July 17, 2011

How to Make Honey-Glazed Chicken Tarragon à la Cast

As I mentioned last week, trying to cook primarily one-handed has been challenging.  Just last night I made one of my family's favorite meals--Honey-Glazed Tarragon Chicken--for dinner and, while I was preparing it, I considered that perhaps some of my foodie friends might enjoy trying out the recipe.  Join me, won't you, as I teach you how to prepare Honey-Glazed Chicken Tarragon à la Cast.  So put on your best Julia Child voice (this is absolutely mandatory), grab a healthy swig of your favorite cooking sherry, and let's get started.

"I LOVE a good cooking sherry!"

First you will need to thaw approximately 5-6 breasts of chicken.  I prefer to use individually-wrapped chicken breasts from Schwan's Home Delivery Service because they have less fat, because I can use as many or as few as I wish at one time without worrying about spoilage, and because frozen chicken is salmonella-free chicken.  Plus I'm just really lazy and they will bring the chicken straight to my door.

Plastic vacuum-packed bags add extra flavoring.

Because you no longer have use of both hands, when the chicken is thawed you will need to tear open each individual bag using one hand and your teeth.  This will make it easier to avoid absorbing chicken juice into the padding of your cast for those "extra special odors" in a few hours.  Be sure to keep saying to yourself "Yum--plastic and chicken juice" as you open each bag so that you will be able to force yourself to continue.  Feel free to spit out any bits of plastic that shear off the bag before you succeed in opening it.  Alternatively, you can swirl said pieces around in your mouth for additional flossing and teeth cleaning purposes.  Just remember not to swallow!  

Next, place the chicken on your cutting board, like so:

And now your cutting board is double-breasted.

Once that is done, it's time to apply the culinary condom:

"We all slide our yellow in a bag, our yellow in a bag, our yellow in a bag..."

When you have sufficiently protected yourself from STDs (Salmonella-Transferred Diseases), pick up a sharp knife and begin cutting your chicken into cubes until all chicken has been cut.  To do this, hold one breast down gently with your Ziploc-encased hand and proceed to slice into the chicken with your free hand like so:

"Chicken Slice-n-Dice--and I helped!"

Feel free to miss several times and slice little nicks and slashes into your bag because your chicken is wiggly and not sufficiently secured by a plasticized fingers; besides, the cuts will provide ventilation inside the bag.  Try to avoid nicking any fingernails--they don't marinate in the glaze well and provide a little too much texture.

When you have finished dicing the raw chicken, scoop up the pieces using your Pampered Chef scraper because you still have only one functioning hand and you don't want it slimey; also, you haven't used the scraper in months and you want to get your money's worth out of it, never mind the potential for under-the-table kickbacks from your flagrant product placement.  

Spread the pieces evenly across the top tray of your Tupperware Paleozoic (era) Pink Micro Steamer™, like so:

The Pampered Chef is fooling around with his Tupper Ware.

Next, to prepare the honey glaze, hack a stick of butter in half.  Using the end of your knife, skewer the butter barbarian-style, pick it up, then deposit it in a small bowl.

I wasn't kidding about the knife--you can see the stab wound.

Stick the butter into the microwave for 10-20 seconds.  Don't forget to cover it with a piece of Cling Wrap or your rinsed-off culinary condom, unless you'd really enjoy spending the next half hour cleaning exploded butter stalactites off the ceiling of your microwave.  Next, add to the melted butter 1 teaspoon of tarragon, 1¼ teaspoons of paprika, ½ teaspoon each of salt and dry mustard, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of honey.  Mix well.

Kitchen Chemistry

After mixing the sauce, put approximately 2 cups of minute rice in the bottom of the steamer, with the same amount of water, like so:  

Nummy, nummy rice soup

Put the steamer tray with the chicken back over the rice and water, then force your significant other or whoever is handy (literally) to pour the glaze mixture over the chicken.  Spread it out well, but not too well, or it will drain too fast into the water and rice.

My chicken has been ginger doodled.

Once that is finished, put the steamer in the microwave, cooking for 6-7 minutes on high.

"I sing the body irradiated..."

During those 6-7 minutes, feel free to do laundry, clean up the sink, pick your nose, empty the dishwasher, use the bathroom (not necessarily in that order) or whatever.  But don't forget to wash your hand(s) after!  When the microwave beeps, stir the chicken around, flipping over any uncooked sides, and bake for an additional 3-4 minutes or so.   

When finished this time, force your partner/spouse/friend/child slave labor/imaginary friend to come and help you lift out the steamer tray so that you can scrape the chicken and any leftover sauce into the lower tray with the cooked rice.  Mix well.  Scoop onto a plate with whatever utensil is handy and enjoy!

Honey-Paprika-y-Tarragony Goodness

For those of you unfortunate enough not to possess a Tupperware Paleozoic (era) Pink Micro-Steamer™, this recipe can technically be created without one.  You can brown the cubed chicken in a skillet with a little butter, then add in the sauce and mix together with the chicken, cooking till the chicken is done.  Cook the rice in a separate pan either in the microwave or on the stove; when finished cooking, fold in the chicken and sauce mixture.  Alternatively, you can bake whole chicken breasts in a roasting pan, basting them with the sauce, and serve over cooked rice.  Personally, I prefer the steamer, because the steaming process causes the honey glaze sauce to mix in with the rice for additional flavor, which then recycles back into the chicken while it cooks.

Seriously--how can you not want some of this right now?

Likewise, for those of you without the benefit of an arm cast, feel free to adapt the recipe preparation accordingly, though no doubt it will be infinitely more dull without the piratic butter stabbings or the various plastics involved.  Your loss, I guess.  

Meanwhile, I am still waiting for the Ziploc, Pampered Chef and Tupperware companies to recognize my blatant product advertisements; I will expect appropriate remuneration immediately.  

As Julia Child would say (you are still reading this in your Julia voice, right?), "Bon Appétit!"

This is probably closer to how MY Julia Child experience would look.

July 12, 2011

Cracking Up

Ever since I was very small, I have been cursed with an unfortunate tendency towards a certain inelegance of motion.  To be blunt, I am a klutz.  Clumsy.  A butterfingers.  One who fumbles both things and self.  This is why, though I was athletically built (once upon a time, anyway), I was never particularly good at sports.  I just couldn’t seem to coordinate my gangly body into any sort of economy of motion, much less fluency.  Even my father often claimed that I tripped over lint and invisible threads.  Annoying as these observations were, he wasn’t far wrong.  Hardly a day went by in which I did not discover yet another bruise, scrape or cut that I could not recall acquiring.   Sometimes I think it’s a wonder I ever survived growing up.  My childhood home was rife with dents, dings, and scrapes on the floors and walls, half of which were the result of slamming myself and whatever I was holding off-balance into them a though I were a drunken sailor on leave.  When we had meals around the kitchen counter I, being the smallest, was consigned to sitting in the corner--which was fine until I grew tall enough for my head to hit the cabinet, at which point my hair would get stuck in the protruding bottom hinge on a near-daily basis.  Not only is it a small miracle that I am not bald today, I’m pretty sure there are tufts of my hair still imbedded in that hinge.



So I grew up, bruised and often battered.  I once got half-dollar-sized blood blisters on the bottoms of both of my feet because I walked barefoot (I hated shoes) for over a mile on country roads “paved” with tar and gravel.  My jutting hipbones looked like throttled handlebars after being imprinted with bruises from my continually winging bookcases in the school library, the top corners of which were exactly at my hip height.  I stumbled.  Repeatedly.  I fell.  I sustained at least one concussion.  I crashed into things.  Often.  I have bounced off of cars which pulled out in front of me unexpectedly on both a bike and a moped (both times I was unharmed beyond a scrape or two).  Once when I was delivering my paper route, the papers in the bag at my side shifted, causing me to lose balance.  I fell, ten-speed on top of me, and was dragged a good 20 yards over the ubiquitous tar and gravel road before skidding to a halt.  I had to disentangle myself from the bike, wipe loose gravel from the scrapes on my legs, pick up papers and my bent bike and then drag myself the block home so that my mother could minister to the 5” x 3” abrasion on my shoulder, which was missing the top layer of skin and covered in bits of dirt, loose gravel and warm tar.  It made for a very long block.  

Tar Baby

Although one of my prevailing tendencies in life is to exaggerate, trust in my complete accuracy when I say that I.  am.  a.  KLUTZ.  Even today I still wander about with the odd cut or bruise somewhere on my body and absolutely no recollection of obtaining it.  Just yesterday I skewered my plentiful posterior with the sharp corner of a window sill.  The callouses on my fingertips are a testament to the number of times I have stabbed myself with sharp and pointy instruments of sewing construction.  They are so dulled, in fact, that in my teens I used to shove pins through the top surface of callous to freak people out with my macabre Edward ScissorSeamstress impersonation.  It was very effective, I must say--not unlike the weird kid in school who used to disturb everyone by turning his eyelids inside-out.  It wasn’t painful, but horrific-looking just the same.  I still stumble.  I still tend to veer occasionally into walls and/or people.   I still trip.  I still fall.  I am a hip replacement waiting to happen.  


And apparently I can still do creepy things like this without injuring myself.

Five years ago I fell most of the way down the staircase in my house--on Election Day, ironically enough.  Talk about your editorial comments.  Somehow I managed to turn just enough that I rolled down on my left side, miraculously avoiding damage to either my neck or my spine.  I did break one of the wooden stair spindles on the way down, which I later discovered ominously sticking out like some sort of perverse homage to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I was tempted to dribble red paint on the exposed point just for effect.  At the end of my ill-fated tumble I flopped hard onto the parquet floor, so stunned with both pain and windedness that I literally could not move for a few minutes.  Eventually I was able to drag myself cartoon-style to the bottom of the stairs where I kept my purse and dig out my cell phone to call for rescue.  Then, because my life is a never-ending comedy of errors, the Schwan’s man chose that precise second to ring the doorbell.  I shut my anti-social dog in the laundry room by pulling the door shut from the bottom so that the Schwan’s man would not be savaged, then I pulled myself up to my knees and I scooted over to answer the door, looking like an escapee from Munchkinland.  The Schwan’s guy looked down in surprise and quizzically said “Hello?”  I then asked him to help me get up, which he did.  He got me to the bottom stairs where I sat down and proceeded to complete my Schwan’s business---hey, my purse was still there--before slinking off to crawl into bed.  My Schwan’s savior was so concerned that he stayed outside in his truck till my husband got home so that I wouldn’t be alone--just in case--even though I insisted I was fine.

Word.

In spite of my many mishaps over the years, I have always managed to escape unscathed by broken bones.  Even the tumble down the stairs only resulted in a giant hematoma on my left thigh and innumerable sore muscles.  I should have broken multiple limbs from that fall, but I didn’t.  In school they used to call me the Rubber Band Girl because I would bend but not break.  Technically I did sustain a hairline fracture to one toe a few years back when I tripped over a vacuum cleaner--talent, right?--which just proves my belief that housework is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.  Still, that crack didn’t really count.  I mean, it was a middle TOE, for crying out loud.  You can’t even cast those.  So I limped for a couple of weeks--big deal.  After years of sprained ankles, a minuscule crack seemed pretty wussy.  So, barring that small stumble, I have never, ever, been broken enough to warrant a cast.

Until now.

Approximately two months ago I was in NY to move my daughter back home from college for the summer.  Because we live in the South, there was no real need to bring home her winter things and such, so we chose to deposit half her belongings in a local storage facility, thereby lightening the load for the drive home.  Unfortunately, however, the storage place was rather chaotic that day, not the least because one group of people was hogging the only loading dock. We successfully unloaded around them but when it came time to leave they were still blocking the exit steps.   I stood on the dock and eyed the drop--only 2-3 feet max, and an easy jump in my younger days.  After considering it, in my brilliance I decided instead to half jump, half go down the stairs so I wouldn’t have to try to deal with the non-English speakers clogging the steps.  As fate would have it,  my toe caught on something during the ill-advised attempt and caused me to trip and fall off the dock in front of God and some 10-15 strangers.  It was special.  As always, I am as graceful as an elephant in stilettos.

Elephant Dung Stilettos--you know you want some.

While I mostly remember hitting the ground on my copious posterior and rolling over, I must have extended my hand to break the fall in the process though I don’t recall doing so.  I was far more concerned with getting up as quickly as possible to lessen my embarrassment and look less like a rampaging tumbleweed in front of everyone.  It didn’t take long to realize on the way back to the dorm that I had injured my wrist or thumb; at the time I thought I had only hyper-extended it, though.  Once back at the dorm I wrapped my wrist in an Ace bandage that my daughter had in her first aid kit (she too is a “Danger Girl”).  On the plus side, my boo-boo got me out of schlepping stuff for the rest of the move-out, which didn’t exactly break my heart.  Instead, I got to employ my expert packing skills by making my family rearrange everything in the car until all possessions were crammed successfully inside.   I have moved so many times that I can make almost anything fit in a box or a car--Waldo would be lost forever in my jigsaw packing.

Where's Waldo?

On the very long drive home we began to think my hand was actually sprained rather than hyper-extended because of the tell-tale bruise spreading down the back of my wrist for a good 3 inches, the swelling, and my inability to grasp anything.  Upon returning home I found a brace and spent some time icing my wrist.  Ironically, prior to the trip north I strained my right shoulder while doing a massive house cleaning in preparation for my daughter’s return home (I’m just cool like that).  When we arrived back home I quickly discovered that between the two dysfunctional limbs I could no longer fasten my undergarments without assistance (leading my thrilled daughter to serve two weeks of broken-mommy penance helping to fasten my bras), because flapping one arm behind me with one shoulder which won’t rotate and trying to fasten hooks with a hand that won’t bend without inducing shooting pain was highly ineffectual and made my sports bra aerobics seem positively dull by comparison.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I looked like Rowan Atkinson performing one of his more spastic Mr. Bean sketches.




After a couple weeks of ignoring friends’ advice to go to the doctor (I don’t like doctors--they insist on finding things wrong with you), it became patently obvious that the injury was not improving so off I went to the local Orthopedic Urgent Care facility.  A few x-rays later the doctor told me it wasn’t serious and went off to get me a fancy, expensive, you-better-hope-insurance-will-cover-this brace. When he returned, however, I was treated to the ominous words “you know, I looked at those x-rays again, and something looked funny...”  I’m guessing you don’t mean funny ha-ha here, dude.  Sigh.  Following some vaguely comedic efforts to fit me properly in the right-sized brace, I was sent home with my first-ever MRI appointment.  Since I’m not generally claustrophobic the MRI wasn’t really a big deal, but I had no idea how exactly they would go about scanning just a hand.  They can’t really suck in just your arm because it won’t go far enough inside the machine.  Ultimately, I was told to lie on the table on my stomach and extend my arm in front of me, crooked, Superman-style.  Personally, I thought they should have let me wear a cape into the machine, but they wouldn’t.  How rude.  The whole time I was in there with my arm pinioned in front of me--bored senseless, I might add--the song from Mighty Mouse kept running through my head:  “Here I am to save the daaaay!!!”  Yeah.  That’s it.  


Two days later I went back for the MRI results and was told that not only was my wrist bone (specifically, the scaphoid) indeed broken, but that it was a “bugger to heal.”  Leave it to me to crack one of the most difficult bones in the body to heal.  Turns out that most of the people who fracture it are athletes because of the amount of force required to accomplish breakage.  Yup.  Not me, though--I managed it because “I have style, I have flair--that’s how I fell on...my Fanny!”  And because I am Colonel Klutz, that wasn’t the end of it.  No simple fractures for me, nosiree.  Because this particular bone is so prone to necrosis, some 80% of the people who break it ultimately have to have surgery to repair it since it refuses to heal.  The one thing in my favor was the fact that the bone did not actually displace and that I’d caught it fairly early, in spite of the month delay.  It seems most other people also think the break is just a sprain because it swells so little, so it’s not uncommon to go as long as a year before figuring it out.  Ouch.  As a result, I was prescribed the more “conservative” treatment, by which they mean “we’ll trap you in a fiberglass prison with your thumb immobilized for only 8 weeks,” after which I have to get a CT scan to make sure the bone has actually healed.  If so, yay for me--time off for good behavior.  If not, I have surgery to insert a screw (so yes, I’ll be screwed) and then two MORE months in a cast, after which my poor, shriveled arm will be subjected to physical therapy.  Cool.

Well, it does.

Two rolls of blue fiberglass later, I left the clinic with my freshly minted cast and a very bad attitude, as well as instructions to return in a week to have a window cut in the cast for my Handy-Dandy New Personal Ultrasound Machine™.  Naturally I had immediate visions of giving myself electro-shock therapy with it (which no doubt some people will probably think would do me a world of good), but I was later informed that sending low-grade ultrasound pulses into the damaged bone stimulates osteogenesis by encouraging the development of red blood cells to carry more oxygen faster to the bone, which is important since the blood cells ultimately transform into bone cells--something I never knew.  The treatment is supposedly successful in close to 90% of cases and can speed healing by as much as 40%.  Yay for high-tech nerd toys!

"Hit Me, Baby, One More Time!"

During the intervening week, in addition to creating any number of jokes using words with “cast” in them on Facebook, I became acutely aware of the limitations of actually being casted.  After all, we tend not to appreciate things until we are forced to do without them--and by “things” I mean “thumbs.”  Sure, I could still use my fingers somewhat (thank you years of sewing for dextrous fingers), but when was the last time you tried to do something simple like apply deodorant or shave an armpit without your thumb?   And that doesn’t even begin to address performing more complex tasks like fastening pants with the zipper on the wrong side (because women’s clothing manufacturers are often maddeningly inconsistent in placket placement) or hooking a brassiere.  Plus, do you have any idea how difficult it is to find front-hook bras so that you have a prayer of actually dressing yourself once you approach multiple-letter territory, never mind ones that do not make you look like your mother did in her schlumpy Playtex specials when she was your age??  Please.  As far as I’m concerned, if NASA is going to be foolish enough to can the space program, then the least they could do is re-purpose leftover manpower and resources to developing an anti-gravitational brassiere for women over 25, am I right, ladies?

Anti-gravitational satellites being constructed to orbit heavenly bodies.

During that initial week I also rapidly discovered that my first-ever cast was rather loose, which seemed odd since any swelling was long gone and could not screw up the sizing.  Every single time I set my arm down on a hard surface that sucker would swing up like a giant blue handbell (“Clap-On, Clap-Off, the Clapper!”), leaving a good inch of space between my arm and the cast, as well as shooting the cast forward so that it pulled against my sad little scaphoid.  I’m pretty sure that the point of a cast is to freeze the afflicted bone so that it can adequately heal, not to further displace it.  Hmmmm.  When I went back to the clinic a week later to learn all about my electro-shock therapy®, I asked about the cast being too loose.  Everyone agreed it was, and I was subsequently recast by a different tech.  He successfully made it snugger--so snug, in fact, that there was virtually no room for my arm to expand with the changing temperatures throughout the day.  It felt like I was being throttled by a vise or perhaps an over-enthusiastic blood pressure cuff.  It was beyond miserable.  To make things worse, the second guy casted up my hand almost to my first knuckles, overlapping my pinky and ring finger so that I could barely move my fingers.  It was supremely uncomfortable.  In spite of my daughter’s observation that I had done nothing but complain since I first got the cast (which, it must be said, is true--what can I say?  I do freaking EVERYTHING with my hands and not having one is tremendously frustrating), I did actually try to tolerate it for as long as possible.  It’s not like I am some cast expert, after all, but it did seem to me that we could perhaps split the difference between the Liberty Bell Cast and Mae West’s Corset Cast.  I lasted about a day and a half before heading back to the Ortho clinic (they know me by name now).  The hand specialist took one look at the caveman club on my left arm and said, “That ain’t right!” then proceeded to recast my arm personally.  Sweet relief!!  When I joked that the club was so tight I feared my fingernails were going to shoot off across the room, the doctor gamely observed that such an event would be bad “because dogs hate that.”  I went home feeling 100% better, or at least as better as one can feel in a cast, and happy to have functional fingers once again.


Aaaaand...that's how you do that.

That lasted approximately 30 minutes.

Recently we got some new furniture, so a table and my old dressers have been clogging up my dining room for months.  I call it the Furniture Depot.  I finally posted an ad on Craigslist and was excited to be unloading my Early American Student™ decor at long last.   I arranged to meet with someone interested in the table right after I got my new cast.  First, however, I had to remove the two nightstands that were parked atop the table and dust it off.  My daughter was supposed to move the stands for me because of my dysfunctional hand but I, being the recklessly impatient sort, decided that I could shift at least one of them since it was little more than a fiberboard K-Mart special and not terribly heavy.  I scooted it to the end of the table, lifted it up pretty easily with one arm in the open shelf (“Look, Ma, one hand!”) and pivoted around, quite pleased with myself--that is, until it tipped and started to slide off my arm.  Shortly thereafter I experienced the most excruciating pain that I have ever felt in my life--with the possible exception of hitting the hardwood floor at the bottom of the stairs 5 years ago--when the nightstand slid directly onto my left big toe.  Under normal circumstances, I would have taken this opportunity to apply more than a few of those colorful metaphors I learned in my many years of theater; however, the pain was so bad for the first two minutes that it took my breath away and the best I could do was manage a strangled scream.  When I finally came back to myself some five minutes later, I managed to hobble over to the couch where I proceeded to spend the next 20 minutes hyperventilating in agony and downing Tylenol.  Instead of going immediately to the ER like a normal person, however, I waited an hour past the original appointment time for the woman--who never showed--to come view my table.  Duty before Defeet.

"It's only a flesh wound!"

After the hour was up I trundled off yet again to the Ortho urgent care--a mere two weeks after first getting my wrist cast.  Once again I got a few x-rays and was eventually informed that I had crushed my toe; there were 3-4 fractures radiating out from the impact point, as well as a lovely gash gaping across the top of my toe.  Awesome.  When the guy at the clinic saw my arm, he made fun of me for doing my toe on the same side, so I told him I had been feeling too asymmetric.  At least I got some painkillers out of it, but I was livid because I had in effect broken my toe for an appointment that didn’t even bother to show.  She could at least have bought my freaking table after I suffered for her!

Ouch.

This time I was sent home in a little bootie and was given some giant bandaids to protect the gash, as well as the prescription for Lortab, most of which I ended up taking more for my still unhappy shoulder than for my toe.  While I was mad at the woman for not showing, I couldn’t really be angry about breaking my toe because I had no one to blame but myself.  Go big or go home, I guess...leave it to me not to do things halfway.  Hopefully this just means that I’m getting all of my life’s major damage over with at once.  Of course afterwards everyone thought I’d been in a car accident because the damage was localized to my left side.  It was embarrassing to have to admit that my injuries were the result of two separate accidents, especially when it caused people to start suggesting that I have osteoporosis.  I’m not saying that I don’t, but it’s not like I tripped over lint (thanks, Dad), fell, and broke a hip.  We aren’t talking brittle bones here, people--we’re talking violent impacts because I like to do things as dramatically as possible.  It’s the diva wannabe in me, I guess.  Then, just to add insult to injury, I had a spate of “helpful” friends suggesting that I should be careful since “these things come in threes.”  Oh, goodie--something to look forward to!  Because I was in need of a third dysfunctional limb!  Like my shoulder!  Clearly I’m excited by the prospect because I’m using lots of exclamation points!!  Meanwhile, in barely one week I had already managed to acquire three different casts, not counting my foot bootie.  Dramatic, indeed.  This situation has not been improved by how hysterically funny everyone thinks it is to ask me “Who did you hit?” when they see my cast.  Huh, huh, huh--I think I just split my side guffawing.  “Um, the last person who asked me that question?”  Seriously, people.  If you’re going to be annoying, at least have the courtesy to be original.

Not surprisingly, learning to live with a cast has been interesting.  Besides the requisite difficulties of dressing myself, I now have to contend with the dubious process of grooming myself.   I can no longer effectively use styling implements on my hair, which is unfortunate because my layers had grown out so much that a mere hairbrush just wasn’t getting the job done.  Thankfully I saw my old hairdresser last week, though, and told him to “shear me like a sheep,” which he promptly did.  My hair is once again short, stylish, and sports single-hand functionality.  Also, bathing now requires me to tie a trash bag to my arm and to attempt to climb into a shower stall with two broken limbs and not hydroplane across the soap-slimed tiles left behind by my husband.  My daughter helped me install a ponytail holder on the top of the bag so now each time I want to shower, I first pull my little trash bag over my arm, then use my teeth and my other hand to close up the opening so the bag will be watertight; I look like I’m trying to tighten the jesses on a falcon when I do so.  Also, you gotta love that mouthful of deodorized plastic--yum!  Still, that’s a vast improvement over the “cast protector” I ordered online, which had a rubber diaphragm so tight that once I got it over my cast--which was challenging enough--it nearly cut off my circulation, causing me to race to finish the shower before my fingers turned purple or fell off.  The fact that I had ordered the appropriate size sheath for my build and sent the actual dimensions required for the length and location of my cast seemed irrelevant.  When the protector came in it was easily twice the length of my casted arm.  Trying to bathe largely one-handed is entertaining enough without a giant plastic condom hanging nearly 2 feet past my fingertips, much less one that would put a tourniquet to shame.  Needless to say, I used the thing exactly once before packing it back up in its case and going back to my original trash bag/ponytail holder contraption.  


Shower condomnation

In addition to grooming challenges, I have developed an unexpected inability to park my car straight.  I don’t know if it is because of the limited rotation of my left hand or what, but invariably every time I park in a shopping center now, one wheel is on the line--and that’s after I correct my parking.  Likewise, I can no longer get down on the floor because I can no longer get back off the floor without looking like an overturned turtle or a wildly wobbling Weeble.  I have also been forced to resort to wearing old clothes because my cast is forever rubbing up against my shirts; approximately half of my wardrobe now sports a fuzzy lint-ball army across the left side of my chest and down my leg where my arm rests.  Cooking is likewise a unique experience which often involves jamming pot handles under my cast to hold them steady or sheathing my hand with a Ziploc bag to protect the cast from getting wet or smelling like the foods I am handling.  On the other hand, I have now also become extremely proficient at opening things by wedging them in the crook of my elbow and unscrewing them with my other hand and can use my cast to crush garlic.

I'm not clumsy, things just get in my way.

Almost two weeks ago I had to go back in to get a new cast--scheduled this time--the idea being that they would do an x-ray to monitor my progress and then check my arm to ensure that I hadn’t developed skin problems or leprosy or whatever from the rubbing of the cast.  That was fine by me because all the sweat scum inside was starting to drive me crazy and because owing to my dog’s need to snuggle in bed every night, the cast was starting to look like Remus Lupin under a full moon.  The cast was removed, x-rays were snapped, and then I spent the next 10 minutes wildly scrubbing dead skin from peeling cast fingers and sweat scum from my arm.  When I finished, there was still no sign of the hand guy, so I proceeded to give my left hand a mini-manicure while I was still able to reach my fingers easily.  Nothing like using your time efficiently, right?  The doctor laughed at me when he came in, only to later acknowledge that I was one of the more resourceful patients he’d ever had.  He then sent his assistant in to put on my new cast.  I figured that after three incarnations of blue cast I’d go with something a little happier and brighter in an attempt to distract myself from the frustrations of being handicapped (*rim shot*).  I thought I remembered yellow being an option, so I requested it without being re-shown the samples in advance.  When the assistant began wrapping my arm, what I remembered as a nice golden yellow turned out to be much closer to a neon or highlighter yellow.  Clearly, I was going to need sunglasses in the presence of my new cast.  Meanwhile, both the assistant and the woman checking me out commented that they had never seen a yellow cast before.  At the ORTHOPEDIC office.  This did not bode well.  I was a bit at a loss for what to do with my new day-glo cast, but in a stroke of genius, one of my friends suggested taking advantage of the obnoxious yellow by inking in a submarine, which I did:

"We all live in a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine..."

Immediately upon leaving the office with my new yellow cast, my daughter and I headed off on an road trip to Memphis to clean out my in-laws’ house before putting it up for sale.  By the time the 8-hour trip was over my pristine cast, which had been (unbeknownst to me) rubbing off bits of black vinyl steering wheel all day, suddenly had more dark marks than Lord Voldemort (not that I’m looking forward to the release of the last movie, or anything).  It was not a great week for the cast; in addition to the black vinyl peppering, my comfy new cast became immediately subjected to massive quantities of sweat as I worked to do the little that I could to help in the sweltering house, turning the knit sleeve and padding dark with sweat stains and pungent aromas.  I also discovered that not only was my cast slightly loose again, the assistant had cut my ultrasound window too narrow and too high on my hand, which forced me to spend the week jury-rigging all sorts of things to get the ultrasound transducer to retain contact with my skin for the daily treatment.  When I got back to Georgia at the end of the week, I went back--yet again--to the clinic to have the window enlarged.  Now I have two oddly shaped pieces cut out of my cast, making it look like some sort of orthopedic jigsaw puzzle and made even more ludicrous by the hand guy’s suggestion that my cast has now been “ghettoized” and that I should write “bling bling” under the pieces.  Yeah.  Because ultra-pasty redheads always look so “ghetto.”  Riiiiiiight.

Isn't bling supposed to be much shinier?

Frankly, most people think that being a redhead is cool because it’s uncommon (which is true), but what they don’t realize is that it has definite drawbacks.  Most redheads I know have very sensitive skin, for example, and I am no different.  Not only am I likely to sunburn just by staring at an open microwave for too long, I am prone to over-reactive skin.  When I get a shot, I invariably become bruised so badly that I look like a junkie.  When I had my C-section, my skin actually reacted to the adhesive on the dressing, giving me an allergic rash.  And, it seems, putting me into a cast results in the ability to feel each and every pill rubbed into the fabric liner.   When the sweaty cast rubs against my chafed skin, it isn't just damp, it actually hurts.  I am also acutely aware of exactly where the window is cut at all times, even when the plugs are not pushing against my skin.  I fiddle with the cast constantly, picking off sharp bits of loose fiberglass or straightening the liner inside so that folds and wadded up fabric don’t cause me to go postal.  Cracking up from my cracked-up body just would not do.  One day I even behaved like a deranged refugee from the Princess and the Pea until I was able to locate and successfully dig out a small styrofoam ball that had become lodged under the heel of my hand, presumably while I was working at my in-laws’ house.  My red hair does give me super-powers, but impervious skin is not one of them.

Redhead by day, deadly ninja by night.

Fifteen days are all that remain of my fiberglass sentence--at least I hope so.  The x-ray last week was “good,” but apparently mere x-rays don’t mean much for this break, so I will still need the CT scan to confirm (hopefully) complete healing and thus mercifully bypass surgery.  My toe has since been x-rayed as well and, while not fully healed, is coming along nicely.  The gash is long since healed, though my toenail is still predominantly black, and I’m told the fractures should finish filling in after another 6-8 weeks.  I am looking forward to having my arm back and once again being able to cook, sew, type, eat, and dress myself without an additional several inches of fiberglass-encased arm impeding my every move.  I am looking forward to the entertaining freckle band that will no doubt appear on my arm between the lighter farmer’s tan freckles on my upper arm and the faded freckles beneath the cast.  After all, how many leopards have zebra stripes?  I am looking forward to being able to sleep properly.  I am looking forward to paying more for gas in a month than I do on co-pays.  But most of all, I am looking forward to being able to shout from the rooftops “Free of cast, free of cast--thank God Almighty I’m free of cast!”