Ruminations, Louise Brooks, & More


This tranquil secret garden was part of the Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour about ten years ago.

This past week hasn’t been what I’d term thrilling—mostly I’ve been dealing with sudden, stabbing pain that would strike my right shoulder randomly, immobilizing my entire arm. This excruciating pain was related to my recent shoulder surgery.

But I don’t really want to rehash all the occurrences. Suffice to say I’m heartily sick of the subject. But I was taken aback when the pain hit me hard at the gym the other day, especially since I never work my right shoulder at the gym and all I was doing was getting off of one of the machines.

The pain was severe but nowhere near as bad as the first occurrence almost two weeks ago. I somehow shuffled over to a couch in the lobby and attempted to sit down. My BFF was with me, so she helped carry my stuff for me.

One of the staff came over and asked me if I was alright. I knew they’d be worried I had injured myself on the premises, so I hastily assured him that my condition had nothing to do with the gym. I asked if there was an ice pack on hand and there was! Sure saved my life.

Luckily, we had completed our strength training, so we rested and chatted for quite awhile. Eventually, my friend left and I finished my workout by putting in 30 minutes of rather low-key cardio on the stationary bike. Just didn’t have the energy to go all out. My body couldn’t do it. But, hey, at least I finished.

This coming week will be filled with various doctor appointments, PT, and filing taxes. Not exactly fun in the sun, huh?

I’ll be following up with two orthos (for my knee and right shoulder), and I’ll be getting an MRI on my left shoulder. I’m kinda hoping I just have bursitis and not a rotator cuff tear on the left shoulder. But it’s a bit unnerving to hear my left shoulder crackle whenever I do shoulder rolls. At least my right shoulder doesn’t make any noise at all.

Small mercies. I’ll take ’em.


No more Gloomy Gus; it’s time for the uplifting part of my post. First of all, my BFF and I are planning to visit a local nature park mid-week. She’s never been there, and it’s been over a decade since I’ve visited the gardens. We’ll walk around, commune with nature, and hopefully take lots of pictures.

I say hopefully take lots of pictures because my poor iPhone is old and storage is extremely low. Oh yeah, and the battery is starting to go, too. If only I had a great digital camera, or at least, the iPhone 7.

Believe me, I’d be running out today and getting a brand new phone with oodles of storage if I could only afford it.

Wait. That falls under the heading of the Gloomy Gus stuff. OK then. Back to the fun stuff.

We’re also planning on going on the Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour in May. We took the tour over a decade ago and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I’m sure we’ll see some lovely gardens again, such as the one pictured at the top of this post.


Photography has been an interest of mine since I was a teen. Ever since my recent discovery of the Painnt app, I’ve been obsessively applying filters to some of my pictures and other free sources and have been sharing them on various platforms such as Instagram.

Filtering photos really is art in its own way, even if you’re just tweaking a stock photo. You’re puting your own stamp, your imagination, creativity, and indeed your own unique vision upon a subject. You’re enhancing color, increasing warmth, or adding ominous touches to the original photo. By the clever manipulation of light, shadow, color, and texture, you can completely alter the narrative of the original source photo.

And to me, that is exciting indeed. If I’m lucky, I find myself awestruck by the beauty and transformation of the finished creation.

I’m using the Painnt app on my iPad right now because my old computer with Photoshop on it isn’t hooked up to the internet. And yes, I also need a new computer and the latest versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Dreamweaver… ahem.

OK. Fun stuff only. See, I remembered.


I’d like to show you some of the work I’ve done this week. One of my favorite creations is this photo of the iconic silent screen actress, Louise Brooks. Frankly, I’d like to produce a high-res image of it in acrylic so I could display it.

I’ll post my filtered photo first, and next to it I’ll post the original black and white so you can compare the two. Interestingly enough, I had come across the source photo in a Facebook group dedicated to the 20s, 30s, and 40s. I was struck by Louise’s beauty and by the exquisite photo itself, so I thought I’d try working on it. I was pleased with the results.

I naturally knew who Louise Brooks was, but I had never seen her films, nor did I know much about her personal life. So it was highly gratifying for me to accidentally stumble across an intriguing BBC documentary on her life on YouTube last night. The documentary was based on interviews with her and included excerpts from her 1982 memoir, “Lulu in Hollywood,” which were read by actress Linda Hunt.

Louise was a fascinating creature. With her bobbed hair and hedonistic lifestyle, she was the epitome of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Roaring Twenties flapper—liberated, sexually adventurous, headstrong, and ultimately self-destructive.

Louise had an admittedly relaxed attitude about sex. She had affairs with some prominent men, like Charlie Chaplin, but she also claimed to have had a brief dalliance with Greta Garbo.

She socialized with William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies at San Simeon. Louise also worked with many of the famous stars, directors, and producers of her day, including W. C. Fields, Walter Wanger, Howard Hawks, Wallace Beery, and even Fatty Arbuckle after his downfall.

Louise soon tired of her new husband and Hollywood and went to Berlin where she made her best films. Berlin in the twenties was decadent and every sexual appetite could be easily satisfied, especially if you had the money to pay for it. But it was also a creative city in which to make innovative silent films.

Brooks is best known as the lead in three feature films made in Europe: “Pandora’s Box” (1929), “Diary of a Lost Girl” (1929), and “Miss Europe” (1930). The first two were directed by the famed Austrian director, G. W. Pabst.

It is in “Pandora’s Box” that Louise plays Lulu. According to Wikipedia, “Brooks’ portrayal of a seductive, thoughtless young woman whose raw sexuality and uninhibited nature bring ruin to herself and those who love her, although initially unappreciated, eventually made the actress a star.”

Pabst had predicted that if she did not mend her ways, she’d end up like Lulu. But Louise sought pleasure for pleasure’s sake and her personal life often too closely mirrored that of Lulu’s. She was on the verge of total self-destruction when film preservationist, James Card, rescued her in 1955.

Her memoir should prove to be a fascinating book. I’m looking forward to finding a copy and reading it.


Over the last couple of days, I began focusing on certain themes: horses, lighthouses, greasers or Teddy Boys, musicians, dancers, and a few miscellaneous subjects. Some samples of my work are in the following slideshows:


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I’m always searching for new subject matter, whether it be current or evocative of the past. But there’s always something intriguing to unravel when delving into the social mores of a bygone era. You never quite know what fascinating tidbits you’ll uncover when you take some steps back into time.

Healing Foods


Tonight I made salmon with veggies in parchment paper. I had never tried this cooking method before, but my sister had served salmon using this technique and it had tasted terrific. So I thought I’d give it a try.

I chose sweet potato, Mexican and yellow squash for the vegetables and served the dish with brown jasmine rice. I drizzled a little olive oil on the vegetables and used plenty of spices, too: garlic, Cajun spices, Mediterranean Sea salt, black pepper, rosemary, thyme, and parsley.

But for some reason, my lovely dinner wasn’t baking in the timeframe that I had expected—in fact, it took four times longer than it should have. Seriously!

Oh well, it was my first try. I’ve found that I often have to tweak something the first time I attempt a new recipe. It’s always a learning experience.

I didn’t mind the fact that the whole thing was taking forever to cook. But you try taking heavy Pyrex out of the oven over and over—and over and over again, using only your non-dominant arm.

I’m tellin’ ya, it sure was hard on my poor, overworked biceps. But I dared not risk using my right hand at all.

You see, the other night I had made a big pot of homemade yellow split pea with veggies soup. Unfortunately, I aggravated my right shoulder when I transferred the soup into a large Rubbermaid container. I had to use both hands to pour it, which was something I was trying to avoid.

The PA had warned me not to lift anything heavier than a coffee cup with my right hand. I’m trying to be careful, but sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. It’s not like I have scores of people lining up outside, all clamoring to help me with my daily chores, right?

So yeah—because the stock pot was too heavy, I had renewed pain the next day, which meant icing and taking a few pain pills. But I worry that despite my best efforts I’m doing too much, which can result in a failed surgery. Now both shoulders hurt a bit. <sigh>

Anyway, the good news is that my salmon dish came out delish! The other good news is that because I had made entirely too much food, I have plenty of leftovers for tomorrow.

I think the next time I make this dish, I’ll eliminate the Cajun spices and add lemon slices instead for a different twist. I’d also like to try asparagus instead of the squash, but I’ll definitely keep the sweet potato. Sounds yummy, huh?

I’m glad I tried this new recipe. It’s high in protein and vitamin A while providing a healthy fat, all necessary nutrients to promote healing.

According to the article, Ten Best Healing Foods After Surgery, “Eating the right foods after surgery can promote faster healing and minimize the swelling, bruising and inflammation that often accompany a surgical procedure. Not to mention, fueling your body properly will give you the energy needed to get back to your normal routine more quickly.”

But why only eat this way after surgery? We should all strive to incorporate these amazing and nutritious foods in our daily diets.


Tips After Shoulder Surgery


If you find yourself facing shoulder surgery, don’t let yourself get scared by all the doom and gloom articles and posts online. I’m here to tell you that it ain’t that bad.

Even the pain was minimal; I wouldn’t even call it pain. For me, it was more discomfort than anything else. I will qualify that statement by stating that I likely have a high threshold for pain, so my experience may not be your experience, and yes, I took my pain pills every six hours.

In fact, I kept a list of when I took my pills as I found my cognitive abilities were slightly impaired from all the meds. This way I didn’t have to rely on my memory. I’m now coming off the pain pills; I take one at bedtime.

Personally, I wouldn’t bother getting the nerve block. I didn’t, and I’m glad I didn’t go through that trauma. I told the nurses while in recovery that my pain level, on a scale from 1-10, was an 8. My neck and shoulder felt very tight. They gave me more dilaudid and morphine… and then more again…. I left the hospital feeling no pain at all.

I’m not sure that’s usual—I can only tell you about my personal experience. Again, your experience and your physical condition may be quite different from my own. The nurse had told me that their goal was to get the pain down to a level 4 or less.

It’s important to move your arm in passive motions, meaning you let gravity do the work for you, so you don’t end up with a frozen shoulder. But I have discovered that I could do a bit more with my right hand than originally anticipated. I can move my elbow more now than I could two weeks ago, too.

I think the biggest pain in the neck is sleeping. Since you have to sleep sitting up, I advise using a recliner, or barring that, using a husband pillow and fluffy pillows to sit up in bed. And ice!

Icing twenty minutes on/off will help bring down the swelling, which helps control discomfort.

Showering is a big pain. Take a nice long shower the morning of your surgery because you sure won’t feel like taking one for days. Washing your hair is a bit difficult, too, so be prepared for that.

Eating using only my left hand was pretty funny. My sister had to cut up my food the first couple of days, and I found eating with a spoon was easier than using a fork. But two weeks after surgery, eating isn’t quite so difficult. Keep in mind that most difficulties are fairly transitory.

Clothing worked out more easily than I thought. I recommend that women get a couple of tops or a caftan with kimono sleeves; they work out great! I have a tunic with kimono sleeves, so it was perfect paired with leggings. And my sister gave me a shawl for Christmas, which helps keep me nice and cozy.

Finding a bra I could wear was something I desperately worried about prior to surgery. Believe me, the first few days after surgery you’ll be glad to just put on the damn caftan cuz you ain’t going nowhere.

Soon, however, I found I could fasten my bra in front and slowly turn it around. Then I put on my left shoulder strap but left the right strap down so there wouldn’t be any pressure on the surgical site. Besides, there was no way I could get my right arm through the strap. Luckily, no one could tell I was only wearing one strap.

Men can wear buttoned-down shirts, but you’ll have this thick padding over the surgical site for a week, which means shirts won’t fit. If you have a loose, stretchy  t-shirt with a wide neck, you should be able to put that on.

If you live alone, try to stay with family or friends until you go to your follow-up appointment. My follow-up was eleven days after surgery, but it can be up to two weeks. And you’ll need someone to cook for you. Later, you’ll be able to do some minor cooking, but only one-handed.

Stock up on food, frozen meals and fruits/vegetables, coffe, tea, toiletries, and other miscellaneous items. Spray antiperspirant works more easily than roll-on. I bought a kitchen brush so I could wash dishes. Buy flushable wipes. You’ll need them.

Move important items to the middle of cupboards for easy access. And if you live in a complex that has dumpsters with lids on them, ask someone to throw away your trash for you. You sure won’t be able to do it yourself.

Additionally, constipation is invariably an issue with surgery due to the anesthesia and the pain meds. Eat lots of fiber-rich foods, drink plenty of water, and take an appropriate OTC remedy. I rarely have this problem, but I did this time. Kirkland’s LaxaClear worked well for me.

I’m supposed to wear my sling for six weeks. I kept on my sling 24/7 for several days. But now, since I’m stuck at home for the duration and I’m highly cognizant of not picking up anything heavier than a coffee cup or making wrong moves, I wear my sling mostly when sleeping or if I need to go outside.

This means that you will NOT be able to drive as long as you’ve been ordered to wear your sling. It’s just not safe. For me, this restriction is the worst. I’m stuck at home unless someone else drives me.

The PA did not release me to go to physical therapy for an additional four weeks in order to avoid a failed surgery, so I do passive exercises four times daily at home. Make the wrong movement or put too much stress on your injured arm, however, and that may cause an anchor to pop out. Boy, that’s a scary thought!

Please let me know if you have any worries or concerns about an upcoming shoulder surgery, and I’ll try to help. Good luck!


The Joys of Shoulder Surgery 

I had shoulder surgery last Friday for a fully torn rotator cuff. The ortho surgeon  had gleefully told me, “Your rotator cuff has disintegrated and your muscles are dead.” He told me that he would reconstruct my torn rotator cuff with cadaver derma.

But at the pre-op, the staff had me sign off on either a repair or a Superior Capsule Reconstruction. I didn’t think they could do a repair, but apparently, that’s what was done.

I also was told by doctors and by those who have had this surgery that the rehab is worse than for a hip or knee replacement surgery and that the pain would be considerable.

Needless to say, I was not eagerly anticipating having surgery, especially as it was on my dominant arm. You try being told that your right arm will be in a sling for six weeks and that recovery will take from six months to a year. Hah!

Surgery came in three’s for my friends and me. Turns out, an old friend of mine also had outpatient surgery on the same morning as mine… in fact, we were at two different hospitals located down the street from each other.

Another old friend’s husband had a minor procedure done at a doctor’s office—on the same day! So funny. Well, maybe it’s not exactly funny… But misery loves company, right? 😉

My sister and her hubby picked me up from my house, and we checked into the hospital around 8 a.m. Surgery was supposed to take place at 10 a.m. We waited in the crowded lobby for 90 minutes before I was called into a tiny office for further processing. By that time, my poor beleaguered body was thoroughly stiff, so it was no problem getting me a wheelchair for the long trek to Same Day Surgery. My sis accompanied me.

Since I had been hearing stories about how my rotator cuff surgery would be exceedingly painful from doctors and from many patients that had the surgery, I was highly interested in getting a nerve block.

Well, a nerve block was offered to me, but then I was told I’d have to be awake for it. The anesthesiologist, Dr. Do, explained how he would administer it while I was in recovery. He’d stick a needle in my neck, using ultrasound for guidance. You know, in case the doctor hit a nerve. Because then I’d jerk away and he’d pull the needle out. There was also a tiny chance that he could hit my carotid artery.

Unfortunately, Dr. Do, explained all this to me while the scared toddler in the next bay was screaming at the top of her lungs and the nurse was trying to start my IV. Again, haven’t I already stated in other blog posts how much I hate needles?

So you can imagine how difficult it was for me to process all this information in my head. But the thought of sticking a needle in my neck while I was awake sounded horrendous to me.

So at first, I said no to the nerve block. But my sis advised me to not let fear prevent me from making the best choice. I knew she was right.

The surgeon, Dr. Ninh, made a brief appearance and marked my right shoulder. That was pretty much it. But at least that made me feel a bit more confident that he’d operate on the correct limb!

My surgery started over an hour late. I recall looking around the OR when they wheeled me in… it was full of people… nurses and techs. I gazed at the ceiling, wondering if this OR was the last thing I’d ever see.

Any surgery is a risk. I know that quite well. Heck, I used to worry every time one of my cats used to get a dental.

So even though I had come through my meniscus surgery just fine, I knew this one was more problematic. A family member had had the same surgery and had to be admitted to the hospital because they couldn’t get his O2 sat levels high enough afterwards. He was younger and healthier at the time of his surgery than I am, so it was concerning. And the anesthesiologist also said that any problems that arose would likely occur after surgery. I was understandably apprehensive.

There were several machines near the table. One of the nurses kept insisting that a certain machine wasn’t working right. That did not fill me with confidence, I can tell you. But she was assured that it was a new machine. She seemed satisfied by the news, so I shoved the negative thoughts to the back of my mind.

The OR staff turned me on my left side. My left arm was placed in a support for comfort.

Finally Dr. Do came in and I spoke to him about changing my mind about the nerve block. I OK’d the nerve block, but Dr. Do said he’d give me the nerve block right then, before they put me under. Heck, no! Do it only after the surgery and while I was in recovery, I replied. I said I sure didn’t want him to stick a needle in my neck while I was stone cold sober. That made the OR staff laugh.

Oddly enough, Dr. Do never did show up in recovery to give me the nerve block, even though I kept asking for it. My neck and shoulder were so tight that it hurt. The nurse gave me multiple doses of dilaudid and morphine instead. Finally, I began to feel some relief.

I was in recovery for a long time. I’m not sure how long. I surmise I was in there for three hours instead of two. They couldn’t get my O2 sat levels up. Alarms kept going off. Then my nurses would yell at me to take deep breaths. I didn’t put it together for quite some time that the alarm bells dinging meant that my O2 levels were dangerously low. They ended up giving me oxygen as it was a bit of a struggle for me to take deep breaths.

Interestingly enough, my O2 sat levels were at 100 prior to surgery, which was perfect. Jan, my nurse, remarked that she’d only seen that a couple of times in all her years as a nurse. In fact, my O2 sat levels results have never been that high before.

This experience was a little different from last January’s knee surgery. Jan left NO bruising from the IV this time. Last year, the bruise on my arm from the IV was huge and dark, was much worse than the bruises on my knee, and didn’t fade completely for many months.

By the time I left the hospital, I was feeling pretty happy. Oh yeah! I was feeling no pain anywhere. I was lucid and felt great. But I also knew that my decision-making skills were off. That’s why you never want to take pain meds and drive. Your thinking process is just all wrong.

We picked up strong pain pills for me (Percocet) and I ice frequently. My family was amazed how great I felt on Friday. And that’s without a nerve block! I’m so glad I didn’t go through the trauma of getting one. I didn’t need it.

In fact, I had considerable energy late Friday afternoon and would have gladly taken a walk except I couldn’t risk jarring my shoulder. I was also rather talkative. My poor sister. Haha!

But I started to feel worse by Saturday afternoon. I lost my balance and jarred my arm slightly, plus I bet the dilaudid and morphine wore off. Sunday was the worst day. I basically had little interest in doing much. Didn’t feel like talking… slept a bit… I had started writing this recap Friday afternoon but had no interest in finishing it until today.

I have to sleep sitting up for quite some time. Laying flat is uncomfortable and doesn’t promote healing. I wasn’t sitting up enough last night, so I kept waking up. It’s a big pain in the butt.

Thrillingly enough, I get to wear an arm sling for six weeks (see the photo for a look at a similar sling). Yesterday was the first time I took off my arm sling in order to let my arm hang passively by my side for awhile so I don’t get frozen shoulder. Today, I took off the thick bandage. Couldn’t wait to get that itchy thing off!

But in no way do I have the excruciating pain that most people have with this surgery. I suspect I have a high tolerance to pain. Today’s the first day that I skipped a dose of the Percocet. 

My follow-up doctor appointment is next Tuesday. That’s when they’ll tell me what exactly they did during the surgery and when I should start PT.