Living Life Ruled by a FULF

Today marks 19 months since I underwent ankle fusion surgery, a procedure that is supposed to bring 8-20 years of relief for most people.

I am not most people.

My FULF* is an overachiever, proven by the 6-month post-surgery X-ray where additional traumatic arthritis was already visible. The surgeon was very surprised to see it. That was 13 months ago.

I wasn’t expecting a miracle. I had decided that if I had a 50% reduction in pain I would be happy, and I did get that 50%. Score! Unfortunately, the pain level has been creeping back up. The doctor told me to not wait as long to come in for help because it had been so bad last time. But at what point to I go in again? When I can no longer sleep at night because of pain? That’s what I did two years ago, because there is the rest of the family to think about, especially my husband (a.k.a., my live-in nurse) and any travel plans. The surgery itself takes significant recovery time — last time was around 11 weeks non-weightbearing, after which I used crutches and slowly added percentages of weight on that foot. There was a lot of time spent lying in bed with my foot in the air, trying to keep swelling down to allow the incision to heal. The scarring isn’t pretty and more surgery means even more scarring.

*FULF is a term coined by a blog friend who also has struggled with a “flubbed up left foot.”
It’s more than just my left ankle and the traumatic arthritis brought on by the trimalleolar fracture of November 2015, although the ankle and resulting surgeries is the worst of it all. FULF encompasses everything that has been dealt with over the past 10+ years and I’m grateful to Barb for the easy moniker.

Welcome 2021

I admit there is relief in sending 2020 off in smoke last night.

It’s not that our family has had a terrible year; we’ve all remained healthy, those who have work have been able to work. At the same time, the isolation grows both too comfortable and irritating. Living with introverts during this time is fairly peaceful. They are content. I’m learning to be content in this new world and, I suppose, learning how to be an introvert. But I hope that the light at the end of the tunnel is real, that a year from now we will be spending time with friends and extended family, attending worship services in person, planning vacations, fully immunized.

It’s 2020 in America, but maybe it’s really 1961.

As I was reading the news over the weekend and into the beginning of this week, I couldn’t help but recall our visit to Alabama last year. We spent several days in Montgomery and one day in Birmingham visiting civil rights museums, monuments, and memorials. When I read about and saw the video clips of the Biden-Harris campaign bus being surrounded on the highway in Texas, forced to slow down to 20 mph, my mind went to the Freedom Riders bus that was attacked by similar means.

The Greyhound bus on exhibit
photo of burned-out Greyhound bus

Of course, the Biden-Harris campaign bus did not meet this kind of ending. They were able to call 911 for help. However, the lack of law enforcement on Highway 35 is telling. This wasn’t West Texas (miles of nothingness); this happened on a busy stretch of highway. The parade of Trump supporters, with their vitriol and hatred of anyone not just like themselves, reminds me of other parades.

Civil Rights for everyone offend some people

It’s 2020 in America. I’m trying to hold onto the hope that we can be better and do better, but this past week has me hanging by the tips of my fingers. I cannot understand why so many of my fellow Americans voted for hatred, disrespect, and cruelty.

4 more years of this? — Teri Carter’s Library

___________________________________ In the final days of presidential campaigns, it is American tradition to ask, Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago? This year, how about we add a few: Are you happier than you were 4 years ago? Sleeping well? Getting along with your neighbors? Confident in the health of your […]

4 more years of this? — Teri Carter’s Library

Teri Carter asks excellent questions. I hope you read her post.

Saying Goodbye with Grace

On Sunday afternoon, we gathered in a circle outside his house — not arm in arm, but masked and standing apart — to pray and sing one of his favorite hymns. Tonight, our friend and Pastor Emeritus is in a hospice house.

He was still downhill skiing at 85 when he retired for the second time. This summer, at 87, he was still riding his bicycle, and three weeks ago he was driving his car around town. Just 10 days ago he was diagnosed with untreatable cancer.

I’m grateful he is not suffering a long illness, and I’m grateful his family could gather and surround him and one another with love over the past week. It won’t be long now until he meets his best friend, Jesus, face to face. He is ready.

Gratitude

One of the saving graces in my life right now is a gratitude group that I’m a part of — a private, online group — sorry, you can’t join but you could start your own and invite others to comment with their own daily/weekly gratitude posts.
How does it work? Well, here was mine today:

  1. It’s a gorgeous fall day (by Friday it’s going to be wet and snowy and wicked cold overnight, but right now? It’s gorgeous with clouds and sun and wind and fall colors).
  2. One of my favorite blog writers has a new post about taking care of ourselves mentally right now — and not just a new post, but several others that I missed somehow over the past few weeks/months of being in and out of connectivity. She’s made me smile and nod with recognition, touched my heart with compassion, and made me guffaw over a dog story about the puppy in their house. I’m grateful for her writing and sharing of messy life.
  3. My cat is still alive and still healthy. (She is also annoying, constantly wanting to be in a lap and she sometimes yowls because she is deaf as a doorknob and that is lonely.)
Help! I’m being held captive by a sleeping cat!

We were supposed to be camping

SuperDad and I took a drive on Thursday to scout out some new camping spots along a river. This section of a national forest has free dispersed sites although not many of them are good for trailers, so it is smart to check them out first before attempting to camp there. This was supposed to happen while we were camped in an actual NFS campground within an hour of our scouting expedition, but heavy rains last night coupled with several days of bad weather in the forecast caused us to rethink the camping part of this trip. Luckily, there were photo ops present:

Peek-a-boo!
A cow and her calf
Mama Moose
I believe the calf is a male

After such a lovely day, it had darned well better be miserable weather or we’ll regret canceling our camping plans!

The water was so very clear!

That Pandemic Summer

I’m not really sure how one writes about travel during a pandemic. For the most part, we are homebodies. Owning a camping trailer has enabled us to get out of the house and yet still have a home of our own during the summer; it’s the ultimate social distancing vehicle, complete with its own toilet. (Hallelujah!)

June was when the travel ban was finally lifted for Oregon State Parks. This happened in the middle of our long-ago planned trip to the beach, so our reservations were shortened from four nights to only two nights. Originally there were going to be other extended family members camping in adjacent sites, but in the end only SuperDad’s parents kept their reservations. Their campsite was across the road from ours. We took our oldest grandson on this trip and he had a great time despite the rain and wind on the beach (which was sparsely populated to our delight.) If you want a warm beach experience, don’t go camping in early June on the northern half of the Oregon Coast!

Since we nearly cancelled out on taking the 4-year-old camping on the coast (heavy rain was expected on the first day, iffy weather the rest of the time), we had quickly made make-up trip plans for the following week, which we kept since it was such a different trip. This time we had sunshine and warm weather in a full hook-up KOA site along the Snake River. Oma and Opa took turns keeping Little Foot occupied on land and water, and his family came out and joined us on the final afternoon/evening for little brother’s 2nd birthday celebration. (Now is probably a good time to explain that we have chosen this family as our “bubble” of 5 other people.)

We began July without reservations at a National Forest campground (no hookups) in the Idaho Panhandle. While I did a little ferrying of my mountain biking husband to his chosen trails (and picking him up from the trails he didn’t mean to take that left him 15 miles further down the scenic highway), I got in plenty of book reading while he played. We liked it so much we returned with a reservation 9 days later for another 3-night stint. (Three nights is just about perfect for camping without any way to plug in: my CPAP battery stays happy as long as I don’t try to use the vapor feature.) We plan to go again before the end of September since it is only an hour away and tends to be wonderfully quiet.

I spent the first part of August trying to find a place for our trailer that would be near where extended family was staying . Thanks to a friend from church and her connections, we were able to do so (I’ve never handed over $50/night so happily) despite everyone else in the region also trying to camp at the lake. We’d heard that RV sales had really picked up this year as so many people were trying to vacation during a pandemic. It’s all true: the campgrounds are full and the RV lots are looking sparse. I love our extended family and I need some personal space, especially when I’m one of the few who thinks we should wear face masks when playing card games at the indoor table. For three nights we ate suppers outside, spread out in the cabin yard in our folding chairs; in the afternoons we met at the local day-use swimming beach.

This was the trip where I learned that it is really difficult to attend Zoom meetings while camping. (Oops!) Later in August, some of those same family members rented a vacation home in NE Oregon while we had a site at Wallowa Lake State Park. We joined them for the tram ride up the mountain, suppers outside, and masked card games around the table inside. After 3 nights, they went home and we had 2 additional nights at our cozy campsite where the bucks entertained us during supper and cribbage tournaments.

The skies were beautifully clear (except for that first full day when we took the tram to the top of the mountain) and we could see Jupiter and Saturn each night through an opening in the tree canopy. By the time we got home again, it was September.

We stayed home for the big windstorm that whipped up fires across the region on Labor Day, but after assessing the situation, we decided to head out again and take our oldest grandson camping before it was actually fall weather. We chose a place close to where his great-grandmother had grown up. Little Foot enjoyed boating on the reservoir with Opa and roasting marshmallows for S’mores after dark. I thoroughly enjoyed staring up at the Milky Way each night. Oh, to escape completely from light pollution! This is one of the joys of camping.

We got home from that trip last Thursday, did minimal unpacking and then turned around and took a trip sans-trailer the next day. According to what was on the calendar, it was a 2-night trip; according to what I learned when we arrived 5 hours later, it was a 4-night trip. It’s probably a good thing I tend to over-pack! It’s also a good thing that I have people I can call on to check in on our cat (who was NOT happy with us about our long, unplanned absence). A few things about this particular trip:

  • We shared a house with some extended family members but had our own room. I hung out in there to read and rest instead of in the living room.
  • The smoke followed us inland and turned all but the first day into non-scenic drives (Guess who thought she could get pictures with the camera “tomorrow”?)
Flathead Lake in Montana is notoriously beautiful, but imported wildfire smoke makes it difficult to tell
  • Wearing masks while sharing meals indoors isn’t really possible, and wildfire smoke makes it unhealthy to eat outdoors
  • I was uncomfortable with not wearing a mask around extended family who were previously not part of our “bubble.”

It’s been six full months since the pandemic shut everything down for us here. I’m weary of the continued battle over whether or not masks help (spoiler alert: they do). So now we are home for a bit and I am pretty much quarantining myself after having more exposure to maskless people and many others who were wearing their masks incorrectly than I ever intended to have during a pandemic. So many noses! I was wearing my own mask around them, so I should be relatively safe. As for our relatives with whom we spent time, they continue to be healthy and we are the young ones in the bunch. However, I definitely do not wish to be the one who exposes anyone else, known or unknown, to this virus. Seeing maskless people in Montana was unnerving for me. I’ve been able to control my environment for much of the past 6 months and being at the mercy of others, where I have to rely upon their own responses to this pandemic when I don’t think they are being as careful as I try to be, makes me uncomfortable.

I’m not perfect, and I realize that there are people who are much more careful than I am. By traveling at all, I am at greater risk than staying in my own house. However, by traveling with a trailer, I am bringing along nearly everything we need and limiting our exposure to others outside our household. Luckily, we can continue camping for a while — at least until the temperatures drop significantly.