Liquid, electronics, and coloring books





Liquids and electronics don’t mix. Never ever have food or drink in the vicinity of your keyboard. I know this lesson, and I have known it since the 80’s when I first splashed coffee on my TraSh 80—I immediately called Radio Shack and they told me to turn the keyboard upside down and let the coffee drain out, and then turn my hairdryer on it, effective first aid particularly since I don’t take cream in my coffee. Whether it was my devoted actions or the resistance of the fat, clunky, unresponsive keyboard I’ll never know. But with just a few protests and assorted tremors, it clunked back into action and I could once againplay the addictive gave of ‘Adventure’, dragging my cyber treasures through murky caves screaming “xyzzy” (the magic word).

So it shouldn’t have surprised me that dumping a large Styrofoam cup of ice water on my Sony Vaio laptop should have such disastrous results. It worked for a little while after I blotted and drained it, then it shuddered, gasped, and flashed the ‘blue screen of Death’. Nothing would reboot it so I called my computer store, the one with the geek wizard in the repair room, and later that day I turned it over to Matt to see if his artificial respiration would work. “Xyzzy”, he said…

That left me with hours of free time. I’ve been commenting in this blog that people need to take time to develop interests which will occupy their minds and keep them healthy and alert. And there I was—no computer and a long weekend before me. Follow your own medicine, I scolded myself.

I began by finishing the murder mystery. Ed brought me a DVD which he felt I’d like and I borrowed the coloring book and magic markers from the physical therapy department. Everyone knew I was without a computer, and almost all of the staff members came by to console me. The laptop wizard called to say he wasn’t sure he could transfer my data (the last 5 months of my life!) from my fallen hard drive, and descended into an even deeper funk.

And I colored. Bobbie brought me another ‘adult’ coloring book and no, it wasn’t nude people in compromising positions, it was an architectural design book, filled with complex shapes covering the whole page: each page takes 3-4 hours to painstakingly complete. “Coloring book? You’re not writing or doing something meaningful?” you ask. Well, coloring is like meditation, in a way. I find it clears my mind and I am no longer focusing on destructive negative thoughts (Why me? Why are all these things happening to ME?) and I concentrate on colors and groupings of different shades of green or blue. Further, there’s something to be said for creating something that is totally useless—I won’t frame the finished products, hang them, or give them away. The point is, I have committed myself to an action which is calming and pleasurable and which puts an order in my life that doesn’t exist elsewhere.

It’s a lesson that I see some of the patients already understand: Roseanne has her watercolors, Bob has singing, Margaret reads. And I color, sometimes until late in the night, caught up in questions like ‘am I using too much purple?’ and ‘oh, drat, I got outside the lines of that little square—how can I cover this mistake?’

And so my weekend moves along, without email or consulting or blog. I am happy, I guess, except for that letter from the IRS which says I made a huge error on my 2006 tax return, and which is accompanied by an application to pay on the installment plan. “Oh well,” I think, and I turn the issue over to the accountant. After all, the real question is, “Am I using too much purple?”

I can hear Bob singing as he wheels himself down the hall for lunch.


5 thoughts on “Liquid, electronics, and coloring books

  1. I share your pain. Or should I say I did at one time. My diswasher and computer, both on the fritz at the same time. I knew I was addicted when I chose to have the comptuer fixed first.

    You can never use too much purple. It’s the color of compassion!

  2. You can NEVER have too much purple, indeed. I totally agree with Suzanne! 🙂 And, as for the little bit outside the line issue. . . every creative project should have one little mistake to prove it was not completed by a machine.

  3. Dear Gertie,
    I am hooked on your blog because your writing is wonderful and you give me insights about life in a nursing home with a longterm – but not permanent – orthopedic problems. As a physician-survivor, your words have been useful to me.
    Never did I imagine that you’d be helping me appreciate the situation of a loved one. My younger sister was recently in a car wreck that shattered her femur and knee. She is now in a nursing home with a very long road ahead of her and uncertainty regarding the possibility of walking unaided one day. So, thanks again for generously sharing your thoughts and feelings as you negotiate the slow road to recovery. Your words are helping me.
    With hope, Wendy S. Harpham, MD

  4. Judith, finally have had time to check in on the “teacher”. I really enjoy reading your travels even though you haven’t gone far, at least in one sense, yet you are taking yourself to new places everyday in another. I know you are dealing with a real pain in the “hip” but you have to know and I mean you really have to know, there is a very large group of folks that have you in there thoughts and prayers on a daily basis. Keep calling upon the collective strength and all will be cool. Looking forward to sitting down with you again, soon. Thanks for the talk and wisdom, you are the best.

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