Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Free Time

Been thinking about this whole deal of being on short-term disability. It's probably more free time than I've had since I left England in early 2000. A week of vacation is all very nice, but four weeks of recovery!? It's quite a luxury for a middle-aged fully-employed person with a family and house to support. It's entirely possible I'll never have such an extended period of paid leisure time again for the rest of my working life. Heck, the way things are going recently, we'll be lucky if we can retire when we're 70. But that's another topic altogether.

So here I am, nearly half through the second week and feeling I should find more constructive things to do. I suppose that's a good sign I'm getting better. I'm sure there's some sewing projects I could get done. My Korea photos need arranging before I forget what all of them are. I could do more writing. Plan ahead on SCD lessons. Try some new recipes.

Unfortunately I have to be very careful about what kind of gardening I do. The restriction on how much weight I can lift (or pull, or carry) limits things like weed pulling. If we get a good rain shower this evening, I may be able to pull some small weeds tomorrow.

Meanwhile, at least I can take care of my veggie seedlings. I was much more organized this year and labeled everything more clearly. I re-potted most of them on Sunday, in hopes of bulking them up further before the last frost danger passes sometime in mid-May. I winnowed down the Italian peppers to six sturdy little plants that I hope will continue to do well. I'm really counting on extra peppers that we can roast, peel and bottle later this summer. Yum.

I'm disappointed about only one lima bean coming up, but I'm going to try planting a few more seeds of it and do a second planting later. At least the soy beans and bush beans did well. I'm looking forward to those.

I'm mostly excited about the tomatoes. I chose three varieties with different maturity dates. Gregori's Altai, a type that's adapted for cold regions, should be ready 65-70 days after fruit set. I grew Siberia one year, which is similar, and it did really well. Then there's a new hybrid of Brandywine and Big Boy, 'Brandy Boy', which should take 75-80 days. The last is a heritage variety, Purple Calabash, which takes 80-85 days. We'll see how it does. I grew it last year and wasn't impressed with the amount of fruit it gave. But there were a few things I did (or didn't) do last year that I hope to correct this time. Such as planting each variety in its own block, and using cages for every plant. Hubby isn't growing potatoes this year, so I'll have more room in our veg garden area to arrange things the way I want.

I'm a bit behind with my seedlings compared to other people, but we just don't have a lot of window space for hoards of baby plants. So we'll see how it goes. There's at least two weeks before I can think of planting things out in the garden. The weather here is still doing its roller-coaster temperature thing. We got up near 80F yesterday, and tonight they're predicting rain and possible snow showers, with lows in the 30s. I don't care, as long as there's some precipitation.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


I had surgery on April 18th, and am now home for four to six weeks on short-term disability while I recover.

Instead of laparoscopically assisted surgery, they ended up doing a lateral abdominal incision. Thankfully, they don't cut through actual muscle. They have to cut through the skin, of course, and through some connective tissue, but they ease your abdominal muscles apart and hold them back with retractors. Then they inject gas into your abdominal cavity to allow them to see things. And of course there's the tube they insert into your trachea to keep you breathing easily. Oh, and they tape your eyes shut during surgery to protect them. Otherwise, in your catatonic state while under anesthesia, you'd lie there with them wide open and who knows what would fall into them. Ugh.

So, not only do you have however-many (I haven't counted) stitches across your belly to deal with, you also have bruising to the abdominal muscles, a very sore throat, AND gas in your abdomen that has to gradually percolate into your colon and work it's way out. Fun. And since I don't do well with tape adhesive, I also have a place on my eyelid that's healing from where a layer of skin got pulled off. Ow.

I'm ok with the wound itself. I expected that part, and most people understand how cuts heal. But the bruising makes movement more painful, and the cramps from the gas can cause strange sensations all the way up to your ribs or shoulders. I still notice it under my ribs when I breathe in deeply. And I'm still coughing and throat-sore nearly a week after surgery. At least my digestive system is beginning to work more normally. That's always a milestone after major surgery.

So here I am at home, with no demands on my time at all. I am merely supposed to get better. If I want to sleep, I can. Or I can read, mess around on the computer, watch TV, walk a bit, eat carefully, and generally relax. What I CAN'T do is lift things, drive, eat lots of sugar, talk a lot, or walk long distances. So I can't do housework, especially vacuuming, go anywhere on my own, eat chocolate, dance, go to Aikido, or do heavy gardening.

Of course, I've only been home from the hospital since Sunday evening. Eventually I'll be able to do a bit more - like plant the veggie seedlings that have come up and need bigger pots now. It's nice to get out and walk around the garden to see what's happening, but I can't pull weeds yet, so it's also frustrating. Maybe next week I'll be able to sit somewhere and pull the smaller ones.

My parents are in town for a few weeks, so I might be able to get them to help me with a few garden projects that I can't do alone. There is an area of overgrown irises that could use thinning, and we want to build a new compost bin. Not to mention the amazing crop of tall weeds that have taken over the area we rototilled last year. Yikes! There's a job for Round-Up if I ever saw one. And it's definitely convinced me of the value of mulching to keep weeds down. I have resolved to do more mulching in future.

It's nice to have more reading time. I finished the latest Kim Stanley Robinson book, 'Sixty Days & Counting', the last in a trilogy. It's been a great series. I highly recommend his 'Antarctica' novel, which is the beginning story for the characters in this trilogy. And has some of the best women characters that I've found in a SF novel written by a man.

Now I'm on to a mystery series by Eliot Pattison, beginning with 'The Skull Mantra'. Pattison is a political journalist who spent a lot of time covering China. His main character is a Chinese police inspector who works in Tibet. There's a lot of factual information on Tibetan culture and the treatment of Tibetan people since the Chinese took over. It's a good story so far, too.

I'm also planning to read Michael Pollan's 'The Omnivore's Dilemma'. Hubby read it. He said it would make me angry, and seriously consider not eating commercially produced beef, as well as a whole lot of other things. The incredible over-use corn has been put to in our food supply is scary to think about, given the current shortages.

Call or email if you feel like it. I’ll have plenty of time to answer in the next month or so. If things go well, I could be back at work after four weeks, on May 19th. We’ll see.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Spring Recoil

It figures. I waited and waited to tidy up the dead seedheads and dry stems left on my perennials all winter. Finally couldn't stand it last weekend, so I cut them all off.

So of course it snowed on Tuesday. Just like making it rain by washing your car, eh? But it didn't really do any harm. Just a teasing gesture from Mother Nature.

Today we raked all the oak leaves off the back garden shade border and I pruned the roses. Nice to see the shade perennials I put in last year have made it through - though I'm still worried about the hosta. It's supposed to reach into the low 70's today and tomorrow. My first day of the year to wear sandals!

Some of my seeds, the soy beans, planted last Sunday, have already come up. I really hope I get at least one or two of each tomato variety to germinate.

There's a meadowlark singing in the oak tree outside my window, and the chickens are out foraging in the grass. Now it really feels like Spring.

Electronic Gadgets - who needs 'em?!

Well....I do like my computer, I must admit. It kept me in touch with friends and family when I was far away and feeling lonely. But there's nothing like a minor crisis with one of your electronic gadgets to put you in a rotten mood.

Take my cellphone, for instance (please! ;-). That’s my required-to-have-it company cellphone that never leaves my person during working hours. (It's a RAZR. I don't recommend them.) I lived until mid-2004 without a cellphone, and was very happy. Now I’m unfortunate enough to have two, one for work only, the other for personal calls. It stuns me to realize how dependent I’ve become in just three years. Until I lived in South Korea in 2002, I'd never seen so many people who appeared to be addicted to their cellphones.

I remember walking around crowded downtown Daegu on a Saturday. At nearly 5'10", I could look out over a sea of Korean heads with cellphones glued to almost every ear. You'd walk by a coffee house or restaurant and see couples at tables, obviously on a date, both of them either texting or talking on their phones. The Korean teachers at our school would run to check their text messages during every five-minute break between classes, giggling and typing away. Maybe Indianapolis was a bit behind the times back in 2002, but I’d never seen this behavior before.

But back to my own cellphone mini-crisis. I'm one of those people who uses objects gently. I don't normally break things. The fax/printer I got in 2004 still works fine. I finally had to switch it out when the company decreed we all needed laser printers. In contrast, I have some colleagues who've had their laptops and fax/printers replaced on a yearly basis due to malfunctions and crashes.

I got a brand-new company cellphone in December '07. I'm used to Samsung, so learning the Motorola version was annoying, and the documentation wasn't that great, but I managed.

Then, one evening last week the left hinge started falling out. I hadn't dropped the phone, hadn't crushed, sat on, or drop-kicked it. None of that. Not a scratch on it. But still, the hinge fell out. I pushed it back in, it just fell out again. It was so loose there was no friction to hold it in. When I opened and closed the flip section the hinge fell out again. Without the left hinge to hold it, the flip section leaned to the other side. This did not bode well for any wiring connecting the two pieces. So I taped over the little silver hinge to keep it in place.

The next morning AT&T (my service provider) had a major failure in one of the optic cables serving Idaho. No service, alllllllll day. That was fun. I make calls to set up appointments with people, request records, call colleagues, talk to my boss, etc. There’s always two or three people I’m expecting to hear back from regarding cases I’m working on. Meanwhile, I have to be out driving around to appointments I’ve already set up. I can’t sit at my desk all day. To suddenly not have a cellphone that worked was an incredible inconvenience. That day when AT&T’s service failed, I went to arranged appointments or typed. It really put a crimp in my work flow. How in the world did traveling salesmen ever manage before cellphones!? Thanks to my cellphone, the worst problems I normally have out in the field are finding a decent lunch or a restroom.

The next day I had service again, but when I tried to call someone I couldn't hear them. If people called me I couldn't hear their voices, although they could hear me. Finally I figured out I could use the Speaker function to hear my callers. Not an ideal long-term solution, given my profession.

Without going into the gory details, I'll just say that after three loooong calls to AT&T customer service over two days, I was no closer to having a working cellphone. Our company cellphone program was just introduced in December, so we haven't had experience with what to do when things go wrong. Once my boss and I figured out who to talk to I had a new cellphone within 24 hours, a SonyEricsson. We'll see if it's robust enough to withstand my treatment of it :-\.

I’m the lone PC user in an extended family of Mac lovers – only because my PC was what I could afford at the time. But whatever their advantages, my husband spent most of Tuesday trying to get his Mac Mini working. If it were a PC, I’d say it needs de-fragging, but supposedly Macs don’t need such things. He uses it for taxes, sales and lesson records, so it really is essential for his work. Yet another example of our growing dependence on electronic gadgets. One frustrating thing is the abysmal quality of the user documentation that came with it. It seems to get decent user instructions you have to buy a separate How To book, because the stuff that comes with it is barely worth looking at.

So it was not a fun week. It was annoying, frustrating, and exhausting. Getting work done was like pulling up dandelions with roots to China. Hooray for the weekend.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Owyhee Initiative Hikes for Spring

Check out this webpage. My sister works for The Wildlife Society, one of the co-sponsors of these hikes. A great chance to see the areas that are being considered for protection. We're hoping to do the April 12th hike.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Nerd Quiz

Heh. Took a nerd quiz. For some of questions the choices didn't include the answer I had, but it was a fun, silly thing to do.

What Be Your Nerd Type?
Your Result: Literature Nerd

Does sitting by a nice cozy fire, with a cup of hot tea/chocolate, and a book you can read for hours even when your eyes grow red and dry and you look sort of scary sitting there with your insomniac appearance? Then you fit this category perfectly! You love the power of the written word and it's eloquence; and you may like to read/write poetry or novels. You contribute to the smart people of today's society, however you can probably be overly-critical of works.

It's okay. I understand.

Artistic Nerd
Drama Nerd
Social Nerd
Gamer/Computer Nerd
Science/Math Nerd
Anime Nerd
What Be Your Nerd Type?
Quizzes for MySpace