Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Adjusting, Growing and Resiliance

Thank you all, kind friends, for all your support and help! I so appreciate you all!

Adjusting - Things at Chez Schneller continue to improve, little by little. I miss Jacqui terribly now that she has returned to Colorado, but it was time for her to return to her own life and tend to all those sick little dogs and cats. I never would have made it without her and the house is lonelier without her, but I am so happy that she has been able to get back to her calling. She is such a gifted vet and her students benefit enormously from both her kind teaching and outstanding example!

Growing - I am thrilled to report good medical news! I have been released by the neurologist. My brain continues to recover and I can drive now! I don't feel that my short-term memory is 100%, but I have yet to forget anything "important" and Roland says I'm as good as new (he's biased!) To be safe, I write more things down than before, but I've been told that I still remember more than most people and after all, I'm over 50 - ha ha...

The walker is history! I am now using a cane - a dapper dark blue one with a wood-like handle. Physical therapy on my still larger-than-life ankle will continue for some time as I work to strengthen both the ankle and rejuvenate the muscle tone in the leg.

My stamina is improving and I can work for a good half day or so at a time. Between work, physical therapy and 5 days a week at the rec center biking and lifting some weights, my days are full.

Adjusting - So much is good and I'm so grateful, yet a certain sadness descended upon me last week. In spite of so many improvements, I became keenly aware of those medical conditions that are still in transition and felt lonely as well. Some things - like walking at a reasonable pace, getting rid of all the packing in my ear, etc, take their own sweet time to heal. Because I am so much better, I also found myself finally able to mourn the accident, the lost time and opportunity, the hardship on so many. I worred about being physically ready for the fall schedule. I found myself resentful that the doctors said it would take a year for full recovery - whatever that means - and sad and full of self-pity-which filled me with anger at myself, because I am SO lucky and SO blessed.

And then, thankfully, the fog began to lift.

Reading my Rodney Yee autographed book on hope and meditation helped, as did some increasing physical stamina and strength. Confronting and challenging my negative thoughts was - and is - both necessary and therapeutic.

Resiliance - From time to time, I've been called "Pollyanna" because I am naturally blessed with a hopeful attitude and a belief that things will get better. I am so grateful for that gift of a positive attitude - and I know it is a gift and a real blessing.

Yeah, it will take a year for "full" recovery and some things - like my ankle - will never be the same. That old life is gone, but my new life can be just as wonderful and in some ways, better. I hope I am a more caring and compassionate person. I hope this experience will make me a better teacher and mentor to young people. Every breath is a gift and every day an opportunity and adventure. My job is to work hard at recovery, to be open to new learnings and adventures and to accept all things that life brings. My job is to be patient with my brain and body and challenge negative thoughts when they arise.

I AM resiliant and I will prevail - and you've helped. Thank you again - may you face and conquer your demons too! Much love, Pam

I miss you all, and hope to see or hear from you again real soon.

Saturday, June 11, 2005


Originally uploaded by jacquichris.
Just as a fern sends out copious runners when it has achieved adequate health, so too has Better Days.

For those of you who have become addicted to reading the trials and travails of just being, Offshoots will allow you to get your fix without me cluttering Better Days with non-Mom postings.

Click on through to hear all about the trip home!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Loose ends

Meanwhile, on the home front, Mom and Rol had been enjoying their week without us. Mom graduated, only partially on doctor's orders, to walking without the boot. She is very careful and find it causes less knee strain, so the physical therapist has let it slide. From what I have heard, there was great merriment at the Blair Children's Concert and the VCC picnic. I can't wait to see the pictures of Kelly and the egg! Mom has also graduated to limited intensity biking at the rec center. It has been great since returning to go with her and really see how far she has come.

The last few days have been spent catching up on little errands and preparing for the move home. Yesterday we took the cats in for their interstate health certificates; I can't do it as I do not have a Tennessee license. Today I hope to ship a large amount of stuff back. Tomorrow I pack and Friday fly home. It is strange, as you can all imagine, and a bit frightening to find this day so fast approaching, but it is time. It will be good to be back to my life and vocation, just as it will be good for Mom and Rol to return to a more normal existence.

Never fear, the trek home affords many opportunities for entertainment that I will be sure to share. And, like a bad penny, I always find my way back here. I count myself so lucky to have gained so many new family members. Thank you for sharing this road with us, with me.

With love,


Crab chute

Crab chute
Originally uploaded by jacquichris.
When last I was able to post, Grandma and I were about to venture out to Locust Point for steamed blue crabs. Jeremy had recommended a little ma and pop place called LP Steamers. Although very excited to be returning to the land of blue crab and hammers, Grandma was a bit leary when we arrived round 6:30pm. We were both completely confused by the waitress who came over and said, I kid you not, "Okay, they're going fast so I want to make sure to get it in. We have 12 $75, 12 $60, 18 $30 and like 25 $20. Do you know what you want?"

Being the elegant and sophisticated one, I took up the charge, blinking with the dazed appearance of a person too quickly out of the sun. She just hitched back and forth and waited. "Um, excuse me, we haven't done this before. You have what?" And when she started to rattle off the list again, "Again, sorry. What does that mean?" She didn't actually roll her eyes but the long-suffering sigh made it clear we were complete morons in her book. It didn't help any when we asked her what she thought we needed or should get.

Rereading this passage, I feel I should probably make it clear that the waitress wasn't trying to be rude or snotty. It was just incomprehensible to her that someone could be so clueless with regard to crabs. Or at least incomprehensible that they could simultaneously be so clueless and yet still have made their way into their place, well off the beaten tourist path. Eventually, between us, we succeeded in ordering a dozen $30 and coleslaw. Having done my homework, I also ordered beer while Grandma enjoyed a chilled merlot. She found it surprisingly acceptable.

One thing confused me as we waited for our crabs. There didn't appear to be a kitchen. Or, more accurately, the orders for crab appeared to be relayed to the floorboards, not to a person. And Bill did not come from the back when delivering an order but came in from the street. Using my extensive deductive reasoning skills, hah!, I soon pieced together that orders were shouted to Bill in the basement through the floor. After he prepared the crabs, Bill brought them up and into the restaurant via the street. Eventually Bill took me down through the coal chute on a tour of the basement. Here he is bringing up an order.

Bill hard at work

Bill hard at work
Originally uploaded by jacquichris.
As should be plainly apparent, Bill is loading 12 $75 for finally steaming with 'Bay seasoning' here in the basement.

The basement was very clean although not so much for the ambience. Bill was incredibly nice, showing me the steamers, the bucket of seasoning, and explaining things.

The story with the pricing is that crabs are listed by price per dozen. Bigger crabs are a bigger price per se. The main benefit of getting bigger crabs is that one does not starve to death while trying to extract the meat. In addition, there is a big difference between male and female crabs, as the males are meatier. At LP Steamers, they only carry the males, otherwise known as jimmies.

The bay seasoning mix is another big piece of the experience. Generally, it is a mix of salt and spices like mace, coriander, occasionally cumin, turmeric and so on. Like true Indian curry powders, there is not one, but are many, with each serious family or restaurant having its own secret little angle or touch.

As you can tell from his beaming smile, Bill was quite taken with me.

Blue heaven

Blue heaven
Originally uploaded by jacquichris.
When the crabs came, they really came. After placing the paper down, the crabs were slid off of a cafeteria tray, the kind that makes for good sledding, in one dramatic flourish. Hammers were provided and a roll of paper towels waited on the wall.

Here Grandma makes quick work of one of our fellas. It is a remarkably messy business as the seasoning forms thick concretions on the fingers and bits of shell fly through the air.

My pal Jimmy

My pal Jimmy
Originally uploaded by jacquichris.
So, a dozen $30 somehow ended up being about 18 of them. Not that we complained. Or flagged in our enthusiasm or appetite. The crabs were divine and the cole slaw a perfect cool foil for them. Sadly, the crab sold out about 20 minutes after we arrived so many many regulars were not as lucky as we that night.

And yes, I am playing with my food. Which of you is the least bit surprised?


Originally uploaded by jacquichris.
So, for those of you familiar with Baltimore, the three mast ship I previously made reference to was the USS Constellation. It is the last remaining wooden ship commissioned by the Navy. The ship played a critical role in disrupting the slave trade during the 'war of Northern aggression.'

A number of things, like this dolphin, have been named in her honor. This Constellation we met at the Baltimore aquarium. She is generally a member of the dolphin show, although her participation was quite limited when we were there as she is profoundly pregnant. Had I been her trainer, I would have been concerned that one misplaced jump would cause her to explode and shower the crowd with dolphin bits. As a result, at the end of the show, Constellation still had a lot of sass which she shared in repeated 'drive-bys' round the aquarium. Although I considered the dolphin show somewhat half-heartedly and out of place, the Aquarium itself is spectacular with multiple award-winning exhibits. Of particular interest is an impressive program for poison dart tree frogs.

Poster parade

Poster parade
Originally uploaded by jacquichris.
The conference began the day after our trip to the Aquarium. Days were hectic as I darted between talks, the exhibit hall, and defense of my research posters. In addition, there were so many people, people from my Colorado family, to hug and greet. Nights Grandma and I spent carousing about with friends and colleagues. Everyone was delighted to see Mickey and thrilled to hear in person of Mom's spectacular progress. It was quite humbling to find out the number of people who were 100% current on Mom through the blog. Even after all these months, so many of you remain 'plugged in.' [I suspect it is this steadfast caring that has been so instrumental, even from a distance, in Mom's miraculous recovery.]

The week passed uneventfully yet full of fun events. Grandma and I returned on Saturday. There was, of course, another harrowing and humorous layover in O'Hare, whittled down from almost two hours to about twenty minutes by weather delays before we left Baltimore. This time we rode in a cart with a number of other people from concourse to concourse. The driver's skill in avoiding running down pedestrians even while driving backwards continues to awe and amaze. Then at the last, where the cart could go no farther, we were met by a wheelchair.

Surprise! It was the same lady we almost killed on our previous layover. Showing true pluck, she did not suddenly remember a pressing engagement but greeted us with delight and began the mad dash to the gate. As on the way out, the plane to Nashville was located as far as absolutely possible from the gate, almost two city blocks of walking outside. While they waited for the elevator, I darted down the stairs and waited next to the plane so I could use my body to prevent the flight attendant from closing the door. Another close call but we did successfully board. The flight was uneventful, our luggage arrived intact and unmussed (they had searched everything on the way out, breaking a hanger and rumpling my hanging clothes). Dinner with Mom and Rol then collapsed in bed.