Gem (Sunday Scribblings)

Peckapalooza over at The Confusing Middle runs a weekly prompt called Sunday Scribblings. Check out his post and join in the creativity!

Sunday Scribblings #107 – Paperclip

At first blush there isn’t too much to say about paperclips. I don’t use them anymore. I barely use paper anymore. Several years ago I went paperless and I’ve enjoyed the lack of clutter from the move. I’m guessing there are still some paperclips around the house. Certainly some of the bigger varieties that can double as closures for chip bags and such. The traditional “gem” version of the paperclip made by a simple bent wire is exceptionally good at holding several leafs of paper, but I’m trying to think of any other reasons to have them around now? I guess the little slot door on the SIM card holder for the iPhone still needs a paperclip to open. What was a smart design at one point due to the ubiquitous presence of paperclips has become a bit inconvenient. They are now providing special “push pins” with the SIM cards to overcome this issue, but I assume this design will be replaced soon.

Regardless of the lack of utility of the paperclip in my modern life, I can still appreciate the simple functionality of the original invention. Just a bit of bending transformed a small segment of wire into a perfect problem solver for over a century. I think of the times when I needed a paperclip and didn’t have one back when I was in school. I had to revert to folding over the corner of my papers and create a small tear tab to hold them together. It was a sad replacement of the sturdy and dependable paperclip. The last resort when handing in school papers as I was always worried my pages would be separated and I’d lose credit for work done.

I guess the major competition for the paperclip were staples. But staples required installation equipment (the stapler) and removal tools (the staple remover). Certainly the staple had the edge for a permanent binding, but how annoying was it to deal with all the staples when needing to copy documents? They even used to have staple removers attached to the paper copier machines. The paperclip was certainly a much more elegant solution and ideal for impermanent binding.

Look at that. I ended up writing a whole thesis on the paperclip. Life continues to offer up surprises.


Be well,

Monty

A Miracle


Another good reminder for myself. Originally published in Thirteen Words.


Be well,

Monty


Joyful Jack

Yesterday, upon returning home. Jack was super happy and excited to see me. Without a bath or a trim in over a month he is a ball of scuff, but as cute as ever (don’t you think?). I’m pretty scruffy myself these days too – haha!


Be well,

Monty


Day 18: Going Home

For appropriate context, you will want to first read these posts: “Eleven Days Ago” , “Day 12”, and “Day 13”.

This afternoon we will be released from the hospital to go home. We just took our Covid tests for clearance. We’ll be changing the confines of a hospital for the confines of our community as the Shanghai lockdown continues, but it will be nice to have a bed again. More importantly, it means that my wife is making progress and that’s why they are comfortable to send us home.

This has been quite an ordeal and I sincerely hope that it’s a once in a lifetime experience, but it’s also come with its own gifts. This will be my focus today.


Eleven Things I’ve Learned

  • I can be calm under pressure. This was by far the most intense “emergency” situation that I’ve been in and I did pretty alright.
  • A well-placed bedpan is a lifesaver. I’ve come to appreciate the utilitarian beauty of this simple invention.
  • My wife is a warrior. Ok, I knew this already, but she upped her rank this time.
  • A reasonably good layered look can be achieved by pulling a pony tail over the head (toward the face) and then cutting straight.
  • Caregivers are heroes. From the doctors and nurses to the food servers and ayi’s they do their work in the service of others. They are not perfect (just like the rest of us) but they are full of good intentions.
  • A terribly broken leg would be a good model for a wonderfully nasty Halloween piñata. This is a million dollar idea, but I don’t have the entrepreneurial sprit to capitalize it myself so feel free to steal it.
  • Covid started off as a human tragedy in its own right, but the way governments have responded around the world have compounded the casualties. The west’s loose approach accelerated deaths early in their countries. China’s rigid zero-tolerance policy is accelerating casualties of all kinds now. I can only hope that governments around the world reflect on this experience and learn something for next time.
  • An injection in the belly (of anti-clotting medication) should be located approximately three to four finger widths away from the belly button and jabbed quickly at ninety degrees from the skin surface. It is scary but it is doable.
  • Meaningfully reflecting on the gifts we receive each day is a powerful anti-depressant.
  • Absence can make some of life’s simplest things the greatest pleasures, especially true for bowel movements.
  • A good life-partner is a blessing to never be squandered. Enjoy the time you have together, even if its sharing a hospital room. We can’t control the future but we can certainly choose to appreciate the present.

Be well,

Monty


Vanilla (Sunday Scribblings)

Peckapalooza over at The Confusing Middle runs a weekly prompt called Sunday Scribblings. Check out his post and join in the creativity!

Sunday Scribblings #106 — Vanilla

I once received a ‘fresh’ vanilla bean (not exactly sure how fresh it was but it was a whole vanilla bean provided to me directly from a flavor house before processing so it was much fresher than the extracts I was used to in the kitchen). It was from Madagascar and super expensive (I was told). It’s aroma and later it’s flavor when baking totally transformed my understanding of what vanilla really is. The highly processed extracts are made to uniform taste specifications, but the real bean is dynamic with complex notes of flavor. One could easily become a student of the vanilla bean much the same way some are of cocoa and coffee beans. I liken it to the difference between a supermarket tomato versus one fresh from the garden. They are distant relatives of each other sharing a name but little else. The supermarket tomato is tasteless and slightly moist at best. The garden tomato is a burst of flavor and dripping with juices. I grew up with the garden variety and have gotten to the point where I avoid the supermarket variety at all costs unless it’s to be cooked down into a red pasta sauce or something.

Sex. “Vanilla sex” to be specific. What? Too abrupt of a change in gears for you? Do you prefer a more subtle and smooth transition from the introduction into the main event. Sorry, I should have asked first.

Have you been accused (or perhaps labeled yourself) as a “vanilla sex” type of person? Well consider this. When kept fresh, vanilla can be a very rich experience. It’s only when it’s processed and becomes uniform does it become monotonous and boring. So don’t be shy to introduce some fresh vanilla into your life. If your not into all the other types of beans available there is absolutely nothing lacking in vanilla. If you pay attention to each of nuances and notice all of the complexities, every vanilla bean is unique and beautifully delicious.

Of course, if you enjoy cocoa, coffee, or any other beans, they are wonderful as well.


Be well,

Monty

Life is a Detour


A good reminder to myself today. Originally published in Monty’s Very Short Shorts.


Be well,

Monty


Dead Leg Piñata


Do they make piñatas for the Day of the Dead? Or perhaps horrifying piñatas could become a thing for Halloween parties in the future (or are they already? I really don’t know). I’m pretty sure that my wife wouldn’t appreciate me having these thoughts about her, but the thoughts are there and I’m not one to keep them internalized (after all that would make one very empty and boring blog).

So there I was carefully squeezing my wife’s foot* (avoiding the incision sites). With all the swelling her foot looked and felt like a puffed up water balloon but perhaps a bit firmer, like a bloated dead fish. A firm but squishy sensation to touch. A black and blue bloated limb of flesh wrapped incompletely in white gauze stained dark in spots from dried blood by sight.

*Note: The doctor recommended this squeezing technique to help encourage circulation and bring down the swelling more quickly.

Anyway, I was doing this very serious task and what was my mind thinking about? Piñatas! Specifically a “dead leg piñata” that one would hang from a tree branch under a full moon. I envisioned costumed figures (ghosts and ghouls and skeletons and the like) circling the limb with their sticks getting ready to smack it with all their might to discover what surprises it held. And that’s were my brain froze. I couldn’t bare to think about what would actually come out from such a piñata. But then again perhaps it is a trick. After-all this piñata has been reinforced by three titanium brackets and fifteen titanium pins. I don’t think it will be giving up any of it’s prizes.

So there you have it. The musings of a disturbed mind. Your welcome.


Be well,

Monty


Day 13

For appropriate context, you will want to first read these posts: “Eleven Days Ago” and “Day 12”.

My wife’s surgery went smoothly. She arrived back a couple hours later than planed, in intense pain, and barely aware, but she arrived back. With her she brought a newly constructed ankle — three titanium brackets and fifteen pins. There were more pieces to put back together then originally thought based on all the scans, but the surgeon said everything was now in its place.

I helped the nurses transfer her from the transport bed to the room bed. All it involved was pulling one corner of the sheet she was on…but I felt like I was doing something of use. I recall the first time I was in a hospital room with loved one coming out of surgery. It was my daughter on the bed — so tiny and fragile. I almost fainted at the site and the nurses started to pay more attention to me than my daughter. I felt terrible about this. I wanted to say don’t pay attention to me. Please take care of my daughter first. But having a falling accident in a hospital is a major issue and the nurses were trained to protect against it. They did their job and got me into a chair and went back to my daughter’s care, but I’ll always remember that I wasn’t strong enough for her in that moment. Part of me worried that this would happen again, but I was steady this time. I was even a little useful.

The first hour back was torture to watch (and listen too). I can’t imagine fully what it was like for my wife to experience. Slowly we all got a handle on the pain management. There was a “magic” button that would pump just a little extra anesthetic when most needed and my wife would become skilled at timing the pump over the course of the night.

It was during the late evening hours when she was “in the zone” of having enough pain relief but aware when things got intimate. We talked that is. We talked about life. Our life. About difficult times. About silver linings. About love. About our future. I won’t kiss and tell (in too much detail), but I think we both had a moment. A moment that we both needed. A moment that reaffirmed for both of us that we wanted many more of such moments together. From pain our love and commitment is forged stronger like wrought iron. It’s not just an analogy (ok it IS just an analogy, but it feels so damn true).

Today is a good day.


Be well,

Monty


Day 12

For appropriate context, you will want to first read yesterday’s post “Eleven Days Ago”. Now, onto Day 12.

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night screaming. I recall the dream vividly if not completely. There was a murderer in the house in the form of a small girl with a big blade of some sort. She threatened my family. At the dream’s climax, I’d somehow trapped her in the basement and was charging down the stairs with a bat crying out my scariest war cry. That war cry was my screaming.

This all occurred while I was sleeping on the sofa next to my wife’s hospital bed in the middle of the inpatient ward. I awoke mid-scream with my wife calling to me. In the aftermath, I heard lot’s of movement and scrambling outside the hospital room door. I imagined the nurses were trying to determine from what room the cry had come from. Seeking a male patient in pain. They never found me. I was too embarrassed to settle the mystery.

I’m not a dream interpreter. I can’t say why it was a little girl that was the threat to my family. But as I was screaming out my war cry it was fueled by a mix of fear and anger with a deep need to protect my love ones. While I’m no longer screaming audibly, I can confirm that that same emotional mix is still crying out within me. The emotional implosion is not logical. I know rationally that the worst never happened and that my wife is in very capable hands. That the surgery is major but not inherently dangerous. That while I write this they are probably sewing her back up and getting her ready to come to post-op. That her deep sleep is temporary. That I will be back at her side soon. Doing whatever I can to make her a little bit more comfortable. And beginning the long journey ahead of recovery. Together.

But…my figurative organs are all out of sorts. My heart hurts in a dark cloud of anxiety. My mind races to stamp down all the negative thoughts. My stomach is tied up in knots.

So what to do? Well, I’m writing. Writing to process all these emotions so that when she’s back I’ll be my best self and ready to help. To do whatever I need to do to protect my loved ones. And yes, if needed, I’m ready with my war cry.


Be well,

Monty


Eleven Days Ago

Eleven days ago I was asleep in bed. It was early, but I’d had a headache and decided to retire early. I was deeply asleep and it took a number of rings for the phone to break through to my awareness. I finally picked up to hear my wife saying “I fell”. I asked where she was and she said she was just past the bridge in our community. She’d been on a “pick-up run” to get some food that had been delivered to the gate. One of many such runs lately as we’ve been under a lock-down due to Covid and the main source of food is through bulk buys with the community and deliveries will come anytime of day and night. Normally I would have been driving her on our scooter, but she didn’t want to wake me so she went herself.

I dressed quickly. Just a pair of shorts and t-shirt and ran downstairs, grabbed a mask and took off as fast as I could. I wasn’t very fast. I thought what a bad husband I am to be in such bad shape that I can barely run during an emergency. But I didn’t stop. I pushed through till I arrived at the bridge, climbed the steps, crossed, and saw her on the ground at the bottom of the steps on the other side. Going down she told me that her leg was hurt and she couldn’t get up. A neighbor was there too so she wasn’t alone. So, I said to wait and I would go get the wheelchair that her mother usually used. I’d just put it away earlier that evening after we had all gone to the community center for our covid screening. I ran back home, again slow, but again not stopping. Breathing hard I wheeled the chair from home back to the far end of the bridge — taking the ramps instead of the steps. Later I would learn that my wife had missed the down ramp and drove the scooter directly off the concrete steps. Without a helmet. Her injuries would prove to be severe, but not as bad as they could have been. Thinking back, I’m grateful now. At the time, I wasn’t thinking much except one step at a time — and trying to catch my breath.

I lifted her into the wheelchair and wheeled her quickly but carefully to our home — still breathing way too hard. I told her to wait as I grabbed the car keys and my ID. She cried out in pain as I lifted her into the back seat. She whimpered the whole trip to the Emergency Room. At the gate of our community I tried to explain the situation to the guard in my broken Chinese — normally not so bad but the situation was not normal and I didn’t have the vocabulary. I needed a pass to get out because of the Covid lockdown. We figured each other out and the guard gave me a pass. That got us out of the community but wouldn’t get us out of the district. I had to go to the local police station to get another pass. It was just around the corner so it didn’t take too long. Thirty minutes later I was pulling into the ER.

I’m sharing these facts with little emotion. Not because I don’t have strong feelings about that night eleven days ago, but because I experienced it that way. I was operating on auto-pilot. I needed to get my wife the care she needed. I couldn’t help her with the pain as she cried in the back-seat. I could just drive as calmly and safely as I could to get her into professional hands. Now I look back in horror at what could have been. She ended up with a shattered ankle and a bruised and battered body, but she is alive with no critical head or back injuries. After launching off a bridge. With no helmet. Down concrete stairs. And crashing on a concrete pathway. The pain has been intense for her. She says much worse than giving birth. Not a little worse. Much worse. But all things considered she is blessed. We are blessed. She is alive. She is aware. She will be ok.

Her surgery will be tomorrow. We’ve been locked down in the hospital since the accident. She recovering slowly awaiting for the inflammation to go down enough to enable a safe and successful surgery. Me at her side. Unable to leave because of the Covid restrictions. Sleeping on a sofa. Washing my clothes in the sink. Learning how to care for my wife in ways that I’ve never had to before. And so grateful for the opportunity.


Be well,

Monty