Friday, April 29, 2011

Magic Fur

Ever since Satcho joined our family, Nick has boasted about our "self-cleaning" dog. I actually remember seeing on the Great Pyrenees of America website that Pyrs have "been endowed with a coat which is self-cleaning, tangle- and mat- resistant." I also remember being dubious.

They were referring to the breed's two layers of fur: The long pretty one you see; and a thick, insulating, dense woolly coat underneath. So when your dog returns from muddy hikes looking absolutely destroyed, really it's only on the outer fur and it'll fall off when dry. Nothing gets past the wool, which is so thick you don't want to hose him down because it'll never dry. Instead, your mud-drenched pup just saunters into and all over the house as is. The dirt eventually dries and leaves itself in piles in front of his dog dish, upstairs on your bedroom floor, the downstairs bathroom, by most doors and under Nick's desk. 

But here's the fascinating part: By the time I've vacuumed the entire house, scrubbed the mud swipes off the walls, gotten on my hands and knees to mop the floors, cleaned the windows he's walked by, and brushed the tangled and matted bits until he looks all gorgeous again, his fur has completely self-cleaned. It's just incredible.

Every now and again someone will notice how spic and span things are and marvel at how amazing Satcho's fur is.

I wonder if my family thinks we have a self-cleaning house, too?



It's a miracle!


Monday, April 25, 2011

A Little Trivia for You

Did you know that Theodore Roosevelt had only one eye? He actually lost it while in office, boxing with a naval officer. Not that they were boxing in the Oval Office, but you know what I mean. Although cruder things have happened there...

Wiley Post, first pilot to circle the earth alone, did it without a left eye. Sammy Davis, Jr., John Ford, Ian Smith of then-Rhodesia, John Milton, radio inventor Marconi, Hannibal, who crossed the Alps in 218 B.C., and Peter Falk are all members of the vast monocular club. (There always was something not quite right with Columbo's eyes.)  So with the possible exception of Ian Smith, Nick's in good company! I gleaned this info from "A Singular View," written by pilot Frank Brady who lost his right eye when a 5lb duck came smashing through his cockpit window. How random is that? Barr sent the book to Nick (Thanks Barr!) and we've both learned from it.

Losing half your eyes doesn't mean losing 50% of your vision. Of the 180 degrees you normally take in, only 20-40% of that is lost, but it takes with it your depth perception, which is a pretty handy gizmo. Got to be said though, Nick is adapting remarkably well. The only thing that seems to really challenge him is parking in tight spaces. He still does it of course, and that's what's going to get him through this adjustment period.

What breaks my heart a bit is his new vision has sucked some of the joy out of gardening. He still loves it and always will - as I write he's strolling around, hands clasped behind his back, welcoming today's new blossoms - but it's just not the same, y'know? You wouldn't know it from looking at the garden itself though. It's exploding. And so well tended. This is the time of year when if you put in the hours and labour, you can relax some later on and enjoy the fruits of your hard work - but whether or not there's going to be any actual fruit will depend on the nighttime freeze predicted for the next couple of days. Hopefully they got it wrong.

It finally rained this weekend and everything/one is happy, including Satcho who thought the softened muddy earth would be a fun place to bury his nose... and head, and paws and belly...

The girls got pretty covered in colour as well, painting and searching for eggs. I think if my Mom had tried hiding hard boiled eggs for the hunt, there would've been a mutiny in our home. But with a few pounds of chocolate still leftover from the 40lb Santa Cayenne won over Christmas, I just couldn't get chocolate eggs on top of the bunnies they found on their breakfast plates - something else my Mom always did for us. They hid and hunted for those boiled eggs over and over.

Acacia's soccer game happened to be at the same time and place as the Easter Bunny's arrival by fire engine, so they delayed the start of the game by ten minutes and the girls got to scramble for for eggs first, so don't worry, no one was deprived of sugar! Here they're divvying up the loot; Acacia was the only one with a basket because yours truly knew the Easter Bunny's itinerary.☺

We're back into our weekly routine of volunteering at the Humane Society, loving up the cats and walking the dogs. Usually we walk them, but sometimes they walk us...

For five weeks after the accident we didn't make it to the Humane Society and when the girls repeatedly asked me when we were going to go again, I realised that for them this was something that represented normalcy. Once that dawned on me we made the effort to include it in our weekends again, and like so many things in life, it's a win-win for everyone, four-legged and otherwise.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Eat, Drink & Be Merry

The flight attendant's head was down when he asked Nick what he would like to drink. As Nick was saying "Apple juice, please," the attendant lifted his head, looked directly into his soulless eye and, in Nick's words, went weak at the knees.

"Pardon me?"

"Apple juice, please."

"I'm sorry, juice?"

Nick thought it was hilarious, but it also made him realise he hadn't really been out in public yet. I asked how he was received by the TBM company (TSI) owners and he said it was absolutely fine; no one avoided the subject - or his eye - but no one made a big deal out of it either. Turns out one owner's brother-in-law has one eye and so does the other one's wife (her eye got smoked during lasik surgery 15 years ago). It's the TSI Monocular Curse!

Normally when Nick goes for his annual recurrent training in California it's in the TBM, the French-made plane that these guys fly for their jobs. Makes sense. But this time they did it in a Decathalon, a tail-dragger like the one Nick crashed. Total coincidence as that was planned before Nick's "mishap," as it's known around the office, but one that gave Nick pause - for the first ten seconds after learning of it, anyway. He was fine and had a good time - even enjoying the flying bit with well known aerobatic pilot Rich Stowell, doing unusual maneuvers and spins toward the ground. His stomach was a tad queasy, but his mind and spirit soared.

And his stomach, for once, would have been full! He can eat again. Yay! It's been about two weeks since he had his teeth temporarily filled and he's already gained back 7lbs. He lost more than 25lbs by the end, so regaining some is a good thing. I'm glad we had a ten day food-fest in France in the middle of it or he would have lost even more. The chocolate mousse(s), creamy cheeses, the wonderful cooking in St.Raphael, meals like Raclette in Collet d'Allevard with cousin Marion's family and all the special things Francoise did for the meal at her place with cousin Alain and his family, so Nicolas could eat like everyone else - all these things were received (by his tummy and his heart) with great appreciation.

Now it's time to use the extra protein and calories to rebuild muscle. You'll not be surprised to know he's pushing it and at this exact moment his hand is hurting quite a lot. He just left for San Juan Hand Therapy for routine PT where they'll either tell him it's ok, keep pushing it, or take it easy. Luckily I've got licensed therapists to pawn some of the nagging onto!

His hand is hurting more than usual because of our bike ride yesterday. After a busy Saturday running from a soccer game to a sports swap (cheap ski stuff for next season) to a swim-meet to a friend's house-warming party, we decided to relax on Sunday with a 5hr bike ride, which included a long picnic by the river. On the way we passed the turn-off for Michel and Ilona's new house and the girls were excited that in the near future they're going to be able to ride their bikes to their grandparents' house.

They both did great. We were so proud!!

We must have passed 100 fellow bikers yesterday. Or rather, at least 100 bikers passed us! That means summer is upon us. Whoop whoop!


Monday, April 11, 2011

Eye Eye Captain!

Nick's flying.

Hold on, let me start over. **deep breath**exhale**

Nick's flying. There. I said that with much more conviction.


That's as far as I got Saturday when I started writing this. While Nick took a test flight, the girls and I headed to Purgatory for some warm, fun, spring skiing - except that it was none of the above. It was socked-in cloudy, the wind blasted and the snow was so slow I had to cross country ski downhill. My fingers and toes were so cold they hurt and every time I looked at the black sky I thought about Nick flying, hoping he and Mike were done already.

Turns out flying is easier for Nick than driving, and after two perfect landings in some of the strongest gusts he's seen at Animas Airpark, they decided the weather was getting too dodgy and called it a day.  He's on his way to California at the moment for his annual TBM recurrency - the owners of the company he was flying for are expecting him back at work asap - and he'll be gone all week. Feels like old times! (I was going to start this post by saying, "Nick is no longer with us," but didn't want to give his mother a heart attack.)

Originally Nick thought he wouldn't be able to work for six months because that's how long the FAA gives you to get used to your new vision, but it turns out that's just for flying alone. He can still train people, as long as they're already pilots. This means he can't deliver people their new planes unless the owner is a pilot and with him, but it does mean that soon he'll be able to do some kind of work.

But first he needs what looks like an eye. What's in there now is spooky and, at a guess, would not inspire confidence in a client. If his gorgeous pony-tail freaked out safari-goers in Namibia, a vacant iris-less globe in an eye socket would no doubt be worse. Hard to imagine that in a month you'll hardly be able to tell anything happened at all. This will be good for business.

When the surgeon removed his eye in ABQ, he replaced it with a spherical implant, attached Nick's eye muscles around it, then surrounded the front part with a thin layer of tissue called the conjuctiva, from the inside of his eyelid. But here's the cool part: the implant is made of coral. Turns out the structure and chemical make-up of certain types of marine coral are almost identical to human bone. This makes it "invisible" to the immune system, so there should be virtually no risk of rejection. Because it's porous, Nick's muscles will grow into the implant and it will become a part of him.

A modern "glass eye" is actually made from the sclera (white part) of an organ donor's eye, encased in acrylic, I think, and the iris is painted onto that. So the implant stays put, if all goes well, and the "eye" is a contact lens-like cover which goes over the conjunctiva tissue and can be removed. I think it's fascinating and want to be there in ABQ when the artist paints it (whether or not I can depends on when it is and child/canine care).

Speaking of painting, I'm currently covered in glaze and surrounded by dozens of tiles. Haven't done this in a while! It's one of the reasons I haven't written in a spell. The best of the other reasons is that life is returning to normal.

I've decided I've enjoyed writing this blog so much I'm going to keep it up, but only weekly lest I bore you, so if you're interested in joining me for the rest of this ride I'd love to have you along. If not, no worries, I won't quiz you when I see you at City Market...


Friday, April 1, 2011

Poisson d'Avril?

clink   clink     clink

"Aw, shit."
"What is it?"
"My eye popped out."

If I hadn't heard it hit the floor I'd have thought he was April Fooling. I stopped bottling my kombucha and started toward my first lesson in Replacing Your Husband's Eye. It took a few tries but we got it in place in less time than it would have taken us to get to the eye doc's office, which I've since learned is what the eye doc had said to do. Go to his office, that is. But I'm pretty sure he just would've shown us how to replace it and like Nick said, "How hard can it be?"

Nick's eyelid was initially sewn shut to prevent the prosthesis from falling out and he had the stitches removed just yesterday, so I guess this isn't entirely unexpected, but it's still enough to throw you off kilter for a second. What's in his eye socket is the implant, surrounded by reattached muscle, with a thick, plastic "contact lens" (thick as the edge of a cocktail glass) in front of it. I'll go into more detail soon as I'm still educating myself on the whole kit-and-kaboodle, but the real eye-looking part will be attached to the implant and shouldn't just pop out!

It's only been a week since they removed his damaged eye but his good eye feels soooooo much better. Nick says it's still sensitive to light, but the difference is huge. They pulled the pins out of his hand on Tuesday and he's been working his hand as much as possible since. I understand the necessity for doing as much as his hand will allow in order to prevent the tendons from freezing up, and I think it's great he's been driving, gardening and carrying wood into the house, but he wants to go rock climbing this weekend. It's this genre of things that is causing me to grow old.

It's been glorious outside and we enjoyed dinner in the courtyard last night. We sipped our gin tonics while watching the sun set and Acacia climb over all the walls, including the archway. I was mostly okay with that until Nick started to join her, clambering up the black ironwork. I lost it. I asked him to please stop and when he didn't immediately come down, I stormed inside. A few seconds later he was beside me gathering up the quiche to bring out to the patio.

"If you fall doing something stupid and break both your legs, you're going to have a hard time driving yourself to all your doctors' appointments!"

"Wow. This quiche is awesome, babe. Seriously, it's the best one I've ever had."

And that was that. Saved by leek quiche - which was extra good this time because I threw in all kinds of leftover cheeses, which clearly is something I should've been doing all along (Foodies click on the Recipes link to the right for details).

Nick is going to see Courtney the dentist on Monday, so I'll be able to make whatever we want for dinner - whoop whoop! - which will include a salad, the thing Nick has missed the most, and some meat protein so he can start rebuilding those muscles. I've always called him Popeye because his forearms are normally almost bigger than his biceps from his love of climbing, but those muscles are now jelly. Actually, no. Jelly has more consistency than whatever currently resides between his bones and dangling skin. Not being able to lift anything because of his busted sternum compounded the effects of the absolute immobility of his right hand. I didn't fully realise the extent of the atrophy until last week, but you know Nick, and this won't last long.

Between you and me though, I have to say I'm secretly hoping it lasts through the weekend so the crazy rock climbing idea doesn't even come up again!