you cut.  Be careful not to touch the pinhole or get glue in it.  Make sure you have a tight seal to prevent any leaks of light. You can make a shutter for the “camera” with a strip for the manilla folder attached to the front of the box over your hole.  Tape the lid on the oatmeal box to seal out all light.  Leaks of light will cause fuzzy pictures.

Now you are ready to make pictures with your pinhole camera just like the Chinese and the Italians did.
Complete directions with pictures for making and using a pinhole camera can be found at  http://users.rcn.com/stewoody/makecam.