Elmo, a left knee

Meet Elmo, a contraption of titanium and silicone, now serving as my left knee

My summer didn’t include writing about it, which you may have noticed.

Sometimes your summers are lazy, where you spend your days in a hammock, listening to the ice melt in your lemonade. You can write about that.

Or renovation summers, where the whine of the tile saw competes with the whack of the hammer. Or garden summers, where you glory in dirt and wheelbarrows and weeds and bugs (yeah, catch me doing that). You can write about those, too.

But this summer was none of those. In fact, it defied classification. I’m calling it “The summer I nearly gave the God of Adventure a nervous breakdown,” but beyond that I’m not exactly sure what it was.

It’s not that there wasn’t stuff to write about. Rather, there was almost too much so I’m not sure where to start. And for much of the summer it seemed I was either semi-conscious or the next best thing.

Mostly, I’m just glad it’s Fall. So in tried and true Cynthia fashion, I’m getting back to the business of writing by making a blogger’s to-do list. Now, this is by no means in order of importance, but at least it gets most events down on paper, er…screen. So…

I said goodbye to Skooby-The-Skutt. After more than 14 years of faithful, near-constant firing, my bathtub GM-1414 went to live with friend and student Carla and her son Josh. They’ve fixed him up (he was kinda rusted out from all the casting and mold-drying), and are already making wonderful glass.

I gotta admit I got a little bit weepy when I came home and found an empty space in the garage (even as I rejoiced at all that freed-up space).

I lost my Dad, after a decade of slow downward spirals from Alzheimer’s Disease. And that’s about all I’m going to say about that for now (there is a eulogy I’ll publish sometime), except for thanks to all the folks who’ve sent best wishes and cards and flowers and casseroles and zucchini bread.

I welcomed Dennis-the-Denver, which I wrote about earlier. I had a whole bunch of friends over to get him installed and start the burning-in-and-calibration process. It’s been an adventure worth writing about.

I got a new knee installed. His name is Elmo. He’s made of silicone and titanium and probably duct tape, and cost me two years of (really) hard work.

I’m thrilled to have him, the surgeon and nurses and hospital and physical therapists (and especially my mother, who babysat me through the first month) were more than great. I was seriously impressed by Kaiser Permanente and if you have to have a knee replacement, Westside Hospital in Hillsboro, OR is the place to go.

However…if I EVER go through the hell of knee replacement again it’ll be because seaweed is now growing on trees and someone is holding my entire family for ransom. Again, the experience gave me lots and lots and lots of stuff (and people) to write about. For example, I never realized that knee replacement is, like, major surgery, and major surgery leaves you with the attention span of an absentminded mayfly. For weeks.

Since my normal work habits include focusing on a computer screen for maybe eight or nine hours at a stretch, this was uhm…disconcerting.

I said hello and goodbye to Pepe LePew, a tiny manual kiln I picked up for about $95, thinking I’d gotten a bargain for firing precious metal clay.

Instead, I (re)learned an important lesson: Cheap tools are very expensive. That damn kiln has a tendency to go haywire and zoom to about 2000 degrees when you’re not looking. When it had converted roughly $750 worth of sterling silver into rough, charcoal-embedded lumps…bye-bye, Pepe.

I made friends with Mary Jane. Despite growing up in central California (and, in fact, accidentally doing a research paper on the effect of auxins and gibberellic acid on cannabis sativa–long story, that), I’d never actually used the stuff.

In fact, I haven’t really needed much in the way of mind-benders until knee replacement surgery, when it was discovered I don’t tolerate narcotics well at all. If there’s an unfortunate side effect of a narcotic, I discovered it while getting acquainted with Elmo.

Friends suggested that I instead try marijuana for pain relief, and the surgeon said it was worth a go, since it’s legal in Washington. So I did; interesting experience in which I detected pain but it didn’t hurt, with no discernible side effects. It was much MUCH better than the prescription pain meds.

Me and my mom visiting a head shop for the first time is something I *will* write about later. (and no, the shortened attention span came loooong before the visit from Mary Jane)

I also made friends with dysgeusia. Not. Dysgeusia is a fancy way of saying “everything tastes bad,” and it was one (only one) of those unfortunate side effects of narcotics. Basically, it means that your taste buds suddenly go sideways on normally delicious foodstuffs. Sweet, fresh orange juice tastes like the worst, most off-tastingly bad grapefruit juice you can imagine, Belgian chocolate bears a close resemblance to fresh scoopings from a litterbox, and my beloved steamed broccoli tastes like…let’s just not go there.

Imagine crushing a Tylenol pill on your tongue and letting it sit there for days: That’s dysgeusia. For weeks, about the only foods I could stomach were extremely sour: Warheads, Lemonheads, Sweetarts, lemons and limes by the dozen. Anything else had to bypass my tongue or I literally couldn’t choke them down.

The docs were bewildered, and said it would probably go away on its own. It did, finally, but I’m having to retrain my palate in some areas, and I have more of a sweet tooth than I used to. Odd.

I’ve become an obesity activist. Fat is not a dirty word. After digging deep into the latest nutritional research, I’m increasingly appalled at what the weight loss industry (and under-educated physicians) do to profit off fat people.

I’ve taken a long, hard look at my own eating habits, learned to trust myself all over again and…stopped dieting for the first time in decades. I’ve stopped believing the hype–especially from companies that make their money on the failure of rapid weight-loss programs–and gone back to sensible, healthy eating and exercise. And I’ve lost about 70 pounds.

More about that later, too.

I welcomed Ernie-the-Evenheat to the studio. Haven’t fired him yet, but Ernie is a little enamel and PMC kiln WITH controller, brand new. If I’m going to actually spend money on this metal clay stuff (and then stick glass and/or enamel on it, more on that later), it’s a more than a little dumb to continue the close-your-eyes-and-hit-the-switch firing methods I’d been doing with Pepe.

Actually, I’m discovering a bunch of techniques in metal clay and enameling that will have applications in glass sculpture and mold-making. I didn’t really think about crossover possibilities when I started goofing around with metal clay, so that was a nice bonus.

Really, all I was looking for was a way to make better-looking findings for my sculpted glass pendants than the commercially made stuff. In retrospect, however, the crossover possibilities should have been obvious, for the same reasons that make artists take a stroll through any old-fashioned hardware, craft or art supply store: Creative endeavors always cross over.

Elmo and I had our first big fight, thanks to two-plus years of wearing a leg brace that apparently atrophied my leg muscles. I landed slightly off-balance on a step about a month after surgery, my leg muscles weren’t quite strong enough to keep things in place and –pop– goes the kneecap.

(Did you know this was possible? I didn’t)

The result was something called patellar subluxation that hurt like the dickens, screwed up a perfectly good physical therapy program and IT band and did nasty things to my quadriceps. It also extended my post-op physical therapy sessions by several weeks and meant that my shiny burlwood cane and I will be buddies until Thanksgiving.

The good news is I get to keep my handicap parking permit until Christmas. Hooray for last-minute gift shopping!

Digitry struck out, big-time. More on this later, but basically, I insisted on upgrading Dennis-the-kiln with a Digitry controller, a great idea except that the bloody thing doesn’t work.

Digitry insists–without testing–that their controller is just fine and they won’t take it back. Denver has shipped me a Bartlett controller so I can use Dennis until we resolve this. The Bartlett works without problems, so now I’m wishing I’d just gotten the Bartlett in the first place.


My cattycorner neighbors and I became much better friends. When my house-and-cat-sitter flaked out bigtime (another long story), Mason stepped up and took care of Lola, Nikki and the house for the extra month it took me to get over knee replacement surgery (I couldn’t live in my own house during the first month of recovery, not with all THOSE stairs, so I lived with Mom up in Washington).

In exchange, I let him turn the house into a B&B for visiting relatives coming to see Mason & Emily’s new baby. I also found out that the reason I never could remember his daughters’ names was because I’d never actually heard them, for reasons which have since become obvious and are yet another long story.

VERY welcome to the neighborhood, Mason, Emily, and all your family.

I ventured into the world of consignment clothing sales. Once. And discovered that it’s a bad idea to drag 400 garments back and forth to your car when it’s 95 degrees outside, you have (very) limited mobility, and the shop has forgotten to tell you there is a 20-garment limit. More about that later, too.

Conclusion: It is far more blessed to give than to receive (i.e., donate clothes instead of trying to sell them on consignment). I will NEVER do that again.

I didn’t do much in the way of art. Which is making me itch. It is amazing how little art (or computer work, for that matter) can be accomplished when your knee must remain elevated above your heart.

Most of the artistic endeavors I cherish usually end with the knee in a dangly-down position that leads to swelling and tsk-tsk-tsk sounds from the physical therapist. I’m only now getting to where I can venture into the studio without feeling guilty.

And so…there’s a lot to write about. Let’s take this from the top…