Monday, January 5, 2015

Unleashed has moved to a new site

Dear friends,
As of Jan. 2015, Unleashed in Oregon is now located at Please follow me over to read about the latest adventures of Sue and Annie. See you there!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Hopping toward New Year’s on crutches

People my age shouldn’t use crutches. Guess I shouldn’t have left my late husband’s wheelchair at my father’s house in San Jose. I could sure use it now. But oh this is great material for a story.

What am I babbling about? I was mindlessly walking from the restroom at Georgie’s back to the bar where I was having lunch with a friend when I missed the step and turned my ankle big-time. I have been through a ridiculous number of sprains and broken bones on my feet and ankles, so I know the difference between a little ouch and an immediate trip to the ER. This was an ER event. I wasn’t even drinking. It was after church, and I was having iced tea and pot roast. This guy who was drinking at the bar was my only witness. He heard me yelp and asked if I was all right. I stood stunned, rubbing my foot through my boot and replied, “I don’t think so.” He went back to his drinking and was still at it when I hopped out. My friend, mesmerized by the ocean view, did not know anything had happened.

So, the ER waiting room at Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital (26 beds, tricky cases sent to other hospitals) was like a party. Yes, one guy was coughing, another was hurting, another had cut off part of his finger, but soon we were all talking as I waited in my wheelchair, all dressed up in my post-Christmas finery: black boots, green velvet skirt, green blouse, Christmas vest. They rolled me out for triage and for x-rays, then planted me on a gurney in a hallway because the place was slammed with patients. A couple hours later, I was out of there with a splint and the usual instructions for ice, elevation, and Ibuprofen. It’s a sprain, no broken bones. I now have a complete set of air splints.

At home, the challenges began. I could not put weight on my right foot at all. Too much pain. I had some old crutches in the closet. It takes coordination and upper body strength to maneuver on crutches. Suddenly it’s impossible to carry anything. In fact, right now, I’d like a cup of tea, but I don’t know how to get it to my bedroom. Cooking is a trip. I’m glad I’ve done yoga because now I need to balance on one foot and lean up or down to get things. I scoot plates and food along the counter until they’re close enough to the table to grab . At breakfast, I forgot the sharp knife and learned that it is possible to cut a large grapefruit with a butter knife if you’re determined enough. Getting dressed was challenging because most of my clothes live at the far end of the house from my bedroom. I wound up taking them off the hangers and throwing them across the room. A shower? Not happening.

I have fallen three times so far, but I have bounced and rolled off soft furniture each time. My crutches tend to fall down every time I set them anywhere. They hit the dog the last time, so now she’s not so sure about staying by my side.

Before you get all sorry for me, know that the doctor says I’ll be walking again by next week and the pain has already greatly diminished. It’s just inconvenient. It also forces me to ask for help, which I hate. Friends just brought me a load of pellets for my pellet stove, so I can keep warm. The dog sitter will be coming to walk Annie and do little things like get the mail from the box across the street. I am fortunate that I can still write and sing and play music. I can also drive, I discovered yesterday on the way home from the hospital. It felt so good to have wheels moving me along.

I will survive. But crutches are tough at any age. The doctor didn’t seem to consider whether I’d be able to manage crutches. My arms ache, my back is out of whack, and I get tired just going from bed to bathroom. Hoisting myself up the single step from the den takes a lot of strength. Okay, it’s another gift: weight training. But I’m measuring my moves in crutch miles.

I prayed hard last week that God would let me not get sick until after Christmas, no colds or anything that would prevent me from singing at church. My wish was granted. I sang my heart out. So this? Good one, God.

If you can walk on two feet, be thankful. If not, I share your frustration.

And I should probably stay out of bars. I don’t think these crutches or my shoulders could make it through another injury.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The best gifts may not be under the Christmas tree

I was going to write a whiny post about not having any Christmas presents. It would start, “The only gifts for me under my Christmas tree are the ones I bought and wrapped for myself.” I would explain that the main gift-givers in my family have all died, my remaining family lives far away, I have no kids, the younger folks in my family don’t seem moved to send presents to good old Aunt Sue, my friends are all traveling this Christmas, etc. Woe is me. While that’s all true, I have realized I’m an idiot.

I have so much, and I am so blessed. Grief over my late husband is hitting me like a sledgehammer this year, but I’m writing in a house filled with so much great stuff I can’t possibly need anymore. I want it, but I don’t need it. I have numerous musical instruments and piles of sheet music, books, food, clothes, computers, keepsakes, nice furniture, a car, a dog, work I love, enough money, and a healthy body.

It’s time I reached out to help other people instead of whining about myself. Know what I mean?

I was already beginning to see the light when I started reading a new book I downloaded yesterday with the help of a Christmas gift certificate. It’s called Not Fade Away: A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found and was written by Rebecca Alexander with Sasha Alper. Alexander is losing both her sight and her hearing, due to something called Usher’s Syndrome, a rare genetic glitch. She was a teenager when she was told she would eventually be both blind and deaf. It’s a great book, and Alexander doesn’t seem to feel the least bit sorry for herself. Imagine what it would be like not even being able to see the Christmas tree.

Look around. Listen. Thank God if you can see and hear.

Meanwhile, I might not have a lot of presents under the tree but I have presents everywhere else. You, my readers, are one of those gifts. Thank you and Merry Christmas to all.

I am planning to move this blog to another site at the beginning of the year. I’m not sure if it will keep the same name, but it will go on with a new design and lots of fun additions.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Wrapping Christmas presents in the dark

Ah, electricity. Invisible and unappreciated until it’s gone.
Like most of the west coast, we here in South Beach, Oregon got hammered last week by back-to-back storms. Rain came down in sheets while wind did its best to rattle everything loose. On Thursday, everyone was talking about the big storm that was coming. When I woke up to blue skies, I rushed out to finish my Christmas shopping and maybe take myself out to lunch before the storm hit. While I was in the checkout line at Fred Meyer’s in Newport, I saw people coming in huddled in wet coats and knew the storm was starting. Folks were talking about getting over the Yaquina Bridge before it was closed. Forget lunch. Time to get home.
Rain spattered the windshield harder and harder as I drove south. Wind gently nudged the car as I crossed the bridge. But it wasn’t bad. I still had power to warm up my leftover pizza, to read by while I ate it, and to finish my work at the computer.
The lights flickered. I closed my files, but Facebook grabbed my attention until suddenly, silently, the computer screen went dark. Oh. It was 2:12 p.m. Twilight outside, twilight inside. All the little green and red lights on my various equipment were out. The pellet stove, which runs by electricity, had stopped. The only sound was the rain on the skylights and wind thrashing the trees.
Okay. I had a plan. Power failures are not unusual around here. I have flashlights in every room, a large supply of candles, and two electric lanterns. I have wood for the wood stove in the den. I have cold food to eat, plenty to drink. One never knows how long the power will stay out around here. Once it lasted two days. An area farther south stayed dark for almost a week.
Since I couldn’t work at the computer, this was my opportunity to wrap my Christmas presents. So I did, with loud music playing from the battery-operated radio I keep handy for storms. The sound is tinny, but it’s company.
I wrapped and wrapped until it got so dark I couldn’t tell blue ribbons from green.  Now it was lighter outside than in. The rain had stopped and the wind had slowed, so I took Annie out for a short walk. Soon we heard the chatter of a radio from an emergency vehicle and came upon the source of the power failure. A giant tree on the next block had fallen into the power lines. Rain-suited crews from the electric company had cut up the tree and were now restringing the wires from the highway to the street that connects with mine. Big trucks. Bright lights. Noise. “Thank you for what you’re doing!” I called.
 “No problem,” a guy hollered back.
Satisfied that eventually the lights would come back on, we turned back home, running into our neighbor and her children coming to see what was going on. We’re all nosy.
I had thought I would work on my Christmas cards, but darkness in the woods is truly dark, not like back in suburbia where night is only slightly different from day. Instead, I talked to a friend on my cell phone, then settled in front of the wood stove to build a fire. Big logs, little logs, kindling, building from a spark to an orange finger of flame to a roaring fire.
I sat back and watched the fire, all other duties canceled due to darkness. I thought about the days before electric lights. Even with candles and lanterns, the light is limited and full of shadows. You cannot see to do anything intricate. If you spill or drop something, it’s difficult to see where it went. It’s hard to stay clean. And surely you go to bed much earlier because it’s so dark.
Electric lights have changed the way we live our lives. Natural light has become irrelevant. Many people work round the clock under artificial light. If we need more light, we just plug it on and turn it on.We forget how easily that light could disappear.
It’s not just light I was missing. I would not be able to heat my food. The food in the refrigerator would spoil if the power stayed out. My cell phone would lose its charge, the house would cool down, and I would not be able to watch my TV shows. But I could adapt.
Luckily, I didn’t have to. At 6:00, just as I was about to make a ham sandwich for dinner, the lights came on. “Yay! Thank you!” I shouted as I hurriedly threw a fish in the frying pan and a potato in the microwave before the electricity changed its mind.
Despite predictions of 90 mph gusts, it turned out to be a pretty average winter storm here. We just had a few trees and branches down. In Newport, the big sign outside Bank of America blew down. In Portland, a tree fell on a car, killing the people inside. California had flooding and mudslides. But here in South Beach, we just had a little electricity-appreciation lesson.
Lights. I like ‘em.

How is your weather? Any storm damage? Please share your stories in the comments.