Today is jitterday, IOW, my monthly trek down to the orthopedics hospital, where they do all kinds of x-rays and studies to discover if Elmo and I will stay together.

The docs will be looking for signs of healing and bone growth. If they don’t find any, we wait for another month and go back for a recheck. If they do find growth, we cheer and screech with joy…and wait for another month. If they find (boo, hiss) that the bone fragments have moved, we wait for a surgical date and Elmo is a goner.

In other words, I’m waiting to see what I’m waiting for.

On Friday night, Sept. 16, 2016, I fractured my left femur just above Elmo, my replacement knee. I lived in a wheelchair, facing hip-high amputation of my left leg, for about two years while I fought health care bureaucracy, cost-conscious HMOs, and myself to figure out a way to walk again. (Spoiler alert: Elmo won!)

I documented my adventures in remobilization in this blog. They’re awfully self-indulgent, occasionally icky, and probably only of interest to me, but on the off-chance that they help someone else with a catastrophic injury, I’m keeping them together here. If you don’t want to read them, that’s OK; I still love you. If you do, you might want to start from the beginning, on the archive page that lists all posts.

Prep for these visits resembles that of a vestal virgin visiting the oracle (and a particularly interesting parallel). I choose my outfit with care–long black jersey skirt topped with a sweatshirt. It allows me to easily remove leg-based garments for exams, xrays, and whatnot, while preserving the fiction of dignity, and it’s a tad more professional than a comforting-but-weird flannel granny gown.

Then I shower.

A shower is a 2-hour circus with Mom as ringmaster. She places shower implements on a reachable ledge in the shower, positions a walker and two wheelchairs (one in the shower and the one I’m wearing just at the threshold of the shower. Then she gets out LOTS and LOTS of towels.

I strip down to fighting weight, stand on the good leg and we both wash The Leg. Too much banging around the shower could whack its healing bone, so we’re very gentle. We do some leg-shaving wherever there AREN’T incisions (maybe four square inches). The Leg gets a brand new stockinette bandage after that, I firmly re-secure my leg brace. If I don’t, Hector-the-Protector is liable to go on a wild flight of fancy without me, which ain’t very protective of him.

Then I stand and gracefully pirouette The Leg out, perpendicular to the floor so Mom can The Leg in extra bandages, a towel and plastic wrap (no water allowed–a wet Hector is a REALLY miserable Cynthia).  I return to the wheelchair, leaving one shoe on my good leg, and remove Marilyn-the-wheelchair’s leg rests so I can snuggle up to the shower.

Now I move into position in front of the shower threshold, set the brakes HARD, stand up, and grasp the walker inside the shower. Mom holds her breath while I transfer my weight to the walker, then do a one-legged pivot to position my butt over the second wheelchair, locked and loaded inside. She breathes, I remove shoe, wheel over to faucet, and do the actual shower thing, sitting down.

(This is harder than you’d think. It’s taken me about a month to figure out a good get-clean-while-sitting-in-the-shower routine.)

When I’m clean, Mom carefully dries the shower entrance and walls. I carefully dry me and the (very) wet wheelchair. Then I wheel up to the shower threshold, lock the brakes, put my shoe back on, check that all surfaces are dry and non-slippery, and gather courage. Mom layers towels into the outside wheelchair.

I must rise on tiptoe, step OVER the ledge and onto the floor, rotate slightly to get The Leg out of the way, grabbing the walker for balance and making sure I’m squarely over the top of its legs (if I’m not, the walker will take off without me and I’ll end up on the floor.

Now, in one smooth motion (I hope), I pivot on the good leg and streeeeetch over the threshold, and sit.  (hello, Marilyn! I’m CLEAN!) Mom tackles the onerous chore of drying out wheelchair #2, while I get dressed.

This is why I mostly sponge-bathe, and reserve showers for once- or twice-weekly special occasions.

Shower done, I confirmed the ambulance ETA, dry my hair and gather my things. Wallet and insurance cards, check. Fully-charged phone, check. Wheelchair gloves (for pulling myself up and down ramps), check.

Now I’ve got time to do other things which, since I took the day off work, means I have time to check Everett, the baby kiln, and his load of silver clay.

pmc-samplesIt’s obviously impractical to bring Dennis-the-Denver kiln, glass, and equipment up here to Mom’s just so that I can play with glass, even if I wanted to hire the moving van to do it. Precious metal clay jewelry, though, my rapidly-becoming second love, is a lot more portable and I’m still such a newbie that I need the practice. So kind friends trekked the lot of it up here, and I’ve been playing on weekends.

Rachel's silver hairpin with a cubic zirconia that was supposed to be tanzanite. Turns out tanzanite becomes a gorgeous red-violet when you fire it too hot. Ooops.

Rachel’s silver hairpin with a cubic zirconia that was supposed to be tanzanite. Turns out tanzanite becomes a gorgeous red-violet when you fire it too hot. Ooops.


Niece Rachel joins in the fun, making a silver hairpin that is absolutely gorgeous.

I love sculpting earthen clay, but any notions I had about PMC behaving the same way went right out the window on my first attempt.

Metal clay more closely resembles (rapidly dehydrating) Silly Putty than clay; it’s the exact opposite of my belovedly workable Hanjiki porcelain. Any attempt to wet metal clay and prevent it from cracking usually turns it into ultra-expensive slime, especially if you touch it with your hands. Therefore, you touch it as little as possible.

How do you sculpt metal clay, then? You don’t.  You mold it. You make your sculpture in something else, create a mastermold of it, and then press the clay into the mold.

You can do a little shaping, cutting, and assembling while the clay is wet, and one of its big advantages is that two pieces of wet metal clay will stick together without all the scoring and slip application required of earthen clay.

Mostly, though, you just trim your stamped shapes and assemble, and let them dry. Once leather-hard, the clay can be carved and sanded, or wet down and have other clay added, although it’s terribly fragile until fired.

This does allow you to work in layers: Make one component, dry it or even fire it, then add a second component, fire it…and on and on.

There are about as many techniques for working with this stuff as there are for glass (and my eventual goal is to integrate casting glass with metal clay), so there’s a lot to learn.

I’ve started with the simple roll-the-clay-into-a-press mold stuff, graduated to adding bails and making small sculptures, and I’m trying all the different kinds/brands of clay. (There are LOTS!)


Copper clay pendants, before

Copper clay, for example, isn’t going so well. Spent an entire weekend shaping three pendants, only to discovered they’d crumbled to bits on firing. Sigh.


Copper clay pendants, after

I asked on metal clay forums and received a wealth of helpful (and conflicting) suggestions. Gotta get some more of the stuff and press on. (pun intended)

You can paint dilute clay directly onto leaves to take an impression of veins and structure, then dump into the kiln; the leaf burns out, leaving the clay.

I’ve had mixed success with this one; if you heat the clay to dry it, as I’m doing here, the slip seems to bubble a bit. I typically top it with a thin layer of sheet clay. In fact, that’s what’s in the kiln as I go down to visit the docs.

pmc-gingkocoatingWish me luck in both endeavors (leg and clay)…