Friday, November 17, 2017

A Little Crazy Around Here

Things have been just a little bit crazy.  On Friday our new refrigerator was scheduled to be delivered.  It's only been two months since the original fridge broke down.  At the same time, it was becoming clear that Scrappy needed some help getting to Rainbow Bridge.  Mealtimes were a struggle for both of us.  I'd have to place him in front of his food bowl and touch his nose to the food or he couldn't find it.  Then when he ate, he couldn't stand up long enough to finish his meals.  My husband agreed that it was time.

I was anxious about where to take him since my vet said she doesn't euthanize pets.  I decided on a pet hospital down the highway.  The receptionist was super kind and empathetic.  She acted like I was her only customer.  I wasn't sure what appointment time to choose because I hadn't been notified yet as to when the refrigerator would be delivered, so I just took the first time she gave me.  I had received an email informing me that I'd be called the night before the delivery to narrow it down to a two hour window, but no one had called.  So, in the morning I called the store.  They said they'd arrive right around the time of my vet appointment, of course.  Later I found a message from them on my phone.  They had called, but their number somehow got flagged as spam, so the phone didn't ring and I didn't receive any notifications that I had a message.  Hopefully, I fixed that.

Before I left for the vet, I started moving furniture to make a path for the delivery men.  I slipped in a puddle of dog pee and fell on my bad hip.  I couldn't get back up.  I had suddenly become those people in the commercial who say, "Help!  I've fallen and I can't get up!"

My husband was in the bathroom, so I tried to maneuver into a less painful position and laid there a while with dog piss dripping off my pant leg waiting for him to come out and help me.  The problem is that he uses his bathroom like an office, so I knew it could be hours before he came out.  I was lying right by the front door, and hoped the delivery men would show up right then so I could yell for them to come in and help me up.   No one came, so as the pain eased up, I worked my way onto all fours and crawled over to a table where I could pull myself up.  Surprisingly, the only residual pain was in my right kidney.  I think I shook a kidney stone loose when I hit the tile floor.

I sure would like to know which dog keeps peeing on the floor because this was not the first time I slipped in a puddle and fell.  It's just the first time I landed on that hip.  I could only imagine how much pain I would have been in if I didn't get those steroid injections earlier this month.

I had instructed the delivery men to call before they arrive, so I can put the dogs away, but I was worried that they would call right when I was driving and unable to answer my phone.  I know that some delivery men will skip the delivery all together if no one answers the phone.  I tried to get my husband to hang onto my phone and answer it while I was at the vet hospital, but he thought it was more important that he be able to get a hold of me or vice versa.  I took Scrappy outside to do his business after loading the kennel in the backseat of the truck, and my husband came out to say goodbye to him.  Right as I was getting ready to leave, the delivery men called and said they were 5 to 10 minutes away.  It's a good thing I scheduled both these things for a day my husband was at home or I might have to wait another few days to get that dang fridge.

The phone call put me a few minutes behind schedule, and then when I got out on the road, traffic was outrageous, and everyone was driving 10 mph under the speed limit.  I also got stopped at every single intersection by red lights.  So, I was late to the hospital.  As I walked in the door, a receptionist turned to me and asked if I was NuzMuz.  I said yes, and she said, "Right this way, please."

I was amazed that she had all these other customers, yet she remembered my name and immediately took me back despite having plenty of other people waiting for her attention.  She even offered to carry Scrappy in his kennel because she could see that I was struggling.  I was expecting to have to fill out reams of paperwork since I had never been there before, but they only had me sign a form that said what my choice was for funeral arrangements.  They even didn't make me leave the room to pay, but came to me.  They handled the entire process with such dignity.  Because I've had so many bad experiences in the past with veterinary staff telling me I waited too long or not long enough, and people in the waiting room telling me I should have held my pet during the process, I was fully expecting to be hassled and guilt-tripped, but everyone was so respectful and kind.  They even let me leave by a private door so that other customers couldn't make comments and ask nosy questions.  It was nice not having an audience staring at me while I had tears streaming down my cheeks.

I've never been able to handle being present during the euthanization of pets in the past, but I managed to hold Scrappy this time around.  I think cleaning up the place my mother died helped me to face unpleasant and scary situations better.  I told the vet that holding him in my lap at the end of his life was ironic, because I wanted a lap dog, but Scrappy always refused to sit in my lap.  She said, "Well, he'll be happy to sit in your lap once I give him something to relax him and take away his pain."

Despite him having kidney failure, thyroid failure, diabetes (yes, he developed that over the past few weeks) and being mostly deaf and blind, the vet was most concerned about him having arthritis pain.  I'll admit that there are days I wish euthanization for people were an option when my arthritis pain is at its worse.

I'm in the process of painting a headstone for Scrappy, and I'll put together a tribute for him as well.  One thing I really appreciated was that the vet told me that I must have done a great job taking care of Scrappy to have him live as long as he has.  I honestly think it was all him.  He wasn't going to give up the ghost unless I helped him.

The new refrigerator was here when I got home.  Just in time to thaw a turkey for Thanksgiving.  Hopefully, this fridge will last longer than a year. 

While I was cleaning stalls, Rock pointed out something to me...

Do you see it?


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Go, Men, Go!

Handsome is as handsome does.

Angel hair.



Practically perfect in every way.

Too busy eatin' a tree to exercise.

What?  You want me to get my feet moving?

Okay, but I can't gallop without bucking first...

Look Ma!  I'm a Hackney Pony!


Look Ma, I'm an Arab!

I can even snort while I curl my tail up over my back!

Have another buck.

Is that enough rambunctiousness for one day?

Look Ma!  I didn't stop to eat the tree during my cool down.

More pieces of jeans stolen by coyotes found in the round pen, and a new blue long whip since the red one broke.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Bombay's Happy Day

This morning Rock and I worked on getting through the gate to the bridle trails without tripping and falling.  I must have taken him through twenty times, ten in each direction, and he was only able to completely clear the gate with all four hooves twice.  I was super tired and hot (it's been in the 80s), so I waited a long time for that second successful pass in order to wrap it up and go home.  Rock helped me drag the trash bin in from the street.  I think he missed his calling.  He really wants to be a cutting horse, because he was chasing that can like it was cattle.

When I dropped him off at the barn, Bombay asked me to take him out too.  I told him I'd try to do that in the afternoon after I've had a chance to rest and get something to drink and eat.  When I walked down the driveway in the afternoon, Bombay stepped forward to meet me at the gate.  He knew I was coming for him.

When I bought Bombay as a yearling, his breeder told me that she had a reputation for breeding Arabian horses who can be locked away all winter, and then when you pull them out in the spring, they pick up where you left off without skipping a beat.  I bought two horses from her, and had her help in picking out a third, and none of those three horses have ever been that easy.  I always have to go back to basics after some time off.

Well, now, as he's approaching the age of 20, Bombay finally made good on his breeder's word.  Taking him for a walk was like picking up where we left off six months ago.  He was a perfect gentleman respecting my space, he didn't spook once, he didn't even get himself all worked up over being taken away from the herd.  This was clearly just a leisurely stroll for him with no pressure.  He went at the same pace going home as he did going out.  He did better than Rock, who was anxiously looking around at everything like it was all new to him, and who sped up as soon as I turned him toward home.

Bombay found another pair of our jeans out in the desert.  This is different from the other pair I mentioned finding alongside a different trail.

Those wily coyotes!  They are starting to appear in my back yard when they hear my Mule's engine.  They know that when I feed the horses, the rabbits come out to eat any fallen grain.

Yup.  I remember these pockets...

I accidentally did something to the camera to flip it around and I couldn't figure out how to flip it back, so I tried out a selfie...

Then I finally figured out that I have to swipe the screen sideways to get it back to non-selfie mode.  It's impossible for me to read the screen in the sun's glare without reading glasses, and I'm really bad about taking the time to read user's manuals.

I took a picture of Bombay walking through the gate so people can see what I was working with Rock on...

This gate really isn't that high.  It looks like it's only about a foot in height, so I guess Rock is just lazy about picking up his feet.  Bombay had no problem going through.  Maybe I should start riding him again.  I just know that Bombay is a completely different horse when I'm on his back as opposed to leading him, and his spooks and teleportations are bone jarring.  I want to avoid further pain and injury, which is why I've mainly only ridden Rock in the past year.  I know that if we run into a mule or gaited horse along the trails, Rock won't flip over backward like Bombay has been known to do.  My new neighbors have gaited horses.  While Rock is not intimidated by their powerful movements, if I have him follow a gaited horse, he thinks it is running away from him, so he tends to want to run up to it and bite it on the rump.  Bombay just wants to run away from them.  Maybe having gaited horses next door all the time will help my horses understand their movements and behaviors better so that they won't act like such goobers when they get around them.

I feel so blessed to simply be able to take two horses for hikes in one day.  There were moments this past summer when I felt like my future was in a wheelchair.  So, while this was Bombay's happy day for getting out and exploring after a long, hot summer, it was also my very, very, very happy day for doing the same.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Taste of Things to Come

It's been two weeks since I had the entire right side of my pelvis, hip and thigh shot up with steroids, and I will be discussing the results with my doctor in two more weeks.  I do not want to hear those words:  "There's nothing more I can do for you."

I am also adamant about not telling him that I haven't even tried to ride a horse after all he's done for me, so even though I still don't have the flexibility and leg strength built up to mount and dismount, I wanted to give it a try.  I did not want to have to hassle with my horse walking off while I'm trying to mount, though, because that could result in another muscle getting torn, so I asked my husband to hold Rock still while I mounted from my tallest mounting block.

Amazingly, it hurt, but I mounted on the first try.  As soon as my husband stepped aside to hand me the lead rope, Rock started marching up the driveway.  He was excited to get out and about.  Of course, as soon as I reached the end of the driveway, one of my neighbors drove up the street, but Rock remembered the routine and stopped to wait for the car to pass.

Going through the gate was a bit of an ordeal.  Rock was so excited over the sights and smells around him that he forgot to pay attention to his feet.  His front hoof got caught on the gate and he fell down to his knees.  I got pitched out of the saddle over his neck, but he popped right up before I could fall and further, and that tossed me back into the saddle.  That definitely hurt my hip.

He stopped at the entrance to the trails, because it was overgrown, and he kept looking to our right, which also had a trail and was more open.  He turned to the right, but I was more interested in practicing going through the gate since he lost that muscle memory after not being ridden for half a year.  I took him through the gate again, and this time his hind feet didn't clear the gate and I flew backward.  At the same time, he fell toward the post on the right side of the gate.  Of course, my right side is the side of my body with all the torn muscles and arthritis and the last thing I wanted was to bang my leg into a metal post, so I put my hand on the top of the post and pushed as hard as I could, knowing that trying to pick up a thousand pound horse was impossible.  But Rock responded to my pushing and uprighted himself before I hit the post.

I decided that was enough gate work from the saddle.  I wasn't going to risk it anymore until he can clear the gate from both sides while I lead him.  He's welcome to not pay attention and fall as much as he wants as long as I'm not on his back.  We had a lot of violent monsoon storms this past summer, so the whole topography of the desert has changed due to water erosion, and that includes having a couple of inches of ground washed away underneath the gate, which essentially makes the gate higher, so I have to train my horses to lift their feet higher.

I rode him around my property a little bit and dismounted before my hip got too sore.  My goal wasn't to be down for the count for the next week. I just wanted to know if I could mount and dismount.  Dismounting was slightly worse than where I left off last spring.  I still had to grab my leg with my hand and drag it across his rump, but he was patient and held still until I was done with my acrobatics and finally had both feet on the ground.

So, Rock has a little bit of ground work to do before I ride him again, and I have more muscle stretching and strengthening to do, but I have confidence that I will be in the saddle shortly.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Air and Water

Ever since I moved into this house five years ago, it has been a constant struggle to get my basic needs met.  If were not having problems getting air, we're having problems getting water.  Neither is negotiable in the desert.  In the past week, we've have more than our fair share of problems with the air we breathe.  Obviously, we have the ongoing problem of trying to keep our carpet clean because of the dogs.  Scrappy can fill his diaper in no time, and next thing I know, it's so heavy that it slides right off him and he starts peeing on the floor.  I am scrubbing carpets daily just so that I don't have to suffer through the stench of urine.

In addition to that, our washing machine began letting off a bad stink.  We clean it as instructed, but it still smells bad.  My husband took it apart and found mold caused by fabric softener that wasn't draining properly.  The whole machine still stinks, so I'm contemplating getting a repairman in here to deal with it.  There's nothing grosser than washing your clothes and having them come out smelling worse than they did going in.  Before anyone starts giving advice, just assume I've already looked up all the solutions online and tried them.  Nothing has worked.

No sooner did we start dealing with that problem, and the plumbing started stinking again.  It usually happens right before Christmas when we have company coming, but I guess it didn't want to miss Thanksgiving this year.  The last time it stunk, some plumbers sold me a case of some liquid to pour down the drains to the tune of several hundred dollars, and afterward I found the same case online for just $80.  So, I tried finding that same website again to buy the stuff, but it didn't exist.  I ended up having to order something similar and hope that it works.  It turns out that what I ordered requires me to pour a little bit down the drains each night before I go to bed.  Like I really needed one more responsibility to handle when I'm half asleep.

Just when I started getting into the routine of flushing our plumbing every night, we got slapped in the face by death.  We've had this obnoxious rat living under our bathtub for years and we've tried all kinds of techniques to get rid of it, but nothing has worked.  My husband finally found how the rat was getting under the house when he saw a snake slither into a hole just above the concrete slab.  He tried a variety of techniques to block the hole, but the rat just keep chewing right through them.  I had set out poison all year, but the rat wouldn't bite.  Just recently my husband seems to have found a way to block the hole successfully.  Unfortunately, the rat was in the house at the time he sealed off its exit.  It must have gotten hungry and ate the poison, so now both the inside and the outside of the house smell like death.  It's so disgusting.  I have to breathe through my mouth when I eat, because otherwise my food will taste like a dead carcass.  We farted around eating out in a restaurant and doing our grocery shopping in two markets yesterday just so that we could get out of the house for a while and breathe fresh air.  My lungs have been feeling clogged, and I've been struggling to take deep breaths, but I don't have any cold or allergy symptoms.  It's as if someone poured concrete into my lungs.

We had to turn off our air conditioning, because each time it turned on, it blew that stench right on us and the smell got ten times worse.  We've been keeping all the windows and doors open, which is allowing insects into the house.  They figure out how to bypass the screens.

On the day the stench was at its strongest, each time I took a drink of water, it tasted awful.  I thought it was because I was smelling the dead rat while drinking.  But then even when I'd make a concerted effort to plug my nose and drink the water, it still tasted like I was drinking raw sewage.  I thought maybe the problem was the cup, so I got a different cup, but it was still bad.  I started bugging my husband to check to see if there is a water filter somewhere that needs to be changed, and he said he doubted it.  I kept bugging him, and he kept saying that he just had some water from the tap last night and it was fine.  I bought myself some bottled water at the market and refused to drink the water from the tap, so my husband drank some from the tap and said it was delicious.  I was like, "Fine.  It's all in my head.  I'll just keep drinking bottled water."

A short time later he said, "That water had a bitter after taste."

So, now he's going to start changing filters to see if that fixes the problem.  It was bad enough that we didn't have decent air to breathe, but then to have our water go bad simultaneously is just too much to bear.  I'm starting to think this house hosts a portal to hell.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

First Trespasser of the Season

I walked past the French doors and spotted a man marching up the road toward my back yard, so I paused to see if he was going to turn around once he reached the fence.  He didn't.  He walked along the back of my property line and then turned onto my property and began climbing down the cliff.  I grabbed my camera and tried to get a picture of him climbing down into the arroyo, but I couldn't get zoomed in enough before he disappeared into the brush.  I have a sign at the back of my property that says, "Smile!  Your on camera." in addition to several No Trespassing signs, so all is fair in love and war.  I warn people that I will take their picture if they trespass, and I do.

I stood out on my porch in full view with my camera, and he came up out of the arroyo at the corner of my property and the property of the neighbor who I chewed out last year for trespassing on my land multiple times a day.  He was the guy who said he had a right to be there because he had been hiking that trail for twenty years, long before my house was even built on the land.  Sorry, guy.  That's not the way it works.  The person for forks out the cash to buy the land is the person who has the right to be there and set the rules regarding how the land is used.

Today's trespasser walked right up that neighbor's pathway in his back yard.  I got one picture of him right before he disappeared behind some brush.

I knew I was losing him so I just hit the shutter release before I had a chance to really zoom in on his face.  I ran out to my front yard to see where he came out, and he traipsed right through that neighbor's front yard into the street.  I went back into my house thinking that he turned away from me, but it turned out that he was coming toward me.  He went out onto the hiking trails in front of my house.  I figured he had probably been coming through my property for years, because there was another gate to the trails closer to where he entered the street, but he chose to come to the gate in front of my house.  The guy was moving so fast that he was gone before I could get out the front door to talk to him.

What I did see was that he was wearing a safari outfit.  I remember having some trouble with a man in a safari outfit a couple of months ago.  I think he was the one who was standing at the end of my driveway peering into my window at me.  I decided that since he dresses like a lion hunter, I would act like a lion and stalk him.  Perhaps if I gave him the creeps, he'd stop trespassing on my property.  I went down to the arroyo to figure out where he came down the hill, and then I placed a No Trespassing sign right smack in the middle of the trail he made, so that when he returned, he'd know he was busted.

The last time I inspected the condition of the arroyo, I noticed that a new trail was forming, but I figured it was a game trail.  Now I know.  It's man made.  Since I saw the guy in front of my house a couple of months ago, he's probably been hiking through my back yard on a regular basis and I just didn't see him until now.  He tossed a huge tree branch aside that my husband had dragged across the trail to block trespassers, which is the same thing that other neighbor kept doing last year.  While I was in the arroyo, I heard a super loud crash in the brush next to me.  I figured it was a coyote or bobcat running away, but then I thought, "What if it wasn't?  What if there's a bum camping down here?"

So, I walked around to the other side of this massive canopy of brush, and heard some different noises, so I paused.  I was hearing footsteps on the opposite side of the brush where I had just placed the No Trespassing sign.  I thought, "Could he have returned this quickly?"

Then I heard some grumbling and cursing, and I knew he found the sign.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get around to the other side of the brush in time to catch him.  It's super rocky down there and my feet and leg and hip don't let me move very fast.  His voice was just out of my hearing range, but I could've sworn I heard him say, "I wasn't even on her property."

If that's what he said, I'll have to correct him.  People assume that our land is a rectangle just like everyone else's, but it used to be a square, and then the previous owners partitioned one-fourth of one of the corners off and sold it, so our land is L shaped.  Even if he wasn't on my property, he was still on someone else's, and those neighbors whose yards he cut through keep No Trespassing signs down in the arroyo right where he came out.

Something tells me that getting rid of this man is not going to be as simple as talking to him.  I'll have to get creative since he obviously knows he's trespassing and doesn't care.  It's going to be fun toying with him.  I think I'll follow suit with what I learned from The Calling Card Creeper back in Nevada, and keep leaving little gifts for him along his trail.  Hmmmmmm.  I have a whole can of dog crap waiting to be re-purposed...

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Moving Forward

I've been making progress toward my goal to ride again, but it hasn't been without its obstacles.  We've had awesome riding weather, but my body still says no.  Last week I would do my physical therapy exercises one day, and the next day I was so sore that it was as if I never got those steroid injections and forgot to take my anti-inflammatory pills.  This week I can do my exercises one day, and still be able to do some exercises the next day, so I'm definitely getting stronger.  My main obstacles to riding are that I still get ambushed by random pain that causes my muscles to lock up, and I have a stupid blister on my toe. 

This afternoon I attempted to take a horse for a short hand-walk in the desert to test out the herd-bound and fear factors, but as soon as I put on my boots, I couldn't take a single step without pain because of that blister.  I saw on some outdoor survival show that you can prevent blisters by wrapping the part of your foot that is rubbing on your boots in duct tape.  So, I wrapped all of my toes in duct tape, but it didn't help because I already have a blister.  It only works if the blister hasn't formed yet.  Oh well.  I'll give it another couple of days to heal, I guess.  In the meantime, I'm going to have to put together a donation bag of footwear that either no longer fits me or causes me pain.  I just find it so ridiculous that when I was a kid I constantly had blisters on my feet and didn't even notice them, but now that I'm "over the hill", every little thing is painful.

I also still find myself completely out of commission after my evening barn chores.  My new neighbors called me again last night at another inappropriate hour, and I couldn't even get up to answer the phone.  I had to get my husband to bring the phone to me.  I'm not sure what's up with these neighbors calling me super early and late, but I'll have to either have a chat with them about my schedule or just set up my phone to silence itself during certain hours.  I suspect my ex-neighbors told my new neighbors that they should call me every time that someone comes to their house so that I don't call the police.  The only time I've ever called the police was because I saw someone trespassing on their property, dumping tires and vandalizing their signs.  I'm not going to call the police just because there's a strange vehicle parked in their driveway.  But I guess since they aren't at the house right now, they don't want me to think that their friends who have a key are burglarizing the place.  If I thought they were, I'd just go over there and ask them who they are and what they are doing.  I don't really need a heads up for everything these neighbors do.  I'm not their watch dog.  But if it makes them feel better to think that I care, so be it.  They can leave messages throughout the evening and wee hours of the morning while my phone sits on silent mode.  I really don't want to get sucked into handling their business.

I was glad that they got their friends to handle this appointment that they had, and not me just because I am closest, but they did ask me how I am feeling.  My ex-neighbors used to prod me about my health because they wanted to ask a favor of me, and if I dared say that I was feeling well, they'd have the rest of my week booked up in no time.  I actually got to the point where, even if I was feeling well, I'd make my limp more pronounced or hobble with a cane so that they'd leave me alone.  I had to be sneaky about riding my horses.  Sometimes I'd quickly lead a horse behind my trailer where they couldn't see me tacking up, and then I'd mount right there and rush the horse up the driveway and across the street as quick as possible so that they wouldn't see me.  I hope I don't have to resort to such tactics with the new neighbors just so I can get a little freedom.  I've been waiting six months for the weather to cool down and for a doctor to get my leg working again so I can ride -- not so I can house sit and handle someone else's appointments.

I finally got a whip rack for my Mule.  It has two sets of claws, one to hold my long whip and one to hold my manure fork.  I've had to adapt to it, because the fork and the whip extend beyond the width of the vehicle, so I keep underestimating how much clearance I need, and next thing I know I hear a crash and my whip and shovel are on the ground.  I've also had to train myself to stand back when I dump the bed, because otherwise I will get a whip or fork handle stuck in my face at eye level.  You'd think I'd just see them and not walk into them, but my close up vision is worthless.  All I see is a blur.  I have to put on reading glasses to see what I'm eating most days.

Of course, the horses love to sneak up on the Mule and try to rip the whip and fork off the rack.  I need the whip to train them not to do that, so I grab for it, but it often gets stuck in the rubber claws, so my timing in trying to train the horses not to mess with my Mule leaves a lot to be desired. 

I've also been trying to find a way to train Gabbrielle to stop pissing in my face.  She's started up that obnoxious behavior again, which was what got me to put her on the market the first time I tried to sell her.  Last year, each time I walked into her stall, she'd turn her butt toward me, spread her legs, lift her tail, and pee right in my face, splattering piss all over my pants and shoes.  I stopped that by carrying a riding crop and smacking her on the rump to keep it away from me, but now she does it from a distance as soon as she spots me walking toward the barn to let her out of her stall.  So, what I've been doing is grabbing a rock and chucking it at the aluminum roof just above her head.  The bang scares her and makes her jump two feet in the air, which immediately halts her peeing. 

I think she's getting the idea, because last night she held it and was sure to face me the entire time I approached her.  Since there weren't any wet spots in her stall, I was pretty sure that she had been holding her bladder all those hours until I appeared.  I'm not sure why she feels the need to release the flood in my presence, but it's a behavior I can't ignore.  Now Lostine is starting to pee as soon as she sees me approach.  It's got to be a mare thing.  The really bad thing about Lostine doing it is that she pees in the corner next to the gate latch that I need to open and walk through in order to get into the barn, so I have to step over the puddle, or if the puddle is too wide, I have to walk through it.  In Gabbrielle's case, she'd make her puddle right next to the water station, so if I needed to turn a hose on or off, I'd have to contend with her urine puddle there.  I just don't know why the mares can't just pee somewhere else when I'm not around.  Why must they have an audience while they urinate? 

What it comes right down to is that I don't want animals placing obstacles in my path now that it is so difficult for me to even follow a path.  I've brought two carry kennels into the living area just so that I can prepare food in the kitchen without being blocked and tripped by dogs.  I tried searching Craig's List and checking out garage sales for a used play pen to put the dogs in, but my community does not have many children in it.  It's mostly a 55 and up community.  We have elementary schools here, but I have no idea where the children live.  I don't want to waste money on a new dog pen that I'll only use for a few weeks.

The diseases that the dogs have cause them to be hungry all the time.  Things were at a point where I couldn't even quietly sneak into the kitchen to do something without all three dogs waking up and sticking to me like iron on a magnet.  If I needed to throw something away, the dogs would be huddled around the trash can so that I couldn't step on the pedal to open the lid.  If I needed to get something out of the pantry, the dogs would be pressed up against the door so that I couldn't open it, and then when I got them out of the way and did open the pantry door, they'd all run into the pantry and sniff around for food droppings so that I couldn't close the door without locking them in.  If I needed to get to the sink, they'd be lined up beneath the sink so that I'd have to lean across them or push them out of my way with my feet.  I couldn't open and close cupboards or the oven or the dishwasher, because they were constantly blocking me.  The worst was when I'd be doing something on a counter top, walk away, and return to slip in a puddle of saliva directly under where I was standing at the counter.  The dogs would lick the floor non-stop in case I dropped a crumb.  It was outrageous. 

We're still using that little spare refrigerator in the laundry room, so getting food in and out of there with three dogs hassling me is impossible.  We've been eating out in restaurants a lot, or I've just been grabbing something that doesn't require preparation.  Hooray for Pop Tarts and granola bars and leftover pizza.  I tried getting the dogs out of the kitchen by squirting them with a water bottle at first, but it did not deter them one bit.  I think they thought the mist felt nice.  Then I blocked off one end of the kitchen with a bulletin board, but they just came around the other way, and I didn't have anything big and flat enough to block off that end temporarily.  We don't want gates, because they will just become obstacles to us, just like the dogs.  So, now the dogs get to whine behind bars in kennels.  I'd lock them in a room except they'll scratch the door and pee all over the carpet.  I'd rather have them pee on towels in a kennel and scratch and chew the bars, even if they sometimes scratch and chew until they bleed.  There's really no good solution.  They bring new meaning to the phrase, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks."

The people who make Scrappy's diapers ruined their product by changing the Velcro materials.  His first set of reusable diapers shrunk a lot with each wash until they no longer fit him despite me only washing them in cold water and hang drying them.  Also, the hard side of the Velcro got rolled up in the wash and it was difficult to flatten it out again.  So, they made some changes to the materials and his next batch didn't shrink as bad, but the Velcro gets stronger and stronger with each washing, and now it is at a point where I can't get the diapers open to put them on the dog.  Buying them is like flushing money down the toilet.  I may have to resort to using disposable diapers now.

Midge's fur has all grown back since her skin cancer surgery this summer, and so far none of the cancer has returned.  She's been feeling much better, so she's back to jumping on furniture and leaving a litter of puppies behind in the form of hair balls.  I've been having to train myself to vacuum the furniture before company comes over.  People sit in the dog chairs and then stand up, and they've got all this dog hair clinging to their hind ends.  So embarrassing.

I'm still waiting for fly season to end so I can get the horses out of their fly masks in see their eyes again.  Usually, fly season is over in November, but this year the flies are clingers.

My husband is nearly five years older than me, so I get a sneak preview of what kind of hassles I get to deal with as I grow older.  A few years ago, he started complaining about dropping everything.  I didn't get the significance of why it was such a problem until now, because now I am incapable of holding onto anything I put in my hands.  I'm not kidding you.

I
drop
everything.

Picture this.  Your back hurts and is stiff all the time, and you have three little dogs.  You bend over to hook a leash up to a dog's collar, and then stand up to grab a second leash.  In grabbing the second leash, you drop the first, and have to immediately bend over to pick it up before the dog runs away.  Repeat this process two more times until you have all three dogs on leashes, and all three leashes in your hands.  On your way out the door, you always manage to drop at least one leash while you open and close the door.  Bend over again and grab it before you lose a dog.  Each time you bend over you get to feel pain.  Usually, while you are standing outside waiting for your dogs to do their business, you drop one or two leashes again for good measure.  There's no point in trying to take out one dog at a time, because you still constantly drop the leash, and you just triple the number of steps you have to take.  Wrapping the leash handle around your wrist just offers a false sense of security until it slips off your wrist.  You start thinking you might need to keep mountain climbing clips hanging from your belt loops and attach the leashes to them, but then you consider all the days you wear track and yoga pants, which don't have belt loops.  Then you really get real and have to admit that a little Chihuahua can easily drag you to the ground if you have it tied to your waist...

You can see how it would get old really fast.  I'm not even going to start on talking about the number of times I drop the soap in the shower.  I sure hope I never inadvertently commit some crime and end up in prison.  I'd never shower again.  I may have to switch to a soap dispenser.  Growing old means having to constantly adapt to not being able to do things you used to easily do.  You have to be creative and willing to make changes in order to save on time and energy and to prevent pain.

But despite dropping everything, I know my leg has been feeling better overall because there have been several days in which I chose to walk to the barn rather than drive.  It actually seemed quicker and easier to just walk.  That's a giant step forward for me.  Also, the last time I went for a hike (before that blasted blister), I hiked over a mile and still had some gas left in the tank.  I could have kept going except that the horses and dogs needed their dinner.  I wonder what I could accomplish if I didn't have somewhere else I always had to be?

Monday, November 6, 2017

It's a Yes to the Dress

In our household, we are all fans of the TV show "Say Yes to the Dress", so when our son got engaged and his fiance was talking about shopping for a wedding dress in New York at Kleinfeld's, we were teasing her to have us on video chat so we can participate in the experience.  When I got married in the 80's, I bought a $19 tea-length lace party dress with puffy sleeves and football shoulder pads at a wholesale store and wore that as my bridal gown.  It was off-white when I bought it, and now it is yellow.

A couple of weeks after this dress talk, my daughter got engaged too.  She invited us to go wedding dress shopping with her.  She had set up an appointment with one bridal shop, but decided that it was too far away for us to travel.  There are always issues with how much mileage I can get out of my leg and hip when traveling, and then there's the dogs and their incontinence, and their need to get their meals and medications on time.  So, she set up an appointment with a different bridal shop closer to home.  She sent us links to wedding dresses she found online that interested her, but she made it clear that she didn't want to spend a lot of money on a dress she will only wear once.  Like mother, like daughter.  We're so practical.

I was expecting the place to either be like a regular clothing store where you take dresses off the rack, change in a dressing room, look in a mirror, and buy what you want that day, or be like a serious wedding salon where the cheapest dress is $1,500 and you have to order months in advance.  The place we visited was the best of both worlds.  It was the "Say Yes to the Dress" experience right down to having your own personal stylist and private showing room, but you buy the dress off the rack that day!  The dresses were marked way down, so the price range was $100 - $3,000.  The first dress that the stylist pulled off the rack to show us was gorgeous, and I exclaimed my pleasure in its beauty.  Then my daughter was given a handful of clothing pins and told to clip them to each dress she finds that she's interested in trying on.  I was a little worried because they didn't have a huge selection and most of them were strapless where my daughter was looking for something with a collar or high-necked.

We liked the first dress our daughter modeled for us, but she did not.  The second dress made her feel like a mummy.  I said it would look better with a belt, and she found some belt loops, so we knew it had come with a belt at one point in time, but now it was missing.  We all liked the third dress and I thought we were going to get it, but then her father pointed out that there was nothing special about it, and we all kind of went, "Oh yeah."  The fourth dress was special, and my daughter liked it, but the material was cheap and the bottom layer of fabric was interfering with the top layer, causing it to bunch up, so we suggested that she keep trying dresses on.  The fifth dress was that "wow moment" people talk about.  She took our breath away when she walked into the room.  That dress turned out to be the first one the stylist pulled off the rack and I had a visceral reaction toward.  It was beaded lace on top, satin on bottom with beaded lace around the bottom of the train.  The satin and lace together made a nice contrast so that the decorative parts really stood out.  There was a sixth dress waiting in the queue, but we all opted to stop with the fifth.

They stylist clipped the train up to show how a seamstress would design a bustle for it.  As soon as she got the sense that was THE dress, she disappeared to go grab a couple of veils, just like they do on the TV show.  It was nice that all four of us agreed on the same dress.  They make choosing a wedding dress look like a laborious process on TV, but we were in and out of there in an hour.  I really liked that the stylist was so professional and didn't pressure us into buying anything we didn't want.  She didn't say anything with her words or body language to make us feel uncomfortable.  Sometimes on the TV show, it seems like the stylists act snobby and try to rush the appointment along when someone has a tight budget.  Our stylist was just there to help, which is the way I like it.  She even interviewed my daughter at the beginning of the appointment to ask about her fiance and their wedding plans, as well as what she was looking for in a dress.

So, we got our own personal fix of the wedding dress shopping experience.  Our daughter said she was overwhelmed because she never expected to get such a nice wedding dress, but we wouldn't have let her settle on something other than a dress that was unanimously perfect in every way.

(Sorry.  No pictures of the dress until the wedding day.  I'll leave you with an Arizona sunrise.)


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Run, Forrest, Run!

The doctor warned me that my hip would be in a lot of pain the day after receiving all those injections, but I actually felt quite good for a couple of days.  I took my newly treated hip for a spin in the desert and it felt solid and relatively pain-free.  It was as if someone had stuffed pillows in between my joint bones.  However, I was still getting cramps and electrical zaps in the knee and below, so I had to stop every few yards to stand on one leg and lean on my walking stick.  Then I had a couple of days where I felt like I had been hit by a truck.  My hip and thigh were bruised in all the locations I received steroid injections.  It was difficult to do my daily chores.

I was so distracted by the pain that I forgot to give the dogs their medications in the morning.  By the time I noticed that Midge was peeing too much and I gave her a belated insulin dose, I knew we both were screwed.  Both she and I have medications we have to take with food every 12 hours, and if we are off by even an hour, we pay for it.  So, when I gave her an evening insulin shot with her dinner, she ended up with too much insulin due to the late dosage, and she kept waking me up throughout the night with her symptoms.  At one point I heard a crash and found her walking into the wall repeatedly.  I could see that she was on the verge of having a seizure, so I leaped out of bed, poured some food in a bowl and covered it with a dab of syrup.  That stabilized her.

However, because of my lack of sleep during the night, I overslept in the morning, so we are back to both her and me being off schedule for our medications.  In my case, if I am an hour late in taking my anti-inflammatory, I'll usually be in pain and unable to walk without a cane for 12 hours.  However, the steroid injections seem to be preventing that to some degree.  I felt well enough this morning to want to go for another hike in the desert, only this time I wanted to wear my fitness watch to record how far I got.  I need to make exercise a daily routine to rebuild and strengthen my leg muscles now that I have my mobility back, but the usual bull crap has been getting in the way of me being able to plan out my day.  This time, instead of having to stay home all day because of a repairman who requires an 8 to 5 window to arrive, I've been having to stay home because some stupid third party online seller required a signature for a package that could be delivered at anytime before 8:00 PM.

I received a text message from FedEx yesterday that I had to be home to sign for the package, so I stayed home all day, and the package never arrived.  I checked the tracking info, and they moved the delivery to today.  I really badly wanted to go for a short hike, but if I waited all day for the delivery and it didn't come until the evening, I'd be pissed.  Normally, we never receive deliveries before lunch, so I took a chance and went out into the desert with my walking stick in the morning.  I was rushing to get out the door because of the time pressure, and of course that woke the dogs up, so I had to take them out to pee, which delayed my hike and added to my stress level to hurry up before FedEx arrives.

This past weekend, we had a grand opening for a supermarket nearby.  I had received coupons in the mail for $5 off my $100 purchase of groceries, but we were short on time and ended up having to do our shopping on the way home from my doctor's appointment, and I had left the coupons at home.  I was disappointed that I wouldn't be able to use them, and then this lady handed me a coupon for 25% off shoes and apparel.  I looked over and saw these booties...

I consider that heel the perfect height for me, and I liked that the boot was wide with room for the toes, so I tried them on.  They fit.  My husband found socks he wanted, so all in all, we saved about $8 instead of the original $5.  You gotta celebrate small victories.

Honestly, I didn't know if I would ever be able to hike or ride horses again at that point in time, so I was taking a gamble on buying the boots.  I decided to get them in good faith, and those were the boots I wore when I went hiking as soon as the steroids kicked in...

While out in the desert I found another pair of my blue jeans that coyotes stole from my horses' play pen...

I had to golf quite a few cholla balls off the trails...

There were shoe prints, bicycle tracks, and hoof prints everywhere.  I've been such a recluse these past six months that I've been totally unaware of the activity going on outside.  I did find hoof prints going up my driveway, so someone has been trespassing.  I don't know how they do it, because we've blocked off every avenue with big branches.  I'll have to go down to the arroyo and see if someone threw the branches off the trails again.


This is all that is left of the "monkey cactus"...

I was in the middle of reveling over my lack of pain while hiking -- just a few electrical zaps and cramps, when I heard a truck driving up the street.  Sure enough, it was a FedEx vehicle.  I scurried toward home, cutting across trails to try to head the driver off at the pass, but I just couldn't move fast enough.  In my head, I was yelling, "Run, Forrest, run!"

As I emerged out of the bushes onto my street, the driver pulled out of my driveway and raced off, not even glancing my way.  I was cursing to myself all the way home.  The delivery man spent no more than 15 seconds at my door.  Even if I was home, before the steroid shots, I would have needed more than 15 seconds to get up out of my chair and work my way to the door.  I'm really getting frustrated with the way that our culture is built around young, healthy people.  The rest of us are on the fringe, and we just have to try to keep up.

I found a message stuck to my door saying they will try again tomorrow.  Great.  That makes three days in a row I've had to sit at home waiting for this stupid delivery.  I'm starting to think that I'd save more time standing in lines at the local stores.

The good news is that I hiked .65 of a mile.  I did not expect to even make it a quarter of a mile.  Last month I couldn't even make it across the street.  There's hope for me yet.

Monday, October 30, 2017

From the Hermitage

My orthopedist shot me up with oodles of steroids last week.  Previously, I had one in the knee that worked to relieve pain just in my knee for a couple of weeks, and then I had one in my hip joint the helped me get a little more mileage out of my hip, but not enough to get me back to the activity level I was at last spring.  This time I got one double dose in the hip muscle, one shot in the hamstring, and one in the pelvic area.  He didn't want to do the knee again, because he was worried that too many injections will cause me too much pain.

The joint injections are straightforward.  He injects a numbing medication first, and the sticks this ridiculously large, long needle down to the joint with the guidance of an ultrasound machine.  The muscle injections are a little more complicated.  He only numbs the skin, but needs to leave the muscle alone so that I can give him feedback for when he hits the painful muscle tear with the steroid needle.  He kind of has to poke and dig around.  He had to approach my hamstring from two different angles and didn't bother with the numbing meds on the second attempt because I really wasn't phased by the needle pain.  My arthritis and muscle tear pains are so intense that a honking large needle is nothing to me.  It's all relative.

I had told him that I thought I have some new tears in my muscles since my MRI.  He said that it's more likely that I strained those muscles while compensating for the pain.  I've been limping, which makes me use my muscles differently and strains them.  For the most part, the injections have dealt with the majority of injuries that the MRI found, but now my quad and knee are hurting.  I also have muscle weakness in those muscles I avoided using before the steroid injections, so I will have to exercise to build them back up while the pain is being relieved by the steroids.  I doubt I could swing my leg over a horse's back or stand on it in a stirrup until I get my strength back.

I also asked the doctor if continuous high levels of stress can prevent the steroids from working.  I'm trying to figure out why they haven't had much of an effect on me thus far, and he said that stress creates cortisol, which can counteract the benefits of steroids.  That would explain a lot.  I'm purposefully trying to take it easy now in order to give this round of steroids a chance to do their job.

I know a local lady who has been in the same boat as me, hobbling around with a cane due to intense arthritis.  She needs knee replacement surgery, but they had to postpone it because they lost her MRI images.  I am continually astounded by the poor quality of healthcare in my area.  If a patient who is in pain can suffer through the MRI imaging process, the least the employees can do is their jobs so that she can have surgery and get some relief.  It's probably the same place that mixed up my x-rays with someone else's and that resulted in me hassling with the wrong diagnosis for the following year.  I wrote them a letter about the hell they put me through, and they didn't even respond with an apology.  They probably just forwarded the letter to their attorney to keep on file with all the other disparaging letters from angry patients.

My daughter came over this weekend and helped me give all four horses baths.  I was so thankful, because I did not have the stamina to do it all by myself.  I chopped Rock's tail up off the ground several inches so that I won't have to worry about his tail dragging on the ground for a while.  I could see that the horses definitely have developed their usual herd-bound behaviors after not being handled all summer.  Each time we led a horse away from the barn, it panicked.

I dropped my laptop computer a while back, examined it, and didn't see any damage, but over time, pieces started popping off of it and now the touch screen is warping and the layers are peeling apart.  The screen occasionally blacks out.  So, I had to order a new laptop, which is unfortunate because we've already spent so much money this past month on repairs and replacements, and because it takes a long time to get up a new computer the way I like it.  I have to transfer all the software I use and all of my files.  It's a time-consuming pain.  I wish computers lasted longer.

For a while there, we had non-stop activity going on next door with repairmen and guests coming and going.  The new neighbors hadn't even furnished their house much and then had parties several nights in a row, so there were all these people standing around on their roof and patio with cocktails in their hands.  It was creepy having large groups of people watching me do my chores in my backyard, but I just turned my back to them and hoped that they would return the favor and give me some privacy. 

The neighbors have also been allowing their guests to stop and park in the middle of the street, which I find to be bizarre.  They are blocking the people who live at the end of the road from being able to come and  go.  Each time we drove off or drove home, there would be another car sitting in the middle of the street.  Why not park in their driveway or the turnout?  Maybe the previous home owners told them I don't like it when people park blocking the gate to the bridle trails, so they are just not letting anyone park in the turnout?

The man who owns the house cut down and poisoned all the brush in their backyard, so now they can see clearly right into my backyard.   He has been trying to strike up conversations with me over the fence while I've been working, so I've been having to find a balance between being friendly, but elusive in order to protect my time.  I don't like being interrupted when I'm working, because I forget what I was doing and pay for it later.  This weekend I got distracted and left the hose running for an hour.  I need to focus.  We can't afford to be losing water after all the hell we've been through this past month with broken plumbing.

I'm hoping that at least since these new neighbors have so many friends and are so popular that they will be busy socializing with someone other than me, so that I don't have to deal with them sitting on their porch all day waiting for me to come outside to entertain them, like some past neighbors I've had.  They did say they want to go trail riding with me, so I had to explain that I'm not sure yet if I can ride horses with my health issues.  Even if my doctor gets me to a point where I can mount and dismount, I still can't go far from home, and that kind of situation takes the fun out of it for other people.  I do like company on the trails sometimes, but for the most part, trail riding is my main resource for finding peace, quiet and privacy.  I prefer to ride alone and commune with nature.  It's kind of like when I had an hour drive through the mountains to my office, and then they hired this guy who lived near me who wanted to ride-share to save gas.  I said no, because that drive was the only time of day I could be alone to collect my thoughts.  It was important to me to have a couple of hours each day where no one was talking at me.

My ex-neighbor put me into an uncomfortable situation.  She's got a bit of Alzheimer's and is more of a talker than a listener, so there have been times when I've told her a story, and then she repeated it back to me later, forgetting that I was the one who told it to her, only she got all the facts wrong, so it was a completely different story tainted by her own thoughts and opinions, which are often catty and insensitive.  Anyway, she told the new neighbors that I did something I didn't do, and now they are mad at me.  They confronted me about it while all this activity was going on and I was being rushed out the door, so I didn't have the time to explain how convoluted the entire rumor was.  A part of me wants to explain it to them, but another part of me wants to just drop it.  I don't want them to be upset, but I also don't like to allow others to put me on the defensive, so I just responded by making a face that they can interpret however they want.  All I can say is that my ex-neighbor is not getting Christmas card this year from me since she tried to pound a wedge in between me and the new neighbors.  I can do that all by myself.  I don't need her help.

I was so glad to be rid of my ex-neighbors and their eight barking guard dogs when they first moved out three years ago.  Then they ensnared me into being their property manager, security guard and real estate agent.  When the house sold, I was relieved to be "off the hook" from all those unwanted responsibilities.  But it turned out that my ex-neighbors volunteered me to continue to take care of the property for the new neighbors who bought it.  They kind of sold me as a part of the package without asking me.  I feel like I was sold into slavery.

The new neighbors won't take their key back.  I told them I'm in too much pain to help them, but they insist they won't ask too much from me.  That's what my ex-neighbors said, and I've had to sacrifice so many of my own plans to do jobs for them.  Even though I'm just in pain, losing my mobility feels similar to having a terminal illness.  I'm in a race against time regarding maintaining a certain quality of life, and I don't want to spend that time handling other people's repair appointments.  My own repair appointments drive me insane.

I recently found another hole in our wall made by the drywall team that was supposed to be repairing our walls!  It looked like someone kicked our shower rod into the wall of the bathroom where it was lying on the floor.  They had to take it down to work on the wall around the shower.

That was the other thing my ex-neighbor said to the new neighbors about me that pissed me off.  She told them that I will notify them when something looks ratty or breaks so that they can call a repairman to fix or replace it, and I will let the repairmen into the house and lock up after them.  The only reason why I did that for her was because she twisted my arm and wouldn't leave me alone.  She kept pestering me to do those things, and I just wanted to live my own life.  I gave in, because I wanted her to stop calling me and pressuring me to do all this crap.  I figured it would take less time to just do it than it would to have to put up with all of her obnoxious phone calls.  But that backfired, because then she started constantly calling me to remind me of things that needed to get done.

When she talked to the home buyers, she made it sound like I was bothered when something looked ratty or broke because it might affect my property value, but in reality I couldn't care less.  I used to live next door to a hoarder who turned his property into a junkyard.  Obviously, a broken gate or a few weeds aren't even going to even attract my attention.  She wanted to keep her property looking nice so that someone would buy it, and each time she flew out here to check on the property, she'd give me a hard time if she found a problem that I missed or ignored.  So, in order to avoid her wrath, I'd let her know if something was falling apart.  That doesn't mean that I cared that it was falling apart, and it doesn't mean that I want to continue to do that job for the new neighbors.

I took care of the house before because it was up for sale, but I'm not going to continue to keep the place nice just because the new neighbors only live in it half the year.  I really hope these new people can take no for an answer.  If they are as aggressive in getting what they want as my ex-neighbors were, then I'm going to have to freeze them out of my life.  However cold it is where they came from will feel like nothing once they meet my cold front.  I don't need this kind of stress.  I need to focus on myself and stop helping everyone around me.   I've tried to protect myself from time and energy vampires by making myself inaccessible, but some people are just so determined to force themselves into my life that I can't keep them out.  The new neighbor did question me on why I won't let people come to my house.  I guess he did come by last week, but saw my sign on the door.  I talked about my dogs, but I don't think he understood.  I should probably switch out the sign with something that says, "Ornery, angry old hermit in pain lives here.  Just go away and don't ask questions."