Hate California. it’s cold and it’s damp

People make assumptions about Canada and Canadians. It’s always cold there and its people are hardy.

No and no.

Okay so there’s the odd crackpot who does the Polar Bear swim on New Year’s day. Or dashes naked from a hot tub to roll in the snow, but these people are usually Canadian/ something, often German, Swedish or even English, like my ex-husband who raced on an ice floe in his late 70s. (To  race an ice flow, you lie partly on it in a wet suit and propel yourself down the river with your lower body.) See romtrenD.ca /phots

Most of us Canuks are used to central heating, a real furnace that runs as and when according to a preset thermomstat, fueled with gas or at the worst oil. Gone are the 50s when you had to stoke the fire at night and stir it up and add coal in the morning. In the country, if the oil truck doesn’t make your delivery, you fire up your wood stove and when he finally arrives, the doors are all open and the indoor temperature is over 90 F.

That’s the way my Grandma liked it. If you had a cold, you’d just go to her house, drink tea and sweat. She was cool and collected, not a hair out of place, in her flowery, well ironed house dress. “Are you warm enough?” she would say and put another piece of wood in the stove.

I have an abiding fear of cold as does my daughter. She says it’s because she was born in Toronto near the end of January and immediately taken away to a cold nursery. She blames me for that. (Well, she just points out that that is how her baby self saw things and please don’t tell me that she wouldn’t be able to remember. She clearly does.) But the more I cried to see her, the more they said I couldn’t see her. Something of a standoff. But after a good deal of shouting from the head nurse -at me-, my crying baby girl appeared.

I know. Times change just not fast enough.

I myself was born in an unheated farmhouse bedroom at the first of May during a snow storm – snow will do that in the mountains – a small baby and early.

In fact I think we could have both been born in the middle of a heat wave or in my grandma’s hot kitchen and still be cold.

My daughter’s father contributed his hardy genes to our son, leaving her his allergies and Roman nose.

So here on the mountain, the weather changed. And Clara’s house where I am living has a heater, but the pilot light is out. You probably know how to relight a propane pilot light. We don’t. We wait and wait for the gas company. They don’t work Saturdays.This morning it was 64 in the house and the next time I looked 63. Outside, it was just over 50, no joy in the sun.

I was sick. With a change of weather sickness. Not a cold. With me, it starts with a vicious headache and then settles into a fierce muscle spasm, in this case in my right hip, the muscle you use to lift you leg from the gas peddle to the brake. Inconvenient on mountain roads, also for getting in and out of bed, putting on shoes and going upstairs. The pain was so bad that I was nauseated. I stay in bed, reading, under a pile of covers. Gradually, I begin to rally, but….

So I says to Clara,” Clara…” She has her back turned as she washes dishes and she jumps violently. It’s hard to know how to get the attention of the hard of hearing. “Clara, can I put on a fire. It’s only 64 in here?’

“Are you cold,” she asks. .

I am wearing a woolen hat, a pair of woolen tights, a wool turtleneck and a think terry cloth robe with a hood.

“It’s just because you’re sick,” she adds

“I’ll look after it,” I insist, but she is out the door to get the firewood off the deck. There is a pile of smaller wood and branches on the ground. I gather up some. Then I retrieve some of the crumpled packing newspaper. Viola, I have a fire. I’ve had years of practice.

“It won’t last,” says Clara, her voice dire. Then she adds gloomily, “I can’t stand being hot.” She retreats to her bedroom, where she has been reading in her dressing gown all afternoon. But now she shrugs it off in preparation.

Gradually, as I dust mop the floors, the temperature rises to 68. At home I call my landlord at 68 and he turns the furnace on. At 68 at home, I am freezing. Here I feel myself unwind and enjoy the warmth. Of course I have to be five feet from the massive fireplace to do that.

Clara has just moved here from Vegas where, even in 110 degree heat, it never occurred to her to put on the A.C. When she had guests, she would make an exception, but turn it off at night, despite the fact that none of the windows opened. Recently, on a day when it hit 90 here on the mountain, the realtor, who sold her the place, asked me how we were enjoying the air conditioning. Not!

Amazingly three days ago, I drove Clara to Santa Clarita. Getting out of the car, she assured me it was a hundred, just like Vegas. Santa Clarita is an hour and several thousand feet of altitude down from where we live.

I am writing this in the house in the pines where I have a heater going near me.

I know room mates require diplomacy, especially when they own the house.

Oh, did I say, I also took us to the El Tejon Outlet centre, newly open off the I 5 on the way to Bakersfield. There I bought a winter jacket with a faux fur hood. I just wore it over here on the golf cart. Hardy I ain’t.

January, Muscle Spasms, and All That Good Stuff

The first 3 weeks of January went swimmingly. A molar had to have its cap removed, be re-drilled and re-covered with a brand-new $800 crown. Then I had a colonoscopy. Mention that and someone is sure to intone -‘It’s the prep that’s the worst!’  These people evidently skipped the actual procedure. Meanwhile the pump on the washer quit and the Sears man had to come back 3 -count ’em ladies and gentlemen 3- times. Each visit required a generous window of time and no one in the house could devote 6 hours every Wednesday to this pursuit except me. By the time the washer doctor pronounced the 2 year-old front loader healed, I didn’t remember what clean clothes smelled like.

Then things got rough.

I wake up at 3 o’clock to a terrible racket and stumble to a window. Outside large tree limbs writhe in the wind, the rain flies horizontally, lightning flares and thunder crashes. In January!! As I turn back, my right leg begins howling in pain. By 5 a.m. I have written a long journal entry, downloaded Michael Connelly’s, Black Box on my kindle and got well into the story. Only then does the leg let me go back to sleep.

Painkillers? I would lament the fact that I can’t take any of them (tender stomach), but since they don’t seem to kill my pain anyway, I won’t bother. Actually I lie, liquid morphine works very well, but as I’ve said before, it’s so hard to come by.

As for the leg, nothing a little exercise won’t cure, so I go for walks. I take up the rug and do tai chi in the living room as I wait for Sears. The right hip gets stiff and sore. As I take myself off to a tai chi class, the agony has spread to my lower back. But I am still working on the theory that it’s nothing I can’t work through.

By the time tea break arrives, I have been disabused of that notion. My right hip is beginning to set like cement. A minute too long and I won’t be able to bend to sit down to drive home. I turn the heat on in the Obus Form car seat. I crank up its massage feature to high. I resort to prayer.  In my driveway, I sit studying how best to get out of the car. I discover there is no best. There’s only pain.

Okay, no problem. I have ways to deal with pain. First the castor oil pack, lots of castor oil on a flannel and a heating pad. An hour later, look at that! I can walk. Only problem is I need a derrick or a crane to get me out of bed. Right, let’s try patches, lots of those patches embedded in this case with Chinese herbs, guaranteed to relieve pain, or so my past experience says. But no, not so much and, apparently, not wise to apply them on oily skin. Why not just pass out and sleep it off. An hour later, the pain wakes me up. Let’s try the tennis ball. First lie on the floor, wedge the tennis ball under the tight spot and relax into it.OMG!!!! Does the CIA know about this? It could be way more effective than water boarding! But I keep at it and a few minutes after I get up, a blessed relief floods over me. The spasm has eased.

I am so happy! And blissfully unaware that this will be the pattern of my life for the foreseeable future with one surprising twist. The spasm travels. While it seems most at home in the right hip, it is content to visit the right calf, the right knee and the right thigh, especially as I try to go to sleep. (How is that fair, I ask you.) Just for a change of venue, it zips up to the right shoulder blade, flashes along the neck and zooms down the backbone. At the moment, it has wandered right out of home territory and is visiting my upper left back.

The only time I leave the house for the first 2 weeks is to see the massage therapist and the acupuncturist. The treatments work wonders – for about 24 hours.

I get hysterical. Well, of course I do. I whine on the phone. I up my already high dose of calcium and magnesium. I meditate. I examine my soul to see what darkness lurks there.

Gradually, almost imperceptibly, the pain diminishes. I still have the travelling spasm, but I can head it off, so that it doesn’t become full blown.  I go back to tai chi class, only half of it at first. I find that one move, Creeping Low Like Snake, if done very, very gently, opens my back and softens it.

Instead of a marauding tiger tearing at my flesh, it’s more of a domestic cat now. Trouble is, I’m not much of a cat person.

Home Spa: Castor Oil Pack for Tough Muscle Pain

There are 3 layers to a castor oil pack – a flannel or soft cloth soaked in castor oil, a piece of plastic and a heating pad, in that order.
They say a wool cloth is better but cotton seems to work fine. Castor oil, as I said in the Salt Scrub post, is nicknamed the hand of God because it seems to reach into the soft tissue. It is also a powerful laxative as you know, but not when applied to skin as far as I can see. There are various versions, including cold pressed, but any will do. Multiple applications my be necessary.
If there is no heating pad available, try heating the soaked cloth in a double boiler or microwave oven first.
Castor oil is heavy and hard to remove from fabric. I keep an old, oversize t-shirt to wear when I use the pack.