One of the things that happens when your world gets smaller is that your small problems seem to take on giant proportions. So it is with The Chair.

Immediately after the first surgery, I mentioned to my son that I really needed a better place to sit while downstairs: the futon couch was uncomfortable, and really the wrong shape for someone who isn’t supposed to bend her body more than 90 degrees. And the couches in the living room are big puffy leather—tough to get out of even if you are a supple and uninjured teenager.


Jonathan the Acquisitive said, “Gee Mom, I could use the futon in the basement where we watch tv.” “Done!” I shouted, glad to get rid of the ugly, uncomfortable thing.


And so I spent a couple of nights cyber-shopping, ending up with the purchase of a 1 ½ sized lounge chair and hassock—and the chair makes into a single bed. The transaction was flawless: it was on sale at JC Penny, the store was happy to put the purchase on my account, and two VERY LARGE boxes showed up about a week later in my garage.


The issue, however, was the largest box, which contained the warning: HEAVY! Must be moved by two persons.

Lots of persons walked by it during the next six weeks, many remarking on its size, or speculating on the contents. I really didn’t think too much about it: the futon was gone from my house, and I had other concerns more pressing and immediate. Besides, I really couldn’t visit the garage much…just the occasional trip to the doctor or the hospital, remember?


But then it was Christmastime, I am back home, and Sarah is here. I’m in the hospital bed in the living room, Sarah is sleeping in my bed in the loft, and the two of us are pretty well confined to the same small living space, 24-7. The chair is becoming an issue— if there were a chair, hockey games and Barenaked Ladies could be moved to another area of the house. Better yet, *I* could move to another area of the house and have a comfortable place to sit.


Several conversations with my men friends went like this: “What do you need? How can I help?”


“Well, there’s this chair in the garage in a large box. I’d really really like it in the study.”

“Oh, that BIG box? It will take two people, right?”

“Yes. And will probably need to come in the house through the sliding patio doors.”

“Ummm. Well, let me see if I can think of someone who could help me with that. Shouldn’t take much. I’ll get back to you.”

As I begin feeling better, that box got larger. And larger. I tell Sarah I would pay a couple of kids home from college to move the chair in the house…I just don’t know any kids.

Then Bobbie calls—she is happily playing her Holiday Jewish Mother role: her two daughters are home, and have brought their friends, and her tiny apartment is populated by 3 dogs, 5 women, and one city-boy male. She is cooking and entertaining in joyful Christmas chaos!

I enquire into the strength of the citified guy and wonder if any of those young women have muscular boyfriends. “Oh, for heaven’s sakes,” Bobbie says. “Don’t PAY anyone—we’ll all come over and move the chair!”

And so, in a few hours Bobbie and her two daughters show up. Guests are apparently for feeding, not working, but “We can do this!” And so it is that Bobbie, Kate, Julie and Sarah accomplish in an hour what has been building into an insurmountable problem for 8 weeks—the chair is brought from the garage to the deck on a sled (who but Julie would have a sled in the car? One never knows when a good snowy hill will appear…). They push the chair down the hall to the study, remove the cardboard and the strapping, screw in the legs and casters, figure out how to release the bed mechanism, and generally ooooh and aaaah over how nicely the chair matches the burgundy carpeting and how comfortable the whole thing is.

Then they clean up the mess—leftover staples, cardboard, tape, melting snow and other debris while Bobbie and I sit in the kitchen congratulating ourselves on our success at raising such beautiful and ingenious and independent young women.

And later, after guests have left and Sarah is in the other room, happily ensconced in the giant lounge chair in front of the tv watching a Redwings game, I reflect on love and sisterhood and the vibrant community of women who are supporting me with their incredible strength.


There are a lot of reasons NOT to keep up with this blog, I think: primarily I am afraid as I stay at home, relatively isolated from people, I might tend toward introspection and self pity. I don’t want to be that, or to have that persona for anyone else. The real challenge will be, can I create fun and interest out of the stuff of my own life which is, by necessity, pretty dull at the moment?

Take today, for instance. How important is it to anyone but me that I finally washed my hair after 8 days? But that was the highlight of my day…or at least one of the events that consumed lots of time and energy and left me exhausted and in desperate need of chocolate and a nap (in that order).

What would happen, I questioned myself, if I just cut off the hair on my head to about an inch in length, and let it spike up all over? Then I could just rub some of that powdered shampoo on it and brush it out. Or, once I am healed enough that I can take a shower without Saran Wrap over 30% of my body, I could just rinse my hair out when I bathed. Forget the long hair and the color: I’ll just compensate for no-care hair with some large, preposterous earrings and be an outrageous old lady. I can even wear purple dresses, and red hats with the earrings.

What really captured my attention in this whole internal dialog was the question of what our ancestors did about hair. Remember, the world didn’t know ‘shampoo’ until the 1920’s, Also, water had to be heated on a stove and the only washing additive was common soap, complete with the fats and oils that it contained. You couldn’t rinse the soap out easily, and after being washed this way hair was usually dull and unattractive.

So, at the turn of the century women wore hats and/or wigs, washed their hair with plain water if they washed it at all, and took to hairstyles with braids and chignons. They brushed hair a lot, too—a way of keeping it cleaner and less tangled.

The conclusion of all of this introspection was my re-affirmation that simple is best: once I finally get ‘hip replacement’ checked off my ‘Things to Do in Retirement ‘list (that was Project Number One) and move on to Project Number Two, I vowed to keep this whole hair care thing as simple as possible for the rest of my life—no perms, plumps, or peroxide for this woman! Just look for the person in purple with the gilt cane and the dangly earrings. See her? She’s the one over there on the street corner with her open instrument case and the hurdy gurdy. Sometimes when she’s not playing music, she writes a blog. You can find it at




And to all a good-night

I’ve been receiving emails and phone calls today from friends and well-wishers who are all carrying a similar message: their Christmas celebrations are no longer tied to a particular date. “It’s easy,” said my friend Marty. “Everyone can be satisfied if you just forget that it’s all SUPPOSED to happen on December 25. We are having Christmas over several days–our family part comes on the 23rd and the 26th, and the kids are off to visit other parts of the family on other days. ” “Yes,” said Donna. “My daughters are with their father’s family this weekend, and we’ll have a family reunion someplace warm and sunny during the first week in January, and combine that with Christmas.”

So it all seemed very natural to be spending December 25 at Munson Medical Center, still tethered to some plastic tubes and glistening bags of antibiotic. As a family our combined hope is that we will be together at my house tomorrow night celebrating the part of Christmas that involves stockings and gifts, and rib roast and yorkshire pudding. But for today, it began with Chef Jonathan bringing our traditional Christmas breakfast to the hospital–quiche, fruit, stollen, coffee, bacon. I was most proud of him: it was his first quiche production, right down to homemade pie crust (ye gawds, even *I* don’t do that!) and my first REAL coffee in a week (the kind that leaves a mark as it descends into your esophagus). We opened a couple of presents–I received the reissued edition of Peter Bowen’s first two Montana mysteries featuring the wonderful Metis ‘detective’, Gabriel Du Pre. That kept me busy for the few alone moments during the rest of the day.

A wonderful gift came later in the day from my musical family in the form of a video of the TC Celtic Christmas party which I missed on Sunday–everyone saying hello and blowing kisses and playing my favorite tunes…that’s a ‘forever’ moment! Such a delight to have friends who know how to send such a creative and magical gift….

Jon and Sarah and I ended the day with the Munson Holiday Dinner–available to patients and their families , and quite elaborate, from the shrimp cocktail all the way to the Moomers’ Ice Cream dessert. Sarah made the infamous chocolate mint sticks, without which our family could not have Christmas holiday and brought some sparkling cider as well. A lovely ending to an unusual 12-25…

Some medical progress was made as well, but not much. Some doctors stopped by and basically offered encouraging words and commented on the diminishing size of my right leg–which is still fat and hot and crispy, as far as I am concerned. But I am doing all the right exercises, and once I am detached from the festive decoration which follow me everywhere holding a variety of fluids, I will be in good shape and with much greater mobility.

Increasingly, I am lifted and energized by the photos of Eleuthera which are on my computer screen saver and on the screen saver that keeps running in my brain whenever I shut my eyes. Eleuthera is where I intend to be in February, recovering health and spiritual strength on the beaches of Tarpum Bay.


Christmas Eve

It’s late in the evening, and I am medicated and settled in for the night. I have an infusion of penicillin in my right arm, a pain pill and an iron tablet bouncing down my internal passageway, and some automatic foot-squeezers massaging my feet to prevent blood clots and other things–like sleep, maybe. My right leg is about twice the size of my left leg, but the medical people look at it at say, “Ah…MUCH BETTER!!!” I myself think it looks like overcooked turkey skin, but perhaps that’s just a seasonal observation.

It was a nice day today, as days go. Rebecca brought me some beautiful blackberries–huge and juicy and fat–and Diane brought chocolates from Phil Murray’s new chocolate store, delicious and guaranteed to make me huge and juicy and fat. Others came by too, bearing gifts and get-well wishes, and some called or emailed. Sarah and Jonathan are both here, and will bring some Christmas stollen in the morning, and we’ll open a few presents then. The hospital offers Christmas dinner to patients and their families, and we’ll enjoy that part too later in the day. Then, on Wednesday, we’ll all have training in how to change this antibiotic and maintain the pump appliance I will be wearing for the next month. Then it will be home to Fouch Road and a gourmet meal cooked by Jon, who’s looking forward to the ‘standing rib challenge’.

I’m not unhappy about being here for Christmas Day–as Sherry says, “What’s the worry?” I am alive, getting more healthy, and am watched after by a group of people who genuinely care that I am comfortable, fed, and well cared-for. I am truly appreciative of those who chose professions of care–my friends at Orchard Creek, and now my many friends here at Munson Medical Center. I think I really didn’t know this world existed, though I’ve certainly been a part of it on several occasions. But perhaps it’s the fact that I am older and less personally driven to make my own indelible mark in the world…I can relax a little and appreciate the contribution that countless others are making to my own well-being. I can’t begin to honor or thank them enough; on this Christmas Eve I can only think of the true meaning of the word ‘gift.’

Sherry is good for you!

Not a half hour after I posted my slightly whiney first post, I received an email which made me laugh out loud!  I won’t tell you what her name is, because she’s quite reticent–but if you think about it, I am sure you can guess.  Anyway, in her letter she says: “Enough of me.  I live with people who are depressed and always see that the glass is half empty and there is nothing left to do.  Well dear, you have to look at the bright side.  You have company for Christmas, lots of it, you will have your own chef, your own personal maid, your own concierge service, I guess.  Hmmm…you have a laundry service, in fact, it would seem as though you may be treated like royalty, hoping not to be confused with a royal pain.  You have infectious disease specialists at your beck and call (any of them playing in your band?).  All that, AND a fat red leg, how jolly, how apropos, just perfect for Christmas!  “

Round Three

This is not a particularly happy entry.  I’m writing it just a week after I was ‘sprung’ from Orchard Creek,  and five days after I was readmitted to Munson Medical Center with a high fever and a raging infection.  After the initial few days and a couple of surgeries, I find I am once again on the way to recovery….this time from a strep B infection which is lodged firmly in my right leg and hip.  I am on a huge megadose of penicillin and will be through the end of January.    Then I think I will be getting oral penicillin for who-knows-how-long.

My Christmas will be spent here in the hospital, which is just fine with me…our festive family activity on December 26 will be to take the IV therapy training in the early afternoon, and then enjoy a dinner by Chef Jon followed by opening whatever packages we have been able to keep our rapacious fingers off of….

I think my personal goal is just to gain strength to survive this nasty attack and to begin to live my life again.  I do feel fortunate that I have wonderful family and friends who are sending me cards and gifts and other kinds of support–without which I would find this recent setback most difficult.  Thank you all.  I will keep in touch…..

Visiting Dr. McGraw

Today was V-Day in my vocabulary! This was the one-month checkup following surgery, and I was anxious. I couldn’t sleep last night (and no tv-addicted neighbor to blame, either). But you may remember that this is the SECOND one-month check-up I’ve had. The first one went something like this:

PA Amy: So, Judith, tell me about the ‘little fall’ you took two weeks ago.

Judith: Well, it was an accident. My walker caught on something on the floor and the walker stopped and I didn’t.

PA Amy: Did you fall all the way down to the floor?

J: Oh no. I caught myself, you know how you do? Grabbed on to the walker and went through some gyrations, but I didn’t fall down.

PA Amy: Did it hurt?

J: Oh YEAH! Hurt like $%^&*(O(*&!!!

PA Amy: Well, I am sure it did. Because you broke your femur.

Then there was the “We’ll have to fix this” dialogue, and the “How soon can we get Quick Draw McGraw back to Traverse City?” and so on. And then we redo the whole surgery and I start all over. Hence my stay at Orchard Creek, and my nervousness at reliving the one month checkup….

But no, Dr. Q.D. McGraw and PA Amy pronounced me healing nicely and everyone smiled a lot, including me. Because what that meant was: I GET TO TAKE THE D*MNED SUPPORT HOSE OFF FOR GOOD! No more itchy legs. No skin so dry it crinkles when I walk. And Patty, you don’t have to come down the road to my house to put the ugly things on me, like you promised you would.

It also means I can put more weight on my operated leg, use a cane around the house, and take fewer of the brain flotation pain meds. It means I can go to Eleuthera in February ( and following posts), and that by Christmas I will be dancing….. Here’s the greeting:

You’ll notice how joyously and how well I am dancing. May these holidays be as joyous as I am!