Life Goes On After Lessons Learned

Sometimes, life bites us in the arse and we turn around, surprised and, perhaps, more than just a little knocked off our not-so-proverbial feet.

I prepared. I tried to do everything right. And yet, so many things went wrong.

While driving up Nawth to attend my nephew’s high school graduation, I had an accident. Traffic was heavy but going at a fast speed. There had been the usual “Why are we suddenly going 50mph??” places so, like a good driver, I kept distance between me and the car in front of me. Near Woodstock, VA at mile marker 285.5 on I-81 at about 6pm, the car in front of me slammed on their brakes. I knew they did because the back of their car was hopping and fish-tailing. I put on my brakes and went to the right, into the right hand lane, so that if I didn’t stop in time, I would go beyond them. I didn’t want to go to the left, into the median, because of gravel and grass not helping me to stop. But my rear-wheel drive truck went into a slide. The back of the truck, an ’03 Chevy S10 Crew cab, slid to the left into the grassy median. When it did, I could not correct the slide. I knew, in that brief moment, that I was going to crash. I knew.

According to witnesses, the truck slid a few feet on the two driver’s side wheels, lay on that side, continued to skid, then rolled onto its top. I do not know if it rolled again or just landed on its top. I hit no one else. No debris hit anyone else.

During the slide, my left elbow hit the highway and I felt it get road rash. Then the next thing I know, the visor is in my face. It takes a few seconds for me to gather my thoughts. I didn’t realize I was upside down until they (the bystanders who stopped) reached in to unbuckle my seat belt.

Before I would let them do that, though, I was saying over and over, “Where’s Quinn? Where’s my dog?” Someone removed Quinn (who never made a sound) and then someone unbuckled me. I assumed my left arm was hamburger or at least broken so I tucked it under me and rolled out of what was left of my truck. Someone comes back and says they need the leash. I say backseat. They reach in and I see someone take the Flexi leash. Someone else is saying don’t move her further (meaning me). My neck is resting on some guy’s foot. He is shaking. Just as the paramedics get there, someone comes up and says “Don’t panic, but your puppy ran off”. Yeah, don’t panic. I try to get up but so many hands held me down. And, really, I don’t think I could have gotten up. I am told later that only my shoulders and head were out of the truck and I was twisted because of the way I rolled out of it.

The paramedics had to get creative. They needed to brace my neck and back yet because of my position, they couldn’t get a collar on me. So, bless their hearts, they used towels. And, really, I couldn’t move once it was all on. Once they got that on, they then concentrated on getting me on a back board and getting me out of the truck. (meanwhile, one of the tires was leaking and screaming that high pitched sound) All the time they are doing this, I am saying “I can’t go, I need to get my dog.” The paramedics assured me that I couldn’t do anything, that the trooper would look, that others were already looking. Against my wishes (but for my own good), I was extracted and taken to the hospital.

My time at the hospital is kind of blurry and not very pleasant. But what I remember is this: my painstakingly accurate spreadsheet of my medications on my phone was worthless. They needed something fast. And trying to resize the spreadsheet constantly wasn’t working. They wanted me to tell them my allergies. I couldn’t remember them all. A print out in my wallet case (which the trooper brought later) did not include my allergies.

I had the ICE app on my phone that listed medications and allergies. Did I think of it? No. Did they ask if I had one? No. I have a MedicAlert bracelet (several actually) and a necklace. Where were they? In my bag. By the time I thought of it, they no longer thought it necessary to know all of my history.

My arm is not broken and was barely bleeding. I was offered no ice pack. At one point, I was on the back board still, waiting for results of something, and I am bawling. My phone is across the room. I have no button to call a nurse. I called out about 4 times before someone heard me. It was not a busy night. She gave me my phone and left. I feel so fucking alone. My Quinn is missing. Lorna is 6 hrs away. Kevin (my brother) and his wife are still several hours away. I punish myself by refusing all medications but ibuprofen. So they don’t take me seriously, thinking I am not in that much pain. I am discharged at midnight with a prescription of ibuprofen. No diagnosis, not warnings or things to look out for. One of the papers talks about nightmares. Another talks about how to care for a bone contusion. At least I knew then was was up with my arm.

Meanwhile, Lorna had figured out Facebook and had posted about what had happened and that Quinn was missing. And Quinn pert near went viral by morning. I started getting calls from people asking where should they start looking. And I’m like, “Mile marker 285.5 but who are you?” Two women met us at one of the “cross overs” (those roads that connect the two sides of the highway) and we discussed options. We gave them Quinn’s blanket, food bowl, and some food. They would set up a place for her to return to. The DOT Driver Assist guy stopped at one point to ask what we were looking for. He took notes. The county Animal Control guy met with us and sent us to a road under the highway that had a creek running nearby, thinking she wanted to get out of the heat and went to water. The Shenandoah County dispatch person was patient through all of my calls to her. My GP Nicole Ogg was friends with a GP in Woodstock. That friend happened to have another friend and patient who was the head of the County Shelter. People who knew people who knew other people.

We all kept looking but Kevin (my brother) and his wife Colleen had to get home. And I was really messed up. My arm was huge, my back was screaming, my head was pounding, so many parts of me hurt. We made the decision to head to NJ (it was only 4hrs away). We stopped at the accident site and called for Quinn over and over, just like we had been all morning. All of us frustrated we had to leave. It started pouring rain. Absolutely pouring. We saw the two ladies setting up the tarp over Quinn’s blanket and food at 285.4. We saw a DOT truck stopped just up the road but they were doing shoulder work and we thought nothing of it.

Just up the highway from Woodstock is Winchester. As we neared the exit, Kevin was trying to figure out how we could stay longer and keep looking yet still get Colleen and him their medications (they left home with nothing). Just as we passed it, my phone rang. It was the DOT Driver Assist guy. He had Quinn. He was at mile marker 285.8. He had seen us across the road but lost us in the heavy rain. He didn’t want to leave to go get us, afraid we’d lose her again. He thought she was a bear cub until he got closer.

We turned around and raced back but the heavy rain kept us from driving too crazy. I got another call. The State Trooper was there and they were trying to at least keep her in place until I got there. She was scared and fear biting. I got another call. She was in the Trooper’s car. I cannot tell you how I felt. I just can’t. I mean, I didn’t think we would find her that day. No one did. She was a puppy. Frightened, lost on a four lane highway when she had grown up on a one-lane road. She was lost in the median but at some point that morning, had crossed to the northbound side. We stopped to get her blanket, hoping it would calm her. It was soaked. Kevin wrung it out, grabbed her bowl, and we hurried.

And there she was. On a leash held by the state trooper. My girl. She was soaking wet, covered in green balls and other seed heads. I pulled off five ticks on our way to NJ. Kevin thanked both men many times since all I was seeing was my girl.

So what could I have done differently?

The wreck itself. Rear-wheel drive trucks are stupid. All that power on an empty box when it should be up front. Once the rear wheels hit the grass median, it was over. So not much I could have done there. I had too many loose things in the truck. My laptop bag was open. The case of water bottles was on the front seat, open. Quinn’s toys. Her bag. All of that loose in a sliding, rolling vehicle equals a mess. Where was my wallet? The one with the information they needed? Not in my pocket. Not in my bag. But in the toss bin thing in the console of the truck. Next time I travel, more things will be tied down and better contained.

Losing Quinn. I had them take her out first. She had on a collar and a harness and was attached to a tether hooking her to the seat belt. She slammed into the back of my seat, I do remember that. The harness is not for seat belt use, but more for walking and anti-driver distraction. Meaning keeping the dog out of the driver’s way. Quinn was kept within the vehicle. All she had (besides ticks) was an eye injury that our vet believes happened during the accident and not later. A seat belt harness would have kept her from hitting my seat and perhaps kept her from injuring her eye. Although there were a lot of things being tossed around and any of them could have hit her. As for her getting lost, that was beyond my control. We thought she was dragging the flexi leash but we found it in the truck later. When she was found, she was not wearing her harness but my guess is she chewed it off. I don’t hold any grudge toward the person who had hold of her. She’s stronger than she looks.

My medical information. Oy, I cannot believe all my planning and it doesn’t work. For now I will be wearing the MedicAlert necklace or bracelet at all times. And I will ensure their information is up-to-date. And I will remember I have the ICE app. Duh.

Lessons learned. Life goes on. Bumps and bruises heal. The truck can be replaced. Quinn and I cannot. Life goes on.

New Gadetry

So Lorna got a Samsung Galaxy S7 yesterday. She wants to be the one to do all the work on it. Like, remove the bloatware, figure out how everything works, all that. I’ve walked her through a lot of stuff and let her do it all herself. She was really hands-off with her S3. And I do mean really really hands-off. I’ve had to do a few things, though, because I had to look them up and fiddle with it for a while. Like get rid of that blanketyblank visual voicemail thing (fancy name for voicemail to text on the screen because we are too damn lazy to dial 1 and listen). I wouldn’t want it if it were free so why the heck would I want to pay for it? The app is annoying because the notification won’t go away and keeps insisting you pay attention to it. So I did. And I told it…well, you can imagine the colorful terminology I used as I used my Google Foo (to no avail) then figured it out myself how to turn the notifications from the app off. You can’t turn it all the way off or you aren’t notified AT ALL that you have voice mail. Pain. In. The Ass.

Anyway…

When I started looking for her a new phone, I was hesitant to get the S6, even with as few apps as she has. The S6 was teh stoopid because it did not have the expandable memory. I wince at the non-changeable battery concept (if I wanted an iPhone, I would have gotten one!) but I draw the line at the lack of memory (again, didn’t want an iPhone). I also knew I didn’t want the S5 (poorly designed), and knew I didn’t want to go all the way back to the S4. When I read the S7 brought back the expandable memory (but not the interchangeable battery, dammit), I was hoping I could talk her into it. Lorna’s not a technophobe but she’s not all that friendly with them either. So a brand new, made this year phone? Good luck, I thought. It actually wasn’t that hard. She was so tired of her S3 and it’s crankiness.

The S7 is brand spankin’ new (just came out in early March) but that newness comes with both good and bad. Good ’cause freebies! We got a free wireless charging dock thingybob whatsit. And a big discount from Sprint. And because we had to upgrade her half of the plan (Sprint was so weird a few years ago: we have two lines on the same plan but we each had different “plans” within that plan), we actually are now going to be paying LESS each month! That doesn’t happen often.

The bad is there’s some weird quirks with the S7. Heat issues have been reported. It did get hot as it was charging and updating but that’s expected. It is something she will have to watch for this summer when she is on the mail route. Her S3 overheated a few times and turned itself off just sitting there in the car, out of the sun. The other weird thing about it makes me glad this is not my phone. For example, let’s say you have 5 pages/screens. With our other Samsung phones, you swipe from 1 through 5, you then swipe again, and you are back at 1. It was like a loop. As someone who has the max pages/screens allowed, I loooove that. You could do it in the Apps and in the Widgets, too. Lorna’s new S7 wouldn’t do it and I thought it was a setting. I couldn’t find it so I went to the wonderful peeps at Android Central and asked about it. It’s a Samsung thing and they done took it away. I’ll be keeping my Note 4 for a while!

The other gadget I talked her into (and have been for probably two years now) is another tablet. She’s been using her Nook that I got her for her birthday 4 years ago. Then Barnes and Noble stuck their heads up their ass, said it was dark, and began messing up a good thing. I have downloaded all her books from their website (they took away the download buttons and links so I cheated) and removed the DRM via Calibre (which I heart muchly). Now we can put her “Nook books” on any device and read them there. So when her Nook finally died (and no, I didn’t help it along although I was tempted) she finally agreed to getting a tablet.

We got a Galaxy Tab 2 (8″) and I think she likes it more than her phone! Setting it up was a little trickier so she let me do a lot of it. I got it updated, installed a bunch of apps I use on my tablet, and then gave it back so she can arrange it the way she wants. And what is she doing? Not reading ebooks, nope. Watching Netflix. Sigh.

I like her little Tab but it is too small for me I think. And I like the pen function of my Note 10.1 (2013 edition). But she’s loving the small size and the light weight. She is also loving her new phone. They didn’t have the screen protectors in stock so I got a “folio” case for now. She didn’t like the idea but, HA, she actually likes it! She likes that it is also “grippier” than her Otterbox case she had on the S3. And as we all know, as long as she’s happy, that’s all that matters!

Fenced In

We need to rebuild the dog lot fence. It won’t be in the same area but on the other side of the house, going down into the garden (or what once was the garden). That means the pear tree has to go. We’ll start measuring soon, deciding the size. Then calling around for estimates. The original dog lot was HUGE. The dogs miss it muchly.

The old fence was put in, wow, how many years ago? Long time ago, that’s for sure. Fifteen maybe? The part that attaches to the back porch was done later. And the Dog Deck was done back in ’09. Yeah, time flies when you’re pouring money into an old house. Which happens a lot here.

We have decided to hire a company to put it in versus us doing it ourselves. We could have a fence party, which is how the first one went in. It was a blast! But now all our friends are as old as we are. Instead, we’ll have a fence opening party and folks can bring their dogs to pee on every post. Having someone else put one in will cost more but hopefully will last longer. Before the limbs fell, most of the posts were being held up by sheer determination and honeysuckle vines.

Anyway, this is a Google maps pic of the house. The red line is where the fence used to be. Well, technically it is still there but parts of it were smashed. The yellow is all they have left and includes the Dog Deck. The pink line is about where we’d like to put it.

Another reason we need a dog fence? We have three big dogs. Mike is the smallest at 60lbs, Whisper is around 75lbs, and Sam at 85lbs. And sometime in the spring, we’ll be getting a puppy. They’ll all need space to stretch out and run.

Yes, you read that right. I’ll be getting a puppy. We’ve talked about it for a while. It’s still not written in stone final (I owe Elena an essay) but we’re getting things done that need to be done, even if the puppy doesn’t happen. Dog fence tops the list. Next is lift for truck. If I am to get a puppy to train as a Service Dog, then I need to go places more. That’s the whole point, to get me out of the house. And I can’t do that because I can’t load the chair by myself. After that is more general house arrangement stuff. You know how it goes. One thing leads to another. You can’t get one thing done until you get this other thing but you can’t get that one done until that one over there is done and….yeah, old houses. Gotta love ’em.

Moths, Shoulders, Chairs, and the American Way

A few months ago, I wrote about the pot smoking moth living in my attic. We’ve decided it’s switched to rolling its own cigarettes using whatever is on hand. This explains the smoke we smell every night between 9pm and 1am. Most of the time it smells like someone is burning trash. Nasty smell, by the way. I did have one moth actually land on my arm. I screamed like a girl and hit reverse while swatting it away. It landed under the monitor and when Lorna got finished laughing at me, she went to find it (I was out in the hall way). She never found it. I know it is under there, staring at me, waiting until my attention is diverted and then WHAM, it will land on me again. They like hearing me scream, by the way. Apparently “FUCK!” screamed just right is like crack to them.

My shoulder is no better. No worse, either. I guess that’s good. I can type longer now because I have everything so supported. A towel flat here, a rolled up towel there, lean in that direction…blah blah blah. I can type and that’s all I care about. We’ll be calling the doc about medication changes and probably going to see a massage therapist or whatever.

I am also due for a new wheelchair. I went the other day to the seating clinic where they measured and discussed what I am eligible for. And since Medicare probably won’t be around for much longer (depending on how the election turns out), we’re pushing to get as much done as we can, while we can. The big difference is we are going to try and get power leg lift. Meaning the leg rests raise and lower at the push of a button versus a bend to the side, pull out the knob, push down with feet while also pushing up or down. Pain. In. The. Ass. Monster Blue (my current chair) is a Permobil C300. The new one will be a Permobil M300. No clue what happened to D through L. Oh, and it will be silver with grey mesh seat covers. The M300 is a true mid-wheel drive vs the front wheel drive I have now. It turned better corners because there’s not wheels sticking so far out the back. And it goes in a very tight circle. And it will be silver.

And the American Way. It’s election year. Yay. All I’m saying about that. Except this: vote. Don’t care who you vote for (well, I really do but…) just as long as you vote. You don’t vote, don’t bitch later.

Oh, okay, one more thing on the election. All I hear is how the Medicare cuts won’t be affecting those over 55. That’s all cool for them but what about the rest of us? Primarily, what about those who are on Medicare because they are disabled? I dream of being able to return to work (not happening unless I am miraculously healed by a Bible wielding snake handling mouth foaming Pentecostal brethren named Brother Bob). I dream of writing enough books (and selling them!) that I earn enough to be considered gainfully employed. Hell, I’d love it if I could be put on Lorna’s insurance and get off of the limiting, embarrassing, controlling, bloated, paying-far-too-much-for-stuff Medicare.

All right. That’s enough for now.

Oh! Crap! I forgot one thing. I broke 100K on the novel! Of course, barely half of it makes sense but still. So I raised the goal to 120K. Editing will be fun.

Organization Part Do

See the pun I made?

Anyway, I worked for a grand total of 24 minutes before my back and hip was hurting to the point I could no longer bend over or lift.

Let’s see how long it takes me to recover so I can work some more.

And the problem with cleaning house is I usually make more of a mess than the one I was cleaning up. I now have several piles.

– To BestBuy (they recycle electronics for free)
– To Look Through (WTF is this for?)
– Stuff to Keep (Ah! That’s where that went! WTF is it for?)
– Magazines (do I really need that 2007 Diabetes Cooking magazine? The subscription we cancelled after just two issues?)
– Cardboard (everything is in boxes that is haphazardly stacked)
– Trash Can One (stuff that can be thrown away directly)
– Trash Pile Two (stuff that needs to be dealt with. Like the box with a huge mouse nest made out of two years worth of QST magazine. Why didn’t they use the Diabetes Cooking one?!)
– And a little pile of “Lorna Stuff”. Mostly stuff from pre-2000 that can safely be thrown away now. Right?

Organization

If anyone knows me, they will know I am not organized. I’m a complete mess. I am kinda a hoarder, too. I keep everything with full intentions of filing it. Someday. I have old computers that I kept for parts and to ‘some day’ build one for my ham shack. And speaking of ham shack, all of my ham stuff is unused, on a shelf, waiting for ‘some day’ to come along and me set up a space for my ham stuff.

Sometimes, my disorganization bites me in the butt. Like the reason for this post. I cannot find my contract I signed with RCE way back in 2006. I can’t find any of my RCE stuff prior to mid 2010. Where the hell did I put all of it? All of my royalty statements and receipts are missing.

Our dryer goes unfixed because I cannot find the receipt to prove we have a warranty. A dead car is in our driveway because I can’t find the title so we can donate it to some charity.

I am a digital hoarder as well. My WIP file (that’s Works In Progress) is huge. I save every version, even if I it is basically identical to another I also have.

I am really, really into writing right now. But I can’t because I really gotta clean house. I have a shredder. And I have three boxes of “Stuff to be Shredded”. I bet when I finally get around to it, I’ll have three boxes of shreds. Mulch, yes, but I then have to remember to use it. We don’t have closets and have very little shelving. So a ‘place for everything and everything in its place’ doesn’t work since not much as a place to be placed in. On. Whatever.

It is like last night. I went to the kitchen to get a drink. On my way, I saw the laundry basket in the Cat Room (room between rest of house and the kitchen) that needed to go back to the bedroom. So I did. Along the way, I realized it had gotten dark and I ought to turn on the hall light. Then I remembered I needed to turn on the kitchen light, too. Which reminded me of my drink. So back to the kitchen I went. As soon as I got there, I realized I was hungry so I made a sandwich and left the room. Partway through the Cat Room on my way to the Rose Room (office), I remembered the light so I went back to turn it on. Then I realized I didn’t have a plate for my sandwich so I turned around and went back to the Cat Room to get it. I am almost back to the office when I remembered my drink so I went back to the kitchen. I got the drink but stumbled over stuff in the Cat Room because, you guessed it, I’d still not turned on the light.

Meanwhile, Mike had been following me. At some point, he just sat down in the Cat Room to watch me go back and forth. Sometimes I wish I knew what was in their heads but at that moment, I was glad I did not.

Tales from the Office

To start off this tale, I must make a confession. Perhaps a re-confession because surely I’ve mentioned this before. I’m a tough butch. Except when it comes to moths. Spiders, I’ll scream like a girl but moths? I break out in a sweat and run. I’ll pull sticks out of wounds, dig in a dog’s mouth for something they shouldn’t have, and I pull off the large ticks that Lorna just won’t touch. But moths? I am so out of there.

We moved my office into a room we call the Rose Room. We call it that because, when we bought the place, that room had this fugly wallpaper with these huge roses. Lorna says they are cabbage roses. Whatever. It was peeling, ugly, and pink.

The Rose Room is in the back corner of the house. We’d never really used it for much. When we first moved here, it was a guest room. We said it was my room (in case anyone asked; but remember, this was 1992. AIDS and homophobia was a huge deal then; and our first home insurance company dropped us for no reason after a house “inspection” six months after we moved in. We later found out that they had a policy to not insure any homosexuals.). After a few years we said fuck ’em and it became a storage room. Someone else needed the bed so off that went. We used to foster critters and when we had cats, that’s where they stayed. It had no outlets and no light switch. The huge windows were held in place by spider webs and cracked caulk. We took the wallpaper down on two walls but finally gave up. We counted about six layers of wallpaper including this silvery metallic stuff we have found all throughout the house. It must have been lovely (she says sarcastically). One one wall we found the Saturday Evening Post from 1903. On another wall, we found old newspapers from the Asheville Citizen Times. We peeled off a huge chunk that turned out to be the entire front page. It declared “President Harding is Dead“. We have samples from the newspaper and magazine in storage. Some day we’ll frame them and up them up in here.

Like I said, we hadn’t used it much in a very long time. Now I’ve had my office in here for just about 2yrs. We are in the process of moving it again but that’s another story. Over that time span, I learned a lot about this old house. It creaks, groans, clanks, and thumps. So much so that I started saying we have someone living in our attic. It’s a fairly large space so it would be possible (except they’d cook in the summer).

Now back to the moths. Last summer, one got into the house and came to where the only light was: the office. It was a huge thing. It came charging into the room, hit the wall near me, and thudded to the floor. I hit reverse on my chair and was trying to get out without squishing it (don’t want moth guts on my wheels!). Mike comes over and is investigating it while I’m sweating because I just KNOW that son of a moth was going to jump on me. Then it does it’s buzzing thing and Mike goes charging out of the room. The damn thing starts ricocheting around the room, smashing into walls, the ceiling fan, and the window. At that point, I make it out and go get Lorna. It is, like, 2am and bless her heart, she was sleeping. I had slammed the door shut when I left so I knew the damn thing was in there. But we couldn’t find it. We looked everywhere. Lorna was thinking I was imagining things except Mike won’t come back into the room. He stood in the hall and peeked around the corner. That’s my big brave boy.

She finally goes back to bed and I go back into the office. I am wired by then and am thinking if I sit in here all innocent-like, it’d come out of hiding and I’d smash it. I had shoes now. I finally go to bed but shut the door hoping to keep the beast in there. After I get up, I go in and it starts buzzing again. I grab Lorna and we find it. It was HUGE. It was one of those moths with the harder and much larger body. Not as big as a Luna moth but still damn big.

With me so far?

Also last summer was when I started smelling something strange. Something I had smelled before but not in a long time. Marijuana. Either something else had that smell (no, it wasn’t my moth killing shoes) or we had a neighbor smokin’ the wacky weed. Although how the smell traveled all the way to the house, I dunno.

This is where I put all the clues together.

I decided that there was a pot smoking moth living in my attic. Seriously. It fit the profile! Noise, smell, and the size of that moth. Add it together yourself.

We’ve never had another moth like that one come in (thank jeebus). I think it’s because the things are too stoned.